Just a word…

2016-7Some of you may recall the old chestnut chanted around elementary schoolyards for longer than I can remember, “Sticks and stones / may break my bones / but names will never hurt me!”

What I am wondering is why we ever bought the sentiment. Because words can hurt. Words can cause great damage. Families are rendered asunder by them. Communities are diminished by them. And it would seem now that even nations can be divided in ways that we never imagined.

Name calling is something we expect from tired, hungry, maybe exasperated children. Surely, as adults, we have an arsenal of honourable, kindly, conscientious – even thought-full – words to state our case and sway our opponents or make our case.

Not so long ago, our predecessors memorized poetry to make their point, to soothe a sorrow, to cheer on their comrades. I know we don’t all have the luxury of reading and writing to build our vocabularies. I know that we don’t all have the luxury of time in which to make or state our case. I know that sometimes we may be tired, hungry and exasperated even though our childhoods are long in the past. But we do owe it to our friends, neighbours, fellow citizens to try to consider their point of view. We owe them as we do our enemies to be civil and consult with others to come to a consensus, or if not consensus, at least make compromises.

Parker Palmer speaks of coming into a circle to discuss options and voting like this. In order to “come into a circle”, it would seem that you have to be in the same room, in actual fact, or virtually as in online conference. But for very important decisions and to really know each other, it would seem that the optimum would be to be in the same room, preferably in comfy chairs in a circle with no barriers to hide behind. Indeed, Parker Palmer says that to solve a problem, we almost certainly need to engage in honest conversation in the same room. Because to do otherwise we are just “kvetching” which is just “a cheap excuse for honest engagement with whatever is troubling us.”

Yet even when making the most impactful decisions and building or tearing down relationships, it seems far more popular to spit epithets like watermelon seeds. Because, nowadays, we have Twitter so we can name call and deprecate with the protection of distance using only 147 characters. This is cowardly, true, but integrity and truth don’t necessarily enter into the algorithm.

I work with words. My name is “Carries words”, so I feel that I must speak this piece and then I will keep my peace.

Please, as we say to the toddlers and kindergartners “use your words” to solve the problems we face. Use your best and kindest words. And use those words honestly with integrity. Whether you are the Leader of a large and powerful Nation, or you are just some “ordinary Joe” like me. I make you this promise that I will do this. Will you join me?

And a PS if you can’t get into the same room, get on the phone…let your voice be heard. We all need to be a part of the democratic process…or as the Washington Post’s banner reads…”Democracy dies in darkness”.

Photo Credit: Jeff Suchak, Mythic Landscape

Good follow-up reading:

Heather Plett

Why a Circle is a Core Group Process for emerging Participatory Leadership

Parker Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy

PS …I am Canadian, we spell honour, neighbour, and colour with a u.

Peace, out!


Poems to Ponder … a new feature


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

Choosings and Musings

Yesterday on Facebook someone posted part one in a series called,

Can we learn to be happier?”.

I thought that that was an unrealistic expectation and might even cause more suffering in this world. I believe that we focus too heavily on “the pursuit of happiness” instead of acceptance of what is.

I preferred that we instead focus on feeling content.

Lani thought they were perhaps the same thing.

I disagree. Here’s what Etymology Dictionary [DOT] com says about happiness

happy (adj.)

late 14c., “lucky, favored by fortune, prosperous;” of events, “turning out well,” from hap (n.) “chance, fortune” + -y (2). Sense of “very glad” first recorded late 14c. Ousted Old English eadig (from ead “wealth, riches”) and gesælig, which has become silly. Meaning “greatly pleased and content” is from 1520s. Old English bliðe “happy” survives as blithe. From Greek to Irish, a great majority of the European words for “happy” at first meant “lucky.” An exception is Welsh, where the word used first meant “wise.”

and about the word content …

content (adj.)

c.1400, from Old French content, “satisfied,” from Latin contentus “contained, satisfied,” past participle of continere (see contain).

content (v.)

early 15c., from Middle French contenter, from content (adj.) “satisfied,” from Latin contentus “contained, satisfied,” past participle of continere (see contain). Sense evolved through “contained,” “restrained,” to “satisfied,” as the contented person’s desires are bound by what he or she already has. Related: Contented; contentedly.

then I said I preferred equanimity which has its roots in …

equanimity (n.)

c.1600, “fairness, impartiality,” from French équanimité, from Latin aequanimitatem (nominative aequanimitas) “evenness of mind, calmness,” from aequus “even, level” (see equal (adj.)) + animus “mind, spirit” (see animus). Meaning “evenness of temper” in English is from 1610s.

Pausing,  I wondered if I was just being picky or just cranky.

That’s why I’ve gone into the etymology of each word. I grant you it’s not the Oxford English … but I don’t have a subscription right now. Perhaps that’s something I need to treat myself to. But for now… this will have to do.

