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.”

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.

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.

 

 

Perfume of a Pink and Purple Prairie Summer Morn

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Top Notes

Cool water fragrant with thin slices of near translucent cucumber.

Tender pink of a wild rose petal.

Tiny teaspoon of lemon ice, softened for a moment by the rising sun.

Middle – Heart – Notes

One hour later, brighter, deeper into the dawn

Herbaceous green of freshly cut grass.

Spicy geranium and day lily, subtly turning their sleepy fuchsia and saffron heads to the east.

Bottom – Base – Notes

Earth damp from the sudden thunderstorm.

Dew drops warming, trailing behind an iridescent veil.

Robin, sparrow, chickadee, even crow and magpie song and call, waft across the barely-there breeze, awakening sense and presence.

Close your eyes and breathe.

Open your eyes and see.

Fallen Angel

Early Tuesday morning in the before dawn light,  I’d just made my coffee, turned on the radio to listen, as is my semi-regular practice, to The Road Home, and settled on the sofa to begin writing in my journal.

Circle of Life by Capstone

Circle of Life by Capstone

Listening to Bob weave, with song and spoken word, the morning’s theme of the Great Mandala.  Pen in hand as I scribble a snippet of lyric, “Take your place on the great mandala as it moves through this moment of time…”

Pulled from my reverie as suddenly a crash to my left. Rising to investigate, I find the paper and porcelain, peach and terracotta angel that has hung for several years suspended from the ceiling by a brass hook, giving quiet oversight, has fallen to floor, taking hook and invisible line with her. Intact except for one broken wing which can be easily and almost invisibly repaired, I begin to resume writing when I realize this inexplicable moment deserves my attention.

Stay together, friends.
Don’t scatter and sleep.

Our friendship is made
of being awake.— Rumi

I think about something dream walker guide Toko-pa Turner wrote in a recent post – “Our purpose is to welcome these refugee aspects of the Self into belonging” – that impelled my reply – “Thank you for this beautiful story. Your words above struck a chord…and I immediately thought of our current global refugee crisis being the macro manifestation of the consequence of our micro, individual repression of the refugee aspects of Self.”

Bringing light and life to shadow.  Bringing our refugee aspects home.

Fallen angel.  Banished from Heaven.  Lucifer, the angel fallen from grace.  The angel crashed to the floor in my living room.   This is what she brought me:

Fallen angel with a broken wing.

Aren’t we all like her?

Aren’t we all stardust from Heaven (whatever that means for any of us?)

Suddenly arriving.

Stepping onto the stage of life, into a play mid-way,

not sure of our lines or the other players.

 

Oh, glorious sweet thing, ashamed and hiding the wound, the broken wing.

When can’t you see we’re all the same

Fallen angels

Earnestly trying

To fly our way home.

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Self Portrait Emerging

This year I began writing about my current threshold, transitioning from a career to creative oriented life, another of life’s letting go to let come.  A few posts ago, I framed it as the shift from ambition to meaning, and shared some internal signposts that pointed the direction to this new path.

Since then I’ve gotten a good bill of heart health.  And while my crown and bite are still off a bit (the metaphor isn’t lost), I’m optimistic this will resolve in right time.  I’m feeling rested, waking with sweet anticipation for the day like I did those mornings when I lived in Germany for three months, five years ago. I’ve taken up with a flamenco teacher whose “deconstructed” approach to this complex dance form fits better now at this point in my practice.  I celebrated my echoing day in this new eldering decade.  And to celebrate a dear friend’s new decade, I finally found the way into creating the artwork for a story she had written a few years back.  Ta Da…I finished and sent in for a first draft read my collection of love letters to poets.  Right now, I’m participating in a global online dream walker’s course, reviving a practice I know bears fruit, and a couple of weeks ago I attended a most lovely workshop on poetry and photography hosted by local writer-poet, Shawna Lemay.

During the winter interim after registering for BeComing, I read some of Shawna’s work,   her novel, Rumi and the Red Hand Bag (an alluring title with a deep fondness for both) and her latest collection of poetry, Asking.  There, she introduced me to the “poem-essay,” a form  that totally synchs with my way of thinking and writing.  And not a page turned without feeling a quickening of recognition, a jolt to my senses that here is another who is kindred.  When during the workshop, I wrote and recited my quick reflection to her prompt Wabi Sabi, she looked across the room in recognition.  Sources of appreciation and inspiration discovered.  We draw from the same well.  Again the evidence of an earlier realization: everything I need for a life well-lived lies in my own backyard.

Now, a couple of months later, a new invitation to consider this person I am becoming, in response to taking self portraits to see what is evoked, to dreaming images of light and shadow:

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Who is this person I am becoming?

Feet that carry me along the path

Made only by its walking to

God. Knows. Where.

 

It’s been said that by looking at one’s shadow

We come to see the face

We are before

We. Are. Born.

 

A spider crawls upon my hand

To write a web of possibility

To catch a moment of illumination.

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(Not a poem essay, instead a form borrowed from Alice Walker in her collection, Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth.)

Forsythia

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For the first time, in a long time, forsythia in bloom.  Granted, nestled in a sunny sheltered south exposure, and still, can you recall the last time you saw those golden yellow flowers, made like a child might draw his first night-time star, in the middle of a prairie April?

I was driving to the boulangerie when those blossoms caught my eye.  Yes, we have one here in our prairie city.  The real deal owned by a real French baker.  The testament to his fine levain loaves, a line up of folks, big and little, out the door and onto a sidewalk bordered by bicycles, baby buggies and scooters.  I smile to myself coming upon the scene, imagining how much more Parisian than here in my own winter weary prairie city.

