Friday, July 30, 2010

the breath of shadows

The old country church was unlocked for us by the beautiful woman who has held the key for many years.  All we had to do was ask, and she wholeheartedly obliged knowing how important it was for us to touch base.  Then, my son and I were left to ourselves to take in the ambient memories, a few of which are our own.  Most are accumulatively shared with generations of ancestors who have attended services, held the hymn books, prayed together, listened to scripture. 

Generations all tied to my son were baptized, confirmed, married, eulogized within these walls. His paternal family has sat in these pews,  have sung in these choirs.  His ancestors helped build this little holy place.  He knows this inherently.  He's aware of this through the stories we have passed onto him.  The gift he feels is a sense of belonging that stretches from the present back into the breath of shadows.  The stories echo home. 

It was my son's idea to spend time in the little church during our first visit back to a place this family of mine holds close to our hearts.  Initially, his request surprised me.  I knew he wanted to walk the circle of the village road to say hello to the people in our lives whom we hadn't seen since last summer.  Though I knew it would be an emotionally charged pursuit, I wanted to as well.  

Going inside the church wasn't something I expected my son to want to do. When I thought about it, his desire made sense.  I guess I just didn't realize how much that place already held the stories for him.  As they do for his Dad.  As they do for his Aunt and Uncle.  As they do for his Cousins.  As they do for his Sister and Me.  Stories linger in the breath of the shadows.



Like everyone, however, who is attached to this village, the Spencer's Island church cradled those important ties that bind in the breath and shadows of people who tangibly represent the eternal. My son had only ever attended a few services there, the last two being a memorial service for his grandparents and a rededication of the church which included remembrance of two elders who had passed on in recent years.  The names Spicer  Currie and Gamblin touch chords in us.  Deeply meaningful, ancestral names.  At those services, he sat in a pew surrounded by an extended family  many of whom he didn't know personally but who knew him.  He is the namesake of his Great Uncle Max. This is  how he is "known."  Uncle Max was an elder and a lifelong active resident of this community.  More intimately, he was our constant anytime we visited and he continues to cast a big presence in our lives.  God, I miss him.

As I took photos from the balcony, it was Uncle Max's voice I could hear the most pronouced...........singing in the choir, telling us stories, welcoming us with a huge smile and a big bear hug when we arrived to the big old house he had grown up in, which had been left in the Will to his sister, my Mother in Law..... my son's GrandMim.  The old house is now out of our reach.  We don't have access to it anymore.  But, the visit to the church reminded us both that its not what matters.  What matters is feeling the spirits of past and present which emanate throughout the village, especially in the pews of this little church. 


While my son looked around at the dedication plaques and recognized the names of relatives, he asked many questions.... good sense of belonging questions.   I could see in him how much it meant to feel this grounding...... this sense of place and person and hoped it helped him find a settling in the turmoil we have been experiencing.  His spirits were bouyant, uplifted........ which in turn lifted mine.

I continued to look around through the lens of my camera to catch the shadows of mid morning.  It was then that I remembered something about shadows ........... one can hear the sounds, the voices, the hymns caught in their breath when there's light shining above.  For it is light which allows the shadows to form...... Light provides the breath..........the spirit.  No light.  No shadows.  No breath from the past......

As we left........... my son asked me to remind him of his first trip to Spencer's Island.......... It was November, 12 and a half years ago.  He was 6 weeks old, and slept through the night for the first time in his wee life, cozied up in a basket bassinet right beside me........ The next day, we all went for a walk into Uncle Max's woods on a beautiful crisp sunny day.......... he in a snuggly wrapped around his Dad's chest ..... content as can be ..... and when he was hungry, I sat comfortably on a log in the middle of the woods and nursed my boy.  He loves that story.  So do I.  


More to come........................

Sunday, July 25, 2010

letting the clouds float by....



We could talk for hours, you and I
painting life-picture stories.
I'd enjoy that. Would you?

We could talk forever,
adding bits upon bits of information
shedding a few skin layers
catching glimpses of commonalities
asking questions
piecing people puzzles together...
Your people puzzle
My jigsaw of a life....
Unfinished edges remain.
Unfound pieces left under the carpet
as we talk in circles
around and around and around......

for hours we could take turns treading water....
spilling our thoughts out in rambling words
listening to the uplift and downshifts of our vocal tones
watching expression ooze out of our pores
rippling spills of thought bubbles
floating in the air of new knowing....
Truth is within reach if we let our guards go home.

We share what we have gleaned of ourselves.
We share from our own viewpoint.
The more we gab and jab,
the more we grab hold of our common clay
our blended shades of light.
Formulating unique people prints.....
like finger prints but bigger.
shaplier
"wholier"
illumineer..... ing stories masking the whispers caught in the back of our throats....

What do you really want to say?
Tell me how you feel about it....

Out it pours.....
stretching back into the vaults of nostalgia
leaning forward into the foggy dreams of what may be
surrounding unfolding immediacy.
encompassing facts, ideas, thoughts,
feelings....
only the comfortable ones confessed.....always remaining entwined in intellectual fabric
where trust knocks but isn't welcomed yet.

What about the discomfortable ones?
Why are they shamed into repression?

We can talk forever, filling each other with so much of ourselves and still not really know one another.
We could live side by side for years and still never break through to meaning.
We have the capacity to fill the airwaves right up to the invisibly tough boundary lines like the TV midnight weather lady who forecasts facts backed up by science....

high pressure, low pressure.....
stormfront lines on the horizon,
do we choose to remain in the safety net?
acceptable
expectable
predictable
controlled by intellectual calculations.

until....
until.....

something mysterious and holy happens....
paint splashes onto our life-story canvas
a new puzzle piece is revealed....
WE both grab for it because it is the same.
THEN! The weather predictions don't follow the weather lady's script!

The change in air pressure bursts the glistening thought bubbles floating in the air, and out spills common feelings
raining down on me and you....
revealing honesty from each tender drop.

In a split moment, our guards run for cover and we are left reflecting upon one another as Truth holds up the mirror.
"Not bad!
Not bad".....we cry as we see the imperfections displayed as beauty marks, sending shivering affirmation and acceptance. "What were we so darn afraid of??"

Knowing transforms into understanding.
Understanding blends into a feeling of communion.
Now, let's restart from here......
We can talk for hours from here......

