Tuesday, May 24, 2016

wisdom in our secret heart

We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are brothers on the road.
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.
I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the night time of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you;
Speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping.
When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through.
from The Servant Song, Richard Gillard

We open up our courageous vulnerability
to hear those confessions released from soulwhispers
to feel the growing heat of pain pulsing under sensitive skin
to sense a postured brokenness
to express love unfolding
to sit in a cloud of quiet companionship
to ask why............
to answer why........
to speak from our hearts and minds
to tap into the wisdom in our secret heart
We are offered a glimpse into the eyes of God.

We recognize we are on this life journey together,
we begin anew.......
New beginnings.....

We Christen one another with the breath of recognition,
with tenderness and a glistening tinge of familiarity
old tears will tumble into the river,
crying fears will be swept away by a beautiful explosion of laughter,
peeling off from pent up energy,
by listening, truly listening.....

We are offered a glimpse into the eyes of God.

Our lives are interwoven by the golden fields of companionship, as old as the ice tipped mountains, as mysterious as the wilderness harkening beyond the starry host, as tidal fresh as an ocean breeze. As pilgrims, we belong to an eternal line of storytellers whose journey extends by  the addition of our own footprints to the sacred walk of existence.  Life's meaning prospers and sustains with the willingness to help one another.  Unconditionally. 

In sickness and in health......pilgrims on a journey.  With one another, under the watchful eyes of God.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Maple Kind......

My footwear has altered dramatically since the beginning of March.  Gone are the fashionable shoes worn in an office......replaced by a pair of black rubber boots....with built in handles for easy pull up!  For the past month, my "right some sexy" mud loafers have adorned my  tootsies as I have traipsed through the snowmucky woods, on my way to qualify as a "Sugar Maker."  Comfy and sweaty warm,  these practical galoshies may not be eye appealing to the discerning onlooker.

Perhaps I've had them on my feet for too long, because I have adjusted to seeing them as a funky addition to my eclectic clothes.  Or maybe its just the satisfying knowledge that inside these boots are a pair of pedicured feet with purple polished toes.  Whatever the reason, my puddle padders are now an integral part of my wardrobe.  Without them, I would have been sidelined from the annual making of the syrup.  The maple kind.  And that wasn't going to happen.

It started early this year......the gathering of the sap collecting accoutrements.....the drill, the spiles, silver metal pails, lids with long pins to attached to the spiles.....and the gathering of the folks to help set it up.  Some years, the snow is so high, you have to wear snowshoes.  Some years, you need a tractor to carry you into the woods where the sugar maples await.  This year, warm rubber boots did the trick. We were lucky. 

It took three outings to set up the 300+  sap buckets......one person drilling the hole into a mature sugar maple tree, one person to hammer the spile into the tree to access the sap, one person to hang the bucket and another to slide the pin through the lid and spile to ensure that when the sap dripped into the bucket, it would be safe from the weather and nature's creatures........as it has been done since sap collecting began.  Sometimes, the larger, older trees have two taps.  They can handle it.  They have much to provide.  Giving trees.........

Tap, tap, tap........when the sap runs, it taps out a drop with every heartbeat.  You can hear it ping against the metal.  Tap, tap, tap..... clear sweetness. 

I have learned a lot on my way to becoming a Sugar Maker.  The temperatures have to be just right.  Below freezing at night.  Above freezing during the day.  This is when the sap runs.  Too cold during the day, the heartbeat of the saps goes silent.  Nature has its own will. We adjust to it. We appreciate it's mystery and let it be the lead. It's the only way.  When the run is good, the collecting begins.  

Camp Otterdale's sugar bush is interspersed throughout the woods, in small groves.  It takes planning and energy to empty all of the buckets on a regular basis.  When the sap is running well, each bucket needs to be emptied daily.........we gather it in pails, transfer it into an enormous bin that holds 250 gallons at a time.  Once the bin is full, we take it to the Sugar Shack and pump it into the holding tank which is connected to the evaporator through hoses.  Once the tank is full, the evaporator.........a large open pan that is wood fed and fired, gets filled.  The fired is started underneath and the boiling begins.  
Did you know that in order to make 1 litre of syrup, you need 40 litres of sap??  That's a lot of collecting and boiling. 

