Newfoundland Vignette 4 – Moving On

After three nights’ sleeping at Uncle Steve’s Place in Woody Point, we’d be moving on up the western coast to make our way over to the Great Northern Peninsula where we’d see icebergs and the historic French Shore.  During our last morning at Ivy Crocker’s Granite Coffee Shop, I picked up my conversation with the lovely local server as she fed me coffee, toast, and home-made partridge berry preserves.

IV

Woody Point, Gros Morne

Last Breakfast at the Granite Coffee Shop

June 22, 2015

 “I’d be nervous all the time,” explains the sweet young server,

(can’t be more than twenty-two, eyebrow piercing twinkles a delicate blue, matches her eyes),

sharing a bit about her baby girl,

why she’ll stay put on Woody Point

where the closest traffic light is in Corner Brook,

so Adrianna can run

free.

crock3

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.

V

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?

Newfoundland Vignette 3 – Kayaking Off Norris Point

What a perfect way to celebrate this perfect day, kayaking in Bonne Bay!

The Summer Solstice sun shone in full glory as we crossed to Norris Point in the local water taxi. (Later, we saw a “sun dog” – an iridescent halo of light surrounding the sun – something I’ve only ever seen on one of Alberta’s brilliantly frigid winter days.) How this daughter of the water feels at home skimming the fluid surface, smelling the fresh scents of water, feeling the cool wind on her face.

We’d been told that whales – humpbacks and minkes – had been sighted breaching in the bay near where we’d paddle.  For several of the women, to see a whale on this trip would be a dream come true.  The bay was calm, the day’s heat rising as we packed picnic food and supplies into the bows, got outfitted in life jackets and rubber skirts, settled into our seats and pushed off shore, paddles in hand, cameras ready to catch a sighting.  No sooner had we settled into a fairly synchronized rhythm when a blow, once, twice spotted.  And then….

III

Norris Point, Gros Morne

Our Summer Solstice Prayer

June 22, 2015

Intention held in the hearts and minds of twelve women

wild to witness the whale,

grand dame of our species.

A blow…once, twice

seen along the rock and tree faced cliff.

Colour full kayaks skim the surface,

Carry us Home.

Our hands drum the chant of welcome,

Invoking her wisdom, calling her in.

A tail sighted…once, twice

breaking though the glassy sea.

A sudden breach.

Our collective Heart leaps with the closeness of her show.

A prayer received and delivered.

Newfoundland Vignette 2 – A Sacred Sunday Summer Solstice

Still in Woody Point in Gros Morne National Park, I awoke on Summer Solstice morn to a still sleeping village.  My house mates had already dressed and made their way to the Granite Coffee Shop, the morning ritual for breakfast and the day’s itinerary.  I savoured the stillness and solitude as I collected myself and the requisite supplies for a day of kayaking in Bonne Bay.  I left “Uncle Steve’s Place,” our bed and breakfast, and ambled down the road, camera in hand, present to the awakening day, and promise held in the full rising sun.

II

Woody Point, Gros Morne

Early Sunday Summer Solstice Morn

 June 21, 2015

 A Bonne Bay full of Sun on this Sacred Sunday Summer Solstice morn.

Shhhh…the only sounds…

A choir of birds.

Robin singing, trilling, thrilling.

Black Crow cawing.

Lark warbling.

Red-winged Blackbird wooing.

Blood red blossoms about to burst forth on the front yard crab apple tree.

Water softly lapping on the stony shore.

Locals sitting on their front porch stoops,

sipping coffee,

smoking the day’s first cigarette.

The “from aways” laughter and chatter break the spell.

I stand on yet another threshold

looking for the middle way.

Newfoundland…preambling along

I wrote last time about how my layover in Halifax, en route to a week touring Newfoundland, helped me recognize and claim it as my “heart place” for claiming and crossing thresholds.  Newfoundland, the raison d’etre, my threshold-crossing birthday gift ]to myself, was a remarkable adventure, another one of those realized dreams, the seed of which first planted several years ago as I sat enthralled watching one of several TV commericials from Newfoundland-Labrador Tourism’s campaign Beautiful ads showing rugged coastlines, hikers looking over cliff-faced fjords, the first European settlement in North America, ice bergs, fishing villages with lobster traps, cod stakes, dorries, and the multi-coloured saltbox houses perched on steep rocky landscapes and, too on the urban streets of St. John’s, its capital and North America’s oldest city.  When I last visited Halifax, in the fall of 2012, to attend a movement workshop with one of my Halifax “sisters,” I spoke aloud my wish to visit The Rock one day.

Fast forward to this spring when the Canadian tour company Wild Women Expeditions sent an email announcing one space left in their July departure for their Newfoundland hiking-kayaking-art tour.  Perfect.  I hiked, kayaked once in the ponds outside of Halifax, and love the arts.  Quick negotiations with The Scientist to rejig celebrations for our 35th anniversary, and I was booked.  Then kismet worked on our behalf with space on a mid-June date, even more perfect.