Can I call you Beautiful?? Because you are...... 

Loved as you are always....   

Saturday, July 24, 2010

dining room memories.



It barely fits 8 people sitting snuggly when the table is set.  It can feed many happy folks when I push everything to the side and serve a buffet.  It has been decorated with chinzy balloons, banners and crepe streamers.  It has been set up with votives and tapers flickering dinner light.  It has been turned into a haunting halloween howl, an Easter egg dipping den, a place to do homework, crafts and basket filling, a place to play cardgames, boardgames, a place to sketch out plans.

There are days when it looked elegant in its own humble way, and other days it was a creative mess during project contruction.  Flowers, cut from my garden or given to me by the one who loves a beautiful bouquet as much as I do often takes frontstage of the centrpiece.   Of the spaces in my home, my little dining room has been transformed more than any other.  If my kitchen is the heart of this house, my dining room is the open hands of giving. With love I have served many meals to  friends and family in that space. 

Today, I remembered so many good times as I began to freshen it up after 12 years with the same paint on the walls.   I didn't expect to be inundated with memories....silly me!  As I put the second coat on the windowsills and began prepping the room for a facelift,  the voices, the nusic, the ambiance, interactions, conversations, reunions, met me full on.

Initially, I was struck by the memories of when we redid it the first time when Max was a baby.  I remembered how I scraped the wall paper one square foot at a time because Max only ever wanted to nurse.  So, I would nurse him and then put him in his car seat and move him around the dining room with me as I scraped.  It took forever, but what I remember learning about it is how sometimes you can't look at a WHOLE project because it overwhelms you and then you don't get started.  You have to take it one bite at a time. 

Then, I realized it was a lesson I needed to revist and reflect on again today because it is an analogy for so many of life's bumps and bruises too.  Its the lesson I embraced when i began writing again..... I didn't have the time to write the novel I wanted to, but if I just posted one piece on the blog daily, I would eventually have enough for a novel.  Both have happened.

If only we had tried to take the issues in our marriage I pondered,  one bite at a time and not let the accumlated problems overwhelm us and smear our way of seeing things.... and how we felt.  Mostly how we felt.  If only we had applied the same philosophy.  But, we didn't and now it's too late.  My redecorating pushed this thought to the forefront as I celebrated and mourned the radical changes in my life and the life of my family and friends.  When a marriage implodes, the impact reverberates beyond the two people who expressed the vows. If only........ can't dwell there too long.

I was  flooded with all of the wonderful wonderful memories of dinners we had in that little dining room.  As my tears flowed, I tuned into the voices and music..........the laughter and companionship......... the debates and the stories......... the smiles and the gratitude you only ever feel right in the core of your heart when you're surrounded by people who love you and you love.  

Certain dinners came to mind. I relived many of them. The VERY first one with Heidi and Andrew right after Jamie had  finished painting it!  And how I ended up downstairs with a wretched crying Max while he entertained people who didn't know what it was like to be around a baby!   The reunion dinners with Bill and Helen and Jim and Ev while the kids played somewhere else  .......... Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving.........birthday parties when the dining room was decorated with streamers............ when the dining room was turned into a buffet for our Ground Hog day parties, and Open houses....... the times when Max would have the 3 of us laughing so hard on normal evenings when it was just the 4 of us.  Sundays.  Sunday dinners catching up and planning for the week always had music playing in the background.

It's such a little space, but it holds the music of love, lauighter, knship, family, ............. it holds many many words I pulled out of the air to write about.  It holds early morning thoughts and prayers when I was up writing and my family was sound aseleep on a Sunday morning ..... the crisp winter light refelcting on the snow outside.  I love writing at the dining room table.

It is where we were at our best......... hosting, being parents, being a couple...... sharing. This we agree on.  Man we worked well together in this little space.... me serving, providing, orchestrating the meals (in my element), and Jamie keeping the conversation, wine and music flowing........ what warms my heart more than anything is that there are many people in my life who hold their own memories of evenings spent right in this space....... late night conversations that led to learning more about one another.  Beautiful connections. 

One of the most memorable dinners?  We were sharing Christmas dinner with three families.  The magic of the season was present with full hearts. The adults sat around the dining room table.  The kids sat 5 feet away at their own table set up in the living room. The music was on.  The fire blazing in the fireplace.  The Christmas tree sparkled in tiny lights.  Candles were burning all around the two rooms.  Every one was in the mood to celebrate.  

I had placed photos on everyone's plates in random order....a photo of each person attending.  After grace I asked everyone to look at the picture of the person in the photo and share a memory or a thought about that person.  Sometimes my attempts like this fall flat.  This time for some reason, it rose beyond my expectations.  Even though the ages ranged from 10 years old to 45,  what was shared, and the insight expressed left this group with a sense of love and belonging that permeated into a meal of thanksgiving where stories were passed along on their own platter.   What warms my heart is that if I was to ask the kids who attended to choose one of their favourite Christmas memories, this moment of talking about the person int he photo inevitably is mentioned.  So simple, yet so poignant. 

It took me the whole day to primer this tiny dining room.  I kept having to quit and catch my breath again...... oh and to change the music.  I cried openly, mourning the loss.  I shed the tears of joy and gratitude too.  I tried to put aside the meals that had been painfully emotional since last Christmas, knowing now that there was one person at the table who had already moved out of the house emotionally, spiritually......... I did though reflect on the new variations of people who have sat around the dining room table when the silence and hurt was served even if no one could face the music.  I've served many meals last spring to my broken family and then retreated to my room so that the kids could have time with their Dad.  It turns out that of all the rooms in this little  house, it is the dining room that has absorbed the transitional times for the whole family. 

Lately though, the laughter and the stories are beginning to return.   This past week for example, it was just Max and I sitting in this space one evening.  The mood was bouyant and the conversation flowed back and forth in a bantering sharing way.  It ran the normal gamut of topics.  It felt right.  It felt comfortably lovely. Afterwards, we cleared the table and cleaned up the dishes together, continuing the discussion we were having on our dreams of travelling. 

So, the room has finally been painted with a primer ready to take on new colour, a new look.  But before I rolled on the white, I painted a few words on the walls............. "renewal" and "bless this space with love."  You won't be able to see the words once its finished, but I know the blessings are there..... I know that if I stumble saying grace as the sole one at the helm, I can look over at the wall and hear it encourage me to find the words........ 



