Tuesday, March 31, 2009

order! order! what logic?

I've never been one to do things in a clear linear manner. I just don't seem to be wired that way. Since last fall for example, when I was moved out of my "job" to cover someone else's while he worked on a special project, I have been plugging along in my own way trying to find a fit. Unconventional me was originally shown a 5 or 6 (I can't remember now how many) step process for getting the job done. It seemed very logical. I could see how theoretically and practically it could be applied. I know it worked because the wonderful person I was covering for is very successful AND very good at working within this formula. He should. He created it. He's linear. And thank God for that because NON linear people desperately need linear folks in their lives. They protect us from falling into a canyon of unfinished projects and into the myriad of broken thoughts. But when it comes to counselling, I prefer to fall into the canyon down into the myriad of broken thoughts and dreams. It's where the connection happens....well it does for me.

Now, I tried. Once I think. Maybe a couple more times after that.... It was like wearing a pair of boots three sizes to big. I was clomping around like a eejit trying to do this dance number to music with an unfamiliar beat. So, I modified the process by chucking it. out.the.window ..... Then, I found my authentic voice and manner again and went from there. Of course, wary ones who have referred their clients to me for the linear system don't seem to trust the free fall approach to my craft. I have a feeling they look at me with skepticism. But, I know who gets the darn hug and a smile of relief at the end of the sharing.

Ring the bell that still can ring......
forget your perfect offering.....
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in....
I look for the crack, for the light......I like to sit right there.

Have I told you I work in a bureaucratic system? They don't breathe like me. Or maybe I should rephrase that....I don't breathe like them. They like neatly done approaches which of course is an oxymoron in the land of red tape, but the system continues to STRIVE for this fancy facade of straight forward, policy driven, full speed logical delivery of service and it gets lost in the convoluted complicated web of wiring. This is how widgets are counted.... You can't keep stats when the system is not tackled the same way everytime. It is a constant struggle that thankfully the big mucky mucks make their very best attempts at solving. With policies. With agendas. With micro handling. Captured in scientifically set up boxes which hum away on the desk of every staff person. I see it as my role to throw a bit of faerie dust art into the scheme of logic.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I completely understand the importance of counting widgets. Accountability is just as important to me, the non-linear gal as it is the logically driven straight ahead human. We just come at it from different angles. Where it gets blurry is that when the approach is coming from polar opposite places? There is lots of room for misunderstanding. And, misunderstanding can easily lead to mistaken assumptions. I'm not working within the parameters of the set formula, I must not be doing my job. Or some such thing.

I do like order....just not so much of it that it squeezes the life out of spontaneity and authenticity. So, I think in order to help the wary ones who look at my dance steps and shake their heads in distrust, I have to show them that we are making progress. And we are..... but it takes time.

5 steps in a process and all is well..........
trust in the process.......gotta trust in my own process.

There is a level of intellectual reflection in the process of counselling, but in order to make a difference, one has to lead with intuitive emotion. It humanizes it. It softens the formality into a trusting conversation where vulnerable regrets can be laid out without judgement. And, I've come to realize its the same approach I am learning to take when it comes to being open to accepting the very idea that there is a God.

It wasn't until I realized I needed to let go of the intellectual "prove it to me with facts" approach. For years, I grabbed hold of this frame of mind where I demanded the logic and clearcut proof that God existed. Jesus? Sure! Virgin birth? Come on! Rising from the dead? What kind of drugs are you smoking? What pushed me away even more were the people I encountered who clung to a certainty so tightly in an effort to convince themselves of logic which from my perspective did not exist. The more I entered into a cerebral vortex, the more skeptical I became until I found myself completely dismissing any conversation with even a faint aroma of the divine.

The summer of 2005 was a turning point for me on many fronts, and one day I will write the story fully as to what happened inside me. But, its not time yet. Suffice to say that a combination of events and encounters managed to kick me out of this cognitive framing of religion and pointed me back to a place in my life when it was humanized.....when believing came from a place of intuitive emotion. Still very skeptical and very tentative, I decided I would approach the opening of the chapel door differently. Given that my writing focus returned at the same time it seemed like the natural guide to returning to a place where I could consider believing in God again.

As I dove into the writing and let the thoughts and words flow freely without restraint, I quickly realized I experienced moments when I had no idea where any of it was coming from. There was no logic.....how could my desire and ability to write simply dry up for 20 years and then return with a fury? And how could my interest in religion leave me on the banks of the river for close to 20 years and then begin to trickle back as an option at the same time? It quickly became clear to me that as I wrote, I often felt a sense of being outside of the act. Transcendent? Otherworldly? I was a vessel capturing ideas, generating the words and spilling them onto a canvas. And as I wrote, I realized how much I was learning in the process. It was like I had a ravel of punctuation and exclamations inside the stories and reflections buried in my spiritual canyon.....where the myriad of my broken thoughts and dreams dwelt all bunched up and confused. It was when I let go of trying to make sense of things through logic that I was able to find my linearity....through my writing.

When it all came barreling back.......my interest in developing some kind of relationship with God and my turn of the word, I didn't actually see how they were dovetailing for a while. Two insights led the way. I woke up one morning to the realization that counselling, even within the confines of bureaucracy, is a calling and a gift I was given. When this finally dawned on me, I completely accepted it without question. The second insight was when I realized that this gift was unexplainable and I was completely fine with that.

Once I relaxed and stopped questioning why I was doing what i was doing, I was able to see how many times during the connections I nurtured, there was a magical feeling generated. Reflections and new approaches brought more insight and consequently more inspiration to delve into what I had learned and what I was learning through my gift. This in turn spurred on the ideas......until one day I realized I had been writing about many different components of faith. Themes began to surface. Growth through the new set of eyes....there's nothing quite like it.....disturbing, exhilarating, uncomfortable, inspiring, illuminating, painful.....it ran the gamut as I chugged away taking one concept at a time and reflecting on it from a clean slate.