There is a temperature it must reach before the syrup is drawn off the evaporator.........it takes patience and constant feeding of the fire to reach and to maintain it........ but during this time of waiting and working, the sugar shack fills with sweet steam, the sparks fly out the chimney high into the night air as the people involved get into a routine that includes an anticipation akin to Christmas morning...... whiskey may add to this excitable expectation......

The first time I was responsible for feeding the fire, monitoring the boil (so it would not boil over), measuring the temperature on my own, I was busy, focused, and full of determination to get it right.  You let the temperature go up to far, the all the hard work turns to crystals.  If you draw off the syrup too early, it is too thin and undercooked.  It has to be just right............ Just right...........standing in my comfie rubber boots.....with the radio on.......

To mark the occasion, I introduced fresh strawberries to dip into the hot syrup....... as close to the Divine as you can get without a visit from God herself. 

This year's maple season stretched out and into April.  Not heard of in these parts.  For some reason, we were blessed with more sap than we could process!  By the time we turned the buckets over and laid them on the ground for later pick up, we had taken turns boiling for hours......but tucked inside those hours in the sugar shack were many good conversations, stories, along with the quiet contemplation that is always reviving during this time of year, ..... when the liminal space between winter and spring offers reflection.  Good ideas are stirred out of hibernation.

Life does not often offer you an opportunity to experience the beginning, the middle and the end result of a task.  Too often, we pass on our work to another without any closure or insight into how the task evolved....... we miss out on the accomplishment.  Life doesn't often provide a chance to be fully immersed in a task either.....you know the ones when time takes on new meaning, when the whole world could be erupting but you're focused on creating.  The Maple kind.  

On Saturday, we attended a Church event that included pancakes covered in the kindness of the sugar maple from Camp Otterdale.  It was delightful to see others enjoy the unique sweetness we had mined and minded as it transformed..... From the tree's core to the human pour......  

Once again, I have learned from nature and my teacher was the ultimate giving tree...... I'm a blessed Sugar Maker in her boots, who is open to learning more.....

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Time on the Road.....

A blank page can be a daunting thing.  It's almost like it has fangs and a drooley growl on days when the words can't escape the fingertips.  A blank page stares back at you.....cursing any attempt you have at scribing something meaningful.  Then again......

...........there are days when its whiteness reflects welcoming bits of scripture to support the creative process.  A blank page is an invite to share, to express, to connect.  Today, I'm connecting.  Today, I am opening up the vessel within to allow my muse to take in the spring fresh air. Hibernation is over.  It's been far too long.

Whether it was writer's block, or just time to be silent in order to absorb the stories, not writing was painful.  It was like I had fired my therapist!  I lost touch with a group of bloggers and readers that I had grown with and had become friends with through this medium.  I tried my best to remain calm....to not freak out every time I made an attempt to publish something.  Patience walked with me most of the time, and encouraged me to accept the things I could not change........ Life needed to be felt, experienced, managed, and in the moment.  Life took up space.  In my head.  In my health.  In my living room. In my travels.  In my job. In others.  In myself.   

Interestingly, Spirit, the Holy kind, took a backseat alongside Ms. Muse.  Since the writing process and my Faith journey go hand in hand and always have, this is no real surprise.  When the writing dried up, my interest in spirituality spun away from the Sun.

It was benched.  Not on a pew.

 I feel like I'm ready again to generate new pieces.  You know what else is daunting?  Picking JUST one topic!  So, let's start at this moment in time and then in a later post, reflect on where life's journey took me.  Ready?

A couple of months ago, I made many changes in my life all in one drive along the Trans Canada highway.  I haven't stopped smiling since.  I took a year leave of absence from my job, to assume a multi-tasking role alongside my life partner. The stars finally aligned.