This dining room will soon be ready to host a few good parties........ and many many family meals.   I'll toast to that. 

Post photos will follow..................

 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

lying and sneaking and cheating, oh my.

 
Sad how we live in a society so corupt of the values we espouse but never apply.  Sad how we have it in ourselves a gene that makes us so interested in the pain of another.  We have grown accustomed to as well as numbed by the mean antics of others applied to another human being.  Have we tripped the light on empathy and respect?  Do we live in a place of denial where our vitriolic hurtful actions get cleansed by the neurotic delusions that what we do doesn't hurt another person.  Does voyeurism, no matter what the cost,  trump doing the right thing?  

Values, particularly the key ones tied to humanity and living a life where kindness, integrity faithfulness, loyalty, and love, seem like they have become fleeting thoughts (oh, that would be a nice idea our brains say) rather than applied actions.  There are so many bald face liars out there, its difficult to know who is an imposter and who isn't. 

Lying is an art and if you're good at it, my God you can fool anyone.  Except yourself.  Oh, sure you can carry on living in a place of denial.  You can surround yourself with others who believe your lies and grand illusions.  You can even talk yourself into believing another reality than what is the truth.  Heck, you can even play the role of victim so beautifully that you convince even the most sceptical being.  But one day?  The curtain will lift.  The most brilliant white light will be shining directly on you.  And all of a sudden, every grey hair, pock mark, scar, and wrinkle.... every shivering quivery lie, every moment you were sneaky, voyeristically snooping into another person's life just for a thrill will be visible to YOU!

Don't think you're invisible.  Don't ever believe other's are blind to the way you have chosen to live your life void of applying the values you so carefully collected every Sunday while attending church.  Oh!  You stopped attending??? You may have a beautiful sweet sounding voice.  Who knows?  You may always carry yourself surrounded by a breeze of supposed innocence so that many get pulled into your fake humility.  Just be aware that you are nakedly exposed......... take a look.  Mirror, Mirror.  

Justify.  Justify your actions.  Can you do it?  Why is it that people can rarely walk their talk?   Say one thing?  Do the right thing.  

Action ................ Reaction.   My turn...... I'm acting.

Lying and sneaking and cheating make me want to wretch.  


ps.  And to the three or so UNB readers who have been scouring my blog for extensive "visits" over the past couple of days?  I'm assuming you were looking for a voyeuristic buzz?  'm blogging this one especially for you.  Hope you enjoyed the posts you carefully summoned up from your workstations.  Hope it was titilating enough to take you away from what you should've been doing.  Working!  Shalom.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

soaked in ancient peace

A deep baritone lament hung in the hollow of his silence. It reverberated through the timbre of his confused thoughts as he lifted the glass of whiskey to his lips. Alone, sitting soundly in his leather chair at a time when the rest of the world seemed fast asleep, he wondered where his life was going to take him. So many pressures, so many complications piled up all around him that he found it almost impossible to drive a wedge through to sunlight.

Today, he closed his shop for good. He never thought he'd see the day. Today, he left his passion on top of the last pile he swept up off the floor and when he walked through the door for the last time, he felt beaten down. Left without a map, he knew he was stepping into what felt like an abyss. Or maybe it was perdition......his soul felt detached from his body. Where had he gone wrong, he wondered for the thousandth time as he swallowed deeply? How had this happened?


Numbed, his only wish was to soften it.....to drink enough to drive his anger, his grief, his sorrow far enough away so that there was room to find a resting place where that ever evasive peace clung in the air. But, it seemed like that blue water tranquility was only a mirage. 

He hadn't felt relief in months. It showed in the dark circles under his eyes, in the haunting settled in his eyes. Others relied on him to be the provider, to be the anchor and here he was adrift, floating aimlessly in swift currents. Failure....failure.....he felt like a complete and utterly broken man. The only thing he could think of was escape. He wanted to run away.  But it wasn't an option.  Rock bottom and alone, he had to shore himself up to stay.....to face the music.  "How," he thought........ "how am I going to tell me familly?  They rely on me.  They see me as the pillar of strength.  What an imposter I have been."

As he grabbed the bottle and poured himself another full tumbler, the night began to swallow him whole. His thoughts rushed together like a head on train crash. The sound, a combination of clashing cymbals and the high pitched of metal on metal brakes felt like it hit the front of the inside of his head with a wild cacophony of fear. Tinnitus of the spirit. It made him feel sick to his stomach. 
The only thing he could think of was to sit in the silence soaked in regret. There was nothing to look forward to in the morning.....nothing that couldn't be done on any other day. He felt so far removed from the rest of the world. The thought of seeing himself sitting on the sidelines while everyone else got up and went to work, school....destinations.....made him shiver.  

Open wounded raw alone.  Salt stinging bleeding.  Broken.


Lost in complete self-absorbed mourning, he neglected to hear  a person enter the room and turn on the stereo. Music began to play softly through the dark tunnel he was sitting in. It was a melodic comforting hymn which instead of disrupting his thoughts,  the soothingness invited him to fall into them. Through the echo of memory, he recognized the voice and the song....and could feel it's aural massage lifting him out of himself. His  breathing deepened to a calm. Instead of thinking of his situation, he wrapped  himself in the tune.  He allowed himself the luxury of surrendering those loud penetrating monsterthoughts to slip away........ 


He listened.........

Beside the garden walls,
We walk in haunts of ancient peace.
At night we rest and go to sleep
In haunts of ancient peace.

The love and light we seek,
The words we do not need to speak,
Here in this wondrous way we keep
These haunts of ancient peace.
Let us go there again
When we need some relief
Oh, when I can't find my feet
When I need rest and sleep.


The Sunday bells they chime
Around the countryside and towns
A song of harmony and rhyme
In haunts of ancient peace.
The holy grail we seek
On down by haunts of ancient peace.
We see the new Jerusalem
In haunts of ancient peace.

Oh, when I can't find my feet
Oh, when I need some relief
One more time again.
You know I want to go there one more time again.
Be still in haunts of ancient peace.


All of his defenses melted away.  The anger and fear which had been his companions for so long drifted away while weary fatigue peeled off the last layers of defense.  It was then that he recognized the man who had joined him in the room.  Though he had know way to block the man's entrance, he tried to pull himself up and out of the chair but found he couldn't.