I claimed yesterday that happiness was too dependent on events, circumstances, even other people and it would seem my memory served me right as it meant in the original sense something to what we would refer as “lucky”.

On second thought I think that’s what many want … to be lucky, wealthy (in the sense of $$$) and even silly giddy. Not that I would deny anyone those moments. Glory, I sure enjoy my “silly/giddy” moments. Just saying I wouldn’t want to be that way 24/7. Exhausting and often inappropriate.

Unless of course, you are Welsh and you want to be wise. Now that would be excellent. However, I don’t think I’ve ever heard even a person of Welsh decent actually express that wish. So I guess this meaning left us late in the 16th century.

What I’d like to offer is that we seek balance such as that denoted by the word equanimity.

I propose that we stop vilifying emotions by calling them good or bad. They are just feelings and we don’t have to act on them.

For a start we can just allow ourselves to feel melancholy when we do and notice how that feels in our bodies. Then go about what needs doing … or if nothing needs doing just go about feeling melancholy.

Certainly, we can warn people that that is how we are feeling, but we may also need to let them know that we don’t need fixing or advice or cheering up. I think that would make me happy on those occasions when I just need to sit with a feeling rather than fake a grin. Indeed, I think that all this duplicity is crazy making.

We rail about the weather, the state of the environment, the behaviour of others … but in the instant we really have no power over any of that. It is only setting ourselves up to believe that we are the centre of the universe. Let’s start realizing that we are all connected and that we can only be in one place in time. Working from that may not always make us “happy” but it’s a good place to start on “equanimity”.

My husband frequently quotes a poem by Li Po and I share this today in all its appropriateness.

In the landscape of spring

there is neither better or worse

the flowering branches

some grow long

some grow short


Photo Credit Jeff Suchak

layering and textures from Kim Klassen

My Thursday blogging posts will examine an etymological / emotional theme for the rest of December and seeing that this is the last Thursday of 2013, we may need to extend it into January 2014.

I’d really appreciate your comments about how these posts make you feel. If you have a friend or colleague who might benefit from or even enjoy an exercise in pondering how to be authentic and balanced in this wacky world, please share a link. I’d love the company.

Letting go …

Photo credit: Jeff Suchak (visit http://mythiclandscape.com )

Over the past week or so I’ve been forced – yes that is the right word though I struggled with the violence inherent in it – to let go of much. Some of what I let go was by my own intention – cleaning out one’s studio space, spring and fall cleaning, moving – all these things give us opportunities to let go.

Not being the chosen one means you either let go or you break up or break down (it doesn’t matter which way you break when you do break to anyone but you). Being rejected by some thing or some one always presents the chance to let go. Because again, you bend, you go with the flow, you blend in or you dissolve into the abyss.

So, this past week has given me many opportunities to let go.

One night on the way home from Guelph before the cloud cover hid the indigo blue of the sky, we found a place to pull the car over and just gape at the stars. We could see the Milky Way and countless brilliant lights we call stars. And we both thought out loud, “…will miss seeing the stars; can’t see this down south…”

When we came here, first as hiking tourists, then as newcomers—people from “away”, now perhaps as friendly acquaintances and people with recognizable faces, I looked forward to seeing the Northern Lights. I’ve never seen them. Oh Steve Irvine ( a local artist ) puts up some spectacular photos he captures near their home on Big Bay, but I’ve never seen them dance. So, sigh … I don’t have to let go of that vision; though I do have to let go of that possibility.

So today is a post of nostalgia … mostly for what never came to be.

But it isn’t sad, or bitter, or angry. It is just acceptance and letting go. Not getting what you think you want may be a good thing.

Mindfulness meditation in its myriad forms – concrete and intangible – has given me this gift of acceptance, acquiescence, equanimity. To just pay attention to what is in this moment; to savour the good (the link will take you to “Hardwiring Happiness”–Dr. Rick Hanson’s newest book). To … let go.

It’s what we aim for in any of the religions I have practiced. It’s a very spiritual practice for me. Letting go allows us to journey without being overburdened. Letting go feels so right right now. I feel lighter. I can see Light.

Sooner than we might expect we will journey only with what we can carry within ourselves. I’ve decided to learn to be a Pilgrim, so, I’m practicing letting go a little more each day. Perhaps I’ll sprout wings and just find myself taking flight. Letting go, I smile.