Surrounded by 300 acres of woods and fields, along the shoreline of a beautiful Ontario lake, we are learning to live and work together. It has been so easy its crazy!  Everyday, we fall in love with one another all over again and laugh at how life is circular. With a few bumps. Oh, and maybe one or two potholes.  You see, we were a couple in our teens and reunited in our 50's.  Big wide circle..... of love and learning, of careers and community involvement, of challenges and temporary turmoils, of embracing our roles as parents (forever) and as spouses in our previous marriages, of creating separate fulfilling lives surrounded by family and friends, and of star gazing wishes.

Though most of the present tasks I am tackling are new to me......making maple syrup, helping to design a website, marketing and recruitment, driving a little tractor, cutting wood......I feel like I've "come home."

Home is where you are loved.
Home is when time immerses you in something akin to the eternal.
Home picks you up gently and sets you down by the fireplace
Home is made of pine and light, with a hint of maple.
Home..........a place where all are welcome, all are welcome......

My writing voice may have been silent for too long.  My spirit, the Holy kind, may have taken a hiatus for a while..  But, I was working hard during my time on the road.  Living.  Breathing.  Learning from those lonely days where yearning sat in the pit of my stomach.  Stretching in discomfort. Seeking direction.  It was worth it....the struggle.  Because it brought me here, to a place that seemed to be waiting for me to find, with a man whose smile matches my own. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

solid ground......

We tend to see depression as the enemy assaulting us by trying to crush our spirit. Is it the enemy or it is rather a friend whose strength is trying to push us down onto the ground where we are safe to learn to stand again? There is no more safer place to be than on the ground, laying low forced to recognize the bare truths of our own nature.

Our nature with nature, felt again on solid ground.
We are programmed, however to see depression as evil and demonic....an enemy living in a place where our own minds turn against us, rather than as an honest friend guiding us to a place where we can learn to heal. We come from the ground, can we not go there to find our way again?

Our churning thoughts fight depression through intellectual struggles, theories, reasoning..... trying to unlock the key to the mystery behind our perceived falsehoods....what we believe others see in ourselves. The battle of who I am versus who I ought to be. Could it be that we are so busy battling the enemy we can't hear the voice of our own life speaking? How can you hear "I love you" when the intellectual battle is raging in deafening silence?

Our egos slash away outwardly at depression through denial, anger, entitlement that it can't happen to us....but mostly its a protection from the fear of someone recognizing our incompetencies, our lies. The winning ego believes it has to keep up the persona rather than plunge into the frightening darkness of the unknown even if there is a slight chance that peace could dwell there. We focus on our limits rather than recognize and acknowledge our gifts..... the gifts we were born with....the gifts which harbour our authentic voice.
Depression as a friend? It can be the ultimate in disconnection, but it doesn't have to be. Could we not allow this friend to help scrape away the plaster molding of the masks to reveal what Thomas Merton refers to as our "true self?" If the ego self inflates, and the intellectual self tries to clobber depression with theories, and the ethical self berates it unforgivingly....how can we ever scale it down to what is real?? True Self...bare naked, vulnerable, beautiful, imperfect, real and wrinkled!!! No falsehoods there..... I wonder if depression sometimes is the hand of our true self, pushing us down to the ground where it is safe to learn to stand again....to a place that smells, looks, feels, tastes and sounds real. Earth.

Paul Tillich described God as the ground of being. I like that description and it makes me think......maybe depression offers us an introduction to God? Maybe He's down on his knees sowing seeds into the ground and would like some company? Maybe if we meet him on our knees He will help us learn to grow inward and downward as a means of living rather than outward and upward?

And maybe, just maybe Heaven is found in the hallowed ground beneath our feet.

Monday, December 09, 2013

"As you think, so ye shall be....."