"Be still," whispered the voice in the room. "Be still and let me sit with you. Let's share a glass of whiskey friend. You are not alone....."
 
The broken man leaned over and poured the stranger a glass and handed it to him in silence. When he looked up at him, even through the darkness, he could see the man's face.....saw a friendly smile, felt his calmness, saw the familiarity in his caring eyes. He took in the soft light which seemed to emanate kindness and love all around the stranger while he realized the encounter seemed like a natural happening, not an invasion of his home. Mysteriously, it felt like a meeting between two old friends. 


Without words, the broken man invited the stranger to sit down in the chair next to him, but the stranger chose to sit quietly on the rug in front of him. As the music played on like soothing bathwater pouring in the background, the stranger looked up right into the broken man's sad eyes and whispered....

"Tell me your sorrows.....let me help you carry them.  You are not alone."

The broken man began to weep.  Tears streamed like a river down his cheeks leaving the taste of salt on his lips as he poured out his heart in a confession riddled with the pain of failure.   Without saying a word, Jesus, leaned forward, put his hand on the man's knee and wept quietly too.

The words we do not need to speak,
Here in this wondrous way we keep
These haunts of ancient peace.
Let us go there again
When we need some relief
Oh, when I can't find my feet
When I need rest and sleep

When the man finished spilling out his heart, emptying the toxic fears from his soul, he heard Jesus reply,  "Be still........sorrows are the gateway to your enlightenment.  Sorrows strip away our ability to fight off the sober reality of failure.  It also takes us to a place where soul wrestling solitude needs to be affirmed.  Let it be.  Listen to God.  Seek true solitude."  

Jesus paused.  The waves which once crashed like cymbals in the silence inside the man began to calm.  Together they sat in quiet breathing.  Just breathing. 


"Stop and pray.  Be still. Stay silent.  Let go of the wordless thoughts....... Your night will soon turn to dawn. You are never alone when it is time to face your haunts.  Together we will seek out the healing soaked in ancient peace.  I am here in your solitude."

ps. the lyrics and song by Van Morrison...a hymn which always helps me find my own stillness

Sunday, July 18, 2010

kiss the world beautiful......




Beautiful
Luminous
Engaging
A feast for the soul
Surprising
Enlightening
Arresting
Nurturing
Affirming
Life celebrating
Touching
Moving
Reflecting faith
Heart tripping
Wondrously enhancing
Awe inspiring
Motivating
Radiant.........simply radiant.

Today,

I heard......

the song of the birds
the voice of a troubadour
the words of a friend.
Vivaldi streaming out into the open air....
laughter

I felt......

the touch of a loved one
the peace of tranquility
the marvel of a connection.
the embrace of gratitude.
the breeze of a summer's day. 
kissed

I inhaled......

the aroma fresh mown grass
the sun bursting with rain
the lingering scent of clean laundry
the wafting essence of lavender bubbles
perfume

I tasted.....

fresh strawberries
cold water
a crisp glass of wine
pink lipstick on my lips
peppermint coolness
love

I saw.....

my son laugh so hard he couldn't speak
a doe grazing on a neighbour's front lawn
a hummingbird sipping nectar from a flower
my own reflection
the smile of a friend.....
the eyes of desire
humans

At twilight, I watched darkness envelop the trees leaving them as unmoving silouettes against a cloudless sky.  Tangerine light seeped through the branches, ..... the last remnants of a sunset I had watched reflect off the river as it drew closer to the treetopped hills.  Not a ripple on the river tonight.  Calm as though it wasn't moving..... as though there was no current moving below the surface, the river received the light and bounced it back up to kiss the little islands and shoreline greenery. Beautiful.

Beauty.  It is all around us.  As I sat quietly reflecting on the light that shone beauty on my day, I was surprised by how many of these moments I encountered.  In one day.  Not that it was any particularly special day. 
Or maybe it was. 
On second thought.......Yes, it was.
They are all special.  Especially Sundays.

On the surface, my Sunday seemed calm as though it wasn't moving.  It may not have been moving too quickly, but it unfolded so beautifully that by the time I found myself sitting alone in twilight silence, my cup was filled with the grace of God's creative magic.

It is now nighttime.  I am content.  Almost as content as I feel when I'm kneeling on the thwarts of a canoe.  When I awoke this morning, I put on Martyn Joseph's music to accompany me while I made breakfast and tidied up..... I listened to this beautiful man sing while remembering the moment at the Greenbelt Festival when we bumped into one another in front of the grandstand. He hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek as though we had been friends for a long time.  It warmed my heart.  I had just met him that weekend, had spoken to him during late night gatherings back at the hotel.  

When we met in front of the grandstand, he asked me if I had time to pick up a CD that had been put aside for someone.  I told him it was no problem..... He then told me to tell the Manager at the music tent that he wanted me to have a copy too.  As I listened to him sing in my kitchen this morning, our encounter vividly jumped out into the forefront of my memories.... as did the two concerts I attended when this troubadour was onstage.  His CD is entitled....... "Kiss the World Beautiful......."  

I took him up on it today. And you know what?  The world kissed back.  Beautifully.  Thank you Martyn.

I want to kiss the world beautiful
I want to kiss your lips tonight.
Sometimes it's just more important to love
Than to always have it right

Saturday, July 17, 2010

a ghost just needs a home.....


 
Ana sat crumpled at the foot of the hill, a royal blue stone cupped in her hand. Exhausted in mind and body, she couldn't find the energy to walk up the path as she did everyday. She had lost the impetus to continue. She had lost her way. It simply felt too difficult to carry on with her mission. The meaning of it had slipped out of her grasp.


No matter what the weather, Ana had treked up to the top of the hill to place a stone she had carefully chosen and carried onto the pile which had accumulated over time. This was her lifework. She loved her stones and usually took pleasure in choosing the ones who spoke to her. Over the years, she came to believe stones were a home for spirits. They individually held ancestral stories. They were our collective legend. 
Her best days were when Ana discovered a diamond in the rough......a stone which resonated heat from its core when she cupped it in the palm of her hand. She called those ones "touchstones" because they seemed to carry lovewisdom in them, derived from living in the heart of eternity. Touchstones, she believed held the stories from the past......full of ancestral feelings. Through her eyes, the collection she had accumulated was a living piece of art....a choir. Recently, the stones had become silent. Her mission, she questioned.

