Still True a Year Later

You and Annie come home today.

Annie, who now has a waist, you say,

who’ll be even more persistent in her call for supper,

given the habits she’s learned from the other kids with fur at summer camp!

I’ve made you a pot of beef ‘n barley soup to fill you when I’m away.

I’ve laid out Annie’s food mat and bowl of water to welcome her home.

Annie at Dog Camp

So much water under the bridge since I last wrote you…

We got the news we prayed for: my membership in the 30% club.

Drank a bottle of amarone with a friend to celebrate.

Gratitude and relief deep as its taste as red as my blood.

Now, how easily I’m moved to tears.

An item in the news.

A sunrise.  The birds gathering to fly to their winter home.

The green now golden glow of trees and grass in our backyard, my healing summer sanctuary.

A love song reminding me of you.

Roses at the End of Time

Winding down to the end of the line
And the falling of the curtain
I’ll be yours and you’ll be mine
Of that one truth I’m certain
I will give you roses fair
For every secret you did share
For all your words that flowed like wine
Roses at the end of time

Tonight I bless the hands of fate
That brought you to my doorway
Weary, worn and worth the wait
So willing to explore me
One rose for every vow you kept
One for every tear you wept
For all the moments you were kind
Roses at the end of time

One rose for every dream you dared
One for every wrong repaired
For all that bound your heart to mine
Roses at the end of time
Roses…

Eliza Gilkyson

Dreamscape Two – a holy communion

Now the one about the older woman…

She is old.  While taller, by feeling she resembles my Oma, my father’s mother who loved her son, her grandchildren and great grandchildren fiercely.

Always independent, as her husband lay dying of cancer, Oma, in her sixties, learned to drive, maneuvering the freeways, charming the immigration officers as she crossed the bridge to Canada, to us, with her VW Rabbit stuffed with gifts and groceries.  Decades earlier, in the little Black Forest town of Germany, during and after World War II, she worked three jobs to support herself and my father.  Those were her best years, the ones she storied for us with joy, pride and determination.  Until she came to live her last years in Canada, close to her family.

But this woman of my dream is my height and stature.  And she is Italian.

I am in Italy.  I have just finished a simple, homemade, delicious dinner.  I may be with a friend.  I have been staying here for a while, long enough to have become familiar with, close even to the Nonna who prepared this meal.

She has been a teacher to me.  I feel a deep love and appreciation for her in my life.  In my broken Italian, I thank her for the good, good food.  We laugh together at my attempts to say just how good…

”Insalata, ahhhh…. buonissimo!  Si?”

She encourages me, asks me what else I’ll eat.

“Il dolce?” she asks and playfully hugs and tugs at my body to see if I can afford to let myself have this sweet, the sweetest part of the meal, of life?

I hug her and say in Italian “I love you” through the tears I am now crying, through an even deeper sadness that is suddenly coming up from my depths.

Holding her, despite her strength, suddenly I know she is dying.  I see her face and while she is not my Oma, Oma is evoked.  I love this woman very much.  Again, I say, in Italian, “I love you.”

Again, and again.

Epilogue

Last October I awoke quietly crying from this dream.  I was on a favourite island in the Pacific Northwest – it has become one of my heart places – where, without fail, I spend most nights immersed in vivid dreamscapes.

The convergence of mountain, sea and sky energies are a great catalyst for my dream maker’s talents, though I’m not always able to retrieve her creations, so plentiful that I often awake feeling tired for the travelling.  However, that pre-dawn morning, the dream and feelings it evoked, deeply moved me, and stayed with me for hours, making it easy for me to journal, to contemplate, and finally to glean its gift. Even now as I write, it’s easy for me to conjure the scene and its characters, to step back into the story, to taste those feelings.

With reflection I realized that in my dream, in my broken Italian, I had said to this Nonna, “Mi’amo,”  thinking I was saying “I love you” when really I was saying, over and over, “I love me.”  The dream maker never errs.  This was not a Freudian slip.

