One From the Little Red Jot Book

Sunday, September 3, 2017: a morning walk on the lands of Finca Buenvino, Spain

The first apple, Eve’s temptation, this golden green orb of bliss.

Quince it’s called today, and many speculate this was the original harbinger of the original sin.

 

“I feel like I’m being taken care of…I didn’t expect that,” she says,

somewhat bewildered,

somewhat bemused,

her words landing softly

so as not to disturb this morning gift of remote stillness,

so different from her hustle-about urban life.

 

It’s what women do so well.

Let our hearts be broken open by love and by care.

By beauty.

Like this walnut, fresh picked from the tree.

This fig warm and honey sweet and sticky.

Juicy like Spanish love on a late summer day.

 

I have arrived, walking now with seven sisters.

Echoes of the Pleiades, that constellation of stars in a black blanket sky.

 

I am here, amidst birdsong and warm breeze.

The song of cicadas and buzzing bees.

 

Even the family’s truffle coloured pup is filled with curiosity.

What now?  Where next?

The need to simply do quite a bit of not a lot.

It’s a statement I typed in an email to a friend last week.  Unbidden.  True.

I relish the sudden spontaneous emergence of such pithy truths.

Like the time when I asked another friend for the gift of her skillful deep listening as I weighed a hefty matter needing decisive action.  “Winnowing to essence,” came my reply, as I described the simplicity I was after.

Since then, those words have become a mantra for the gradual process of letting go of a lot of my life’s trappings, and committing to exchange things for experiences.

“Quite a bit of not a lot.”

Zen ThingsI like the roll of this in my mouth, piqued by a bit of paradox.  Like a lemon lime lollipop, sweet and tangy.  Evoking, or perhaps subliminally inspired by, this recent Facebook “share.”

It makes deep and abiding sense.

It feels good and right in my body, the reservoir of wordless wisdom.

And it comes.  Remarkably quite easily.  Ceasing blind urgency and habitual headlong over-ride and over-drive.  Giving over to long moments gazing out the window into the now fully green trees.  Pausing between paragraphs and pages of the latest book to wonder into white clouds suspended in signature azure skies.  Going to bed earlier and sleeping later, serenaded by robins.

Winnowing to essence.  Quite a bit of not a lot.

Mirroring for each other an innate way of being, born of aging.

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.

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.)

One Year Later

It’s morning. I’m quietly sipping coffee, reading a novel that features an ensemble of Victorian era ghosts who hover helplessly perplexed, lovingly hoping the protagonist solves a mystery that left her broken, and from which they seek ephemeral redemption and release.

Prompted by the passage describing a dissembled old long clock, I pause to listen to the tick-tock of my grandmother’s cuckoo clock.

A minute’s reverie back and forth in time, memory and grief, now broken by the call of wild geese just returned, a harbinger of spring.

I remember today is the anniversary of my dear dog’s passing.

I remember I don’t have to walk a hundred miles on my knees to know my place in the family of things.  (Thank you, Mary Oliver.)

Prairie Bound Peggy

            Prairie Bound Peggy at 15 years

Fasting From Facebook – My Lenten Ritual

“The sacred duty of being an individual is to gradually learn how to live so as to awaken the eternal within oneself.”  John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes (4)

Today is Ash Wednesday signifying within the Christian tradition the beginning of Lent, the forty days of spiritual preparation before Easter Sunday.  A week ago today, The Scientist and I made our way home from our first-in-a-decade warm winter sojourn.  We both like Alberta winters, so it wasn’t so much an escape (especially this year in the midst of an especially balmy El Nino system that’s been wreaking havoc on our city’s winter festivals) as a time for rest and renewal, with minimal decision-making and distraction.

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Packing, I finally decided to bring my tablet to continue work on the project that emerged during my first writers’ retreat in December. (I’m happy to say I did spend a warm afternoon under the cabana’s thatched roof typing away on a new love letter.  Not finished, but the bones have been set and now wait to be fleshed out once I’ve done a bit more research and reading.)  And I did check emails, only to delete spam and non-essentials so as not to be overwhelmed by an inbox of hundreds upon my return.  I’ve learned that’s a sure fire way to quickly undo the benefits of any time away.  Good plan until my little ASUS Transformer refused to turn on.  And then I received the unexpected gift of being unplugged.  Talk about a transformer!