There were days when she would fill a whole basket full of stones and carry them up the hill. Most days, however, she journeyed with a single solitary one, like the blue gem she was holding onto. All of them were uniquely imperfect and multi-coloured.....some with pink coral bits of quartz that sparkled in the sunshine, some more muted in a rich brown like the cliffs that framed the river below. One at a time, she would place them onto the evergrowing, everchanging pile, and step back to see how her work had shaped a difference. The hill was indeed growing, as was the sculpture of stone spirits. It had felt right. Her sense of purpose filled her with a productive connection to the rest of the world, that this is what she was put on this planet to do.

Today, she had lost her footing. Her shoes were worn, full of sole stabbing pebbles. Sadly, it also seemed silly all of a sudden, and this awareness tripped her own spirit with used up air. So many people had questioned her lifework over the years, had put up boulders along her path but she was always able to overcome whatever the obstacle. Her optimism and focus usually slayed the negativity and doubt. "A ghost just needs a home....." was her reply.

For some reason though, the opponent's words now haunted her thoughts and the more she listened to them replay in her head, the more she felt rejected. She looked at her worn scarred hands dried and cracked from the salty grit, remnants of her labours, her nails chipped and ugly and was overwhelmed by a sense of futility. Misunderstood and unloved, that's how she felt. Her mission rejected. Her person rejected. When did her own self entwine with her mission? When did they become one in the same? She didn't have the answer.

As she sat in a heap afternoon, Ana looked at the last touchstone she had discovered. It was a smooth blue stone with white cracks etched on its surface. Its size fit perfectly in her palm, but it was far from perfect. In fact, it held character.......with chipped edges softened by the tides. This one  she had carried with her for a long time.  For some reason, she couldn't part with it.  Instead, she had kept it tucked in her pocket for company. 
So, as she sat questioning whether or not this truly was her legend or whether it was about to change, she found herself clutching onto the blue stone rubbing it's softness., hoping the spirit it held would speak reassurances.  She ran her fingers unconciously over its fissures feeling the warmth generated from her touch. It helped her surrender her worries to the air around her. The more she repeated the movement, the more she could feel her muscles relax and her mind clear.

Time stretched on unnoticed as Ana found comfort in her meditation.....so much so that she was startled completely when she looked up and saw a man hiking down the hill close to the path she used everyday. In all of her days working on her mission, she had never seen anyone else on her hill. But, there he was. His steps seemed light and energetic, his arms swinging in purposeful motion. Continuing to stare at him like he was an apparition, Ana stood up to greet him as he reached the bottom of the hill.


"Have you been to the top of the hill?" he asked smiling.


"Oh, yes," Ana replied, "I walk up every morning," her reason kept silently in her pocket cupped in her hand. "And you? Is this your first time hiking in this area? I'm surprised I have never seen you before."


"You've seen the altar then?" he asked boldly. 
Before she could overcome her confusion and gather her thoughts he continued...."Our paths probably havent crossed because I always take my walk at this time of day after I've finished my work. I find this is when the angle of the afternoon sun gives the altar a warm welcoming glow. Somehow, the stones someone has placed together comes alive and sings to me...." The look on Ana's face must've made the man realize she didn't know what he was referring to. He continued..."you have seen the altar, right?"


"No, well yes I have," blurted Ana, "it's just that I see it as a piece of artwork and nothing more."


"Oh, it's much more than that. Maybe you've never experienced the feeling because you're usually here in the morning" he reassured her. "Someone has worked very hard to build a beautiful chantry and at this time of day, when the sun warms and reflects its light off the golden touchstones the spirits share their wisdom with me. I hope you don't think I'm crazy, but I have found a place where I can lay my worries, where I can relax. It is where I come to pray everyday. It's where I give thanks."

"The stones speak to you? You pray there and give thanks?" Ana asked a bit dumbfounded. He tentatively nodded, unsure as to how this woman was receiving the informaton he shared with her.

"They speak to me too," she admitted...." which is why I have walked up this hill everyday with a new stone in my pocket to add to my art. I wanted to give the ancestral stories they hold a home."

"You built the altar?"

Ana nodded tentatively. "I never saw it as an altar. I saw it as spirit sculpture."

"Your piece of art is a place of worship. It is beautiful! Oh! I want you to see it with new eyes and in a new light....come with me," he said with the excitement of a young boy who has just discovered an abandoned treefort.

As they walked up the hill, the sun warming their backs, Ana explained why she was there at a different time of day. She also shared with the man how lost she had felt because her sense of purpose seemed futile to her now. She told him she was going to give up on her mission....and was so worried about what she would do next. He listened without judgement and only asked a few questions as a way to help her find her words.

It was a different path than Ana had travelled on every single day so when they reached the summit, she was approaching it from a new angle. So, as soon as the stones came into her sight, Ana stopped abruptly and looked directly at the pile of stones which suddenly had transformed from an abstract piece of art to what the man had described. She saw the altar. Not only that, she heard the choir of spirits reflected from the afternoon sun.

Smiling, she approached her loving stones....the ones she had given a home to....and knelt down in front of them. The man knelt down beside her and quietly whispered...."You may have started your lifework by providing a place where the stories could find a home, but somewhere along the line, your mission changed.....you have built yourself one."

"I see that now......I see that now...."
Ana bowed her head that day and prayed the only two words needed in prayer.
"thank you."
______________
postscript........  

I wrote this piece over a year and a half ago.  I was in a very different place and it entailed sitting at the bottom of a hill wondering what the purpose was of my writing and the obsession with it. 

We begin projects (ie blogging) with clarity of purpose and so often we lose the thread which ties us to the original reason. Or perhaps the reason for the journey begins to take on a different meaning. For so long, I saw myself as a "collector of stories." The stories others shared had a home within me. They had a voice too when I became a storyteller.  I am a counsellor and a writer.  My blog is the temporary home I chose to collect my "touchstones..."  I set out to create a piece of art through my writing.  I now see that I have been building an altar.  Today for the first time, I see this.  

Amazing grace. How sweet the sound.