My journey since I woke up with a new set of eyes during the summer of 2005 has clearly not been a straight line, nor has it been easy. In what seems disconnected on the surface, the experiences and "tests" I have been through since then are all tied together. I see that, in my own non linear way. The emotional obstacles which have deeply impacted my confidence and reliance on my intuition and have made me question whether what I do has value....it has even forced me to wonder many times about whether I am personally valued. The meaning behind it all is still very foggy. I would LOVE to know the reason behind it all. What I have held onto were the insights which found me in 2005 and my writing as a means to be touched by the hand of God. Logical? Not when I only use my brain to sort it out. But, when I process it through my heart and my gut feelings instead? It all makes sense. Or so it seems.

Monday, March 30, 2009

a sigh, a cry and a hungry kiss....

The ladies in the Maritimes would exclaim...."He's right some sexy, that jeezly Leonard!" Filmed in his hometown last summer at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
I love this song....and the lyrics just make me smile and chuckle....teasely jeezly lyrics. enjoy!

ps. His Live from London CD is to be released tomorrow, and the concert will be televised on CBC. Hallelujah...!

working on a dream...Childhood Interupted

Personal dreams capture our imaginations with vivid inspiration. Some cling onto our hopeful hearts making us hold our breath while we diligently work inside its wake. Others simmer on the back burner waiting for the right time to be served. Then there are the dreams which are right there, front and centre ready to be captured and fulfilled. Sometimes, we need the assistance of others to make it happen......OFTEN they are the most important dreams of all! Today, I want to share someones' dream with you because you can help make it happen......

Photographer, Jason Florio , a good friend of fellow blogger Helen at Wordly Images is attempting to win a photography contest in order to fulfill his own dream assignment and he needs your vote in order to do so. His own words..........and his accompanying photo.

"Three years ago I was photographing in Addis Ababa the capital of Ethiopia and I met a young boy called Bruke who had runaway from a small village because of an alcoholic and physically abusive father and a step mother that did not want him. Bruke, when I found him was living with his friend Oromo in a small concrete hole that was 3 x 4 x 5 ft in size that was in the median of a very busy road. He was surviving, like so many of the street children there off left over plate scraps from restaurants. Through an outreach center that tries to help the estimated 100,000 plus street children that live in the Mercato market area of Addis I was also able to talk to many other children like Bruke who had escaped not just abusive families but were victims of child trafficking and prostitution.
My dream assignment would be to return to Addis and make a detailed photo essay with audio interviews with the children that would bring to light the horrors of child trafficking and the extreme dangers that these young children face everyday on the streets. The ultimate dream would be to use part of the money to find Bruke and help him establish a life off the streets. If I cannot find him then I will donate part of the money to the Forum on Street Children, an NGO that helps rescue children from the hardships life on the streets of the Mercato area.
Please take a
minute to vote for this and help me create awareness about these young children.
Deadline for voting is April 3rd. Thank you for taking the time."
Jason Florio needs your vote.......He needs the financial backing to successfully fulfill this dream assignment. HOW cool would it be if we all supported him to make it happen??? More importantly, think of how this one assignment may positively impact Bruke and other street children of Addis Ababa?
Here is the link to the Name Your Dream contest. It will only take a couple of minutes of your time to register and vote for this very talented individual. As Margaret Mead once said......Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. One person at a time....one dream at a time. It matters. A Lot.
ps. Please pass it on to others too will you? Thanks.

Sunday, March 29, 2009



clings to the desirous stalking of a matinee matron
wraps around vapid preaching from the pulpits of prey
smothers healthy doubters
silences "what if" whisperers
douses the flame of a new idea

clamps down on temptation
tackles fools on hills
dampens the dance of destiny
fights for the podium to face the masses of firm believers.
no questioning
no enlightening
no thinking
intellectual pondering need not show up.
For God's sake don't use your brain!
certainty has NO time for absurdity
certainty has NO patience for the slow meandering pontificator
Certainty has no room for wasteful choking on undigested ruminants.
Swallow it whole....or go hungry.

And if this isn't how you want to view things,
may i introduce you to....
humility and doubt?
just don't let certainty know they're around

Friday, March 27, 2009

reconstructing joy

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice.
Excerpt from Ash Wednesday, T.S. Eliot.

I read the full T.S. Eliot poem in an autobiographical book entitled "Spiral Staircase," written by religious scholar and author, Karen Armstrong. She refers to this stanza and then explains how it helped her realize how we continue to work on reconstructing joy. I certainly related to her explanation and could see clearly how we are on a constant journey of ups and downs and all arounds as we strive to climb out of confusing stresses. Here are my own thoughts.....

Our discomfort, our struggles are all a part of reconstructing joy. Anxiety and the encumbering fears wrapped in the unknown have the capacity to cement us in limbo leaving us without the ability to move forward. If we work at recognizing these feelings in us, however, we can renovate by using this negative mortar as foundation for building joy again.

We demolish and rebuild….change/alter/reconstruct. Its inherent in us to do so. And sometimes in order to be able to do this, we have to let go of old joys, worn down constructions realizing they are past the due date. Never forgetting them mind you, but not allowing the past to have such a grand say in the rebuilding of our present and future joys.

Joy is never static. Sometimes its a feather fleeting touch. Sometimes we can soak in it for a long time, like a warm bath. Sometimes we can rejoice in it with another person in our lives and let it fills us a glow of love. We can grow in joy, but we grow most in the construction process where we are stretched, refreshed, poked and prodded. Joy is the gift after the growth....after the discomfort. It is always lovely to attain this pinnacle point.....the peak of the mountain where this zestful full bodied smile waits for us.....sitting comfortably in the hands of God.

When we feel joy, we feel whole and holy loved by God.

**the photo was taken at the Art Gallery of Ontario....This new spiral staircase was designed by architect Frank Gehry. Stunning to see in person.

A dance in need of attention

I'm OK -- You're OK
It's all good................

I'm not OK -- You're OK

I'm still not OK -- You're not saying

I'm becoming OK -- You remain silent

I'm OK -- You're not OK, I guess

I'm OK, trying to reach out -- You're not sharing

I'm missing you -- I have no clue how you are

I wrack my brains wondering
what I may have done to feed your Not OK-ness

You have shut me out....Why?

