‘Tis the Season

Many thanks to Vita Marija Murenaite on Unsplash for the use of this wonderful image!

My early childhood years were spent in a boarding house with people older than my grandmother, except for my mother. It was a wonderful start to life.

These people had lived through the First World War, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, the Second World War, so history was part of everyday conversation. And oh, how I loved their stories!

They were, however, a pragmatic bunch – practical to the core. I followed the “owner” around lapping up her no-nonsense approach to life. Good thing, because my temperament veers toward the “dreamer of possibilities” more so that her grounded and down-to-earth attitude and praxis. I called her (and still do – though her physical presence is long gone) Aunt Lexie.

There was a rhythm to our days and our weeks and the seasons of the year. Monday was laundry day. She stripped the beds, put the bottom sheet into the laundry basket and replaced it with the top sheet and put a fresh sheet on the top. With our modern conveniences that sounds silly, but it was easier on both the laundress, the sheets, and the environment and far more practical than our modern approach in every aspect. Though, I must admit, it requires the use of only flat sheets.

My mother had spent her teen years growing up in that boarding house and all her life she “ironed” as if she were using a flat smoothing iron. Thump, slide slide, thump slide slid.

ah…the sound of a smoothing iron..

She baked on Tuesdays. And I was right at her side with an oversize apron tied under my armpits and a stool to stand on. I had my own little wooden rolling pin with red handles. I had a smaller “tart tin” for my own little tarts. I would cut out the circles of dough with a cookie cutter older than Aunt Lexie and carefully place each circle in the cups of the tin. Gently pushing each circle in the centre to make it fold into the shape of that cup. Then I would take a small spoon of jam we had made last Fall and drop it into the centre of each circle. That jam was a lesson in itself. That there was a continuum to life that flowed through each day. That every thing we did mattered.

We were making tarts with the jam that we had made in the autumn of the year. So each season had its task, but each season was connected in some way.

Mr. Cook, Aunt Lexie and Aunt Marion, even Prentice and my mum would eat those tarts I made with relish and compliments. And I knew that I was part of a little community that was part of a larger community that threaded through time. That I had a part to play in caring for that community and all its members. That I had value and worth.

As memory serves, the tarts I made were so overworked that you could use them as hockey pucks. Yet, I was proud to share my baking as an act of caring and nurturing these people I loved.

After supper and doing the dishes, I would curl up on Aunt Lexie’s lap and we would read her old childhood books. I cannot smell pastry on my own aprons without a small, sweet rush of memory of those times – though seven decades have passed.

Stories of families with girls named after flowers. The poetry of Emily Dickinson, Longfellow and Wordsworth. How she reminded me that Hiawatha was one of my ancestors. Sometimes even a snippet of modernity with A. A. Milne. And I still love that poetry – though hundreds of others’ poetry now lines my bookshelves.

We strongly influence those in our care, especially children. We especially impact character and sensibilities formation in those first six years and I believe I am proof of that pudding.

That said, I think that we influence others by what we do far more than through what we say.

Still, what I have is only words, drawings, and stories to, in some small way, influence you, my reader. To soothe your soul and lift your spirit as we traverse this new way of being in the world, together.

Wednesdays and Saturdays Aunt Lexie and I “marketed”. Sometimes we drove to the countryside in her Model-T and bought fresh produce by the bushels. Those Thursdays we “put food by” (an old fashioned way to say preserved) rather than baked because baking required other than flour, water, yeast, salt — we needed fruit, to make jam, to put into those tarts.

And as I was reading a Facebook post by Rev. Steven Charleston, on Friday, August 14th, I was buoyed and heartened to hearken back to times before even those of us who would be considered oldsters were born. Bolstered by ancestors’ stories and habits. Perhaps we have read their stories or heard of their habits and practices. Rev. Charleston used a model he called “spiritual canning” for a way to look at what we need going forward.

It is a good analogy since we are coming into the time when putting food by would be happening. Maybe you even know someone who is doing just that. I do. I have a friend who lives “up the Bruce” and has a bit of land. She grows much of her own produce and puts it by – she cans, dehydrates, freezes the harvest. It is hard work. But it is also deliciously hard because while you sweat doing it, the food you put by, will fill your belly, and warm your heart in the cold winter. It is like putting some sunshine “by” for a drearier day – a more challenging time.

I offer this analogy in an image I have drawn based on this idea I inherited – just like I inherited my rolling pin – which was the big one Aunt Lexie used when we baked a together.

