What Are the Necessary Structures in Your Life?

It’s 6:30 am.  I’m on Whidbey Island attending the board retreat for The Circle Way. I arrived a few days early to circle up with and settle into my island friendships.

Stories of inspired travels and its lessons gleaned invited in to send off dear friends on what we each know will be one of life’s momentous journeys.

Kitchen tips about good cookware and the uses of oils passed on as we prepped for our communal stir fry.

Beach walking and eagle gazing.

Seashell and stone gathering. I settled on a hefty, smooth and flat stone that fits between, as if made for my palms, notched to hold my thumbs, the perfect prayer stone.

Breathing in the sounds and colours of a spring yet to bloom at home – robins singing, golden forsythia and daffodils, pink plum and white apple blossoms, coral and indigo hyacinth, red tulips, green grass. The rain-soaked ground smells as good as the morning’s fresh brewed coffee. Even this signature Pacific Northwest sodden grey backdrop holds appeal as a contrast to the vividly awakening palette.

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A late night chat with a friend over a dram of local single malt watered my languishing inner writer. “How’s the writing coming?” he inquired with a genuine need to know, we, having shared during past meetings our curiosity with and commitment to this craft. I admitted to not having written for several months. Revealed to having fallen into the half empty glass of doubt despite hearing, from a trusted and established writer friend, how delightful, fresh and worthy of continued effort my initial foray. Disappointed as my naïve hope that I was almost finished with this first manuscript was a just beginning. Full of excuses and explanations none of which I shared, knowing none of which held substance.

“Just write,” I knew deep inside to be the only way out of the confines of the glass and into creativity’s life-giving stream.

And so, after hearing my friend share for the second time in as many days, the value for him of writing four days a week, every week, to putting into words what he notices as his offering to the world, his recognition that it is a practice that helps him feel good, my inner writer woke me this morning at 5:30 to write.

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As a board, we work in circle, and start every retreat, after our first dinner, with a fulsome check-in. We each received a post card created by photographer Carla Kimbell from her Revealed Presence collection to focus our reflection and words. Mine was a summer photo of farm buildings – grain silos, an iconic red wooden, tin roofed barn and a Quonset – easy to imagine seeing anywhere a few miles away from my home on the Canadian prairies. Titled Layers of Curves on a Farm, it posed the question, “What are the necessary structures in your life?”

An invitation to notice.

A resurrected commitment to write.

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.”

Forsythia

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For the first time, in a long time, forsythia in bloom.  Granted, nestled in a sunny sheltered south exposure, and still, can you recall the last time you saw those golden yellow flowers, made like a child might draw his first night-time star, in the middle of a prairie April?

I was driving to the boulangerie when those blossoms caught my eye.  Yes, we have one here in our prairie city.  The real deal owned by a real French baker.  The testament to his fine levain loaves, a line up of folks, big and little, out the door and onto a sidewalk bordered by bicycles, baby buggies and scooters.  I smile to myself coming upon the scene, imagining how much more Parisian than here in my own winter weary prairie city.

Taking my place, feeling a bit pressed for time, I acquiesce to the moment and notice in front of me the iridescent wisp of colour in a child’s hair.

“Tell me, how did you catch a rainbow in your hair?”

Her fit and handsome father shares the story of his sister, their aunt – gesturing to his two other daughters a bit further down the street, each with barely-there colour shot through their dark manes – treating them to this bit of feminine whimsy when they visited her in Nelson a month ago.

“Hard pressed to say ‘no’ when she does me the gift of babysitting,“ he shrugs.

“When in Nelson…” I smile in return.

By this time all three sisters huddle in together with us, now perched in the doorway, on the threshold of reaching our morning’s shared destination.

“Do you have children?” he asks.

A quiet “no” and gentle shake of my head.  Inside, I’m surprised he thinks me young enough.  Then again, it might simply be the way I engage with his.

Loaves chosen, bagged and tallied.  His for lunch with family, tomorrow’s brunch with friends.  Mine for tonight’s dinner I’m eager to prepare for my husband and me, to re-create the crostini sampled at last week’s cooking class.

Goodbyes exchanged, together with wishes for a good day.

Driving home, those forsythia again catch my eye as I wonder who else to invite, to share with me my sudden love of this splendid spring?  The fine French baguette and a bottle of good wine?  The heady perfume of purple hyacinth?  The golden glory of those first time in a long time forsythia?  The memory of three young sister-beauties with the colour of spring woven in their dark hair, wishing for a moment they were mine?