I'm now not OK

I work it through and try to get on with life

Maybe you are doing the same?

I'm becoming OK again -- You are too I think.

I'm OK -- You want to talk.

I agree and try to arrange for this -- You turn away again.

I'm baffled and hurt -- You stonewall me.

We sit in silence.........separately

I'm now not OK again-- Are you? I want to know

As the sun peaks up over the river to welcome in a new day,
I wonder where this dance will lead.
I hope there's a lovely twirl in it but I'm not counting on it.
Instead, I will begin again to find myself a bucket of OK
to put over my head.

The photos were taken this morning while standing on my back deck.
Recognized as a blessing, I smile at the warm touch from God.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


She sits behind the dull vacant stare of her greying dry eyes under the matted woolen remnants of yesterdays past, unnoticed by those who are supposed to care. She's tried. My God, she tried. But no attempt to reach out to others brought any relief to her once constant aching loneliness. The ache is gone, replaced by stone. Stone lonely.... hardened cold, void of heartsoftness, void of emotion. Inanimate and unloved.

She sits below the road, away from the flow of humanity in a place where driftwood and discards stare at her in mocking abandonment. Her own breathing keeps her company, makes her realize she is not inanimate like the waste she sits amongst. Every day however her breathing becomes more shallow and more laboured as she moves another day farther away from the tender times in her life when she was loved. She remembers she was once a baby too.... a beautiful child of promise. Now if she was to look in a mirror at her cracked lips untouched by another for far too long, at her grey eyes once sparkling in green light now stripped of lifehope......she would simply wonder who the stranger was staring at her.

Disconnected, she cowers in old hunches as she searches for warmth. Ice chatters in the water's waves by the shore. The wind threatens this drab existence and howls down its mournful whistle.

Two lovers wrapped into one another appear up above, dressed in bright coloured coats and matching hats. They stop to look out at the water vista while whispering to each other in their smiling cocoon. Their eyes blinded from seeing anything but their rose coloured view, never catch sight of the old woman just below. She sees them......and catches the aura of promise in the air all around them as they continue to stroll over the bridge leaving her alone again in the wake of none.

Her vacant stare returns. She moves inside herself. The cold presses her temples as she takes her last breath. She slips away into the grey sombre light as the rest of the world carries on beyond the unheard dirge.

Brought to you by this week's photo theme, "drab." You can blame Carmi at Written Inc. if this little piece brought you down.........while I go off to pour myself a drink and try to stir up some happy thoughts. :) DRAB Carmi? Its March in Canada??? Salt in the wound man! Salt. in. the. wound!

two beautiful beings

Assertiveness is not what you do....it is who you are.


Not too far from where I live is the village of Ripples, New Brunswick. It consists of one main road basically, the hub being a gas station/convenience store. Many of the families who live in the homes have deep roots to the area. Many are related by blood. All of them are related by the mere fact that they live in this village. Their roots and history braid them together. Like most rural hamlets, the sense of belonging is strong as is the responsibility for looking out and caring for neighbours. Children who grow up in places like Ripples know someone has an eye on them..... There is truth in the saying....."it takes a village to raise a child..."
One of their children died over the weekend. Trooper Corey Joseph Hayes, aged 22, along with three other Canadian soldiers were killed in action in Afghanistan. Like many human beings in the Canadian Forces, he grew up surrounded by a familial history of military life and chose to continue the tradition. May their remembrances filled with stories of Corey nurture them as they mourn their loss. And may the village of Ripples know that we all mourn with you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

bad timing thats all....

we each forgive a little bit
and we both look back on it
its bad timing, that's all.
A wonder full song of regret by Blue Rodeo.

my comedian.

It's speech season in this part of the planet. My 11 year old, Max decided to use it as an opportunity to try out his first stand up comedy routine. As luck would have it, I was the practise audience....the test market on a few zingers. We watched a few Youtube videos. I introduced him to Steven Wright who has some of the funniest deadpan lines ever. Good to know Wright made the grade on Max's personal humour meter. Some of his own lines were tossed aside, while others made his final cut. I wish I had a video of him delivering it because I'm sure it was done with his outgoing body language and his great timing.
What's So Funny?
What came first, the alphabet or that annoying song? Have you ever noticed that it has the same melody as twinkle twinkle little star AND that racist black sheep one? A B C D E F G, H I J K LMNOP…..Baa Baa black sheep have you any wool? See? The same..... Did they run out of tunes at the nursery rhyme factory or something?

Oh no! Now it’s going to be stuck in my head all day long.

You know, some people are interested in money or power. Others want to save the world. Special people spend their lives learning about aliens and cats. Me? I’m fascinated by what so funny. NOT what smells funny. I’ll leave that kind of odorous topic for someone else. I want to know what makes me laugh. More importantly, I want to know what makes YOU laugh. Actually I really don’t care. I’m just trying to be nice….shhhh!

People LOVE someone with a good sense of humour. In fact, they love this more than looks or intelligence. You could be the strangest person in the world, but if you can make people laugh, they will treat you like royalty!

There are many different styles of humour….there’s sarcasm and I KNOW
you’d REALLY enjoy the rest of my speech if I continued on sarcastically now wouldn’t you? NOT!

Then there’s what people call toilet humour….you know when someone makes a funny bodily sound in the middle of the class silently writing a test. WE all crack up over that! C’mon, admit it!! Hey! Did you know the whoopee cushion was invented in Canada? TRUE! What discovery is more important to the universe than a piece of rubber that makes the sound of someone passing gas? The telephone? No. Computers? No. The car? Not even close. None of those things make you laugh and laughter my fellow students is the best way to make friends and influence people. Wouldn’t you rather meet someone who is hilarious than Bill Gates? Ok, I think it would be pretty cool to meet Bill Gates….but I’d much rather spend an afternoon hanging with Will Ferrell.

The most important ingredient needed in your humorous bag of tricks is of course the joke. And if you remember all the words, and tell it with the right emphasis it works beautifully. If you time it right and say the punch line with enthusiasm, you’re guaranteed to get a laugh out of someone. Ok, let’s try it….