Taking my place, feeling a bit pressed for time, I acquiesce to the moment and notice in front of me the iridescent wisp of colour in a child’s hair.

“Tell me, how did you catch a rainbow in your hair?”

Her fit and handsome father shares the story of his sister, their aunt – gesturing to his two other daughters a bit further down the street, each with barely-there colour shot through their dark manes – treating them to this bit of feminine whimsy when they visited her in Nelson a month ago.

“Hard pressed to say ‘no’ when she does me the gift of babysitting,“ he shrugs.

“When in Nelson…” I smile in return.

By this time all three sisters huddle in together with us, now perched in the doorway, on the threshold of reaching our morning’s shared destination.

“Do you have children?” he asks.

A quiet “no” and gentle shake of my head.  Inside, I’m surprised he thinks me young enough.  Then again, it might simply be the way I engage with his.

Loaves chosen, bagged and tallied.  His for lunch with family, tomorrow’s brunch with friends.  Mine for tonight’s dinner I’m eager to prepare for my husband and me, to re-create the crostini sampled at last week’s cooking class.

Goodbyes exchanged, together with wishes for a good day.

Driving home, those forsythia again catch my eye as I wonder who else to invite, to share with me my sudden love of this splendid spring?  The fine French baguette and a bottle of good wine?  The heady perfume of purple hyacinth?  The golden glory of those first time in a long time forsythia?  The memory of three young sister-beauties with the colour of spring woven in their dark hair, wishing for a moment they were mine?

From Ambition to Meaning

“Throughout our lives, transitions require that we ask for help and allow ourselves to yield to forces stronger than our wills or our egos’ desires.  As transitions take place during our later years, a fundamental and primal shift from ambition to meaning occurs.”  
Angeles Arrien, The Second Half of Life

41GyeErgUvL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_That simple phase, those four words, “from ambition to meaning,” would sum up the four days’ interior journey of those who travelled with me at Soul Spark in mid February.  As the starting point for our first circle conversation, where each of us, having crossed paths before, now sat comfortably together on sofas and rocking chairs, with the fieldstone hearth and fire taking its place of honour, offering warmth and solace, this excerpt from Angeles Arrien’s The Second Half of Life became our touchstone.  Regardless of age or stage of life, occupation or endeavor, each of us, host and participant alike, found ourselves delivered to this threshold, whether by ready intention or “no-choice” choice.

I’ve been writing about this threshold for the past few months, initially catalyzed by my experiences at the Self as Source writers’ retreat in early December.  From the dark depths of winter solstice, I recognized the need to listen and tend to what David Whyte calls “the great inside shout of joy,” that new life that we must call our own,  helped into being by our preparation, practice, discipline and allies.  Then, almost a month later, inspired by that master of naming and blessing thresholds, John O’Donohue, I gave deeper consideration to my allies, those beings – human and non-human, animate and inanimate, living or passed – whose shoulders we stand on, whose backs shore up ours, whose energy, image and guidance we call upon, who walk beside us to remind and help us call forth our resiliency, talents, and wisdom.

In between: a straight forward dental procedure reactivated some Bells Palsy symptoms that emerged almost three years ago, and still has me in irritating distress with a “not yet quite right” bite.  An irregular EKG for which cardiac consultation and testing has occurred.  Hearing that several younger colleagues have suffered strokes, heart attacks and brain injuries.  The passing in January of those iconic musician-artists, each in what is now my decade.

What had been ready intention, has now become my no-choice choice of letting go, paring back, or as I said quite spontaneously yesterday to a friend, a necessary “winnowing to essence.”

Angeles Arrien instructs us that when we stand upon a threshold, we must do the inner work of transformation and integration – the treading, turning, twisting and flailing of noticing, releasing and discarding what is no longer necessary or aligned with our essential nature. Noticing its signposts:

  • Work, that while in and of itself deeply satisfies, the preparation and holding for which energetically costs more than can be afforded.
  • Dreams that have silently, surreptitiously slipped to the background of awareness, attention, and need for fulfillment.
  • Tiredness signaling depletion and misalignment.
  • Anxiety and worry that time, at least in this lifetime, is running out.
  • Pressure to keep telling a story that’s no longer relevant, describing a self that no longer feels true.

“Deep in the wintry parts of our minds, we are hardy stock and know there is no such thing as work-free transformation.  We know that we will have to burn to the ground in one way or another, and then sit right in the ashes of who we once thought we were to go on from there.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes  

On the eve of our inaugural Soul Spark (now to be an annual mid-winter gathering) during meditation, I suddenly asked myself, “Who is this person I am becoming?” this person who:

  • Is a bona fide seeker of God and the transcendent?
  • Meditates regularly?
  • Whispers words of loving kindness throughout the day?
  • Wakes before dawn to listen to an hour of poetry and song?
  • Reads Rumi, Hafez, Teresa of Avila, Hildegard von Bingen, and other mystics?
  • Several years earlier than declared, is walking away from professional work to embrace a simpler, more creative life?

“Who is this person?” for she does not yet seem to be me.

IMG_0004(1)This is threshing. This is the process of becoming, wherein I am unable to answer, “Who am I now?” because I’m releasing myself from the story and illusion of who I think I am, who I have been.

Yet what I can say is there is a bittersweet sister found in the threshold, and her name is grief-relief.  The grief-relief of noticing, releasing and discarding that which had served but does no longer.

To give myself permission to notice, name, and feel this most peculiar grief heals, makes space for, and helps me recognize the edges of to eventually claim this person I am becoming.  It helps me make choices better aligned with and in support of who is emerging.  It helps me become my own ally in service of living out loud that inside shout of joy.