This wise old woman, this Nonna-Oma feeds me, loves me, plays with me, teaches me.  I eat her food.  I take in her love, her joy, her playfulness.

I ingest her.  I take her into me.  She becomes me and in so doing, is dying.

A holy communion.

A few weeks later, I read a dear wise woman words about the necessity for us each to take back and eat the hope we have projected onto others, to nourish ourselves so as to become our own hope, our own leaders, and our own fiercely loving, joyful, playful Nonna-Omas.

Who Are Your Allies?

“Each life must find its true threshold, that edge where

the individual gift fits the outer hunger and where

the outer gift fits the inner hunger.”

John O’Donohue in Angeles Arrien’s The Second Half of Life

When we are on the cusp of a threshold, making a commitment, finding a new way, it’s helpful practice to reflect on and pay tribute to our allies.  These are the 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 December when I participated in my first ever writers’ retreat hosted by StoryCatcher Christina Baldwin and TravelPoet Kristie McLean, at Aldermarsh on Whidbey Island, one of our first acts of creative expression was to create a visual collage in tribute to, and then write about our allies for this endeavor.

P1010138I love collage, particularly when I’m not fixed in my ideas of what I want to create, what images and words I need to find to make the “right” representation.  So that evening, as the heavy grey day gave way unnoticeably to night, with no particular ally in mind, I skimmed through a few magazines, borrowed scissors and glue, tore and cut to create a circle of images and words that I would then fold and keep in my writing journal.  Here is what I wrote, inspired by the words I found:

The Prayer to a Changing Woman

Sifting through ashes of the lightning struck tree

the long trail of water…

A mandala

A labyrinth

A work of art – an intolerable beauty.

 

By that I mean a beauty that does not, will not tolerate.

A beauty that claims the secret canyon of a woman’s body, of my body

In and down

Through and beyond

Into the ground

Up through the sky.

 

Where the true meaning of the sacred and mundane

are captured in the dog’s kiss upon my own lips.

Her solemn eyes gazing at me, into me

beseeching me to understand and appreciate

animal and people together and that everyone (and every being) is

the age of their hearts.

 

And at the centre of this circle

spiralling out, weaving words and images

 

The Garden of Divinity,

a place of solace and strength and surrender.

 

What surprised me – ahhhh, the gift of emergence –  was that our Annie dog appeared as my ally.  She came to us four years ago during a summer of deep upheaval.  I had returned from three months’ travelling to learn my position at the school board, the work I had created and in which I thrived, had been abolished, and that my new “no choice” assignment would become the catalyst for my departure a year later.  Our Lady dog, who for a week was on death’s door during my last trip to Italy, and for whom I prayed at a sacred pilgrimage site of Santuario Santa Rosalia Monte Pellegrino in the mountains of Palermo, Sicily, rallied until my return and then passed mid summer.  Just a few weeks later we received the urgent call, “If you want another dog, you need to get her now,” as his wife’s health was being seriously challenged.  I didn’t want another dog.  I wasn’t ready for a kennel dog who wasn’t house trained.  I didn’t know how our aging Peggy dog would cope.  But we did – ahhhh, the gift of resiliency – and Annie proved to be an attuned, respectful companion to the elder, small but sovereign alpha Peggy until she passed last spring, probably giving her more life and years.  Today, sovereign in her own way, Annie has become my companion, laying beside me as I work in our office, or when I sit in the sanctuary of our living room, reminding me to take time to play and walk with her.

In a month’s time, I will be co-hosting Soul Spark, an intimate retreat for ten men and women, who know this is the time to reflect on and discern wise action to creating a work-life aligned with intention and their heart’s desire.  A time to discover their life’s “true threshold.”  There, I will be an ally for each of them in the space and time we are together, by virtue of creating a safe and respectful space for solitude and companioning, and designing a process that gently invites and inquires into what really matters for them, now.

While we must each walk the path of our own life, it’s good to have allies to walk by our side.  And too, as David Whyte reminds us in his essay on Friendship, it’s good to be an ally, to “have accompanied another for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”