Once upon a time there were two muffins in the microwave. Suddenly, one of the muffins says: "Man it's hot in here!!!!" The other muffin shouts….., "Look a talking muffin!!!!"

A wise person once said…well….actually….it was my Mom…. She said that you can always find something humourous every single day. Even when you’re having the worst day ever, you can find something ridiculous about it. This is the kind of humour I like best because its real life and its how I choose to see it. Many stand up comedians like Chris Rock, Gerry Dee, Demetri Martin AND Steve Martin are great at describing the world around them in a very funny way. Jerry Seinfeld makes his living by pointing out the random ordinary events in life that most people don’t even pay attention to.

Here’s an example…..
“Why do they call it a "building"? It looks like they're finished. Why isn't it a "built"?”
His whole TV show was based on his interactions with his friends as they went about living life. It is one of the funniest TV shows in history. He described his show as “the show about nothing” yet we all laughed! WE all can relate to the wacky things that happened because they happen in our ordinary lives too.

So, I would like to end this with something to brighten up your day….either to laugh at or make fun of…..ready??

I went to the FREX last September in the middle of a thunderstorm. The power went out. 20 people were stuck on the Merry Go Round for 3 days.

bada boom!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Happiness is living and seeking truth, together with others in community, and assuming responsibility for our lives and the lives of others. It is accepting the fact that we are not infinite, but can enter into a personal relationship with the Infinite, discovering the universal truth and justice that transcends all cultures: each person is unique and sacred.

We have chosen to be who we are, with all that is beautiful and broken in us. We do not slip away from life and live in a world of illusions, dreams, or nightmares. We become present to reality and to life so that we are free to live according to our personal conscience, our sacred sanctuary, where love resides within us and we see others as they are in the depth of their being. We are not letting the light of life within us be crushed, and we are not crushing it in others. On the contrary, all we want is for the light of others to shine.
Jean Vanier.

I really want to meet this Christian Humanitarian who lives and breathes his beliefs..... Personally however, I struggle with trying to apply the tenets he espouses on a daily basis. My friend Pip frequently writes about loving the unlovely. I tend to dismiss my own self. I am the first to discard my own unloveliness because I get wrapped up in the deprecating shame and embarrassment of not being able to live up to the standards of what is considered lovely.

When i'm tired and frayed at the edges this foreboding feeling like an ugly freak who is acquiring more wrinkles on her face and errant hair in the wrong places.....whose eyelids are droopier and whose skin is aquiring lumps and bumps......whose hands look like they have spent 30 years working the land......I can't seem to summon up the enthusiastic acceptance of the ugly parts of me. And if I do....I don't believe myself. Ok, I do believe I have very cute feet.

happiness? fleeting at best......maybe its all humans have the capacity to muster when it is tied only to the extremities? How does one find this internal glow of gladness if one can't recognize the beauty of their own unique broken bits? I guess it comes down to perspective. And perspective needs a good night's sleep in order to work properly. Oh, and its best not to look in the mirror when you're hungover either.

Friday, March 20, 2009

shine on....

The light of day is changing as we awaken with a desire to embrace anew. It yearns to illuminate the tender green growth still hidden from sight. Instead, it clings to the grit and dirt silently accumulated over the time we dwell in winter respite. With finger pointing accuracy, it hovers over the unsightly nicks and gashes which mark our living spaces. Its beam spots the blemishes on our aging selves caused from a long wintering.

The light of day, warmer and more brilliant invites us to turn our tired faces, wrinkled and pale towards the healing sky. It welcomes the chance to tweak our sun abandoned flesh with rosy cheeked kisses while it shoos away the annoying aches in our underused muscles by injecting energy back into our limbs. It feeds us with hope.
The light of day, spring in its step lifts up over the horizon with a dawning of pastel shades of potential. It melts away the stark coldness of snow and ice and leaves a longing to hear the return of the early morning choir held silent for far too long. It transitions our dark winter ruminations and reflections into a place where we can begin to act on making those much needed changes happen.
We have been stagnant too long, holding too tightly onto our wishes and dreams to a point where we have come close to strangling them. Our grip clenches with a ferocity of a drowning man holding onto a small piece of safety. Steadfast, and vulnerably hardened by too many accumulated bruises, we learn to adjust our eyes to the light of day. Tentative at first, we roll up the shades and lift the sashes to reveal the rays of laughter again.
Spring arrives today. Magnificent and glorious. Shine on! Thank you God. I thought I had been left behind and forgotten.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

hey knucklehead! I'm an ass...how about you?

People tell you, "I think you're very charming," so I feel wonderful. I get a positive stroke (that's why they call it I'm O.K., you're O.K.). I'm going to write a book someday and the title will be I'm an Ass, You're an Ass. That's the most liberating, wonderful thing in the world, when you openly admit you're an ass. It's wonderful. When people tell me, "You're wrong." I say, "What can you expect of an ass?"
Disarmed, everybody has to be disarmed. In the final liberation, I'm an ass, you're an ass. Normally the way it goes, I press a button and you're up; I press another button and you're down. And you like that.
How many people do you know who are unaffected by praise or blame? That isn't human, we say. Human means that you have to be a little monkey, so everybody can twist your tail, and you do whatever you ought to be doing. But is that human? If you find me charming, it means that right now you're in a good mood, nothing more. It also means that I fit your shopping list. We all carry a shopping list around, and it's as though you've got to measure up to this list--tall, um, dark, um, handsome, according to my tastes. "I like the sound of his voice." You say, "I'm in love." You're not in love, you silly ass. Any time you're in love—I hesitate to say this--you're being particularly asinine. Sit down and watch what's happening to you. You're running away from yourself. You want to escape. Somebody once said, "Thank God for reality, and for the means to escape from it." So that's what's going on.
We are so mechanical, so controlled. We write books about being controlled and how wonderful it is to be controlled and how necessary it is that people tell you you're O.K. Then you'll have a good feeling about yourself. How wonderful it is to be in prison! Or as somebody said to me yesterday, to be in your cage. Do you like being in prison? Do you like being controlled?
Let me tell you something: If you ever let yourself feel good when people tell you that you're O.K., you are preparing yourself to feel bad when they tell you you're not good. As long as you live to fulfill other people's expectations, you better watch what you wear, how you comb your hair, whether your shoes are polished--in short, whether you live up to every damned expectation of theirs.
Do you call that human?
Anthony de Mello, an excerpt from his book, Awareness.

wake up...you're missing breakfast!

Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence.
You know ~ all mystics ~ Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion ~ are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare. Last year on Spanish television I heard a story about this gentleman who knocks on his son’s door. "Jaime," he says, "wake up!" Jaime answers, "I don’t want to get up, Papa." The father shouts, "Get up, you have to go to school." Jaime says, "I don’t want to go to school."
"Why not?" asks the father. "Three reasons," says Jaime. "First, because it’s so dull; second, the kids tease me; and third, I hate school."
And the father says, "Well, I am going to give you three reasons why you must go to school. First, because it is your duty; second, because you are forty-five years old, and third, because you are the headmaster."
Wake up! Wake up! You’ve grown up. You’re too big to be asleep. Wake up! Stop playing with your toys. Most people tell you they want to get out of kindergarten, but don’t believe them. Don’t believe them! All they want you to do is to mend their broken toys. "Give me back my wife. Give me back my job. Give me back my money. Give me back my reputation, my success." This is what they want; they want their toys replaced. That’s all. Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don’t really want to be cured. What they want is relief; a cure is painful.
Waking up is unpleasant, you know. You are nice and comfortable in bed. It is irritating to be woken up. That’s the reason the wise guru will not attempt to wake people up. I hope I’m going to be wise here and make no attempt whatsoever to wake you up if you are asleep. It is really none of my business, even though I say to you at times, "Wake up!" My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance. If you profit from it fine; if you don’t, too bad! As the Arabs say, "The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens."
Anthony de Mello, On Waking Up

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

walk on.........

"This search for meaning is as ancient as the awakening of the first question;
it is as new and urgent as the question that is troubling you now."
John O'Donahue

Meaning is a long meandering walk on terrain that changes as does the contoured landscape it buffers. So often we are confronted with an illusion that the roadway ends....that perhaps meaning isn't a synonym for infinity where the road stretches onward. Our vision can only take us to the precipice of the horizon....we don't have the capacity to physically see beyond that liminal line. It darkens at the crest and leaves meaning precariously wavering.

Could it be the fear of losing all meaning....of watching it tip over into the eternal abyss that sends us careening towards the horizon with the urgency of a victim leaving a burning house?

Could it be the fear of the unknown that cements our feet to the pavement, stuck in the anxious urgency we feel boiling inside our nerve endings as we gaze out at meaning dangerously lodged on that pernumbral horizon?

My God it can be baffling.

Meaning lives on. Damn if it is usually one or two steps ahead of us beyond our grasp. Sometimes though it sits quietly within. When this happens, meaning transforms into grace.

The roadway never ends. It just changes terrain. It has to or the mystery behind meaning would be unveiled permanently,.... completely. Then what? Do we really want all the answers?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bring down the Budget. Enough already!

Have you ever tried to drive on black ice? Have you ever tried to steer a car when its lost its grip? The thing about black ice besides not being able to see it in time is that you can traverse over it without many problems if you're aware of its potential existance. Its the anticipation of it.........of the danger a slim film of ice coating a road that helps the driver to react and respond to it differently than you would on a dry stretch. But all the awareness in the world....all of your multi sensory alertness can't predict the random time when the tires hit the ice at precisely the perfect pitch and sends the vehicle spinning out of control and careening into danger.

This is the analogy which surfaced in my head while driving to visit a client in his home yesterday over the backroads of this province. Not only do I always prepare myself as best as I can for whatever situation I am about to find myself in.......home visits can be like that........99 percent of the time danger free....1 percent of the time no so....... I realized that since late fall, I have been feeling like I have been driving along anticipating a huge patch of black ice, predicting I was about to spin out. Black ice driving is bloody stressful and zaps you of energy. Its the waiting for it, and the anticipation of it that just about does you in.....

Today, the black ice budget will finally be released. Today, the people of this province will learn how their elected leaders have decided to deal with the impact of the economic lay of the land. No one more than the people who work within its governmental infrastructure have been waiting, anticipating and trying to emotionally and financially prepare for it's predicted dangers.

Waiting is the bane of trying to "live in the moment...." Though you could argue that if you're feeling all the neck tension and sleep deprivation which often accompanies the waiting, you are most definatly living in the freaking moment. In fact "the moment" gets stretched out beyond the borders of normal time. It makes the MOMENT seem like an existential day with no exit. THIS KIND OF WAITING IS NO FUN.

I don't think that's what the gurus of mindfulness meant. No, they want you to BE ONE with the wait by sacrificing it to the surrendering Gods. Or maybe theres a specific fat fairy who hovers above the clouds waiting for an opportunity himself to earn his wings that you are supposed to channel. Maybe the fat fairy is supposed to swoop down while you slumber and take control of that nemesis MR WAIT by sprinkling it with rationalization dust and prayerful powders. I think the fat fairy got his walking papers. He's no where to be seen.

It's a Wonderful Life ain't it?

Waiting....ticktockticktockticktock.....when does the damn alarm go off??

There is no inner calm when one is in "wait mode...." I havent felt an inner calm since the rumours began to swirl last fall.........first like light snow flurries and then like a full on snowstorm.... And it wasn't like the rumours came out of no where. Some in fact were strategically placed and came with warnings whispered in hallways and seriously spoken of in meetings. Unkind, unhelpful, unmanaged, these rumours spread like patches of black ice, invisible to the eye but anticipated by the GUT. And when you've been told in confidence to "be prepared....be proactive....look after yourself.........GET the salt ready!!!!" Well, all you can do is try to do just that as well as wait....AS well as try to work in an environment that has lost its traction.

Reactive, proactive, responsive, submissive, sleep deprived....staying alive... in the waiting room. Will my number ever be called?

