Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Minstrel

Happy Easter!  Here is a story I wrote after imagining Jesus as a Minstrel.  I share it with YOU!  

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 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 be there for one another. Learn from your elders, and be kind to each other."  

Joshua continued, "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 is why he is who he is.....a holy troubadour named Joshua.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

meaning when you least expect it..........

How often do you ask yourself........ "What does this mean?"  Or  "What can the meaning be?" Admittedly, I ask it too much.  In counselling sessions, of course, when I am making an attempt to clarify the issues a person has presented.  While reading mystery novels when I am seeking out cues to figure out who did the dirty deed.  When I'm watching a good movie and want to know more of the character plot.   In my own life, when something happens and I long to know........

Its the last action that trips me up too many times. If you let it the "whys" take over, finding the meaning of events/actions can turn into a full time navel gazing, inner soul searching job that can leave you paralzyed to move forward, stuck in some kind of metaphysical time warp and confused.   Unless you are a full fledged mystic, not only do you not have time to pursue the cause and effect of life's escapades, you don't even have the tools or the spiritual grounding to attempt it!   At least I don't.

True meaning........ is not tied to expectations.  It isn't a forward thinking process.  Though, I tend to create meaning before it even has time to blossom into knowledge which in turn feeds wisdom.  Meaning needs an open minded patience to let it rise above expectations.

On Christmas Eve, my kids and I attended the service at the same church I was baptised, confirmed and married in. An integral part of my early life, I had spent hours and hours as a teenager roaming the halls and hanging out with friends.  It was the first time I had taken them to this church as we live in a different city.  It was the first time I was attending the Christmas Eve service in 25 years, four days before my wedding day.

BIG meaning eh? FULL of meaning.  I was looking forward to being there........ taking part......... feeling the whole experience fully.  I felt cautious too over how it would affect me emotionally and how I would respond to it.  Though, I didn't spend much time thinking about who would be there that I may know from my past, I DID wonder how I was going to feel sitting in the pew as a single person, a single Mom home for the holidays.  I had preconceived expectations wrapped up in a shiny bow of big preconceived meaning.

Of course, it didn't pan out that way.  The tingliness never surfaced. The big emotional messagers were far away from my touch.  A few memories did pop up but they didn't leave me feeling overwhelmed.  Soft memories of time gone by.  I felt completely comfortable surrounded by the familiarity of this church. I didn't see a soul I recognized. However, that  sense of belonging touched me simply because of all the good memories I had tucked away.   The Christmas Eve service had no real heart tugging meaning to us because it was simply a re-telling of the story of the birth of Jesus done by the children in the congregation.  It was cute.  It was fluffy. We sang along as the proud parents rushed up to take photos of their little angels and shephards.  But, that was it.  A 1/2 hour assembly that felt like we had popped into a school play by mistake.

The big meaning I had expected evaporated into a good laugh at my own imaginative expectations.  I wasn't disappointed.  Instead, I left Port Nelson United Church with a good lesson laughing at my son who did his very best to sing off key in order to make his sister and I lose our composure during the assembly. Instead, I left realizing AGAIN that I do not control any meaningful outcome BEFORE it occurs.  Instead, I left feeling like I had experienced a light hearted moment with my two "growing up" children.

It is now the end of March and that moment has stuck with me.  This big lesson from a half hour of attending  a church service on Christmas Eve...... the lesson of leaving "meaning" to work itself out rather than trying to control an outcome (like I have that superpower) continues to linger.  Meaning truly needs an open minded patience to let it rise above expectations.  

There have been many big and small life events since then when I  have found myself pondering "the whys" before they have had a chance to ferment.  All good opportunities to catch these thoughts in a mind net labelled........ 

Let it become........ 
You may know one day....or not.
It's not about you.... 
What will be.......
Give it up to God....
You may never know.....
It's life unfolding.....
Go with it...........

Meaning brings lessons when you least expect them...... 


