Dreamscape Two – a holy communion

Now the one about the older woman…

She is old.  While taller, by feeling she resembles my Oma, my father’s mother who loved her son, her grandchildren and great grandchildren fiercely.

Always independent, as her husband lay dying of cancer, Oma, in her sixties, learned to drive, maneuvering the freeways, charming the immigration officers as she crossed the bridge to Canada, to us, with her VW Rabbit stuffed with gifts and groceries.  Decades earlier, in the little Black Forest town of Germany, during and after World War II, she worked three jobs to support herself and my father.  Those were her best years, the ones she storied for us with joy, pride and determination.  Until she came to live her last years in Canada, close to her family.

But this woman of my dream is my height and stature.  And she is Italian.

I am in Italy.  I have just finished a simple, homemade, delicious dinner.  I may be with a friend.  I have been staying here for a while, long enough to have become familiar with, close even to the Nonna who prepared this meal.

She has been a teacher to me.  I feel a deep love and appreciation for her in my life.  In my broken Italian, I thank her for the good, good food.  We laugh together at my attempts to say just how good…

”Insalata, ahhhh…. buonissimo!  Si?”

She encourages me, asks me what else I’ll eat.

“Il dolce?” she asks and playfully hugs and tugs at my body to see if I can afford to let myself have this sweet, the sweetest part of the meal, of life?

I hug her and say in Italian “I love you” through the tears I am now crying, through an even deeper sadness that is suddenly coming up from my depths.

Holding her, despite her strength, suddenly I know she is dying.  I see her face and while she is not my Oma, Oma is evoked.  I love this woman very much.  Again, I say, in Italian, “I love you.”

Again, and again.

Epilogue

Last October I awoke quietly crying from this dream.  I was on a favourite island in the Pacific Northwest – it has become one of my heart places – where, without fail, I spend most nights immersed in vivid dreamscapes.

The convergence of mountain, sea and sky energies are a great catalyst for my dream maker’s talents, though I’m not always able to retrieve her creations, so plentiful that I often awake feeling tired for the travelling.  However, that pre-dawn morning, the dream and feelings it evoked, deeply moved me, and stayed with me for hours, making it easy for me to journal, to contemplate, and finally to glean its gift. Even now as I write, it’s easy for me to conjure the scene and its characters, to step back into the story, to taste those feelings.

With reflection I realized that in my dream, in my broken Italian, I had said to this Nonna, “Mi’amo,”  thinking I was saying “I love you” when really I was saying, over and over, “I love me.”  The dream maker never errs.  This was not a Freudian slip.

This wise old woman, this Nonna-Oma feeds me, loves me, plays with me, teaches me.  I eat her food.  I take in her love, her joy, her playfulness.

I ingest her.  I take her into me.  She becomes me and in so doing, is dying.

A holy communion.

A few weeks later, I read a dear wise woman words about the necessity for us each to take back and eat the hope we have projected onto others, to nourish ourselves so as to become our own hope, our own leaders, and our own fiercely loving, joyful, playful Nonna-Omas.

Empathy for Vincent

Vincent Van Gogh is embracing her thick as tree trunk legs, from toe tips to thigh tops.

Stopped at a red light, from my car I watch as she walks across the street, slow, determined steps.  Short of stature and of hair.

Mischievously smiling to myself, I wonder about Vincent’s reaction to this appropriation.  His stars and his steeple now envelop her fashionably feminine butt.

From where I sit, and I confess a bit macabre, enough to cut off another ear with such madness.

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Wednesday Words

Considering Haiku…

I

Predawn April.

Snows have melted.

Darker now than winter even as the sun rises early.

II

Muted edges of night time dreams give way to morning musings.

Which are more real?

Which are more helpful?

III

Candle in the corner illuminates an altar of elements.

A resting place of beauty.

A pause for morning prayer.

Perspectives with Panache, 2017

Dreamscape One – “Yes, I am here.”

Did I tell you the one about the older man?

Cultured, well dressed in a European kind of way.  A man who looks like someone I know – a wounded healer who knows how to listen when the body says no.  Older than me, though I always feel myself younger than I am, and not just when I’m dreaming.  (From what I hear, it’s a function of age, this time standing still inside while outside life goes on.)  I suppose an onlooker, someone passing us by as we walked together –  my arm around his waist, his casually draped around my shoulder –  would have thought us well matched.