I have many more spiritual canning / “putting spiritual food by” ideas to write about. If you have any requests, please make a comment, I’ll try to include your choices for “spiritual food” by.

Those memories keep me warm during wintery days and times more challenging than I would prefer.

I hope they inspire you to dip back into an ancestor’s history, those lessons you’ve learned by heart, or inherited by rote, to get you through the bumpy times that will come. And they will come.

Come what may, we will get through this, using the spiritual ingredients we put by.

Summer Sky at Night

Image Credit: Jeff Suchak, Mythiclandscape

This is the month to watch The Pleiades, especially from the 10th to the 14th in my little corner of this big, blue marble, spinning, spinning in its place.

So, yesterday, we napped mightily and snuck out to Hillman Marsh around 2ish to set up “camp”. No sooner was I out of the car, but zing! As I lifted my head to put on my bug shirt, a huge shooting star flew over and shouted, “Welcome. We’ve been waiting for you to show up.”

We were treated to a lovely show.

Surprisingly, I actually found the Pleiades star cluster (also known as the Seven Sisters) in the sky and soaked up their bright luminescence.

For southern Ontario the sky was pretty dark – even with a half moon. And we lost count of the shooting stars. A guesstimation would be well over three dozen, some brighter, longer lasting, more colourful than others. But all were welcome sights that soothed my worries and calmed any sense of misperceived hardship. Even today, I am processing the wonder of such a mystery laid before me. How blessed I am…

And I was reminded of an old snippet of a poem.

“I have loved the

STARS

too fondly,

to be

fearful of the

NIGHT.”

Sarah Williams

Twilight Hours: A Legacy of Verse, “The Old Astronomer to his pupil.”

My question to you is, what about the summer sky makes your heart sing?

Pool Musings … Midday

                                                                       Sunday, August 9th

We come down to “our” pool at midday for a swim and some exercise to work out the kinks accumulated over the years and through this pandemic indolence.

Two men, one young, one older, attend at the barbeques on the patio. Corn and some other food are carefully turned.

A man, young, but not so young as the one at the barbeque comes out on a second-floor balcony with a wee boy, maybe 16 to 18 months old. The tosses down some necessity to the barbeque-ers.

After a while of swimming Jeff gets out of the pool. I stay in.

It feels so good to move without any pain. I feel buoyant for that reason more than being held up by the water. My toes begin to cramp; I notice more people coming to enjoy the tasty treats.

I hang on to the stair rails and exercise my cranky, bursitis hip with backward leg lifts before getting out of the pool. I shake out the skirt of my suit to help it to dry.

I hunker down on the lounge beside the one where Jeff is stretched out soaking up some sun.

A grandmotherly woman jogs by our lounge seats outside the fence chanting the echolalic sounds of the small tow-haired boy. They are singing in their own language.

I turn myself over and over – like those cobs of corn on the barbeque, watching the sun’s dance in the water and dream of lazy summer days like this becoming a habit, a routine, a ritual.

Pool poems, swim poems, no-pain poems, bystander poems, summer memories poems, sun’s warmth poems, quiet in the midst poems, letting to poems, bracketing poems, imagining poems. All is poem poem.

After Susan Wooldridge, Poem Crazy

Seskéha

Grandmother Moon will be fully illuminated tonight.

(If you click on the link you can see a video from NASA that explains the hows and whys of the full moon.)

It would be great to get outside under her glow. (whether you can see her or not, she is there.)

In English we could translate Seskéha to “Fresh Try Hard”

This speaks so deeply to me because I am in another phase of  “fresh” trying hard changes. Transitions are difficult for me, always have been. Partially because I am diagnosed as ADD, partially because there have been too many that weren’t happy or helpful.

But when I get out under the sky and absorb the vibrations of the Divine all the difficulties shrink down to a manageable perspective.

Alex Myles calls this moon, Clearing Moon and says it brings “intense, purifying and healing moonbeams which deeply activates energy, bringing dramatic shifts, renewed trust, sacred and fated soul connections and accelerates major change.”

Fresh Try Hard moon speaks to this to me.

It’s not so much a transition into which I have to fit or resist.

But an invitation to receive. To renew trust. To welcome sacred and fated soul connections, even major changes.

It is a freshness and it may be “hard”, but it is part of growth. Stretching and growing can make us even more beautiful, complex, and like this Indian Lotus found at Water Works Park here in St. Thomas glorious. Glorious as Grandmother Moon.

