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.”

Consciously Attending to My New Year

Perspectives with Panache, 2014It’s been a long time since I last wrote here.  I’d started a piece on my heart’s response to being in Turkey, how I didn’t really let myself know fully “Why Turkey?” until a kind and gentle Muslim friend asked me over coffee and pastries at the Duchess one morning upon my return.  Why Turkey?  “Because of Rumi,” was my most truthful, heartful reply, as tears came suddenly.  She nodded a deep knowing.  For a good month upon my return, I reverberated with that energy, experiencing what another friend recently called “post trip stress disorder,” PTSD of a different sort, wherein we experience a range of reactions to having our paradigms and hearts cracked open.  A good thing she offered, because it means we’ve been open to the experience, letting something new come in and touch us.  Whew! So much more than just jet lag!

I never finished that piece.  I had trouble finding the words to express myself, and then time had passed with more water under the bridge.  I’ve noticed that since keeping a journal more regularly, that process holds some of what I might previously written here.  How many times I’ve noted there an even deeper appreciation for, a need for the quiet and silence that greets me in those early morning moments, and I sense this has slipped and seeped into discerning, whether or not I choose to write “out here.”

Like around Remembrance Day, I found myself pondering if and how we make space to remember those who fought on the other side, who were “the enemy.”  The notion of legitimate-illegitimate grief had been stirring inside for a couple of months, prompted by the passing of my chosen namesake. My paternal grandfather, my opa, was a German soldier killed in action and buried in France.  My father knew him for only a few short years of childhood, due to a stubborn estrangement between his parents.  Several years ago, pieces came together to help my father finally visit his father’s final resting place, taking with him his mother’s ashes, making for reconciliation, and peace.  My husband’s father, too, a young German soldier, taken as prisoner of war to England and Texas, who still eats with military-issued cutlery.  How, or do we grant those close to our hearts the honor of remembering when they have been called “enemy”?  How do we illuminate this shadowed grief and give it legitimacy? 

While questions worthy of posing here, I heeded an inner caution to take time to hold them close inside and steep in their tension.  Many times I think about Rumi’s poem, The Guest House, as it reminds me the way to reconciliation and peace “out here,” is to welcome as guest, the “enemy” inside:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Perspectives with PanacheQuiet and silence.  We’ve been having less these past weeks as our dear Peggy dog, now in her seventeenth year, has developed dementia, compounding her deafness and partial blindness.  This means she paces aimlessly through the house, nails tapping on hard wood floors, grating like nails on a chalkboard, or when cordoned off in the kitchen, ceaselessly doing laps around the table.  Sometimes we find her standing still, with her head in a corner, or open cupboard, peering into space.  Stairways, once agilely manoeuvered, now require our assistance and constant attention so she doesn’t fall. Diapers, baby food to entice her appetite, daily bathing and laundering to keep her clean, rearranging furniture and schedules, all adaptations we’re learning to make to keep safe and attend to this beloved being who has given us years of joyful companionship and wise lessons. “You’re preparing to lose her,” spoke a dear wise woman, affirming my deep sadness, both specific and amplified by the holydays.  We anticipate her time will come this year, and I make preparation to welcome that guest into my house.

It’s a grey, flat light morning here on the first day of 2015.  Right now, Peggy and our younger dog, Gentle Annie, are quiet and still, sleeping by the space heater as I write and The Scientist peruses financial forecasts.  Soon we’ll dress, have brunch, and take a family walk.  I’m thinking about my focus for the year ahead, “conscious attendant.”  It suddenly popped to mind a few days ago when, after reading my Haligonian heart-sister’s Facebook status, being reminded of her annual practice, I asked for a guiding touchstone.  A moment of discouraged disbelief, and then recognition that this so perfectly aligns with how I’ve defined myself “out here”: attending to the inner life, to live and lead with courage, clarity, compassion and creativity, and in which I am growing in comfort and confidence as I practice and value emerging gifts.  And to seal it, I discovered this thoughtful post from Parker Palmer about crossing the threshold into a new year.  Here, he references a beautiful poem by Anne Hillman, and gives us five beautiful and evocative questions to guide our crossing, and focus my attending:

  1. How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of aliveness?
  2. What is my next challenge in daring to be human?
  3. How can I open myself to the beauty of nature and human nature?
  4. Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
  5. What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?

For the Solstice I wrote this blessing and offer it to you with my sustained love and appreciation as we cross into our new year:

May the gifts of these holydays be yours throughout the coming year…

love of and for your family and friends,

health of body, mind and spirit,

work that sustains and serves,

kindness for self and others, and peace.

May you know and be peace.

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.