Sunday, March 10, 2013

a little rambling before we spring ahead.........

It used to be that the words flew out of my fingertips faster than a lightflicker. Now, if I am able to capture a whisper of a thought, I'm lucky.  Has my muse shrivelled down to a mere facebook status update?  Has it flown the coop and turned itself into a fainting Twitter tweet?  It seems so.  But, I think it has just taken a very long hibernation........ one that  simply could not be jousted, jiggled, or jibberjabbed awake.  My muse went dormant for its own unexplainable reasons.  

I know my reasons.......... I let it slip.  I let the time that I had dedicated to writing slip into the vortex of lost opportunities.  My meanderings were left unharnessed.  My wanderings unwritten. Then, the meanderings and wanderings grew as I grew farther away from this beloved blog space.  They grew and grew and grew like choking weeds............ so big and lush that I didn't know (still don't) how to tame them enough to capture them creatively.  

So, I have decided to start to chew on them. Those darn wordy weeds.  As a way to reflect.  As a tact to understand all that I have seen, heard, felt, experienced this winter.  This year actually.  I've also tried to figure out what has truly stopped the outpouring of writing I so enjoyed.  Are the feelings too sharp?  Are the events too many?  

Let's start the flow............ and see where it leads........... unleashed masticating. I promise I won't let anything spit out at you! 

A big lesson I've learned this year is what it is like to feel the intensity of loneliness.  As someone who has the blessing of having many caring people in my life, and as a person who is surrounded by others day in and out in my work, it seemed to me unfathomable that I would ever feel so lonely.  Yet, I found myself getting in my car on Friday after work many times feeling a sense of foreboding loneliness that literally knocked me flat.  Flat energy, flattened ideas, BIG unrelenting tears ....and a lack of confidence to do anything but sit it out.  Even when I was invited to attend an event, go to a friend's house, go have a glass of wine with a friend, try yoga, go drumming, attend church........ ANYTHING.......... I couldn't push myself up and out the door.  Even though in my head it would have been the best thing to do......... I couldn't do it.  Instead, I wallowed in all the anxious things that overwhelmed me rather than put myself in a situation that had the potential losing control over my very raw emotions.  

Loneliness is the Master of depression.  Together, they are the S&M of mind fucking. 

Having admitted that, I also have to admit that I frigging earned it. Wave upon wave of grey sky storms came  and went......... all of which I had no control over, except to respond and help my little family respond when I could. Many days, it left me running for cover.  To sit in the loneliness. Silent.  Like millions of others.  As much as I felt sorry for the lonely people out there, I felt a kinship too.  It is a strange planet to visit. Lonely Planet.  But, I believe, and did so as I experienced arching my back into it, that it was my turn to feel it, breathe it, live it..... knowing full well that it would eventually be conquered by new light.  With help. 

In the meantime, there was no praying.  It was not in me. I didn't attend church services. I didn't complete any tasks around the house except if watching all of the Storage Wars episodes a task then I completed something.  Stillness didn't visit, though I sat quietly.  It was more like a chaotic rumbling inside that played games in my head.  Drama without end.  Tears that seemed eternal.  I could not concentrate except when I really had to in my job as a counsellor. I put ALL my focus on counselling.  As much as I starred in the role of Wounded Healer, I did it well!   Then, when I came home, I was drained.  Completely.  I just couldn't fuel up fast enough.  Christmas was a blur.  I was too exhausted to fully take part, though I did the best I could.  Then, I crashed.  For a week and looked after myself. 

Loneliness teaches you patience in a twisted manner.  Loneliness teaches you to dig deep inside for that chord of hope.  Loneliness tests your beliefs while manipulating your thoughts.  It introduces you to a whole world captured in a liminal purgatory......... just before dawn. Loneliness is an all encompassing, wind whistling, foul mouthed apparition that takes up a lot of room in and around you. 

