November’s post

Since it is a month of remembrance, I wanted to share a poem. Not everyone goes to war, but most of us have battles to fight day-by-day. Please read of a kind of battle that people like my grandmother may have had to live as they spent their lives grinding out a living as a servant.

Title

by Knud Sørensen

Danish domestic workers were required to maintain these books from 1832 to 1921. Issued at confirmation, the book held record of employment, conduct, and wages for the individual.

Every first of November

she took out her Record of Conduct book

and laid it on the table in front of the man

on the farm that she now would be leaving

and the man got out a pen and ink

and tried the pen on his fingertip

or on the corner of a piece of scrap paper

and then he remembers his glasses

and gets them and sets himself down

and writes slowly and carefully

and with the proper pressure on the downstrokes:

The girl Karen Jensdatter has served me

loyally and with good conduct from the first of November last year

to this date, and he

dates and signs and she

curtsies and says thank you, thank you for everything

and she walks out the door and she still holds open

the Record of Conduct book so the ink

has time to dry, and she thinks

that now begins a new year in a yet unknown place

with a yet unknown master and mistress and maybe

with some yet unknown luck, and sometimes she also

has to go to the churchwarden to report her move

from one parish to another

and every first of November she hopes

that it will be her last first of November of this kind

and the years pass and all the young farmhands that have property

get married and the years pass and not until she is

38 does Kresten inherit

his parents’ house with no land and she gets

her last entry in the book and her real life

begins,

as a sharecropper’s wife, mother

to a pair of girls who quickly

are too young for her

and full of insecurity

and go out into the world with new

authorized Record of Conduct books in their hands.

“Skudsmålsbogen” ©1980

Translated from the Danish by Michael Goldman

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015

__________

Knud Sørensen (b. 1928) was a certified land surveyor for 28 years, during which he became intimate with the changing Danish agricultural landscape. A book reviewer for fourteen years and board member of numerous community organizations and cultural institutions, he has written 37 books and won over 20 literary awards, including a lifelong grant from the Danish Arts Council, and the Great Prize from the Danish Academy in 2014. He lives in Northern Jutland. This is the first appearance of Sørensen’s writing in English.

Michael Goldman: “I taught myself Danish in the summer of 1985 to help win the hand of a Danish girl. We have been married now for 24 years. I have loved Danish literature from the beginning, and I am pleased to be introducing Danish writers to an English speaking readership.”

Questions:

What emotions rise in you as you read this poem?

What would you say to this woman as she watches her daughter leave?

Crow Lessons

american_crow_6Early last spring a messenger came to me. He perched in the ancient oak tree outside my studio and peered into the window inquisitively. Crows are very curious.

Image found here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Crow/id

All the while I was sitting there tippy tapping on my keyboard, this crow watched me, tilting his head this way and that like he was wondering what I was all about.

We connected on some deep level—me trapped inside and this bit of wild mystery. I named him “Clawed”, he didn’t seem to mind.

After a long while I got up from my perch and went to the cellar to gather some cracked corn and sunflower seeds. I threw them beneath the oak among the walking stones in the moss garden.

Clawed watched intently, cawed his thanks from his more distant perch atop the shed at the back of the property and returned when I retreated back into the house.

I worried whether Clawed would get much of that gift.

You see, he earned his name – he had a badly damaged right foot and I thought other more agile corvids might scoop up this easy meal. But day after day, we practiced this ritual and all the other birds respected the agreement – contract if you will – between Clawed and me. They ate at the back feeder and under it. Rarely venturing to the deck and walking stones nearer the house; and only after Clawed had had his fill.

I’ve since learned that this is the way of crow. Crow takes care of the injured and old – it’s like they respect the challenges of those less agile and able than they.

I’m always learning new things about crow and this time, I gained even more respect for crow than I already possessed.

Since childhood when we had a pet crow on the farm, I’ve been drawn to crows. I love the raucous cawing early mornings. I know the feeders are safe for the songbirds and wee ones – safe from the gluttonous starlings and grackles.

But crows do more than caw, caw, caw. They have a rich language of chortles, clicks and even purrs. Overhearing two or three crows communicating, you feel that each of those sounds are like phonemes of a true language full of secrets. Few have cracked the code, but the ancient Druids certainly tried so that they could learn the magical powers and obtain the secret knowledge they believed each crow possessed.

Crows are cunning Tricksters. And that’s maybe not what you might think. They are cleverer than we imagine. Do you remember the Aesop’s tale about the thirsty crow? He found a pitcher with a little bit of water on the bottom. He couldn’t reach that water. But he used his noggin. He began dropping pebbles into that pitcher until the water rose enough for him to dip his parched beak into it and quench his thirst.

Nobody taught him that. This signifies to me that crows are able to analyse and visualize and certainly use tools. (check out the link to see scientific proof) I wonder how much else they could teach me?