I’ve come to know that not only am I an “adapted extrovert” – deeply introverted at heart but out of necessity and habit have learned to be “out there” and engaging – but I’m also highly sensitive by nature.  Regular doses of silence and solitude are necessary for my health and well-being.  Also, prone to anxiety and worrying, I’ve realized that too much time on computer, e-reader, and cell phone, especially in evening, overstimulate my already finely tuned system and thwart sleep.  If I’m to read at bedtime I need to feel the weight of a book’s good story in my hands to soothe, settle and sleep.

twitterinstagramLinkedinI’ve never been a big “tweeter” or “instagrammer,” and seldom go to LinkedIn except to occasionally update my profile or announce an upcoming event I’m hosting, but I really like Facebook, for lots of good reasons.  FacebookSo it caught my attention, when at our family’s Ukrainian Christmas celebration a few weeks back, I heard my thirty something nephew-in-law refer to Facebook as “Facecrack.”  It didn’t matter that I knew I used Facebook as a contemporary form of social activism, to “wage beauty” as an antidote to the day’s grief and terror. (OK, and to save a good recipe or bit of decorating whimsy.) I knew I was hooked.  For all its good, I saw how much precious time I used scrolling and sharing, distracting myself from Life, filling in the pauses meant to restore if left empty.  I felt the extent to which I’d be thrown off my centre, awash with emotions like despair, fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy in reaction to what I was reading.   And while intellectually I know there is nothing wrong with these emotions in and of themselves, the stew they created inside me took more precious time and energy to process or ignore, and then emerge ready to focus on whatever I knew really needed my attention.  So it came to me yesterday morning as I journaled that I’d continue to abstain from social media as my Lenten practice.  I would fast – from Facebook – observing the ritual undertaken by devotees across time and faiths, “to awaken the eternal within.”

I was born on Good Friday in a Christian Lutheran home, so its archetypes, stories and rituals resonate deep within, and I uphold many traditions, though now, woven with the richness coming from the various spiritual traditions I hold dear to my heart and being.  This ritual feels right, now.  I trust how it came so spontaneously, with no pre-thought, appearing in black ink from my pen as I wrote on the white page of my journal.  This is my “sacred duty.”

I look forward to what will come in these next forty days.  I look forward to the pauses that invite noticing. I look forward to time reclaimed to write my love letters, to heeding my heart’s ache that I live my life aligned with its calling.

Annie’s calling.  Time to take my ally for a walk…another sacred duty. 


If you are called to follow a practice “to awaken the eternal within,” I invite you to join me in two spring-time offerings, Lectio Poetica and Painting from Within. For details and registration please go to my website’s “Upcoming Events” and complete the contact form.  I’ll be back in touch via email or telephone.

Newfoundland Vignette 5 – That Remarkable Vista

It wasn’t until I crossed the bog, boarded the excursion boat, took my place in the bow and glided into the fjord’s entrance that I suddenly realized I was looking at the very same vista that took hold of me every time I saw that tourism ad on TV.

Western Brook Pond, still in Gros Morne National Park, a fresh water fjord with 2000 foot rock walls, fed by Stag Brook at the far eastern end and waterfalls along both its sides.  That day, the water like glass, mirroring the emerald green tree-faced cliffs and white cloud formations.  Silently gliding deeper into this magnificence, I was overtaken by the grandeur situated within Newfoundland’s Long Range Mountains, and with learning this was the northern most section of the Appalachians, an ancient mountain range close to my original homeland.

Later, when I tried to paint what I actually saw, I quickly surrendered to a rule of spontaneous expression, gave way to my felt impressions, saved realism for the camera.

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Wood Brook Pond, Gros Morne

June 22, 2015

 At last.

That long awaited landscape.

The one I first saw on TV.

You know, the one that grabbed my Heart and fired my Imagination.

The one with the cliffs.

“I’d like to go there one day.”

So what fired the Imagination of those ancient mariners?

The ones whose fjords evoke the very one I’m travelling down

right now?