I leave you with a lovely image of an Indian Lotus … because sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

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Image credit: Jeff Suchak, who often shares some spectacular images here     https://www.facebook.com/jeff.suchak

Writing Ourselves Whole EE

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It is August.

The garden is a riot of colour and deliciousness. Food for tummies and eyes. The Lotus pond at Waterworks Park here in St. Thomas is blooming and full of music. The deep bass of the bullfrog, the splash of turtle and muskrat, the chirrup of crickets, the flutter and whrrrr of Cedar Waxwing wings as they whoosh past our ears as we stand slightly hidden in the small trees beside the pond. Everything is so alive and lush.

And it seemed a time ripe for writing with a few like-minded souls. I had dreamed of this since arriving here, missing my writers’ group in Owen Sound. Hello all!

And Thursday, it happened.

little journals

We met and had a light potluck lunch to kick off this new and auspicious launch.

Then we picked up our pens (after ooohing and aaahing over Jane’s brilliant quill like pen…) and began the lectio poetica or listening, really deeply listening, then reflecting, then writing.

It was  invigorating and energizing and as reassuring as those long, luxurious hugs a really good friend gives after a long absence.

To mark this kick-off, I made some small journals (pamphlet stitched accordian style). Everyone chose the one that spoke most enticingly to them and we continued on…

We adorned the corners so that it is easier to turn the page and shared and laughed and lauded in appreciation each of our contributions. Such a brilliant start. There are others who want to join us and one will next week.

Life is good. Writing makes it better. Poetry makes it sweet, even in the rough patches. And little handmade journals make it just that much more special.

Here is a peek at the journals…MoodyEarth.jpg

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This wee one is off to California on Monday

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And here is mine!

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Now to get on to finishing my homework!

Courage to be…

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Today, as I was procrastinating from actually writing the proposal, this

wee piece of wisdom (you can click on the link) by Stephanie Renaud appeared in my Facebook feed. Usually, I don’t read everybody’s blogs or posts or even shares because, well, life is full enough for me right now. But this one compelled me to read it.

I am every so glad that I did.

I don’t want to give away what it is about because I want you to discover for yourself, as I did. That is very much a part of the fun of discovery.

I have been playing hide-and-seek with myself since April when my dreams seemed to go up in smoke. A dark, acrid smoke that cut off my breathing for a bit.

Somehow love found a way back for me. The love of a good man who walks beside me every day. The love of a Spiritual Advisor who helped me to sort all the messages into useless and harmful and even better nourishing.

The love of getting my fingernails into the good earth and watching new things push forth from the leaf litter into hopeful green sprouts.

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The love of seeing pollinators happily

return to my garden.

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The love of picking up pen and drawing images and words.

little journals

And finally the love of walking in the woods. WoodsyGirl

But another thing I hide is my talent. I allow the words and actions (or intimidating rebuffs) to speak who I am. We all do sometimes. I have a knack for it.

But today, I am taking back my life. I am writing that proposal. I am filling out the “business” forms.

I am carving words on my arm. Well, not literally, carving words; but I am pondering a semi-colon tattoo. There was no three’s a charm from this latest cruel snub.

Today I also listened to a TEDx talk by Adam Leipzig. (click on the link)

He spoke on finding your life purpose.

I thought I knew what that was.

Someone tried to douse my dreams, perhaps not intentionally, but it was an overt gesture of denigration, so…

I struggled. Felt a little wobbly for a bit. Well, I felt a lot wobbly.

I don’t even know what caused me to watch the talk, but again, sometimes the Universe just drops some little gem in your lap.

I’ve been exposed to his line of thought before.

Thought I had it memorized.

Thought I had it down solid.

But, the little blip that was April had caused me to forget.

Happy to say I no longer have that amnesia.

I remember!

I have purpose. I have talent. I have a gift to share. I will share it.

The reason I will share it is that I know I am not alone in this. And I know I have another knack — the ability to help bring balance into Creation by helping people to remake their worlds with words and paper.

So, now, I am moved to get back on track.

Thanks to so many who held me while I recovered.

Leafology is back!

Sus_PoetryTherapy

 

Ordinary

sus_head_SSSCRecently, I was struck by my lack of empathy with a colleague, not to mention my total lack of compassion and non-violent speech in a recent discussion in which we were at odds on a particular matter of great import to me. He tried to cajole me by saying he valued my “gifts” which just made me angrier. I felt patronized, threatened.

And now, I find, that I wake from dreams where I am writing a letter of apology.