I pushed back and at times sat back.  Every week, I forced myself to attend a guided meditation, Since I couldn't seem to meditate on my own, this helped me on so many levels........ it has become a place of safe processing, of re-learning how to breathe, how to develop self discipline, of letting go of some of those emotions caught in my gut and in my muscles.  It helped.  It carries on.   Talk therapy helped too.  With a person whom I admire and trust.  No judgement............. just a chance to purge my unsolicited thoughts and feelings........... a way to regain my zip.  

A turning point came just before Christmas when life's events and worries were peaking............. I was in such a state that my therapist sat me on the floor.  She sat down behind me and put her back to me.  Then she told me to "take her energy........."  What a gift!!!   I sat there for a long time just breathing....... catching my breath.......... trying to rid myself of the loneliness that had settled in my heart.   It was the best gift I received last Christmas.   Another person's energy when I needed it the most.  When the session was just about over, she said to me............ "when you pull away from me, inhale deeply.  Take it all......."  So, I did.  With gratitude.  I saw her at the grocery store a couple of days later....... still feeling the renewed energy she had gifted to me and strolled right up to her and gave her a hug in the check out line. 

One day in February, I woke up and things had subsided.  Little by little, ideas began to push thru the winter frost.  Pent up energy knocked on the door. Out of the blue,  I had a call from an acquaintance who offers yoga classes.  I had hoped to sign up a full year ago and it never worked out.  She asked me if I would be interested to start right away.  I said yes as I contemplated on how nothing is really "out of the blue." 

Yoga.  I don't know why I had never tried this before.  But, as I stretched and followed her directions on that first night, I felt like it was a natural process I had a kinship to.  Someone asked me what kind of Yoga it was.......... I answered "good Yoga".......  I have no idea.  Like my way of worshipping and of learning about my faith, it has no category.  It is just good for me.  I guess.  This Yoga fits me.  

At the end of the first session, where I was taught to massage my limbs and feet, as I learned the basics of stretching and moving, it ended with a quiet meditative comforting moment of laying on a mat in front of a burning woodstove.  As I laid there with a sense of peace I hadn't felt in over a year, I realized that it was the first time I had felt connected to my body. My head and heart was reconnecting to this body of mine that had  betrayed me last year......... that went through three surgeries, a bunch of radiation, and then a stomach bloating after my appendix was removed that went on and on and on for months due to stress.  

This body I was so angry with began to cooperate with my head and heart.  The first time.  I also realize that my breast, which is intact and only has a small scar had stopped radiating heat.  It had been a whole year since radiation.......... since I laid in that same pose on an altar in the hospital.    It all came flooding back to me. 

Tears silently slipped down the sides of my face........ cleansing and rebirth had begun.  The loneliness, which I had originally assumed was caused by not having a partner/lover in my life.......... being alone in this world with too many overwhelming tasks to attend to did not formulate from those reasons. It had to do with the inside of me.   It was because I had lost confidence in my body working properly.  I had disconnected from my self.  Lost my belief that I was beautiful.  Lost my belief that I was worthy and loved. 

Once it started lifting, I could feel myself hitting my stride again.  I'm more clear headed.  I'm ready to tackle the outside world more often.  I'm ready to lead others through meditation, through their own process of healing.  I'm back at church attending services I want to be a part of.  Ideas are not so wieldly.  Instead, they are unravelling from the weeds so I can pluck them out readily.   

Loneliness may be a place in our psyche where our personal narrative becomes entangled in missed opportunities.  It may be a state of mind that dances with despair.  But, it is also a place where creativity, new strength and new positive narratives percolate.  To know it doesn't last allows one to sit in it for a while..... and wonder........... what is it all about?  

As I write this, we are changing the clocks............ springing forward into the upside of old man winter.  Its a good time to empty ourselves of that wind whistling lonely to leave a deep pocket to be replenished with love  and the desire to plant a new garden. 

I'm ready to spring forward ................ are you?