A Page Turning Summer and a PSA, of sorts

Labour Day weekend, the last hurrah of summer for so many of us here in the Northern Hemisphere. (I note this because my blog stats show many readers from the south, which astounds and delights me!) Here in Alberta, we’ve had a remarkably warm summer. As I posted last time, to sip my morning coffee outside watching the sunrise (OK, some days wrapped in my Pendleton blanket!) and eat al fresco three meals a day for most of July and August has been a long awaited first in many years. I’ve spent many lovely hours sitting in outside in my deck chair reading…

Ruth Reichl. The last reigning editor of the now deceased Gourmet Magazine, and former food critic for the New York and LA Times, Reichl has authored several memoirs, and a recent fiction, each about my favourite reading subject, food. Not so much recipes, as the personal connections and memories food conjures, and where it comes from, its history, how it’s prepared and tastes. OMG the descriptions of taste! To develop a palate such as that of Reichl and other of my esteemed food writers, M.F.K. Fisher, Elizabeth David, Laurie Colwin, and Gina Mallet, would be a vocation worth pursuing. I devoured and savoured every word of every book Reichl wrote, in the early days of July as I designed this new website. (Seeing two delicious films, Chef and the glorious adaptation of the novel, The One Hundred Foot Journey complemented my reading about food. Could I ever get enough?)

Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux. Loaded on my Kindle, this was my travelling volume, but because I knew it’d be a regular “go to” reference, I just bought a hard copy. Based on Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory, LaLoux has written an accessible, practical “guide to creating organizations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness.” He researched twelve, cross sector pioneer organizations from around the world, who successfully operate on breakthrough principles of purpose driven, self-organization, and self-management. Using 45 criteria, including organizational processes and structures, human resources (recruiting, training, evaluation, compensation), cultural infrastructure elements of communication, office spaces, interpersonal relationships, and leadership, what becomes evident is the emergence of a new coherent organizational model, which he calls TEAL. I’m jazzed as we apply this book to work we’re doing for the next generation of The Circle Way.

Sue Monk Kidd’s The Mermaid Chair. I’ve had this on my shelf for several years and turned to it instead of re-reading my dog-eared copy of her Dance of The Dissident Daughter because I needed to paddle around in some beautifully written women’s fiction, instead of diving deep in process. I came back to shore refreshed.

… Again, The Power of Collective Wisdom and the trap of collective folly, to design my online book study of the same. This 6- week course will be available globally from mid October to late November. I’d love to have you join the class of educational leaders to add spice to conversation!

…Finally, the profoundly wise Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life by James Hollis, PhD. A friend introduced me to and offered to loan me her borrowed copies of several of Hollis’ now out of print manuscripts. I declined, again steering away from the deep dive into deep process, but days later found myself at the local library compelled to explore the stacks. I just noticed the cover endorsement: “Nourishing…Like a master chef, James Hollis knows that good food for the soul cannot be ordered to go.”  Hmmm…apparently Reichl was the appetizer, and this was definitely the main course and then some for my summer reading feast.

Hollis writes a “no holds barred” provocative examination of the shifting agenda and purpose of the second half of life in which he intends to, and does, “stir thought, trouble sleep and provide some wider perspective” based on the tenets of Jung and depth psychology.

This book spoke truth to me, in part due to my clinical training based on psychodynamic theory, and personal therapy aligned with Jungian psychology. It passed Hollis’ test of resonance, which he describes as being “critical to our capacity to gather a spirituality that brings deepened connection and meaning into our lives.” (200) Taking time this summer to ponder more fully the significance of my own illness, Hollis states unequivocally:

 “…We are obliged to thank our symptoms, for they catch our attention, compel seriousness, and offer profound clues as to the deep will or intentionality of our own psyche. In the end we will only be transformed when we can recognize and accept the fact that there is a will within each of us, quite outside the range of conscious control, a will which knows what is right for us, which is repeatedly reporting to us via our bodies, emotions, and dreams, and is incessantly encouraging our healing and wholeness. We are called to keep this appointment with the inner life, and many of us never do. Fortunately, this insistent invitation comes to us again and again.” (21)

I just read this book, and feel deeply affirmed in regard to my personal journey and how this has become manifest in my work, website and new tagline: attending to the inner live, to live and lead with courage, clarity, compassion and creativity.