Somewhere along the line, as I collected and shared.....the meaning of my work, the direction of my journey began to take on a new shape as I realized the touchstones in my life have been providing me with lessons and have pointed out the direction of a new path. Though it is still a bit blurry.....my vision needs some adjusting, I am finally seeing that perhaps I need to personally find an altar I can call home. 

It wont be a traditional one.  I ain't a traditional kind of gal.  I clearly don't see myself studying to become a Minister working within the walls of a church.  I'd rather be out in the forests looking for waterfalls and talking to lost waifs.  I see myself facilitating...... up in front of others.  My vision however, always  begins at the source of my writing.  This is what will lead me.  This  blog is  where I found my voice.

I have a long way to go.....and I don't know the way or even how to go about it. But I do see it and my God, I'm blessed with the guidance of many to help me along the way. It is what I want. The spirit in me  just needs a home.  The foundation is set.  I am unstuck walking up that hill, a blue touchstone in my hand.  Let the choir sing.  

the magic of writing



The other night, I was trying to explain to someone about my penchant for writing, and how it is an avenue for learning, both personally and hopefully for others.  It makes me think.  It allows me to feel openly with abandon.  Writing allows me to express feelings beyond what is socially acceptable.  I put it out there with the hopes of punching a hole in the beliefs of another and allowing the feelings to seep out.   

It was difficult to find the words to describe how much of it is the process rather than the end product .... how I choose a topic and then allow the words to find me then flow through me like I'm simply a vessel to allow those words to carry thoughts out into the public domain.   I don't know whether I made sense.  It was after sipping on a Mojito.  Since they tend to numb the lips, there is a chance I simply clouded the conversation with gibberish.  

Tonight, a friend sent me a video that really hit home.  The woman is a fictional writer from Turkey named Elif Shafak.  Her message, which included some of her own story, was so compellingly accurate to the beliefs I carry with me about writing fiction.  Though it appears that I write autobiographically, and indeed have done more so in the past couple of months, the art of writing fiction is where I gather the most pleasure from. There is nothing more sacred for me than to slip into the abyss of my imagination only to be able to hook onto a story that is created simply for sharing as fiction.  

So often,  I write a piece and automatically there is an assumption that the feelings expressed through a character are ones I am feeling personally.  Sometimes, even when I write in first person, I am writing fiction. Or if I'm sharing a story of another person I have met, it is assumed that this is the full story of one person.  Particularly when I write a piece that is oozing in emotional description, its not uncommon for someone who is close to me to ask me if I'm alright because the intensity of what I have written frightens them into thinking I'm some suicidal crazy person.  I'm not.  I am definitely not myself these days, but I am pretty solidly grounded. 

One the points this woman in the video made resonated with me.  As she described what it was like to be labelled a "multi-cultural" writer, not only did I realize how often we do that....... expect someone from another culture to only write about that and nothing else ..... I realized that my own writing pegs me with certain labels.  I hate labels.  I write what is in my heart at the moment.  

Most wholeheartedly, I write from experiences but also from my ever vivid imagination. It is therapy.  I love the process.  And when it flows out of me like it is tonight........ so that I feel like an open vessel channeling words and expressions that I have no clue as to where they originate, except to believe they are my way of connecting with God?  I feel blessed.  I feel responsible. I feel that the power of connecting unanchored thoughts to the visceral reality of words is something I wish I could bottle and sell. It is a beautiful feeling. 

What is in me is in you.  The gift I have been given is to be able to find a way of sharing this so that sometimes a reader will have an AHA moment.  It may be fiction that I'm writing.  It may be a true story I am sharing. Whatever avenue I decide to share, it is in hopes that I do cross into your boundaries and hopefully and tap on what is perceived as truth.  

"I feel therefore I am free"............... this is a quote she used in the video.  It jumped out at me!  How true !!!!  Writing is the way in which I feel the most freedom to feel openly.  So often, this is totally unacceptabel to others if it is done in any other manner.   When I attempt to express myself in person verbally, I often threaten others with how comfortable I am in being direct and honest.  I am who I am.  

Through my writing, I can express the same thing, but it is less intrusive.  It allows the recipient to either read it fully and absorb the intensity of what I am trying to describe, or they can walk away.  Being present face to face live and in person is sometimes too much for others.  When I heard this quote spoken by this woman, I smiled knowing that it is through our feelings we can embrace a sense of freedom far more reaching than if we live in a place where only intellectual thoughts are shared.  Who the hell really cares about theory or acquired knowledge if it isn't expressed from the heart in a passionate manner?  No one.  If you FEEL the thoughts and ideas, you are more authentically received.  Tell a story, you have a receptive audience.  Chatter away about theories, you have an audience nodding off.

Writing is therapeutic.  For me my writing began around this time 5 years ago.  It hasn't stopped.  It flows, unfolding as I write.  I usually start with a thought.......... one single idea, and then I open my heart and mind to let it flow.  While I type it comes to me. Not before..... Even the autobiographical stuff.  Rarely do i have pre-meditated intentions.  I may have sketched it out in my head, but it always, always, always surprises me where the thought and the ideas and even the sketched out story in my head leads me.  I love these kind of surprises.  I don't like surprise parties or the ones I have been tossed my way recently whatsoever, but I like when my own thoughts morph into a surprise!

What i hope is that it leads me to you.  I hope that what I write and how I write leads me right to you wherever you are, and wherever you long to be.  For me, it is a transcendental state of being.  It allows me to stretch beyond my own borders to a place where learning and shifting occurs without struggle.  For you?  I don't know.  It is such an individual thing.  What i write about may resonate.  It may even hit a raw place in you.  Or, it may simply miss the mark because of where you are in your life journey.  All I can do is put it out there for consideration in hopes that it is fodder for contemplation. I have no control over that. 

Actually, I have no control over a damn thing, except what I choose to put out there, and how I choose to react to what is offered to me.  

Was I successful in explaining how pivotally important writing has been in my learning journey as well in my spiritual healing one?  I doubt it.  Mojitos have a way of clouding the brain and sending you into a place where you want to talk about other dreams rather than something that makes you think too much.  It's best to inhale the scent of the evening primrose and sink into the lulluaby of personal story telling connections.  It's heart stuff.... which eventually nurtures the writing. In fact, moments like those are the nuances filtered into writing from the heart.  This is where the magic formulates.... in the connections with others.... where the process begins.