Perhaps they would have sensed, as do I, something vital, captivating, alluring in how we walk together, under those renaissance porticoes, along cobbled sidewalks, towards that old grand hotel.  Yes, I feel it to be some old city in Europe.  Place of my heart’s longing and desire.

We are laughing, enjoying each other’s company, oblivious to others on the street, those who turn their heads a bit to notice…something…with a smile.

You, who had been my teacher, with whom I had loved and partnered for twenty some years.

You, whose gift of a book then, inspired now in me the creation of a photo book gleaming and glowing with life, colour and beauty.

You, who are delighted to observe how deeply received and well acknowledged my creation at its debut, among all those who gathered.

We climb the old magnificent staircase, bordered by frescoes.  Fifteen hundred years old you replied.  Past antique gilt and glass and wooden bar, where you’d go for a late afternoon aperitif or morning café.  On our way to our room to make love.

I felt I’d found home with him, this place, this time, my creativity.  I felt all was right and good, true and beautiful, despite our age difference and previous roles.  No shame.  No guilt.  No need to hide.  This was a good beginning in a relationship for twenty years.

Epilogue

The day following, and a year ago today – March 30, 2016 – I thought I saw an owl flying overhead as we walked our Annie dog through the golf course. Out of the corner of my vision, I saw a large light wing span and heard the raucous cries of crows.  It stuck because it struck me as odd. When we arrived home, there it was, a snowy owl, perched in the top of the tree next door.

In the thirty plus years we have lived in our suburban home, never before had I seen an owl fly in the neighborhood, in broad daylight, let alone land in the backyard tree next door, as if waiting for me to say, “Yes, I am here.” (I just realized I had intended to write, “as if waiting to for me, as if to say…” This slip is revealing in its truth…its portent.)

Together with my night dream, I took it as omen, having been given a statue of Athena with her talisman the owl perched on her outstretched arm.  And almost a year later, driving home very late at night from the airport, returning from the intimate writers’ retreat on Whidbey Island, there he was again and the only time since, that large mass of of light flying across my sight line as I turned off the highway.  Just as fleeting, though unmistakable in the black of night. “Yes, I am here.”

Then and Now

Yesterday

 blue sky puffed with cotton clouds

sandy beach glistening

palms rustle lush and verdant in the northern wind

ocean striped in patches and pockets of aquamarine, navy, slate

with ribbons of white waves breaking across

tropical birds sing a new day while the clan of seven pelicans soundlessly make their daily glide south,

off to work somewhere, I suppose

return home at the day’s end

 

Today

flat white sky imperceptibly veined with silvery blue, holds the promise of sunshine

snowy landscape glistening

the same northern wind blows slant chimney smoke and garden grasses, while bare tree branches and spruce boughs stiffly jostle a staccato response

too cold for bird song or flight

soundless except for the furnace reassuringly blowing its warmth up from the floor,

and grandmother’s clock tick-tocking in our home held timeless for ten days

 

stark, cold reality of real winter

I am revived, in peace, home.

An Equinox Kiss

Sitting here in my spot for the hundredth time,

(not every day, but more days than not, and is that not fine with God?)

 

Same time or thereabouts,

(and soon that will change as we “fall back”)

in the dark as spring-summer becomes autumn-winter.

 

The light by the sofa was on while I wrote of night dreams and morning musings.

But then I turn it off and sit on purpose in the dark, in nature’s light, to observe the coming of a new day.

 

And as I look out upon the trees,

my tree, that graceful glossy green laurel leaf willow,

and then through and across the fence to the neighbour’s golden ash,

and then further beyond to the dark spruce,

I notice, as I do most days,

a swaying of limbs and fluttering of leaves as if those trees, too, are awakening from their midnight slumber.

As if they, too, sense the energy rising now with the sun, amplified now among our long and languid limbs.

 

And as I watch, minute by minute, soon moment by moment,

the ever-changing sky, watch stars and moon appear to disappear,

I wonder, what kind of day this will be?

Oh, I could get up and check the weather forecast on TV or my very clever smart phone.

But I want to remember that more natural, original way of discerning,

by watching the sky and the trees as they awaken into this day,

enlighten me into this day.