From childhood, I remember that they love the glitter of sunshine on objects. They need resilience to endure the vagaries of weather and they need a good sense of humour to carry them through the hard times.

When I was a little girl, and I lost a barrette, I’d find it in the rafters of the derelict barn … our pet crow rocking above me on a high branch laughing in mirth at our game. You see he wasn’t laughing AT me, but WITH ME. That makes all the difference. From this, I take it that he not only likes a good joke, but wanted me to know that he admired my taste.

Clawed taught me about resilience, dealing with weather whether I liked it or not, and he demonstrated a great sense of humour and respect for the other, those different from himself.

Three seasons I enjoyed Clawed’s company.

Those were three lonely seasons or they would have been so if not for Clawed’s company. You really can’t be in a bad mood around a solitary crow. There was always some kind of conversation going on. Great conversationalists they are, but not gossips. They know how to keep a secret. Clawed and I mostly talked about ideas. I wrote, clackety clack and he echoed the sounds of the keyboard and my words.

Why am I telling you all this today?

I recently had surgery and got to feeling kind of trapped, housebound because of cold, damp weather and then I remembered Clawed and focused on the good, on what I could do, not what I couldn’t.

Clawed, wounded and different, just carried on. He found a friend to cheer on – me – and we developed a symbiotic relationship – a relationship rooted on mutual need and compassion. Clawed understood that he was supported by a circle of friends whether or not he could see them or even understand them.

So I resolved to do the same, to seek out opportunities to do and be all I could do and be and to help others to do the same.

I learned from him to fix what I could, however I could, but to admit to what I couldn’t fix, change, or make different—like other people or the limitations that I lived with day by day.

For me those limitations were short term and have pretty much subsided. The surgery was a roaring success and every day I need to express my undying gratitude to the surgeon (Dr. Patrik Nechala) the surgeon who assisted (Dr. John Caulfeild), anesthesiologist, nurses … oh just everyone who spent long hours helping me right after the surgery. And to friends who visited, brought food for Jeff and me. Their compassion and caring held us through some shaky times. I still remember that first taste of tomato juice as a friend and I sat and talked poetry.

It turns out, I have to say thanks to surgery for slowing me down so that I could have these kinds of experiences. We tend to take too much for granted. We tend to miss so many opportunities to connect.

I managed to keep busy during this past month while I recovered. Since I couldn’t really eat what I normally would, being on a liquid diet, I found things that weren’t energy draining, but that were productive just the same. And I found that I was content almost all the time. I wasn’t in pain. I wasn’t hungry. And I certainly wasn’t bored. I felt supported by my circle of friends (and family) and indeed that circle seemed to grow.

I watched for him again this year, hoping against hope that our bond carried him over a stark, hungry winter. I made sure there was always cracked corn out in the back feeder and some under the oak.

But he didn’t return. His work here is done.

And I bow to him in gratitude.

namaste-little-girl

Photo Credit:  http://theblissfollower.com/2013/07/02/why-i-say-namaste/

Tomorrow a poem…

Because…

Today Patti Digh called her blog Poetry Wednesdays and it gave me the idea for this.

We have had FOUR days of sunshine in Owen Sound and Juno came nowhere near. But my cousin, Dawn Walker lives in Saugus, Massachusets and they got whacked. I’ve shared this poem at Page to Stage and it seemed to resonate with the adjudicators so I’m putting my neck out and sharing it with you.

It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day so I’m going to be brave and share how I deal with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which descends upon me here where winter seems to imprison me.

But we’ve had FOUR days of sunshine and this morning a winged fellow was singing his heart out and I know that Spring will come…will come…will come. Just because.

Because

Because Creator smiled;

Because the stars aligned;

Because our paths finally connected.

Because Gord forgot,

there was an R in his name;

Because failure crushed me.

Because your eyes sparkled;

Because I threw down a gauntlet;

Because I didn’t really think you would;

Because you did.

Because backing out was unthinkable;

Because I made a promise long ago.

Because we persist.

Because we are one.20140129-DSC00321

We shovel snow …

upon snow …

upon snow.

susanna suchak     January 10, 2015

Sunshine!

Right on cue the sun has reappeared in the Owen Sound sky. Tomorrow we gather at Heartwood Home to play, to laugh, to connect. I am sooo ready for this. Thanks to Teesha Moore and Carla Sonheim for sharing their talents which inspired me to stretch and grow my creativity…

We’ll take our glossy “junk mail” …   gesso it, paint it, buff it and…

1_you-get-junk-mail_amall_fileDSCF1734

20150106-DSCF1795

and wind up two weeks from now with this!

If you live in Grey/Bruce … we hope you’ll join us.

To see how go here

Thirsty Thursday …

  Rain1 Today it rains. Il pleut.
Interestingly enough in French Il pleut can also mean “he cries” or is it “he is crying/weeping”? At any rate, I think the French have it right … for the rain often makes people a little rain2misty-eyed.