Here is the video.  It is a little long, but well worth our attention....

http://www.ted.com/talks/elif_shafak_the_politics_of_fiction.html

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

a night of good energy.....



Sometimes, just sometimes you stumble across a beautiful soul you can relate to that you'd like to spend a few more moments with.  May there be a shooting star beyond the late night  clouds to catch my wish as it propels into the galaxy.  May the energy shared linger on into another day.  

Sunday, July 11, 2010

blue balls

Have I mentioned that I am the proud owner of a blue ball? Just one.  But, there are many scattered throughout the city, lovingly displayed outdoors by the women who possess them.  Some are green and some are blue.  Balls. Female Balls.  Magical.  Mystical.  Lucky.  And you thought they were only found on frigid males.

Originally, I was given a green one.  It sat in a decorative ball holder on table on my back deck.  When my friend Joy presented me with this lovely item, purchased at the Giant Tiger Boutique (she purchased them all!) I was informed that not only did the ball contain the power to change the tides in my life, but as the owner, I was now a member of a sisterhood.   Though I don't know these women yet,  I feel a connection to them in a JOY-full spirited way.  And, I will get to meet them in the fall when Joy throws a Balls party on the night of the harvest moon to celebrate the power of positive thinking.  You see, Joy knows "the REAL Secret....." and she spreads her nom de plume everywhere she goes.

All day long, the green ball absorbed the sunlight......... soaking it into its hollowness...... filling up with good karma. And then when the sun went down, it would GLOW a brilliant neon green. NEON KARMA! Every time I walked by the livingroom window, my eyes would gravitate to its incandescent light.  And every time my son would pass by the same window, he would stop and announce to me that the green ball creeped him out.  It was a pretty weird colour, I have to admit.  I waited for the tides to change.  

It was Joy who first told me in the spring when we met to discuss some business that I was in shock.  "You're in shock you know," she said.  I didn't really believe her.  You see, I was functioning and in fact had the ability to focus on the serious matters one needs good clear headed thinking.  We also had a good deep conversation that day.  How could I really be in shock when I was still able to put one foot in front of the other and get through a workday as well as deal with the stuff marriage separation is made of?? But, her words remained with me.  Everytime I woke up to the harsh realities, everytime I found myself in a puddle of tears, or bellowing out my anger, I would say to myself,  "Joy may be right.  This may be what shock feels like."   When she gave me my green ball around the beginning of June, I was still raw.  I can see that now.  Because I'm not that raw anymore.

I also know that about a week after I became the proud owner of the green ball......... my shock lifted.  Overnight, something lifted off me.... a veil?  A cloak....?  The heaviness was gone.  As soon as it did, I knew Joy was right.  I had been in shock!!  Now I know.... this will help me understand it in others.

A week after that,  while I was right in the middle of trying to write a fictional story that seems to have a life of its own, I received a seemingly outrageous email from Joy informing me that it has been driving her crazy....... that I should've received a blue ball not a green one.  I laughed!  But, something inside me felt the same way.   How nuts is that?? So, I emailed her back...... informing her that I thought she was correct and asking her why she thought this.... then I would tell her why I agreed. 
She replied........... "3 reasons.... You face the river, you are a water person, and it's creeping Max out."  

I replied......... "Agree!  I am a river girl, plus I have been trying to write a story about a little girl who meets a Blue Angel.  It has morphed from a kids story to a spiritual one all on its own and I can't seem to find the ending.  I think the glow of the blue ball would be inspirational...  I need blue light!"  Within the hour, Joy pulled into my driveway for the official ball swap.  We were killing ourselves laughing....... it seemed so ridiculous, but spirited.  Nothing like some lightness eh?!  I told Joy then that my shock had lifted, and she said she could see that.  "The tides have changed Dana," she said. "Do what you are doing to heal.  It's working........ and this blue ball will bring good luck.  I take this stuff seriously you know...." 

I put my new blue ball in the holder...... and waited for the sun to go down.  When it did, it initially glowed an indigo blue, the same colour my sister and I painted my bedroom in the spring as a way to radically change transform it into MY room.  A very good sign, I thought.  As the skies darkened, the ball began to glow the same colour as the blue in the ocean on a summer day.  It WAS a lot more calming.  I AM a water girl.  My gaze faces the river.  Water calms me like nothing else.   I look out at this glowing blue ball on my back deck, and I feel a warmth and a calm and a giggle knowing that it emits BLUE KARMA.  I also think of the other women I have yet meet who have the same silly thing sitting on their back decks!  I can't wait to meet them!!!

Since then?  So many weird and wonderful things have happened.  So many that its freakingly spooky!!  

The next day, I received an email from a new friend whose nickname is "acrossthewaters," who sent me photos of flowers that looked so much like the ones I take, which I refer to as flower porn.  I couldn't believe it!  Flower porn!!  From a person named "acrossthewaters! " After that, he invited me to go on a hike to check out a hidden waterfalls.... I mean, that is spooky!  Of course, I went.  How could I not?  Water! Revealing flowers? And it was there that I discovered Waterfalls therapy!  It's magical!  Acrossthewaters?  You bet. 



The tides turned....... and I was asked to deliver a sermon on God's abundance.  I had the chutzpah to say yes.  How could I mess up?  I was the proud owner of a big blue ball. More importantly, with a good deal of help from my friends (thank you Anne!!) I focused, researched, read, wrote and wrote and wrote......... edited and then REWROTE it all.  Before I knew it, I was standing up in front of a congregation which included the smiling faces of my friends and family delivering a message on the importance of connecting with others.  Blue light.  Do you know that blue light is also a reference to the Holy Spirit?  

The tides turned.  I've finished my story.  I really am proud of it because it ended up with layers and layers of spiritual meaning, which seemed to unfold on its own.  It turned out to be about a little girl who has an awakening when she meets a Blue Angel.... aka, The Holy Spirit.  Blue light.  It glows. The ending found me during a church service.  I havent posted it yet.  It needs more breathing.  Soon, I will post it here.  

I began to review the writing I have done over the past year.  The first story that jumped out at me was entitled River Girl.  Originally, I had written thinking that it was about someone other than me.  Hahahaha!  I re-read it and see how predestined it was....... how much I was aware of what was happening in my marriage and how I was feeling about being misunderstood and dismissed as odd and difficult.  I laughed!  

