Fiercely Tender Moments

It’s been a season full of travel.  A flight a month since August. Settle into a breath and some. Focus on my work companioning leaders. Tend to home and heart. Then shift back to preparing and packing. One more to go, in mid-December, and then to sink and surrender into the gifts of winter’s cold and darkness.

Already the anticipation of immersing myself in the making of photo books from two remarkable journeys. Slow dinners of roasted roots and braised meats, best with our favourite fulsome reds, cellared especially for now. Wool and down, fleece and flannel, coats and sweaters, hats and scarves, boots and gloves, took over closets and beds on Labour Day, a month early, but prescient given snow that came well before summer went. Though underneath, until recently, the still vibrant and beauty of autumn. This is the wisdom medicine of such early snows, trusting the hidden beauty remains.

P1040136One of these flights included a trip to Saltspring Island, BC. In October the stars and my schedule finally aligned to attend an annual dream retreat hosted by Toko-pa Turner. I’d been intent to sit in this circle, to learn and practice more deeply the artistry of dreamwork, as a facet of my life work of attending to the inner life to live and lead with kindness, clarity and wisdom.  For three days, this multicultural, multi-generational circle of thirty women feasted on the harvest of our night-time dreams, and the meals lovingly prepared from the organic gardens of Stowel Lake Farm, an intentional community and wellness centre.

Pespectives with Panache, 2018Invited to bring a talisman for the dream altar, and for introductions, my initial choice of a small ceramic evoking Sedna of the deep waters was impulsively over-ridden by Athena, the Wisdom, Warrioress and Writer.  A gift from beloved friends and mentors, with whom a year earlier I was initiate in how to be, witness, and serve in shadowed and breaking times, in a complex circle of chaos and conflict.

She served me well, that statue forged in her Greek homeland, reminding me of tender fierceness and  fierce tenderness. Qualities to embrace and embody. Needed now. Placed on the altar’s corner, she became a presence of “unselfconscious majesty” reminding me of who we each truly are. Need to be. Now. For the duration, she became witness to our sacred dreams spoken in silence, written in words, sang and danced in sunshine and moonglow.

During our final morning, as homage this circle, these women, our dreams, and to what Toko-pa called our “Holy Helpers,” I quietly noticed and wrote, and then offered to the centre as farewell

Fiercely Tender Moments

One sits under the portico. Eyes closed.

Soft breath attuned to soft falling rain.

A colourful blanket wrapped about her shoulders,

keeping her safe and warm in the early morning cool.

 

Another sits writing down her dreams.

Her turquoise heart gift glows with appreciation for a new-found friend.

I can see her as her twenty-year old self. Imagine a long-haired hippy…strong, tall Scandinavian beauty.

 

Noiselessly shuffling tarot cards.

Clunky wooden bracelets a contrast to her long, elegant, gold ringed fingers.

A grace, a beauty that is remarkable, enthralling even.

 

One, then another, and another circle around the dream altar.

Honey scented candles softly illuminate these simple riches.

Taking in, reverently touching. Bowing before soul-filled symbols. Talismans of thresholds.

What is teacher? Healer? Warrioress? How do they feed and inspire my own visionary?

 

Heads bent over journals.

Pens softly scribing night time dreams, day time visions.

Intentions. Reflections.

 

A pause…

Hot creamy coffee sipped.

Buttered toast tasted.

 

Thick rain pouring steadily down, muting the vibrancy of this autumn morning glory.

Kitchen clatter reminds us of home soon to come.

 

Across the room a smile of morning greeting.

Closer still, a touch, an embrace.

Still the sacred silence honoured.

 

We are power in the heart.

Sweet honey in the rock.

PS – This is my first post since I “freshened up” my website. It’d been a few years and was time to refine the focus. Take a look and let me know what you think. Thanks and kindest regards.

Last Load of Laundry

In my right ear, the grinding of my neigbour’s lawnmower, slicing blades of grass, chomping on crab apples knocked out during yesterday’s wind. I catch a whiff of their cider sweetness and wonder how the wasps are faring.

In my left ear, the other neighbor’s chainsaw, chewing through remnants of summer renovations projects, this one a new wooden fence. Lumber ends and slats feed the fire pit. Snap. Crackle. Pop.

Behind me, the spinning of the washing machine.  A load of whites to be hung outside in the finally warm enough, sunny enough day. But the sun sure is sitting a lot lower in this early September afternoon sky.

So much for a sabbath day of rest.  Not to be on a Labor Day long weekend, last one of the summer.

A delicate white butterfly passes by.  The sun feels warm on my face.

Grass is cut, smooth and even. Lawnmower returned to the blue grey shed.

Fire still crackling.

Last load of laundry pegged and hung, swaying in the breeze.

Another white butterfly floats by.  Sun even warmer now.  I have to squint to write.

I rest.

Day’s labor done.

Perspectives with Panache, 2018

A Blessing for the HolyDays

May this Holyday season bring time to cherish all that is good and true and beautiful.

May its dark days invite rest for reflection and renewal.

May nature welcome you to its beauty, magic and wisdom.

May good health be your companion, relationships enliven and encourage,

work and pastimes fulfill and affirm.