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in the common hours."
There is an intuitive place where thinking and feeling find one another and form a moment of unexpected focus. No words can match this "felt sense..." Instead, what you're left with is a vision........a picture or a symbol representing a personal dream or an obstacle in the way of fulfilling that dream. And if you were to take that initial vision a few steps beyond, it just may lead you to a vista beyond the line in the horizon.........to a place where the panoramic view is unlimited.
Our thoughts always seem to have boundaries........or perhaps it is just our inhibitions getting in the way of broadening the possibility of where our imagination can take us. We continue to step in a patterned mode, continuously repeating the same moves, the same actions even if we languish in a spiral going nowhere. Why? Because its comfortable. We are comfort seekers rather than wilderness seekers. Despite our awareness of what our needs are, or what our dreams look like, we rest easy within the confines of our bordered thinking....

Jesus said......."As you think, so ye shall be............"

Hidden potential.......what is yours? What are the changes and challenges which block you from responding to your gifts? What are you willing to do in order to reveal your hidden potential...in order to dream big? What do you need to nurture in order to move into the direction of what it is you want? How do we feed our thoughts with the passion we so often withold?

When was the last time you allowed your thinking to blend with your feelings to stretch yourself beyond the boundaries you have purposefully set up to protect yourself from escaping the tame and embracing the wild side? When we allow ourselves to focus on this type of travel, we experience the "felt sensing" moment where wisdom taps us on the temple.... where we transform into a spiritual being having a human experience.

Transformation......such a loaded word isn't it? I used to think it was an stand alone event which happened to some people connected to their religion and church. What i realize now is that transformation is an evolutionary process which may or may not be formalized through organized religion. It's a lifelong unfurling of personal growth and not a true destination endpoint. It is the type of journey which allows one to move beyond the boundaries of our defined self, of our form to advance beyond what we already know to meet, as Thoreau describes...."a success unexpected in common hours."

Eternal, infinite and life changing...this is what transformation is all about. If you are willing to be open to going beyond the original field of dreams and focusing on the place inside where the merging happens, you just never know where your intuitive nature will lead you....to a place of discomfort. To a place where uncertainty feels like your life undressed. To a place where the words are few but the dreams are open ended.....

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wind Messages

Another restless night as the wind outside whipped up storm clouded confusion. It was a persistently lonely howl on a moonless planet that managed to push in between the souls who tossed and turned as they wrestled with their dreams. The wind encased them, stripping away any sense of connectivity to one another.....like coffins separated by walls of dirt. It felt like eternity soaked into one long, long night.

Darkness finally turned into daybreak. It was a daybreak, however, without an end to the elements speaking in anger. No lipstick sunrise on the horizon, only the welcoming of grey laden skies weeping in grief with no end in sight. The wind was winning over humanity. Dominance laced with growling moans of lost ghosts demanding refuge, it wailed in pain. 

She lay in bed listening to the howls caught in the abandoned branches stripped of green light and realized that her own thoughts and feelings surged inside her with as much ferosity as the wind. Thorns cut into her own clenched aches like a harmonious dirge. Without hesitation, the winds outside upped the ante slamming gusts of rain against the side of the house. Like it was responding to her thoughts, the wind challenged this very idea that this women's ache equalled the wrath of the wind. It shook the foundation of the house, splaying painful torrents against the windows. It lifted the soggy leaves and broken discards up into the air with sorrowful wailing gales from the lost souls. 

"I dare you," the wind shouted....."I dare you to believe your wrath is more powerful than my own." 
"I DARE YOU to show me!" 

Alarmed by the very idea that the wind was speaking to her, the woman's eyes popped open. It was challenging her to what? A dual of sorts? She was too tired......too exhausted to find the energy to respond. Her internal wanderings fed by her own indecisions, anger, frustration and tears of loss and what might have beens provoked the desire to simply pull the covers up over her head and drown out the mighty boastful wind. But, she was stronger than that and never ever stepped away from a challenge. In no time, she was dressed and out the door as she pulled on her rain slicker to go for a walk into the wind. 

Determined, she marched right into it's eye, up the hill to the fields flooded with new rain and muck, her soul clenched anger feeding her the energy she needed. 