P1000042So with the advice of friends who’ve Perspectives with Panache, 2015visited the island, I flew into St. John’s for a few days, stayed in the historic Rendell-Shea Manor bed and breakfast, to see those iconic “Matchless Paint Company” houses, go to the province’s Craft Council shop and spend a day at The Rooms, the provincial gallery, museum and archives, and where I knew I’d enjoy a delicious meal in their café (a lesson learned travelling in Chicago, Vancouver, and Europe). The weather was perfect, as it poured buckets after I took photos of the houses, walked Duckworth and Water Streets, and headed over to the galleries, passing the Basilica.  I got my delicious lunch – a seafood au gratin with roasted carrots, a smooth chardonnay, and warm sticky toffee pudding and cream for dessert.  And for a bit of star quality, saw Mark Critch, from This Hour Has 22 Minutes, sitting across from me (much smaller in stature and younger than on TV.)  The exhibitions were elegant and evocative: a retrospective of Newfoundland’s renowned Christopher Pratt, and my favourite, “Truth or Myth?,” vignettes from the gallery’s permanent collection, curated in response to questions of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians’ social, cultural and political identity.  I was especially captivated by the corresponding Haiku-like poems by local actor-writer, Andy Jones.

Perspectives with Panache, 2015

From Corner Brook Viewpoint

After a couple of days, I was itching to get on with it, and boarded the provincial DRL bus for the “milk run” day trip across the province to Deer Lake, the tour rendezvous.  Thinking this would be a great way to see the province, I did, even though the landscape was consistent, mile after mile, over ten hours, with spring green leaved trees, sparkling ponds, azure sky and billowy white clouds, interrupted only by the ten or so small town and gas station stops, and the Gander Airport.  I’d been warned that Deer Lake isn’t much to see; fast food and Chinese buffets predominate the Trans Canada and hotels and bed and breakfasts cater to travellers “en route.”  So I arranged with three women on the tour, each of whom was arriving a day early, to share a car rental and drive to Corner Brook for a few hours before meeting the other women and our guides.  (Later, I’d affectionately name us “The Singlets”, in contrast to our companions, “The Quartet” of four close friends, and “The Two Sisters.”)

Perspectives with Panache, 2015

Woody Point, NL with Gros Morne in the background

By mid-Friday afternoon, our group set off, five each in pretty swanky vans driven by our mother-daughter guide-hosts, bound for Unesco World Heritage site, Gros Morne National Park, and the village of Woody Point, where we’d spend the next three days getting to know each other as we hiked, kayaked, visited local art and craft shops and enjoyed fine local food and hospitality.

Thresholds Claimed

“You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done…you are fierce with reality.” – Florinda Scott-Maxwell, The Measure of My Days

P1000033A month ago I traveled to Halifax, en route to a vacation touring Newfoundland.  The week before my departure, I was thick into the preparations for and co-hosting our third Inside Outside Leadership gathering, this year focused on transitions and thresholds.  In readying myself for both journeys, I realized how Halifax has become my “heart place” for acknowledging and crossing thresholds.  So to spend a few days there was completely apropos given my own recent threshold, turning sixty and stepping into what the late Angeles Arrien calls the first stage of elderhood.

A bit of the backstory…I first went to Halifax in 2002, to attend what was then called the Shambhala Institute of Authentic Leadership, truly a transformative, deep dive into learning that significantly changed the course of my work, relationships, life.  It became my professional community of practice, and I attended for several more years, the most recent being in June, 2010.  Then, I recalled having to go “toe to toe” with my director to justify using the allocated professional development time and budget for this event.  In hindsight, I realized this and another similar conversation wherein I “spoke truth to power,” most likely led to my position being “abolished” the following year, and put in play my eventual decision to “retire” in June, 2012.  I remember flying across Canada, staving off a migraine, and feeling nauseous with anxiety the closer I got to Halifax.  After a bit of soul-searching, I disclosed to my Halifax “sisters” who met and fetched me, that I felt I was about to cross a threshold – the first time I ever recall using this particular word – sensing an enormity and knowing only that I upon my return home, I’d complete those final weeks of work, and then begin my long awaited, year long, deferred salary leave, a year in which I was intentionally designing experiences to open me up to Life (studying process painting in Taos, NM with the method’s founder, Michele Cassou, and travelling “sola” to Europe for three months.)

File created with CoreGraphics

File created with CoreGraphics

ALIA (Shambhala renamed) is masterful in designing the space and container for potent, transformative learning and community making.  (Read Susan Szpakowski’s Little Book of Practice for a beautifully eloquent description of how.)  And wouldn’t you know it, that year, as the group convened for the first time, “threshold” was our welcoming metaphor and ritual.