Today the majority of civil servants will drive across the black ice and carry on. Some however will have to manage the spin out. No one knows who will make it. No one knows who will land in the snowbank. No one knows who will be given a bag of salt to throw on the black ice before they drive over it and onto a new road in their personal journey.

It's the waiting that just about kills you........ and personally I am absolutely drained from its wicked ways. I am SO ready to deal with whatever comes my way today or in the fallout of this gloom and doom budget. Because you know what I've learned as I waited in the lobby of the RUMOUR MILL? I've learned that whatever happens, it may be the biggest blessing YET!

They have no idea how much emotional damage they have done. No IDEA! The loyalty gas tank is hovering on empty. There are only the fumes of trust left.

Now, can someone from the Dept. of Transportation please salt the roads? You guys are still around right?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

stories and impressions left behind....

You ask me to tell you a story about myself. I choose a single stream, fill it with my version of who I am and set it afloat. Some of the descriptives I use are my best attempt at capturing the complexity of my essence. Some are added to enhance the mood I want to convey. Depending on where I am emotionally, physically, spiritually my descriptives can radically alter the impression left behind. Depending on where, when, how and why I am telling this story of me, it will release a different flavour. ALL of those aspects play a part in the presentation. Faster than a flick of a switch the story changes scenes.
You ask me to tell you a story about myself. How well do I know you? How comfortable am I with you? Do I want to let you into the most intimate circle which surrounds me? How much time do we have? You want a postcard scribbling or a novel? Do you really want to know, or is it your job to ask me?? Or are you simply nosey?

  • I tell you a story about myself at 4 in the morning when time stretches deeply into the well.......
  • I tell you the same story at 2 in the afternoon over a cup of coffee during a break..........
  • I write the same story out in an email to you and click send........

  • I drum up a story as a way to express myself during a job interview as an elaboration on a point.
  • I drum up the same one sitting across from you drinking a pint at a pub on a Friday night as an elaboration on a point i am trying to make.....
  • I write the same one on my blog and click publish....
the same facts....right? It should be the same story, shouldn't it?

I could choose to give you simple facts.....the ones which really stay within the broadly accepted boundaries of decorum. I decide to step beyond that border and I take a risk by adding feeling and maybe a few disclosures I rarely share with anyone. Either way, I still select my story, simple or complex....... it's still a thin slice.

I am not my story. It is a part of me, but it is not who i am. It may not even by how I am really feeling. I may keep those true feelings to myself and mask them with face paste.
Well, I grew up in a small town with my parents and two sisters. I went to a small university. Then, I went to an even smaller university. I got married when I was 27. I have two kids. I work.
or how about.........

Let's see......I was fortunate to grow up in a loving family who were always supportive of my crazy dreams, who fed and nurtured my insatiable need to learn and to try new things.....They knew how to help me mold my independent wings and not clip them..... and so on.........

I'm much more than my story..... though if i continue to tell the same one over and over again even if the venue changes, or the time of day, or the tone........if i get stuck in this perpetual self-image, i'll begin to believe in the one dimensional script I have created. There are layers upon layers of my narrative which consist of domains I have yet to delve into. The mirror I hold up only skims the surface....deep inside are dreams and fantasies, feelings full of fear, love, pain, joy, sorrow....feelings that hold enough energy to sustain and heat a whole neighbourhood of imaginative folly fraught with flowing streams of conscious and unconscious thoughts and behaviour. I can only offer you a sampling and only from what I know myself.

I choose the buffet and how it is laid out. And if I do it right and pick the story most worthy of sharing.........if I choose the very best words and the most applicable feelings to set the tone.....if I choose the right place, the right time, I can provide an unending thread of my identity steeped in the delicate taste of a mystery unfolding. I can provide the bridge to further exploration into a deeper understanding of each other. Depending on what you want. Depending on where you are at....you may not want this. Then what??
This is what I can control....what I share of me and how I share it. I have no control over how you receive it. Or not? It seems to me we all have the ability to play with other's emotions. If I want your pity, for example, I can choose to use descriptives and a tone which illicits this....in writing, in speeches, in interviews, in conversations, in emails, on blogs.....in all ways that we communicate. And what is shocking about this is that I may not even be cognizant of this tactic because I may be feeling sorry for myself and stuck in that one dimension.

Words litter our pathway to understanding one another. We use them and abuse them. We hoard them and we spill them like water tumbling over the falls..... Words are our floral impression we can offer in love, but we all know they can be as sharply serated as a carving knife. We enhance, entice, exhilarate, express...... however its never the words on their own which tell our version of our story. It's the context with which they are used. Its the tone, the tempo, the timing. Its the reason behind the story which sits in the fabric we drape our words in.
You ask me to tell you a story about myself? If I can, I will try my best to be authentic, direct, honest. I will try my best to choose a thread from my tapestry which holds the key to my imagination, my hopes and my fears. I will try to find a story within myself you may find interesting....one which you may be able to relate to...one which best describes where I am in that moment. Because if I can, then perhaps we can move in closer to the truth of kinship.

It is all I can give you. If you don't like what I have to say? If it doesn't resonate with you....there is nothing more I can offer you is there? I must choose carefully. Though my story may not be ALL of who I am, it is what I can offer you. And if I don't choose carefully, I am left holding the dangling thread.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Large Two Forms, Henry Moore
outside of the Art Gallery of Ontario

"Eros can pull life towards the edges and depths where death lurks. From ancient times a kinship has been acknowledged between Eros and Thanatos, the death instinct. Surfing the tides of Eros one comes to feel that the life-force joy could surge through all limitations, even death; or indeed there is such a homecoming in Eros when one succumbs to its force and abandons self in the sweet dying of complete release."
John O'Donahue, Beauty; The Invisible Embrace.

When the intoxication of two people draw them together in an act of love, where they discover the ultimate beauty of one another, where they form a union so blissfully joyful, are they also experiencing the tender weep of mourning too? When two people reach the expressive pinnacle of their vulnerable lovemaking, is it comparable to being touched by the hand of God?
Eros is alive and dwells in the sensuous pores of our being. It allows our own gaze to be beautiful. It illuminates our dreams and imagination and sets off a glow we can embrace. Perhaps what we experience when the air is steeped in the essence of "abandoning self in the sweet dying of complete release" is a sense of being connected to the souls of past loves....to the soul of the clay beneath our feet and of the harmony found in the living stones which carry our stories into eternity.