It’s raining … raining in my heart

Thanks to Buddy Holly for this…

And Jeff Suchak for this …


Well, I’ll just get this over with. Yes, it is raining. It is “Hallowe’en” and the kiddos will be soaked before they get to the sidewalk. So that is just so not what I wanted. But does the weather care? No, it is callously pouring down and we are being threatened with a “rain warning”. I really have no idea what that means because the last time I got caught in a downfall (hmmmm… I think that was about a week ago) my jacket was soaked before I could travel from the door of the Zehrs store to my car. And it is my winter jacket. And even my shirt was wet…well, damp, very damp. And I know at least 4 people will say to me today as I run around on errands, “Well, at least it isn’t snow.” And I will work really, really hard on my compassion skills so as not to slap them. Why do people say these kinds of things? Why does what a stranger’s  struggle to connect  … errr friendly comments affect me in such a nasty way.

Perhaps because I have had between 4 and 5 hours of sleep for days…and yes, I am tired… but more than that I am feeling a little less than skillful at anything today. Disappointing news can do that to us … errr me. I can’t presume to speak for you. But I think that maybe you are affected the same way by disappointing news and/or sleep deprivation.

On the plus side, I did finish my book (wow I see that they made it into a movie … boy am I out of the loop) by 4:45 am this morning and it is due back to the library today. So no fines for me. Is that a skill? Getting books back to the library on time that is. Sometimes it is. I can remember lots of fines before email reminders. So thank you, Owen Sound etc. Public Library. I appreciate the reminders.

Another plus is that I do have a cheque to deposit. This is always a good thing. And hmmmm I do think I have a small cheque due from TOM too. I’ll have to check into that when I go to pick up my parking pass. So wow! I’m almost rolling in money. Coming up for air…now that was hilarious.

Another plus. Today is my last day of having to post giraffe pictures as my profile pic on FB. So Bob McFee you can look forward to November or should I say Movember, turning back the clocks, and Indigo Riff‘s Last Dance. sniff … bittersweet that is.

Then I read about Grad School Barbie … read if you haven’t already. Even if you aren’t an aging grad student, you’ll enjoy the humour. And humour is healing. Some days it’s even more healing than art. Now that’s saying something.

I’ll take my leave now…get my errands done…run to my studio…and laugh at the mess.

“Mama said, ‘there’d be days like this.'” But she also said even more frequently, “This too shall pass.” And after the rain there is much beauty.

New_1_DSCF6683  New_1_DSCF6657Thanks to Jeff Suchak at http://mythiclandscape.com for these lovely images.

Coming home to Self

ImageWhen we travel we make discoveries, we see new and/or different landscapes; inevitably we return home changed. Most of us and most of the time, we just get busy with our original lives, stuck in our comfortable ruts. Most of the time that works out pretty well … but.

This time when I came home, it was to a very different rhythm. Jeff went off to a silent retreat where he will most definitely come home changed.

I discovered a landscape that is breathtakingly beautiful, but not mine, at least not any more. My ancestors may have dug sod and reclaimed a salt marsh, but I can hardly claim any part of their achievements … or their deep and tragic uprooting.

I came home determined to examine what is (or was) in my life that worked … and what didn’t serve any longer.

What I discovered is that some things that served me well, still do. Knitting for example. I have neglected that pasttime for quite some time and while I was away I hungered so much to hold needles and thread through woolen yarn to see something emerge that would be useful — usually lovely to behold as well, but most importantly useful.

So knitting now comes to the forefront. Something must go.

And what could that possibly be?

Well social media springs to mind. One could devote 23 hours a day to FaceBook and surfing the Interwebs. One could. But I found that this was getting in the way of what serves me well.

I spent inordinate amounts of time playing games … that I will never ever ever win. Games that teach me nothing and only frustrate. So that was easy … only it’s not. It’s become a habit.

Habits are emotional entities. They are not just things we do over and over again. Not just actions. They become addictive only because we develop an emotional tie to them.

So. Now I have to understand the emotional tie in and replace one habit with another.

B J Fogg has some helpful hints. He says we have to tie the new activity to something we already do. I think it is helping for me to NOT turn on the computer until AFTER I eat breakfast. The other piece is I knit while the computer is booting up and loading Facebook. Then I review my notifications, check for messages and scroll down to see if anything is really really interesting. I also note who I am receiving notifications from and check off that I don’t want to see notifications from some person or page that I no longer need to know every site they like or share. Then I do something drastic, I shut off Facebook, check my email messages and respond to what is urgent. Then I delete what isn’t. Sometimes I even “unsubscribe”. Gasp!

This is helping … and I’ve only been doing this for three (3) days.

I feel a little more comfortable in my skin with this new routine, but the challenge will come on Saturday. I’ll let you know how it’s going next time.

Fall is in full swing and it seems the perfect time to turn over a new leaf.

I’ll share some other insights into my personal process next Thursday!Image

Photo Credit to Jeff Suchak


Coming back from the East Coast a changed person … perhaps coming full circle … I will seek to examine what I discovered about coming home to self … discovering what is truly important and what fills me rather than distracts me. Watch for blog posts Thursdays and perhaps as ideas present persistently.