 

And as I watch, I feel an exquisite, piercing joy with what I see,

with my life in this moment of life.

And I realize, as I feel a growing pressure on my palate, in my head, and in my heart,

that joy is not in this moment, nor ever,

quite what I imagine it to be.

 

It hurts a bit, brings me to tears a bit,

as its sweet and utter fullness takes hold,

takes me over,

enfolds me,

undoes me.

 

And I wonder, once again, is this the embrace of God?

Cherry Picking: A Story of Community

Sitting in a business meeting, first one back from a summer pause,

enormous heavy rectangle of wood makes circle conversation a challenge.

As is our practice, my partner invites a check-in,

“Share an experience of community.”

Talking piece chosen.  Stories begin.

 

Hearing five thousand international drummers and pipers play on the field in Glasgow.

Having her picture taken dozens of times on the Great Wall by scores of Chinese students, and loving it – this photo shy, tall and fair haired woman.

Witnessing her neighbor’s family bring an experience of “Canadian cabin county”  to the recently settled Syrian family.

Celebrating every summer weekend festival our Festival City has on offer.

 

Mine, a simple tale – embellished here – of walking in my neighborhood and the moment of community that unfolded. 

Usually accompanied by our Annie dog, these past weeks I’ve gone solo as she’s been at dog camp, running to her heart’s content over the prairies.  Depending on our route, I can pass by a bungalow with a beautiful cherry tree in the front yard.

Spring time, my attention is caught by its bursting white blossoms, their soft fragrance adding to the gift of our encounter.

Weeks pass, I’m lost in my thoughts, or noticing the shift of clouds, or the remarkably early tulips and lilacs and forsythia.  Not much happening on the cherry tree I notice, giving it a passing glance, until a few weeks ago.

Suddenly this elegantly shaped tree is now lusciously full of glistening scarlet globes nestled among emerald green leaves, a regal standout against the azure sky.  Evans cherries, a prairie-hardy sour variety, rediscovered a few decades ago just north of here.  Wished I’d had my phone to take a picture. Wished I had an invitation to pick some for a pie.

Then a week ago, just that happened.  I had my phone and poised to snap a picture I heard, “Do you wanna pick some cherries?”

Hand shielding my eyes from the setting sun, I hear before I see,  Janet, the owner of the tree.

“I have a ladder and could help you, if you want to pick the rest of these.  I have my fill.”

Well, I tell her, I’d love to, in fact, this is a dream come true as I’d thought of knocking on her door to ask if I may.  I take her phone number and promise to call before coming over the next day.

Loaded with a dishpan and couple of pails – whatever I could find as good enough cherry containers – I made the three-minute drive and there was Janet, ready to help me pick.

Not like saskatoon berries, or strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, where you could eat as much as you pick, this tart fruit tempted only an occasional taste as we filled the pails, as I filled on Janet’s stories…

…of the old family homestead an hour east of here, and the inherited section she still farms.

…of recipes and tips for cherry soup and jam and jelly and pie.

…of her husband’s short lived retirement because, when all is said and done, he thrives on his work.

…of her daughter returning home with her grandson and loving having him close by, happy to provide refuge for them both.

…of being a traditional prairie daughter, wife, sister and mother who loves her life.

 

When we finished, with fruit still on the tree,

and me as full as the pails,

with love for this woman’s generosity for sharing the bounty of her tree, her life,

I asked to hug her my thanks and my good-bye.

 

And as we embraced, I knew this to be the feeling of community

as she sweetly, wondrously whispered,

“I think I just made a friend.”

Tending with Grace

Quote

Sisters of the heart, my heart.

Each a sweet heart, dear heart.

 

Life

challenging them to dig down deep

inviting them to reach up high

for strength, and courage, and tenacity, and hope,

for clear heads and open hearts, when

 

Cruel concoction of cancer genes crushes newly hatched dreams.

Life long disease debilitates body, mind, speech and spirit.

Wave upon wave of endings tosses family like flotsam.

 

Sisters of the heart, my heart.

Each the eldest.

Knowing what that means, 

responsible, and caring, and achieving, and sensitive, and

 

Juggling onerous professional obligation

with overwhelming personal need

an attuned sense of balance for what is

right and true

good and beautiful

centred and aligned

for thee and thine.

 

I watch, and listen, and wonder

How does she do it?