Not for my opinion because it is an educated and hard won opinion and I struggle with living as I “believe”. No, not that, but I feel I do need to apologize for my unkindness, my lack of compassion and empathy. He has the right to his opinion and he will have to live with it – as wrong as I “know” it to be.

This incident got me thinking (again) of why humans have this huge need to be “right” over the need and goodness of being kind. Why do we do what we know that we do not want done to us. Why is the Golden Rule so difficult a path to follow?

A while back, I misspoke, who knows why, and I called someone who I love more than words can say, “pedestrian”. I was agreeing with a previous comment about that person lacking “passion” in any particular thing including reading which, by the way, he does incessantly and has since a wee boy.

I have been punished exceedingly for this slip of the tongue. And have berated my old, too full brain for not finding the exact right word. And I have struggled to find just exactly what that word might be, or more to the point, what that word might have been.

Ordinary.

Perhaps that is the word.

Average isn’t quite right, though it just might fit. Conventional? Everyday? Teen? Teen might work because often teens give off an air of disinterest in anything to the adults in their lives; adults, who are just as “average” and “boring” as the word “pedestrian” might imply.

But ordinary can raise the hackles too.

Polls often show that most people believe they are “above average” See a LiveScience poll featured on CBS news in February 2013 with the comment,

“The phenomenon, known as illusory superiority, is so stubbornly persistent that psychologists would be surprised if it didn’t show up in their studies, said David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell who has studied the effect for decades.”

Yes, no one likes to be called “ordinary” or “average” or “mundane” or (to my chagrin) “pedestrian”.

Kristin Neff comments on this as a danger to our perceived self worth and credits it with our need for “self esteem” which means that we are “above average” and hence have more worth than someone else. Her work centres around self-compassion. In this video she says, “It’s not okay to be average. It’s considered an insult to be average.” So, we have to puff ourselves up to have self-esteem. And there’s the rub. We have to be “over someone” who may be average. And mostly we are just average. Somewhere in the middle. Not outstanding.

Average, according to the Oxford online dictionary, means

A number expressing the central or typical value in a set of data, in particular, the mode, median, or (most commonly) the mean, which is calculated by dividing the sum of the values in the set by their number.

or

An amount, standard, level, or rate regarded as usual or ordinary. 

Usual or ordinary. Average is usual or ordinary. And that pretty much sums up much of life. And many or most of us. Most of the time.

I have knit for a long time, I am a pretty good knitter; many say I am very good. But on a spectrum of knitters, I am average, not outstanding. I am average at most of what I do. Sometimes, I am well below average. Sometimes I am between the middle and the top of the heap. But I am still just average. That is not going to ever convince me to stop knitting.

So, I ask, “Why is that a negative or pejorative thing?”

Simply put, according to Neff’s theory, because it attacks our self-worth. And it attacks our self-worth because our self-worth is shaky, rooted in being better than. It’s patriarchal and hierarchical. Something which has negative consequences for most of us.

Historically. it might be seen as the basis for what we call in modern theological terms, “Empire”. Star Wars fans might understand better than most that empire is dangerous. Empire is dangerous because it is an autocracy. Autocracy is dangerous because (again I turn to Oxford online) it is:

“A system of government by one person with absolute power.”

One person, historically, usually a man, with absolute power. You may have heard, “Power corrupts. Absolute power, corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton) So we fear this. And when we fear, our reptilian brain kicks in. When our reptilian brain kicks in, we stop thinking and we act. Usually we act in less than brilliant ways. More often, we react. And again, we react badly, more often than not.

If only one person has all the “beans” the rest of us go hungry.

It seems to me then that mindfulness and self-compassion is needed.

I need to cut myself some slack. I need to forgive myself. I need to understand that although I am average in most things, I have worth. Each of us has worth.

When I practice self-compassion, I am able to be more mindful. I am able to be more compassionate. I am able to empathize.

If only there were a way to take back my words.

Hmmmm, seems there is.

Apologize. A good first step.

Now to get down to writing that letter.

Maybe more than one.

To ponder
Just an ordinary spider web…because “Every moment of Light and Dark is a miracle” Walt Whitman

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More stones…

Sometimes, the worst wounds are invisible. But they still feel like stones. Hard. Unforgiving. Difficult to walk on.

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Today, I am missing my grands.

I used to be the one to get a wee girl off to Junior Kindergarten which involved brushing long golden hair and braiding it so that she looked like a Princess. Her mother does a much better job, but so far, I’ve passed muster.