Life....love....death....love....heaven on earth.

Kitchen parties from the past....

During the long bitter cold days of winter, the welcoming warmth of Canadian kitchens filled with savoury aromas and the comfort of fresh baking help the gentle folk of the Great White North survive....and thrive. In fact, our interactive always active sweet tasting kitchens are sometimes the ONLY allure that will entice us enough to don our parkas, and furry paraphenalia when the temperatures dip below what is humane on a Saturday night and head outdoors. When its so damn cold that the moistness in your nose insta-freezes into scraping shards, when the night air is so freaking frigid your blood chatters like ice in a manhattan, the anticipation of a kitchen party keeps the engine rumbling.

I don't know where the idea that the Maritimes are known for their raucous music filled kitchen parties came from, but it's true. The very best parties take place surrounded by the beer fridge and the munchies oven. Actually if I stop to think about it, these Maritime gatherings most likely began when the majority of houses had woodstoves in their kitchens that may even heat the whole house....it was a survival thang....the rest of the rooms too cold to be comfortable except under a thousand quilts. The tradition continues.....people simply gravitate.

So, it was on one dark dementedly frigid February night when a bunch of families gathered at one house for some fun, 50's style. Normally we don't get into themes, so I don't know where the idea generated from and can only assume the host and hostess were listening to Dean Martin again while reading cocktail recipes....they do this a lot.....it's an obsession. :)

Attic costumes and second hand stores were rummaged as we chose our own garb....our own "take" on the theme. Internet recipes sites which promoted the rib sticking blandness of 50's cuisine were scoured. Hairdos, red/orange lipstick, high heels and little evening purses were pulled out of the air along with cardigans, berets, and hair gel. And all at once the modern kitchen was transformed into a place from the past. It was HILARIOUS! The food was mostly disgusting looking but memorable. And some of it was surprisingly tasty. Gotta love meatloaf, and jello mold salads....YUMMY!

Nothing like white bread and the melted plastic processed cheese which ALWAYS sticks to your teeth and won't let go.....Add cooked greasy bacon on top and you've got yourself a gourmet delight.....aka a cheese dream.... oh, i have dreams of those lip smacking treats every night....

It was concluded that one needs a tropical fru fru drink on hand while stirring the simmering stews and mashing mounds of potatos. It gives the whole enchilada a lemony twist. And if you're drunk enough, you'll eat the crap you've served.

These three kitchen divas know how to keep a party hopping and hot.....their secret? Shaken not stirred..... hahaaha! God, I love hanging with these women! They look so proper don't they? Well, one of them introduced me to the term manscaping. Amazing where the conversation leads while playing an innocent game of rumoli.

This post was inspired by friends who know how to live the life of creative kitchen party absurdists at night while posing as serious professionals by day....and by CARMI at Written Inc, whose photo them this week is "Kitchen..." Thanks Carmi.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

the minstrel

The Minstrel arrived unannounced into the valley with the first warm breeze of spring. Carrying his fiddle and his battered old leather bag strapped over his shoulder resting on his hip, he made his way to the sandy shoreline of the river to set up a respite camp. Quietly, he lifted his bag over his head and laid it against a log and went off to gather some firewood. It had been a while since he had eaten anything. His hunger made him cold. It bit into his loneliness which fortunately he rarely felt. But when it did slip under his skin, it wandered aimlessly until it found the dark ring in his soul. In moments like these, he longed for a warm place to call his own. But he knew himself well enough that his feet were made for wandering and his place he called his own were the wide open spaces. The ability to bring joy to others on his journey with his music kept the loneliness at bay most of the time.

In no time, a small cooking fire was established and his pot filled with soup given to him by a farmer's wife from the village up river was warming up. He took his other pot and scooped some river water to boil for tea. As he waited, he picked up his fiddle and began to play the quiet tune he savoured as a tribute to his true love. He never shared this one with anyone else. It was his prayer, his meditation he held close to his heart.
Soon the soup was hot and ready to eat and he set his fiddle off to the side. As he was digging in his leather bag in search of his spoon, two young boys, just on the cusp of manhood, had made their way down the path to the shoreline carrying offerings for the stranger. One was carrying homemade bread and the other was carrying more firewood. Like everyone in the village, they had watched the man set up his camp with keen suspicion. No one new had been through the village since the summer before.....the intrigue stirred their curiosity and piqued their interest. It was decided that they would represent the villagers, to welcome the stranger but also to find out who he was. The minstrel looked up at the two young men and smiled.
"Greetings to you," he said as he looked directly at them.
"Welcome to our village," the young brothers expressed. Have you travelled far?"

"I have travelled far and wide in my life, but today only from the next village. What are your names," the Minstrel asked.

"I'm Simon and this is my brother Andrew. We have brought you some bread to go with your soup and some more firewood."

"Thank you. My name is Joshua, and after I've finished my meal, I will play you a song if you'd like."
They nodded and smiled and sat down on the log beside the Minstrel, and began asking him many questions about his travels. It was such a different life, so foreign to them but it stirred a secret lust for adventure neither had ever shared with each other. As the fresh bread and soup restored his energy and the sweet tea warmed him up, the Minstrel became more animated and more descriptive.

Simon and Andrew were pulled right into the grand stories as they fed the fire with more and more sticks until it was blazing and snapping sparks high up into the sky. It was a spectacular blaze which threw off heat and seemed to melt away the inhibitions of winter's damp thaw. Pretty soon, their own closely held stories and yearnings were shared with their new friend and Joshua was intrigued to by their engaging ability to express themselves. He could feel Simon and Andrew's desire to learn the life of a wanderer and wondered if he had finally found the two he could mentor. It was a fleeting thought as he listened to their youthful exuberance and knew they were too young yet to take to the road to learn life as it unfolds. Maybe one day.... It was nice to feel a sense of brotherhood with his two new acquaintances and it left him feeling hopeful that perhaps his own stories would be passed on after he was unable to do so.