I took a risk and signed up for a day long workshop on Tension Release Exercises and became a believer in the ability to physically release pent up emotions.  It was a day of enlightenment....  a new "tool" to use personally and professionally because it completes the type of talk therapy I use in my job.  While there, I reconnected with an old acquaintance whom I had been wanting to see and talk to for MONTHS!  We used to bump into one another often and talk about religion and spirituality and I had this urge to seek him out.  We're now connected again.  

Last week?  I met with my Therapist Joan, whom I admire and feel a strong connection to.  She has been a Godsend.  She is the one who taught me that tears bring strength..... and points out to me how sacred this journey is that I have found myself on.

As I spilled my stuff that day, I was focused on how I am going through yet another work related issue on my own role as a counsellor. I shared a few stories from my past as a camp counsellior because this is where I began to see it as a career.  As I told her a few stories, I was thinking strongly about a situation with a person who was really struggling at the time and I had tried my best to help her.  She had to leave camp that year.  She loved camp as much as I did.  Because of the situation etc, we lost contact.  Until the evening after meeting with Joan.  After 30 years, I received an email, addressed to Muskie... me.  It blew me away.... my breath caught!  Tears flowed. We are now catching up on life.  

Coincidence?  I think not.  I stopped believing in coincidence when an Irish faerie showed up in my life 5 years ago who told me stories about river ghosts,  and spirits in trees and convinced me to start writing again.   Now that I have a blue light in my life, I riding these new tides........   BLUE KARMA.
So, If you're looking for me and i'm not home feeling the radiating healing powers of my blue glow ball?  This River Girl will be out in the woods soaking up some Waterfalls therapy. 

Yeah, I own a blue ball.  
I've got that going for me and more.  

Sunday morning JOY.



I first heard this Michael Franti song about a month ago while driving home from work. It LIT me up! Amazing how one song can boost your spirits up into the clouds.... This one does it for me. I love the very idea that Franti sings about.... that Rain is the sound of sunshine.... It is a metaphor for life.

This morning, as I thoroughly enjoy my Sunday morning just putting and feeling as sense of freedom and completeness, I am up dancing like nobody's watching. Well guess what? NO ONE is! I drove my son to the basement. My energy was too much for him to take.

Beautiful..... JOY on a Sunday morning. We create it with a little help from the music in our lives. Enjoy!!! Dance!!!!

ps. I have no idea why the youtube video doesn't fit within the borders of my blog. I guess because the song needs to be played loudly..... it's too BIG for borders. :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

swimming in your own stare....



Nobody, absolutely nobody gets out of this life without accumulating a series of personal emotional wounds.  Chances are, nobody gets out of this life without being the one who wounds another.  Even the kindest person trips up somewhere along the line.  Well, maybe Mother Theresa didn't wound anybody. 

Sometimes we just have to learn how to step beyond those debilitating feelings that make you double over in vulnerability.  Its tempting to remain stuck in sadness, anger, hurt, shame and/or jealousy because they have a tendancy to be SO big that they flood our thinking and our actions.  They leave you sitting on the sidelines swimming in your own stare, gazing without focus.....walking in circles, believing you belong there.  That's the temptation.....to grab hold of these devilish emotions and allow them to label you....

The offended one.
The betrayed one.
The rejected one.
The discarded one.
The abandoned one. 

 Look at all the labels one can choose from!!! 

Though it's important to look at the dark side of our feelings, to reflect upon the events which have been the culprit of the wounds, there comes a time when you have to step over them, leave them behind and move on.  Easier said than done....especially if you sink into a pit of self loathing introversion.  Swimming in your own stare.  This is what sinks you.  This is what fuels the apathy and strips you of any level headed reasoning.  

When you are going through a painful experience, its easy to hide away.  In fact, I think its the natural response........ FLIGHT from the pain. But, the pain follows.  The labels stick like humidity to skin. Wounded vulnerability drains you of energy.  So how do you pull yourself out of the bleeding?  

BLINK!  
Change your swim stroke! 
Stop staring at the same picture.
Ask for help........a little help from your friends.  :)
Surround yourself with the loving care of others.
Change your thinking with activity even if you are exhausted.
Write it out............ which is what I'm doing right now......
Do something you enjoy doing.  
Be kind to yourself.
Talk to God.
Sit still and face the wind and listen to His Spirit all around you........

Then, go out and do something for someone else.  Trust that your wounds will remained bandaged so you can be there fully for someone else. 

This morning, as I was having breakfast with a friend at the market, an angel who knows my situation and  who happened to be waitressing, leaned down and whispered in my ear that the woman who has recently moved to town and has played a major role in the demise of my marriage, and the break up of two families was in line to be seated. This angel, who calls everyone honey, told me that she loved me and didn't want to see me hurt.  

A rush of anxiety flooded me........ the wounds opened up in my gut.  I hugged my friend, thanked my angel and took flight!  By the time I reached my car, I was a shaking mess....upset that I reacted that way, and upset that someone's presence would make me feel like throwing up.  More than anything I was upset over the realization that I could feel the DEPTH of hurt I thought I had left behind.  It felt like all of what I have done to heal went right out the window in one caught breath. 

I really thought I had stepped over the wounds.  I guess not.  My bravery was too thin skinned to remain there with my head held high.  All day, I've been a mess.  My stomach was in knots.  My tears kept flowing.  Until NOW. Ever since I started writing this post, I could feel my strength and confidence return.  I DO know how to help heal the wounds..... it just takes more time than I had thought. 

It's been a wake up call.  It's also been an opportunity to reframe and remember all the things I HAVE done since March that have added to a deepening faith, to a sense of freedom and relief,  to a recognition that there was an emotional detachment in my marriage for a very long time.  More importantly, this jolt to my senses has informed me that my heart still needs mending....  Oh, and to give thanks to the angels in my life!  They are plentiful and everywhere!  I AM being looked after by the universe. 

I am humbled by the sacredness of this journey...... wounds bless and break.  They also teach me and feed me bread for the journey.  As a student of living out loud?  I will never remain on any sideline for long.....just long enough to change the gauze and the gaze!!  I am not swimming in my own stare any longer today. 

ps...... Wow, writing does heal!!!!  Now, I wish I had stayed long enough to get a glimpse of this woman.  I still don't know what she looks like!! Next time. Next time.