May strength in body, mind and spirit allow you to embrace life’s uncertainties.

May patience, love and kindness – given and received – be yours in abundance.

(Inspired by John O’Donohue)

Seven Star Sisters

Seven star sisters, each a Venus shining in the eastern morning sky.

 

Skin glows like moonbeams in the cloistered light of the hammam

Soft flesh – thighs, breasts and bellies

Hair loosened, free across forehead, neck and shoulder

Eyes half closed

Surrender.

 

Soaking in the warm and cool

pools of sensuous, history and story, ancient rituals

Tender dreams swirl up and through like the sandalwood incense wafting, scenting, sensing.

 

Exotic music out of time and place

Echoes of flamenco before it came to be

Imagining the route taken before making home in these Andalucian hills.

 

Hot honeyed tea, fresh with mint

a balm of generosity

Dates picked fresh

soft and warm and sweet as this moment.

 

Seven sister stars mindlessly float from hot to cool to hot again

Submerged in an elemental expanse of sky, of water

Footsteps languid on smooth clay floors

Two by two, give ourselves over to firm fingers, strong hands, primal stones.

 

Body aches and heart hurts

Monkey mind of spinning thought and worry

Give way to spacious possibility and healing hope

Up the spine.  Down the leg.

 

Tracing steps.

Following routes.

Coming home.

 

 

Walking to Los Marines

Tuesday, September 5, 2017: a small village of three hundred or so residents located in the Sierra de Aracena within the Sierra Morena mountain range in Andalucia

Crushed leaves of lemon verbena mix with my palms’ sweat, releasing a clean, fresh scent.

Breathing heavy.  Heart beating.

It’s warm nearing hot in these Andalucian hills.

 

We seven star sisters hiked up a creek bed, bone dry and cracked from the heat of a “Lucifero” summer.

Over my shoulder, in the distance, Finca Buenvino glows pink and turquoise in the light shot with sunshine, sparkling with dust motes.

A chirp of birdsong over here.  A roll of truck tires over there.

Pens scratching in little red jot books as we each capture a mindful moment, noticing the beauty of this fine Spanish morning.

 

Finally, a deeper sense of relaxation, a letting go from disappointment and dismay.

Clarity earned from mining deep.

Wise action discerned and taken.

Inner harmony restored.

Presence.

 

The bell tolls.

 

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?

Venus Burning Bright

A month ago I gazed into the predawn sky and saw Venus burning bright.

Jet-lagged eyes took in the outline of Andalusian hills.

Travel weary body felt the warm, late summer breeze waft through the open window, fluttering my white cotton gown.

It was the beginning of an adventure to collect new impressions.

writing retreat the pretense to come to Spain.  A week at Finca Buenvino, a beautiful shuttered and pink stuccoed villa in the hills of the Aracena National Park, an hour or so northwest of Sevilla.  The owners, long time British expats with their hearts firmly planted in Spanish soil.  An elegant hodgepodge of inherited English antiques and acquired Moorish textiles, Spanish ceramics and Waterford crystal.  Terraces and balconies, salons and reading rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms.

 

 

A kitchen outfitted for skillful chefs, fresh and local ingredients, and cooking school guests eager to measure and stir and taste Jeannie’s flare for concocting.  I took my turn for an afternoon, tossing ground pork and orange zested patties in the coarse flour, soon to be fried and then braised in valencian orange flavoured  tomato sauce. Sauteeing shrimp in smoked paprika butter.  Polishing wine glasses.  Setting the communal table with silver and linen, its place solid under the wisteria laden pergola. (Eating here was a “pinch me” moment, evoking memories of those quintessential photo ads promoting Tuscany.)

Floating on the surface of the infinity pool, thoughts dip and dive like swallows in the sky between the chestnut groves.  (These nuts feed the Iberian pigs, giving fat and flavor to Spain’s famous jamon.)

Lazing on chaises, umbrellas shield skin from blazing siesta sun.

Six women gathered from Britain, Canada, America and France to write in little red notebooks prompted by sights and sounds and tastes as we hiked into local villages – Aracena, Los Marines, Linares – and sipped “coppas” of chilled, pale golden manzanilla sherry, a refreshing pairing with the myriad of tapas flavours.  Red radishes as big as fat thumbs laying in a platter of golden olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt.  Emerald green chiles fried whole in olive oil, then salted.  Toast with seasoned tomato sauce, Spain’s take on bruschetta.  Smokey olives.  Tangy, hard manchego cheese. Lightly battered fresh fried sardines.  Pink-shelled shrimp with heads intact, eagerly peeled and swallowed, releasing their sea salty-sweet juice.

 

P1000223

Sitting together, ensconced in the stone walls and cushions of the Moorish terrace, or the shaded studio overlooking the pool, we quickly capture musings in bigger black journals from prompts offered by our host – memories of our mothers’ cooking, how to be a writer, what a line of proffered poetry or name evokes.

I can see nuggets of story, but for now they rest deep inside, needing time, like the sherry aged in wooden casks, to bring out their full flavour.  An alchemical process required by any act of creation.

This morning I gazed into the predawn sky and saw Venus burning bright.

Now home.  Alchemy at work.

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.