Her older brother is in his last year of elementary school…sigh…he is growing up so fast.

Her younger brother is nearly 3 and like his older brother sensitive and introverted. Like me. We click!

Our wee girl is spunky and very extroverted. She enjoys the social aspect of school…All those new friends! She is loving that.

Do you remember your kindergarten days?

I do…mostly.

I loved going to school. We all walked in a big group to the school. We had to cross a couple very busy streets and there were traffic lights and crossing guards to ensure our safety.

I had read all the Dick and Jane readers by the second week of school, so they just gave me the whole stack!

But you see, I grew up in a Boarding House. Not what you might think of. Nothing like the kinds of boarding houses I see clients living in nowadays.

It was like a big family. I was the only child with a mother who went to work every day (or so it seemed) and was on call 24/7. She was a police matron. One of only two in the border city where I was born. Where she was born.

It is a long story. Not what I wanted to talk about today.

But that old schoolyard rhyme said different. So, we felt conflicted and confused. Why did it hurt so much, when “names will never hurt me.” That was just bullshit bravado. We were being primed to inflict the second arrow, as the Buddhists say. We were beating ourselves up for hurting. We felt we were weak. We blamed ourselves for our inadequacies because all the other kids said words just washed off them like water off a duck’s back. We never talked to anyone else because we didn’t want to appear weak or defective or stupid or whatever. And they didn’t talk because they had all the same fears. The same hurt and the same fears and the same confusion arguing with them in their heads like angry monkeys fighting over a small scrap of food. The food was actually worth. The food was actually self-acceptance.

And we were all starving. We were all starving for a little compassion. But no one of us even knew what compassion was. Maybe we thought Jesus or Buddah or Moses or David or Ghandi deserved and were capable of giving compassion, but not ordinary people like the ones that we lived with day by day by day.

Lots of sayings we absorbed in childhood were just plain lies. And we bought them – hook line and sinker. Not because we were stupid or weak or weird. Well, I was weird, but I’ve learned that that is not necessarily a defect.

That is beside the point. I digress. I digress a lot. Still, I get there, and I enjoy the journey through all the detours.

But maybe you don’t. You want to get right down to it and you want the answer. Clear. Precise. Quick. You want the apology and you want it now.

Sorry, answers aren’t like that. Neither are apologies. They are walks down a crooked lane. Through a woods. With tree roots growing into the path and little animal holes that you can turn your ankle on.

But if you wear good hiking boots and are willing to come along…together we can wordscape our way into an inner landscape that really reflects the real you.

Under all the scrapes and sprains that words have inflicted on you over the years. You can write your way whole … like the day you arrived. Except you’ll have better hair and wardrobe. At the least you can have more of a say in what you look like. Even if no one will come and braid your hair like a Princess.

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Honesty …

GoingInwardInvite_HonestyI haven’t posted in a long while.

That isn’t because I am lazy or that I am particularly busy.

Something much larger has captured my heart and soul, mind and body.

Life has been a bit of an uphill ski lately and I’m not going into that here or now. Let’s just say my focus has been more inward, more thought filled, more solitary. I didn’t want company. I didn’t need community. I just needed to sit and ponder. That pondering bit is from Michael Nobbs from One Thing Today list. His blog “Sustainably Creative” is on a hiatus until March, because he is “pondering” which sometimes slides into “worrying” and I find it comforting that someone else is having a bit of a rough go. I don’t mean that. I mean that it is less lonely and isolating to know that someone else is, like me, wading through molasses emotionally … maybe even physically. And that that someone else is dealing with it kindly, compassionately … even self-compassionately.

I guess what I find most comforting is that he is stressing “self care”, which, though it is a rather amoebae-like concept, is often critical to maintaining body, mind, soul, and emotional self. Best of all, he is not all words and tough love. For me, particularly at this point, that would be destructive and demoralizing. So I am avoiding any and all blogs that stress that kind of “motivating” strategy.

I choose to follow his example and treat myself kindly and “move at the pace of guidance”. He has encouraged me to do what I feel is right for me. Now. Here.

This season, this now, this here, the Northern Hemisphere is well suited to that. I offer to you the opportunity to move at your best pace and listen to the season’s wisdom. Wherever you are. Whatever your now. Whatever your place. Whatever your pace.

It’s not a race. It’s not a competition. It’s your life. And it is beautiful just as it is.

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Images compliments of Jeff Suchak, Mythic Landscape Photography