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

Another From the Little Red Jot Book

Sunday, September 3, 2017: at the old pool in the woods of Finca Buenvino, Spain

Ambling along the wooded path, morning sun dapples.

Gentle veer to the left and a slight decline reveals an old, maybe even ancient, archway.

A threshold into invited imagination.

Broken amphora and tree limbs.

The small square abandoned pool, its once white marble stones now stained from cork and chestnut leaves long dead and decayed.  Its once crystal waters, now dark and stagnant.

What story evoked, mystery imagined here?

She pushes the lattice gate, patina green with age, and enters a space out of time, out of place.  Another era.  Another life.

Walls made of stone and stucco.  Moss fans like sea coral across the surface.

A pool.  Square.  Its surface thick with algae.

Amphora cracked and gaping like a heart that never healed.

She remembers.

A little boy lost.

Following his dog, together running, leaping, caught in a moment of sunshine, lost in the reverie of play.

His mother calls, calls, calls. No reply.

Hot, tired and bitten by honey bees, he follows his dog who, smelling the fresh spring water and overcome by instinct, leaps into the pool below. 

Making his way down the slope, now at the pool’s edge, he wavers.  So hot.  So thirsty.  Overcomes the caution of his mother’s warning.

Splashes. Flounders. Grabs hold of the dog who wiggles out and away.

Kneeling by the edge she peers into the dank and murky depths, mesmerized by memory.

Searching.  Finding.

Lost.  Found.

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.

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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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.”

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.

Waging Beauty with Empty Shoes

Last October I co-hosted a small gathering for the community of practice alumni from my Leading in Emergence learning lab.  Six of us came together that last Wednesday morning of the month, in the warm and comfortable living room of one of our members, in, as Otto Scharmer writes, “a space for profound collaborative renewal.”

I was eager to prototype a simple reflective practice based on a recently acquired book, In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty by Mark Gonzales.  The title alone captivated me, both in that resonates with a deep knowing that beauty is an antidote, if not cure to the world’s pain and suffering, and with its paradoxical injunction to “wage” beauty, a verb often used with “war” and aggression. This simple and elegantly designed volume of brief ideas, observations, insights, and mantra-like wisdom speaks to the power of story, ancestors, empowered choice and bold action.

Each of us was invited bring an image of and reflect on an ancestor, mentor or respected elder.  In circle we shared a brief story of how that person’s life served as a beacon of inspiration.  We created a communal collage, dedicating our images and stories to the future.  Then, we closed by sharing our impressions of the beauty seen before us, held within, taken with us.  Below, the “caught” poem:

Waging Beauty: A Collage of the Imagined and Ineffable 

Gardens of colour transformed by garbage and utility into communities of wonder.

New growth in nature.

Connectedness building strength and vibrancy in empty shoes that belong to us all.

Resilience in a sense of place.

Wisdom in a world wise and enraptured by third eye seeing.

Sensing synchronicity that defies labels and logic and contrived manipulation.

Silence shared with strangers and near strangers.  The simplest beauty there is.

What strikes me now is the uncanny prescience, from that morning a month before, of the beauty waged in Paris, days after terror struck the city and killed over one hundred of its citizens enjoying their Friday evening.

empty shoes in Paris

MIGUEL MEDINA, VIA GETTY IMAGES

Ten thousand empty shoes silently displayed in the Place de la Republique on November 29, 2015, represented the peoples’ determination to “have” their voice in a symbolic march against climate change on the eve of the UN Climate Conference when their actual presence was forbidden due to safety and security concerns.

The strength and vibrancy in empty shoes that belong to us all.

An Epiphany of Creation

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The Goddess’ Cauldron

Into Sedna’s icy seas

I cast wisps of prayer and blessing for this new year.

From her dark depths

cold crystalline shards of unknown shadows

float to the surface,

intrigued and captivated by the phosphorescent luminous.

All now, swirl and churn, mixed with my morning kiss.

Embraced by its heart and heat

All now, melt and merge.

All now, transformed

into wave and mist, cloud and rain

crashing, soaking, washing

shoreline sands, rocky cliffs, silent forests,

skin and scale and fur and feather.

Time will stand still and breathe anew

into this vow of creative surrender.

(Inspired by this clay plate from Newfoundland artist, Peter Sobal, and spontaneous invocation at the Self as Source Writers’ Retreat, December 7, 2015.)

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?