As twilight beckoned, the Minstrel grabbed his fiddle, stood up beside the bonfire and began to play lively tunes that swirled in the engaging smoke, captured and broadcasted beyond the shoreline. He could feel himself move into a place where the music poured out of him like he was the vessel passing on ancient hymns. They came from some place holy and whole, and he loved visiting there. Pretty soon, the villagers, who had been watching the scene unfold had grabbed their coats and headed down to the shoreline to join the three in an impromptu celebration of all things good.

It was the tonic they yearned for in the dead of winter when fatigue made their arms too heavy to wipe away those burdensome blues. Smiles all around as the music began to touch their cloaked spirits. For a moment in time, the sacred truth of their unmet dreams was replaced with a fullness of time, brushed by a tenderness only felt in the gathering of ancestry. Eternity seemed possible to hold in the palm of your hand.

Simon and Andrew remained captivated by this man named Joshua whose magical gifts enlightened the villagers by resurrecting their light heartedness again. Secretly they longed to sneak off and join him but they knew the timing wasn't quite right. Maybe, they thought....maybe one day he will become their teacher. But, it wasn't the time to be contemplating beyond the grand sense of life affirmed happening in a circle around the fire. The Minstrel played on....sometimes he stopped and told a story about love and forgiveness.....sometimes he changed the tempo and played a lament that seemed soaked in the rain of tears usually lost in the faraway eyes of longing. And then before the mood altered permanently, Joshua would strike his bow with a high step piece and everyone would return to comraderie and lightness. The brothers felt a sense of freedom in their spirits like they had never felt before....it was a revelation to them.

Night grew darker.......and the folks in the village began to leave one by one until the Minstrel, Simon and Andrew were the only ones left. Up the hill from the shoreline, the windows in the homes began to light up with the soft glow of lanterns. Woodsmoke curled up from the chimneys. It looked so beautiful and it warmed Joshua's heart to know that everyone in the village were safely inside and on their way to possibly finding a more restful sleep than before. He too was tired. It had been a long day and he needed to seek refuge in his own slumber. One of the villagers offered a place by their woodstove and he planned to take them up on it after he packed up his bag and fiddle and doused the fire.

Simon and Andrew had stayed behind to ask the Minstrel if they could go with him the next day....if they could learn how to be minstrels......but before they could find the words, Joshua looked up at them and smiled.

"One day," he said. "One day, I will come for you............when the time is right. I will teach you my stories, and help you with the hymns....I will offer you my knowledge and give you my blessing to carry you forward on my behalf. When the time is right. For now, help your village to continue to show love .....to be there for one another. Learn from your elders, and be kind to each other. You are more lucky than you know to have a brother to cherish and to share your dreams with. I hope you will always remain the best of friends. So, for now....I wish you a fond goodnight. I promise I will come for you when time is ready."

With that, the Minstrel walked up the path to the house on the hill where he would rest for the night. Tomorrow, a new village.......and a chance to bring peace and love through his stories and his music. It is what he does....it is why he is who he is.....a holy troubadour named Joshua.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

making a difference...

"I came upon a beach where thousands and thousands of starfish had washed up on the shore. I saw an old man walking along picking them up one by one and throwing them one by one back into the sea. I went down and asked the old man what he was doing. He said, "I'm throwing these starfish back into the water, for without the water, they can not breath and they will die." I said, "But there must be thousands of these starfish here. What makes you think it will make any difference?"

The old man picked up another starfish, tossed it back into the sea, turned and looked at me and said. "Well my brother you see, it made a difference to that one." -- Making a noise in this world. Darrel Whitewolf
It was Margaret Mead who stated..... "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has," and I couldn't agree more. Our humanness is no greater or no less than any other human being who has stepped forward into the melange of global need. We all have the capacity to be the committed citizen. We may have different gifts to offer than the next person, but they are gifts that can impact change.

There is an overwhelming sense of doom out there that creeps like an hyper stimulated vine over all aspects of life as we know it. The economic woes thrown at us in stories of the latest businesses shutting up shop, of the increase in welfare numbers, unemployment, of the ever shrinking opportunities to pull ourselves out of the muck of a recession leave us all feeling like starfish gasping for our lives for one reason or another. Threats of more job cuts, people facing personal bankruptcy and losing their homes are all real. Its enough to make us all feel like starfish washed up on shore and zapped of energy. It's very stressful and it seems like there is no way of getting away from this particular creeping vine.

Which makes it all the more reason to figure out new ways to move forward and maybe even make some much needed changes in our thinking and doing. Maybe this recession which i don't believe has reached its zenith whatsoever will be so critical in nature that we will be faced with a chance to grab hold of its cathartic potential and begin to recognize ourselves as the committed citizen. Our collective sense of entitlement, our insatiable need to spend, hoard, collect, buy will be cut off at the knees.

Somethings gotta give. Our personal woes don't even match the reality of what is happening beyond our streets.....The inbalance in this world makes the tilt a whirl seem like a walk in the park. 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.

  • Of the 2.2 billion children in this world, 1 billion live in poverty.
  • According to UNICEF, 26,500-30,000 children die each day due to poverty.

And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”

  • Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
  • More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day.
  • Access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%.
  • 1.8 billion people who have access to a water source within 1 kilometre, but not in their house or yard, consume around 20 litres per day. In the United Kingdom the average person uses more than 50 litres of water a day flushing toilets (where average daily water usage is about 150 liters a day. The highest average water use in the world is in the US, at 600 liters day.)

    We may be feeling stress and we may be feeling a sense of turmoil in our lives.....but it's nothing compared to 80 percent of the rest of the world. Poverty happens when every single choice is stripped away. Poverty is when the road ends at a desert of dry tears, where weeping has lost the taste salt. Poverty claims the soul of humanity with retching reality. Poverty is not something that happens to others because what happens to others happens to us all. It is our problem. It IS our responsibility to fix.

    Time to look outward. Time to ACT. Time to get to the beach....time to assume the role of committed citizen..... you gifts are sorely needed. Take a friend along too, will you. The more hands the better.