The wind beat her back, but she persisted to push through it's wrath as it wrapped around her body, making her coat flap behind, making her face pull in it's rapture. Her hair quickly became drenched; her shoes muddied in the mixture of cloudspills and wet clay. At first her own thoughts bellowed back at the wind..............rage against rage............sorrow bumping into sorrow......pain pushing pain..... her own torrent of tears spilled with the rain.

Why is life so difficult, she asked? Why do I have to suffer so much when I know what I want? Why can't the happiness and not the struggle be the gift from God? The wind spitwhistled through her, filling her ears with sound as she trudged up the hill. Before she knew it though, she found herself standing at the top of the hill overlooking the swollen river, angry in it's own right, flowing like a large belch of brown sludge. The canopy of trees surrounding the field were bent in mercy as their roots held on in frightful hope. She was surrounded by the nature which normally acted as a refuge. Today, however they seemed to be fighting their own battles. Or maybe, they fought alongside her?

She took it all in, surveyed the landscape held ransom to the vengeful wind, and suddenly found her internal noise was being buffered by what seemed like the groans of a thousand ghosts, in much more pain than she had ever suffered. Their pain became hers. Her pain then molded into theirs and soon she realized that though she was standing in the field defiantly all alone, she was part of the swooning forces of nature. A thought entered her muddled head. 

Someone had once told her that all it takes is to look at one grain of sand and one would know the glory of creation. One grain of sand she thought, as she acknowledged the fury churning in the river down below, and the wind all around her. One grain of sand held the mystery. And with that one thought the wind turn into gusts. It stopped it's incessant bellowing and took a breath. In between the gusts, when there were minute lulls, the wind's loud voice turned into a whisper which echoed one word over and over again like a mantra ..... repent .....repent.... repent. Then it would kick back into a gale. 

She heard it clearly......... repent....... ask for forgiveness......... feel the shame and guilt and ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness for what she wondered? The world blasted against me, what do I have to do with how this forsaken life has unfolded? I have tried and tried to do what is right, what I believed was my responsibility. I have lived as best as I could up to the standards expected of me, and yet I am constantly let down, diminished, abandoned, rejected.Why should I repent for God's sake??? What do I have to repent??? I just want to be recognized for who I am and not rejected or left on the sidelines.

"Humility," the wind responded....."Defiance. Not relinquishing your strong desire to control the forces instead of realizing you are one with them. A speck of sand may seem inconsequential at first glance, but it holds the mystery of all of creation. A speck of sand washed up onto a shoreline has surrendered to the elements and has allowed itself to be validated as one of many. No one is more special than anyone else. No grain of sand feels special. It is simply part of the universe, as you are. A speck of sand and YOU are one in the same." 

This message brought her to her knees with realization. She was using too much defiant force while brushing back the people and the forces who were in her life to befriend her. Rather than accept herself for who she was, she constantly fought back. In so doing, she left people in her wake feeling threatened by her yearnings. Shame washed over her as new awareness pressed on her temples. "Destiny cannot be thwarted it pulsed. Destiny cannot be altered no matter how hard you try to manipulated the circumstances it pounded. You have the strength to help overcome some day, but it will only happen if you trust that life will unfold as it should. Trust the universe it tapped...."

A tentative enlightenment crept in as she fell into a heap on the ground. She thought about all the winds she chased after......all the causes she fought in what she had considered were good deeds. She thought of the people in her life who mattered, the moments in her life which mattered. The pictures played quickly through her mind and then came to a sudden halt when she finally realized that the world wasn't an "us against them scenario." Rather, it was a single solitary oneness.....the essence of all that she was made of was an accumulation of the past which was held in the ground she knelt upon. The future which was held in the hands of God. At that moment, she looked up into the skies and let the rain wash over her. A cleansing baptism. 

Time lost meaning as she knelt in the thinness of the moment. A surrendering sense of peace enveloped her spirit as she spoke the humbling words....."please forgive me, please forgive me....."  The wind took a breath.  It seemed to stop for one whispering second, then returned.  Only this time, she felt its support.......