41GyeErgUvL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Threshold, as described by Angeles Arrien in The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom (2007), is “the place or moment where transformational work, learning, or integration occurs.” (9)  She makes the distinction between a threshold and a gate, with the latter being:

“the protecting and testing that must occur before we are allowed entry and permitted to do the work at the threshold.  Gates are often considered places of initiation or entryways into holy places, sacred grounds, or spiritually significant transitions.  Deep archetypal feelings may surface when we are ‘at the gate.’  Instinctively, we recognize that we are required to let go of what is familiar, prepare to enter, and open ourselves to the unknown.  Our passage through the gate is irreversible.  After we open the gate and stand upon the threshold, we must do the work of transformation.” (10)

In the book’s forward, Arrien’s “Celtic friend and colleague,” the late John O’Donohue wrote, “Each life must find its true threshold, that edge where the individual gift fits the outer hunger and where the outer hunger fits the inner hunger….a human life can be understood in terms of a narrative of its thresholds.” (x)

Have I told you that over that year of intentional threshold crossing, I broke three hand mirrors?  The first being during that week at ALIA.  The second, as I prepared for my last trip to Italy, a bus tour of Sicily.  The third and final, the hand mirror I travelled with throughout Europe, and found shattered when I unpacked upon arriving back in Canada.

download (1)Or that during that weekend before ALIA, when I celebrated with my “sisters” in Mahone Bay, enjoying fresh lobster, wine and heartful conversation, gifting them each with tiara, scepter, shawl and the book The Queen of My Self, evoking another threshold, the tarot card of death appeared in each of my readings?

It was never lost on me the potency of that particular June, crossing through the gate into the threshold that, now in my fifth year, I anticipate will continue for the yogic seven.  The archetypal feelings and signs foretelling that my life as I had known it would shatter, die, shift and change.

So yes, it was with perfect and subtle attunement that I spontaneously added on the Halifax layover, and shared another fine weekend, in that same comfortable home with my “sisters,” again enjoying our tradition of fresh lobster, fine wine and heartful conversation.  Now each of us five years older, tending to Life’s changes as children move and marry, parents flounder with less time than more, careers shift and end, health waxes and wanes, and “what next?” hovers large on the horizon.  Stepping into what Life is calling forth from us, for us.  Learning what it means to be an elder. Claiming its gate and threshold.

Perspectives with Panache, 2016

PS – With bittersweet and perhaps even divine synchronicity, John O’Donohue passed over unexpectedly on January 4, 2008, a few short months after writing the forward to Angeles Arrien’s book.  In her introduction, she writes about their friendship and his forthcoming book, To Bless the Space Between Us, which was published posthumously on March 4, 2008.  Angeles Arrien passed over in late April, 2014.

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.

Leading in Emergence….lessons learned from travelling abroad

“Merhaba!” 

That’s “hello” in Turkish.  For the past two weeks, I’ve had occasion to speak this and other Turkish words and phrases – Please, Thank you, Where’s the toilet? Good morning, Good bye, How much? – as we toured from Istanbul through central and western Turkey.  A skim across the surface of this ancient culture and beautiful land, as we floated above the magical terrain of Cappadocia, dove into the cave dwellings at Göreme, walked among the archaeological ruins at Troy, Ephesus and Pamukkale, witnessed the mystical whirling dervishes and their founder’s tomb in Konya, and tasted our way through Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and Spice Market.

Now as I settle back home, and make my way through the nine hour time difference, I’m in that odd, in between space of holding a myriad of new and novel sights, sounds, scents and impressions that filled me to the brim, with the anticipation of co-hosting a second Leading in Emergence learning lab November 6-7, in Sherwood Park, Alberta.  No doubt a side effect of jet lag, I’ve been thinking about how travelling abroad and stepping into a different culture invites me to consider how similar the frames, practices, and competencies are to navigating the slippery terrain of emergence and complexity.

Driving in Istanbul – it’s in the genes I was told.  A pattern emerges, flows and then collapses into the next iteration of chaos, backed up with a cacophony of horns. Cars, taxis, buses…bumper on bumper, stalled for minutes that become hours, apparently irrelevant traffic lights.  Pedestrians seem to intuit the space and pause to nimbly move between, around, across tram tracks, through intersections.  Or, in our case, abandon the taxi caught in a standstill, and walk to our destination.

The call to prayer, five times a day, every day, though NOT at the same time of day, is aMinaret.jpeg significant frame that organizes the comings and goings of people and their systems.  In the morning especially, I would hear the chant start at one minaret, and then a few moments later from another, then another, and another…like a wave that would build in crescendo, and then fade away voice by voice as the summons concluded.

sema.jpeg

Mesmerized by the “sema,” a  cultural exhibition by the whirling dervish sect of Sufism founded by Rumi, it demonstrated how prayer and moving meditation have been used for centuries to connect with the divine to awaken knowing and wisdom for uncertain times.

Our very experienced tour guide knew to make an early reservation for the hot air balloon ride, given we’d be at the whim of winds and weather.  Unabashed commitment paid off, as seven of us soared with fifty other balloons at sunset over the fairy chimneys while our ambivalent tour mates, not sure they wanted to pay the price, postponed planning to the next day.  It was not to be, as the skilful pilots assessed the winds unfavourable for safe flying.  Know, plan, commit, act are the lessons here.Cappadocia KebapSeduced by aromas of grilled food, we sampled and savoured, only to have our guts protest…an embodied knowing that won’t be denied!

 

 

 

How has travelling to other places opened you to new impressions and insights? What are your stories about emergence and complexity…when you’ve felt uncertain and coped with chaos…sensed and intuited patterns…let go to let come and step into the space of bold action?