Tending with grace, the near impossible.

 

How would I do it?

 

“…the ultimate touchstone of friendship is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”

 

Tending with grace, my sisters of the heart.

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Quote from “Friendship,” in Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, David Whyte, 2015.

Tonglen for a Young Robin

Sitting in my sanctuary on a Saturday morning.  Journal open.  Pen in hand to capture elusive night messages.

Dream snippets.  Coffee sips.

Sudden thud on the floor to ceiling, wall-wide window.  Reverie broken.  I rise to see what damage done.

A young robin sits still amidst the tall green iris blades.  Tell-tale speckles on his rust red breast and back.  Breathing quick and shallow.  Blessedly alive though in shock.

I soundlessly kneel by the window and begin the ancient practice, trusting its promise for this fledgling sentient being.

Breathing in his incredulity. Breathing out my living yes.

In and out. Slow and steady.

I take into my heart his frozen shock.  I give out to his heart warm life energy.

Despite the solid glass that separates us, I sense a connection.  He appears to sense my prayerful presence, looking up, then finding me, looking at me.

In and out.  Slow and steady.  I direct my breath to him though the glass. Rising ever so cautiously, now through the open window.

I close my eyes.  He does, too.  I open my eyes.  He does, too.

In and out.  Slow and steady.

Head turns from side to side. Check.

Beak opens, closes. Check.

Wings flutter. Check.

Eyes focus. Check.

In and out.  Slow and steady.

And now I can’t see him, hidden under the ledge.

And now I can’t see him, having flown away.

 

Tonglen is the Tibetan word for “giving and receiving” and is the name of a Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice for developing deep compassion and lessening the fear of suffering. Through this practice, we visualize receiving all the pain and suffering of another person (or other sentient being) and giving back to that person (or sentient being) all of our love, joy, well-being and peace.

The Moments I Rescue

August.  That feeling of “one long Sunday night” persists despite being away four years from a workplace governed by the rhythm of summers off, and new starts in September.  That habitual anxiety arising when one thinks of so much to do before the new season is upon us.

Apples ripen, mountain ash berries redden, cottonwoods golden, crows gather, geese honk.  Dawn that breaks now an hour later.  Dark that comes now an hour earlier.  These reliable, predictable portents.

A month or so ago I wrote about that particular morning’s fullness, holding the possibility and promise that comes with the beginning of summer.  The day before, my first “official” mentoring conversation to begin editing my collection of love letters to poets.  This morning, an utter stillness among the trees as I listen to poetry by Billy Collins, he to be included in those love letters.  Hearing “This Much I Do Remember,” I am as inexplicably, as deeply moved today as the first time I heard it.  The moment he had rescued within that poem became inspiration for my collection of moments rescued within this blog.

‘This much I do Remember’ by Billy Collins

It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,
a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked,

and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder
at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter
next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.

All of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,
and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your
talking and smiling,
gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of your shoulders

that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,
while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,
and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter
the way that stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.

Then all of the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment
and all of the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row,
giving me reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.

Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kingdom
that we pace through every day.

What are the moments we rescue?

Four years ago, that first summer after I finished work, as an attempt to create a threshold ritual, I began reading through three decades’ worth of journals to notice and consolidate patterns and dreams into a single volume.  A decade in and a month later, I stopped, bored with my self absorption, embarrassed by my chronic complaining, pained by pages of self doubt and criticism.  On a fall full moon, I made ceremony, burned those pages, and released the stories I had told myself about flaws and shortcomings, mine and others.

With remarkable synchronicity, four years later, to the day, I resumed reading and noticing, this time bringing more compassion and curiosity to the task.  Still pages of self absorption and complaining, self doubt and criticism, but now mixed with occasional moments of gratitude, appreciation, wonder and beauty.  An occasional subtle shift in perspective from old pain to new possibility.  Even a foreshadowing of futures to be realized, like when I wrote in 2004 that I’d finish work in 2012, that I’d travel to Italy during the sabbatical seven years hence.

I still have several volumes to go and I suspect that less-than-conscious pattern will persist. But today, as I take pen to journal, I choose to be more deliberate in noticing what I notice. To more intentionally – without denial but with discernment – rescue on those pages the moments that reveal beauty, that ring good and true, and that tell a story of a life well and wholly lived and loved.