There is much more in this volume, and if I’ve piqued your curiosity and stirred your soul, I recommend you seek out the book. However, what I really felt compelled to write here, my PSA (public service announcement) of sorts, is how he describes depression and its treatment, particularly in light of the current and much needed conversation.

Hollis instructs us to recognize that the word “depression” is being indiscriminately used to describe different causes, states of being and levels of meaning. It’s been reduced to a “one size fits all” approach to treatment which most often means a prescription rather than delving into the more time consuming, hence costly, exploration of its symbolic meaning. He clarifies three types of depression:

Biologically based depression that typically appears across family histories, which is most successfully treated with anti-depressant medication combined with short term, often cognitive-based, therapy.

Reactive depression, appropriate to a significant loss in our lives and tends to vary in intensity and duration in proportion to the amount of energy we invested in who or what was lost.

“The child going off to college, the end of a relationship, downsizing at work or retirement – all can occasion a reactive depression, as the psychic energy that was once invested externally loses its object or container and reverts to the personal psyche…Grieving is an honest affirmation of the value of the original investment of energy. No grief, no true investment occurred.” (73)

He reminds us that even in reactive depression there is a task that awaits us,

“namely the invitation, indeed the necessity, to examine where we may have been over-invested in the lost other, where it was carrying too much for us. When that energy returns to us, it is ours to carry, and ours to invest in ways that serve the development agenda our souls always wish from us.” (73)

In his professional experience, medications confuse and may obscure this exploration.

Intrapsychic, or dysthymic depression, suffered by each of us at some time over the course of our lives, is the reaction of the psyche to the impact upon our souls, of our culture and to the choices we’ve made in living our lives.

“No matter how successful we have been in the outer world, judged by standards external to us, if we are not living in accord with the intent of our soul, depression is likely to follow. The more I try to do what ‘I’ wish to do, and the less it is what the soul intends, the more depressed I will become.” (224)

To have the courage to inquire into and heed the response of the question, “What, then, is the summons of my soul?” is the way through.

This may not pass your “resonance test.” But if it does, may Hollis’ words, and those of aligned authors, like Parker Palmer, bring courage, clarity and compassion to we who suffer depression, and help us find our way through to living in accordance with the soul’s agenda.

How Open, How Big Our Hearts

I’ve been thinking about sadness these past weeks, because goodness knows, there sure is a lot going on in this precious world right now worthy of our sadness and tears. Maybe that’s the way it’s always been and I’ve simply not been aware of it in quite this way. And-or, being careful not to displace, acknowledging and feeling my own “inside” sadness of late. Finding the rub of simply letting it be and flowing through, without needing to know the precise or even vague why. Trusting the wisdom beneath the words, beyond the mind’s meaning making. Knowing the chasm of resonance, between the sadness “out there” and “inside,” while eons’ deep, is only a hair’s width across. Considering might it all be the same, varying in degrees?

I’ve been thinking a lot about something I heard Fred Kofman say when I studied with him in June 2003 at the then Shambhala Institute of Authentic Leadership. “The challenge,” he said, “is to learn how to keep one’s heart open in hell.”  Whether Fred was quoting from another great teacher, as was his wont, or came to this from his own life experience, I quote him and it often. And then a few weeks ago, I came across a similar idea, this time a quote from W.B. Yeats, “Too many things are occurring for even a big heart to hold.”

And I’ve been wondering, how open, how big do our hearts need to be to hold it all, out there, and inside? I wonder about those of us who are especially sensitive, who feel it all deeply and have trouble discerning which is which. I wonder about those whose sadness tempers, fires, strengthens, softens, and opens them to the wise and humble and mysterious and vulnerable. And I wonder about the lost souls whose hearts have broken, tormented by their own hell, exhausted by holding up and in, who finally give up or give in, who suicide to death, or surrender to life.

Perspectives with Panache, 2014Yesterday, as I walked my dear Peggy dog (she in her 17th year, in what may well be her last chapter, the reality of which pierces and prepares my heart for those final words), I found a small dark feather on the grass. With its iridescent blue-black colour, I suspect it dropped from that trickster, the magpie. I passed it by and steps later, found a larger, fuller, absolutely white one that I felt moved to pick up. Not two steps later, its dark twin, which I, too, retrieved.

Holding those simple talismans of light and dark, flight and groundedness, air and earth, peace eased in and opened my heart a little more.