Thursday, March 23, 2017

Elsa the Cat



Rarely will she share her space with me unless it is during the time of night when we await for the birds to return before dawn.  It's the time when insomniacs arise........heads full of anything but sleepiness.....minds tumbling and rumbling through fields of fury worry. 

It is a time when silence occasionally crackles with woodsnaps from the stove, when an errant gust of memories arrives between the ringing of the ears, when the kettle noisily revs up to a boiling crescendo and you wonder why it hasn't woken everyone up?  So silent that all the creaks of the floor, all the snaps of the wood outside in the cold, all of the finger typing sounds so much more predominant.  It is a space in time when it is easy to slip into dread.......you know the kind? Full of must do's, and haven't done's and wish I could's, and regrets.  Oh, those snarky old regrets.  

Noise and tumbling dreads are the shadows that haunt the desire to seek slumber.  This is when I welcome her company the most.  And I think it is when she lets go of her aloof independence that she carries with her during the day to seek the comfort of my presence.  4 am cat call.  All tucked in beside me.

Usually I can only watch her from afar as she goes about her day in search of prey and cat entertainment ......whether its the poor unsuspecting big black dog who whimpers when Elsa plans an attack, or when she is perched on her haunches looking out the big sliding glass door at the bird feeders swinging on a line.  A variety of birds come and go throughout the day providing entertainment with their movements and song. Elsa has her own reality TV show to engage with. 

Sometimes she will entertain us with her crazy cat act, when she bounces, leaps and does her herky jerky moves only to land fully balanced on the stair bannister.  One warmish days when I go for a walk with the dog, she will follow along, always maintaining a 30 foot lag.  I stop.  She stops.  I start up again, she starts up again.  We never walk beside one another.  She is too independent minded for that nonsense.  

When she decides to explore this large piece of property, surrounded by woods, covered with open spaces, beside a lake that heaves sighs under its ice, I worry about her.  She appears so delicate and vulnerable. Large predators live nearby.......the Coyotes howl at times.  Their sounds echo in close.  But I know better.  Elsa is always alert and very ready to defend herself.  Just ask the dog. 

When I see her returning to the house, though, I can feel my heart soften. Its like she is one of my own whom I protect.  She is the first feline I have ever felt that way about before. Perhaps its because we have shared many a winter night just the two of us cozied up on the couch........she close enough for me to pet her and hear her contented purr, me a warmth constant in her life.  I like her attitude. 


Is it possible to see your own personality in an animal? I think so.  Though I have always lived with dogs, I never had that sense.  I relate that way to this little one.  Her independence and feistiness feels familiar.  Her need to do things on her own with space...........well, that's me too.  She knows what she wants.  Yeah, I can relate.  But I think that the most interesting aspect we have in common is our insomniac behaviour that eventually engages with a sense of peace that finds us after the shadow dreads disappear.  Middle of the night awakening does have its own pace and beauty. 


Elsa has left me alone as I typed my way through that hour of "long dark soul of the night," right into early morning pre-dawn.  She knew I was concentrating on trying to capture my thoughts.  So, instead of sitting on my lap or tucking in beside me, she has chosen a cushioned rocking chair to curl up in.  Sound asleep.........until I push "publish" close my computer and settle back into the couch.  Then, she will notice the change of pace and join me on the couch in anticipation for the birds to arrive. And some much needed sleep before the real day begins......when the choir of birdsong awakens us. 






Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Sparrow



"There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow." 
William Shakespeare


Across the river, there lived a Sparrow amongst the poor. From a naked eye glance, you wouldn't have noticed her perched on a wayside branch.  Her brown mottled feathers blended in with the flock. You would've felt her presence, however and seen it in the eyes of anyone who was touched by her goodness.  They speak of it in whispers.  They smile bluesky smiles when they remember.  It has been a while since the warmth of her love offerings were received. Her spirit lingers.

Like everyone in her community, this Sparrow's nest was made of old world stories...... constant sorrows that often left her shivering at twilight when comfort was replaced by bitter drafts.  Whistling reminders of destiny's life script.  These were not scripts that assuring childhood dreams were made of.  Rather, they were like harvested fields abandoned in late autumn, with only morsels of seeds haphazardly scattered and exposed to the elements.  Their harsh realities for replanting those meagre grains of hope was their existence.

The Sparrow's story is as common as her species, but unique in ways that  made her special.  Surrounded by a place where grey absorbed the offering of vibrant shades of empowerment, her presence was always felt by the others.   It was just something inside her soul that ached to be revealed.  Something she was born with.  Something left over from the goodness of her childhood dreams.   

As much as her life script included ongoing chapters of abuse, heartache, worry and fear,  as much as her own story continued to take her down gravel roads that often led to abandoned images of "what may be....." this Sparrow's presence consoled others.  Without words.  Without brashness.  From the strength of her convictions.  She was born from God's hands.  Her winged presence had God's touch in them as did her inherent awareness of the burdens of her flock.  Sensitivity, so bright and light that it emanated from her like the breath taken from a pastoral valley.  Anyone who touched the down of her feathers, or felt the fluttering of her energy were impacted by God's touch.  From a flock of ordinary sparrows rose one who was blessed with the travails of being the keeper, the consoler, the one with intuitive wisdom.  This was her holy destiny. 

Some nights when the nests were quiet with sleeping birds, a resonating distress was felt by the Sparrow, keeping her awake long past the peak of the moon.  Her heightened senses absorbed the restless fluster of the flock and mixed in with her own nest of worries.  As humility was always at the core of her empathic being, she believed that her worries could be fixed if only she could help the others.  Love thy neighbour.  When the nights were so loud with despair, confusion and fluster, she would fly down from her cupola without a peep and visit the entrance of every nest along the trouble street to say a silent prayer for the families.  Healing, hope and help.  The word of God spoken by a Sparrow. 