Strangely enough, not me, not today.

Perhaps it is because I have another poem to share with you. Not mine this time. Mine the other day was a very first draft … and we all know about first drafts, don’t we?

Today’s poem is by Antoinette Voûte Roeder
from her book, Still Breathing

Who isDSCF1227 God Now?

Rain.

The drops, the spaces between,

the times when it does not

rain.

Wind.

       When it blows, storms, rages,

       when it lies down in quiet pools.

Wind.

Body.

When it rises strong and free, entwines with another,DSCF1238

when it loses its luster and begins the  long descent.

Body.

Love.

In all its facets, birthing, growing, yearning,

breaking, losing.

Love.

Who is God now?

Far and near.

Here, not here.

Always, all ways.

God.

Although I no longer have a faith community that I meet with regularly … I find this comforting.

Let me know what feelings this poem evokes in you, if you like. Thanks for visiting.

listening_reflectionAll photos are my own, if you share or use them please link here. Thanks.

Poems to Ponder … a new feature

morning_Nov3

Every day blusters anew

more yellow, gold, red, brown leaves

dance down and down

delighted to joinEachLeaf_Nov3 copy

brothers and sisters

as they find their rest

on earthLeaves_Nov3

and in earth

as I

Chaos of leaves_Nov3

would do

and will doGoldLeaf_Nov3

sooner than

perhaps I

would prefer

 

Autumn’s Grace

susanna suchak

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Learning…to listen

Reflections_on_MBCTLately, it seems, I am making more time for reflection. Perhaps it is the season; perhaps that I am beginning to find comfort in the artful practice of contemplative photography; perhaps it is just who I am and who I am becoming.
Reflecting requires a high degree of listening. That said, I am beginning to realize how I listen best. I prefer face to face listening … even Skype … rather than the phone. I have always found that the phone was not an optimum method of communication. Texting is really low on my list of communication methods that work for me.
So, I am finding myself leaning into anachronism and outdatedness. Something else to reflect on.

many_ears Do more ears help?
Sure, I want to be current and connect with people of all ages, but not at the expense of authentic communication.
Not long ago, one of my sons explained to me that he felt unheard during a telephone conversation. I empathized. I’ve felt that way a great deal.
In this instance, though, it was the technology that was to blame. I liken it to getting used to our toddlers first communication attempts. Our ears are keenly attuned and we “hear” words where others hear a jumble of phonemes.

Folks who use cell phones frequently are in all likelihood, more attuned to the nuances of what comes through the fibre optics, for filling in the blanks, for filtering out the static. Me? Not so much.

It hurt deeply to hear that a very dear person to me felt unheard. It hurt more when my attempts to explain were pushed aside.

But it helped me to listen to what was under the words, to know that I have listened deeply, uncritically, and with patience and will continue to do so.

We need to listen under the words, sometimes, perhaps often. And when we do that with love and patience, we will hear volumes.

A week studying mindfulness in a great deal of silence taught me much.

Dare I say, it has changed me for ever and always. I am deeply grateful for the privilege. I am best able to listen … in stillness, in silence…red_leaf

We need to hear with our hearts.

And best of all, we need to reflect on what we heard and what we know deeply.

 

Thankful…

playing copy

It’s been a week since I journalled … until this morning. Now for some, and for me at other times in my life, this would be no news, a big yawn, a so what kind of revelation. But I am a transformative language coach. In other words, I assist people to become mindful through expressing themselves … often through words, but just as often through a combination of words and images.

You might think I’d feel awful confessing this. You might and I am surprised that this has happened, but I am not contrite or apologetic here. I am just noticing this. I am not even trying to explain it to you or – more astonishingly – to me.

What I have been able to do in this week’s time and space is to halfway finish a pair of socks (winter is breathing down our necks here in this neck of the woods), finish a book (the making of, not the reading of) for my 16 year-old grandson, finish 4 mini-albums, draw in my sketchbook daily and get up early every morning to do yoga and meditate. And yet as I say this I realize that I am not in that space called driven doing. I am doing but I am also noticing, paying attention.

It is a puzzle that my journal has rarely beckoned to me and that I have even more rarely acknowledged that beckoning, but for the moment I am just noticing.

I suppose the only reason I am able to even share this is that I did in fact share some time writing in my journal and plan to do more journal time this weekend when we venture up the Bruce Peninsula for some very grateful together time.

It is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and though I don’t celebrate the official holiday, there’s never a moment not to be grateful from the soles of my feet to the crown of my head.

These few words are more an invitation to you to practice self-compassion and to be grateful for this present moment … knowing that you are precious and perfect (with much room for improvement as many of our beloved teachers tell us) and that this moment is all we have. Time is fleeting…relish every moment!

Red_Maples_Oct10_blog