Soaked, tired and vulnerable with a twinge of empowered, she pulled herself up, turned her back to the wind and let it carry her down the hill to her home.  She couldn't wait to put the kettle on to make herself a hot cup of tea......tonic for her soul. It was time to restart the day with a new set of eyes. It was time to give thanks. It was time to let it be.....

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

its why the light gets in........

If we live a life with our eyes closed, our personal faults may remain dark unchartered caverns. Who wants to submit to a feeling of disappointment over the frightening imperfection? Who wants to love a pock-marked character blemish  when all around us the message pronounces that only polished beauty matters?  Who wants to admittedly reveal a fault when it completely alters the way we view ourselves? And once is it uncovered, how do you overcome the shameful ugliness of it? Rationalizations? Stories of how the scar came to be? 

Deny, deny, turn a blind eye......

There are many mirrors in our  homes, but when was the last time you REALLY looked at yourself in one? Like me, do you just take a fleeting glance simply to make sure you don't have spinach in your teeth, or that your hair isn't sticking up like Alfalfa? It's a habit. I could be standing in front of the mirror for a good 20 mintues blow drying my hair, putting on my make up and brushing my teeth in the morning and still not REALLY look at me. I'd prefer to keep the picture I have of myself as a vibrant person in her early 20's than recognize that this was a long time ago.  Why the aversion? 

I'm only fooling myself.  Who am I kidding? No one else sees me that way anymore and no one seems to shy away from me because i look the way i do, why would I continue not to look more deeply?  I want to hold onto my perception of beauty. 

When I conciously have a looksee.........when I register the reflection of who I am now, a woman in her 50's,  my initial reaction is one of shock and awe. WHO is that person looking back at me? Where did that young woman go..........the one whose face was thinner and wrinkle free.........the one who used to have smaller perky breasts and not ones stretched by nursing two babies, and marked by surgery ............the one without the stretch marks and a tiny scar on her belly? When did her skin lose some of it's elasticity all over? And what's with the extra skin on the eyelids?  Is this me? It is me.......... Me.  

What about the faults found within? The scars and fissures from experience.  Some  are more visible to others than to ourselves and for the same reasons. We try so hard not to recognize our own scars for fear of being rejected. We'd rather remain blind. Our fault lines, like the ones found under the surface of the earth, our gaping holes like the ones found in old apple trees leave us trembling with the very idea that it may be the thing that turns off the people around us. What if they find out we aren't perfect? Will they stop loving us? 

So, we keep ourselves in the dark. In the dark......where light is absorbed. 

Our awareness of ourselves, of how we interact with the world around us increases as we get older, mostly because of the experiences we have accumulated along the way. This makes sense. The farther we skip, jump, run, walk, limp, crawl, roll down the path of life, we collect a whole bunch of things to put in our backpack. Though awareness is always sprinkled with enlightenment which accompanies learning, it sometimes isn't satisfying because, well..........it may be really ugly. It may be hard to swallow.  The cracks, the fissures, the bumps, scars and scratches on the surface may not be as pretty or handsome as we want to be. 

Leonard Cohen, that craggy old beautiful man sings in his song, Anthem:
The birds they sang 
at the break of day
Start again 
I heard them say 
Don't dwell on what has passed away
or what is yet to be. 

Cohen understood the importance of letting go and acceptance of our selves, our accumulated beauty.  He also had the insight to realize that perhaps our very own fault lines weren't just ornaments to wear or to try to hide in the closet. They have a purpose........ 

Ring the bells 
that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in. 

No perfect offerings...... Only offerings uniquely cracked. Is this how God's reassuring light can get into us? Perhaps we accumulate these experiential openings, cracks, wrinkles and fissures......those bumpy scars to let in God's love. Perhaps those same ugly marks where light is absorbed is the access God uses to fill us with the truth of real love? With the enlightenment that allows us to radiate our authentic beauty? And if we feel this wildly unconditional love, will this not lead us to understanding the mystery of what is most important in life? How beautiful is that?

Somedays though, I still wish those breasts were still a bit perky!  Somedays.  Most days, I let my personality radiate the perky.