God, I put my faith in You
To guide me to help my flock
Who need our love and support in this difficult life we are living
Who will awake with hope in their hearts
To embrace the grace of a new day.
Thank you God for your presence and blessings.

Despite her own fatigue, the Sparrow continued to watch and pray for all.  She may not have realized, however the depth of their constant brokenness and how it impacted her......how it mixed with her own buried depression. She remained driven to be the one to lift them back up to the bluesky lightness of past dawns.  In the mornings, she could see flickers of change in their personal hopes.  She would hear them awaken the Valley with their song, like a choral choir under the awning of a cathedral. But each day was weighed down by the harsh realities of survival. Embers striving to maintain its presence.  

Something happened on a cold winter day.  It wasn't flashy.  No one really noticed right away.  Drudgery crept in with a fog that shrouded the community like a leftover November Day.  Life began to feel the same all the time.  Greys swept colour away.  Prayers were left hanging on hooks, unheard, unfelt by the flock. A murmuring of once vibrant wings, was all that could be conjured.  Then, God's Sparrow stopped reaching out.  Instead, she wrapped her wings around her tired body and sunk into her own spiral of despair.  

She tried to seek help.  It wasn't enough. She tried to put on a brave outward stance.    It only left her feeling alone.  She tried to push through the depression, as she had done before.  It enveloped her.  She tried to stop the incessant thoughts of suicide by never speaking of it. Her inner script won her over as the way out.  Suicide.  Quietly smoldering in the dying embers. In a way,  the plan to die became rationalized as normal and purposeful.  It made sense in her exhausted mind.  Nothing else mattered. Consequences were so far removed from the bleakness of her being. 

Everyone remembers the day the Sparrow disappeared.  When too much time had passed and there was no sign of her, the flock began to flutter and worry.  Where was she?  It wasn't like her to be gone so long......... Where was she? The larger bird community organized a search.  Word spread up and down the Valley, on both sides of the river for the need to find God's Sparrow.  Questions filled the air....  Why hadn't we noticed that perhaps she wasn't well?  Had she flown away?  They began flirting with truth.....danger, violence perhaps, too absorbed to see the signs......responsibilities of protecting God's Sparrow lay like strips of discarded twine wrapped around a branch.

She left a goodbye note....its contents only known by the Sparrows who lived in her nest.  There was no indication of how or where she lay down to die.  But it left no doubt that the Sparrow implemented her plan.   Many gathered at a memorial service and shared their grief and their stories.....this is where they all learned about God's Sparrow's movements at night and the prayers of healing she left at each sleeping nest.  It was where they fuelled their guilt and grief by recognizing the importance of her in their daily lives.......

A few months later, as the ice melted along the river shoreline, her lifeless body was found.  Not far from the community she loved and supported.  Providential.  Fallen.  Her soul surrounded by the light of God.  Her actions of love and healing continue to be touchstones to many of her flock to this day. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Miles to go before I sleep.



There's always a space after a promise that has yet to come to fruition. It is filled with the breath of apprehension and a discerning suspension of belief and disbelief.  Before the redeeming of the promise, we can be hopeful or resigned...... we can obey or disobey.  Like jumping out of a plane with a parachute that someone has promised will open at the right time. 

In the meantime.....you're caught in a time gap that is making you plummet to the ground.  How do you remain hopeful rather than get lost in dread?  How do you keep calm and confident that the promise of a safe landing is going to happen? The parachute will open right?  You promised. 

Life's tensions, between a promise made and a promise kept, is where people of Faith find themselves living.  Sometimes, this space is minor. A hop and a skip and you land on your feet.  Sometimes though, this space is as large as the Milky Way.  A promise and the waiting in the gap may all be that our lives provide us.  We may never see the redemption side of the promise.  This is often what draws us away from believing in the mystery and magic of God's promises. Doubt draws circles around the heightened expectations of hope. That niggly sense of disbelief creeps in through a crack.  The space remains a large crevasse......with no way of seeing the other side of it.  Is this what is termed as "Blind faith?"

The way I see it?  It's all good.  The struggle, the promise, the swaying on the suspension of belief and disbelief, the choice between obeying and disobeying, the blindness ........ it's all good because this is what fuels our challenging questions. This is what makes us breathe curiosity!  This is what draws us out of our inherent sleepy slothness to punch our way to a deeper awareness and belief. There may be evidence one day.  Faith, as it stands alone is believing in the evidence before it arrives. 

A lot of promises fall off the apple cart.  Some even stay on the apple tree and hang on beyond harvest until it finally drops to the ground bruised and mushy only to absorb into the nutrients for next year's germinal bits of Faith.  It doesn't matter.  What matters is that we continue to make the promises in order to dwell in the learning that happens during our time suspended in that zone. 

No doubt it feels good when a promise is kept, especially the ones we fashion for ourselves.  Promises are goal drivers.  But the thrill is always in the space where we explore the tenuous landing.   The key to riding this tension is to remember that we are all doing the best we can do at any given moment, and that hope is the salve for remaining patient. 

........and then of course there's that big concept called Trust........ in difficult times, trusting in the unfolding universe can be almost impossible, especially when we feel no power or control in how a "promise" is played out.  That's the time when its best to pray.  I'm praying a lot these days.



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
____________________________________



IF......
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
freely
securely
comfortably
to tap into the wisdom in our secret heart
We are offered a glimpse into the eyes of God.

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

IF......
We Christen one another with the breath of recognition,
affirmation, 
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.