a few thoughts about today

pinksocksFeet up the wall in celebration.

Today, I submitted another assignment in my course Writing and the New Media: Creating Life Histories. It took me days and days to pare it down and then I still had to attach an outline of the workshop I was discussing. Words rarely fail me…but they do threaten to drown me and my readers at times. Le sigh

At one time in my life the précis was a prized skill. What happened?

Oh, I know, life.

We are studying life histories.

It’s hard to condense a life into a few … or even a clean 900 pages. Maybe that’s why so many of us shy away from writing down our stories. First, we don’t know where to start. Then, we don’t think we’ll finish before life itself is finished. Another sigh…

And then I got to be a part of another Oasis gathering. Thanks, Jen Louden! And to all who come together to be so supportive of each other. I do appreciate you.

Today our topic was the cheery subject of “Resignation”. But with all the prompts, I came around to see that resignation can be a good thing — active not passive. A choice to accept what is and say “this too”. Not in a helpless way. Because it is certainly because we have no power to change things. But accepting some things that we cannot change can impel and compel us to find ways around that.

I’ll give you a little ferinstance here:

I have a bedroom that needs painting. It is so ugly it is painful to wake up and see the wall in front of me. Yes, it is.

Today, I decided to resign myself to the fact that I have been avoiding the job. I don’t even have a list of reasons. But I have been procrastinating like a pro. When the time came to write on “If (blank) were never “fixed” then I could try/learn…” that wall jumped into the forefront.

I brainstormed …

I could wall paper the wall behind me

I could paint just the wall I look at when I wake up

I could wallpaper that wall

I could hang a 40 x 50 print from my husband’s next photography show there

I could find an odorless paint and paint the darn thing

None of those ideas had come to me before. Why? Because I was resigned to being a sluggard and facing every new day knowing that because the evidence was staring me in the face.

What I learned from this is that I have to get busy and workshop with folks nearby. I know how to do this. I “invented” Wordscapes. It’s a shame not to share this.

Wish me luck! Or contact me to see what I am talking about.

I’d love to have you in my little circle.

Now that the first snow has fallen…let’s hunker down for the winter and practice some great self-care.

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WordsFest 2017

This is WordsFest weekend. Very busy but I did manage to write a short piece to celebrate my experience.

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Experience of WordsFest 2017

Kwe kwe

this land, this land

on which we stand

honoured for decades of centuries

historified with just two short paragraphs

in a back wall, hidden, not truly celebrated.

I hang my head, apologize

to Mother Earth who gives me life

I am

Kontiwennenhá:wi (in English, Carries Words),

Haudenosaunee, (you might say, Iroquois)

Kahniakehaka kwe, (you might say, Mohawk woman – just never call me “squaw”),

A’no’:wara (you might say, Turtle Clan)

out of Tyendeniga (not the Township in Eastern Ontario)

Though you don’t notice me

I am —

the Em dash a nod to Emily

But wait…

I am

factory whistles

soft brk brk of chickens

joyous gospel choirs

I am

Hulda’s song

rolling waves

cormorant cries

the hint of an Acadian accent

I am

lowing of cows coming home each evening

rustle of wildflowers

hum of bees in a September apple orchard

I am

heart beat rhythm of water drums

crackle of real sugar on snow each spring

wagon wheels rolling to a place unknown

I am

glacial wind

thundering wave

muted weeping of stunted trees

Gaelic hymns

I am

a cacophony of mysterious music

love songs in many languages

enveloped in the lullaby of every ancestor

this melody – my DNA

I hear your words

spoken

sung

written down and signed

so I can carry them home…

And now I am wordified.

Automagically

I am refreshed, renewed, rewired.

Redo!

Encore!

 

Deep bow of gratitude,

Nia:wen for reading this.

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!

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…soft autumn hum …

It isn’t truly Fall yet and I want to hang on to summer.
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I already miss the breakfasts of a quarter cantaloupe filled to the brim with blueberries—both local and sweeter than I remember.

I have a lot of years to remember.

Reflective writing and mindfulness help me to do the tasks of today. But what needs doing, most urgently, is to “make meaning” of everything. And yes, I realize that that task is not likely to be completed in this lifetime. We all need to attend to this though. This last stanza of Gary Snyder’s “Front Lines” feeds me today. I share it hoping it will do the same for you…

 
As the crickets’ soft autumn hum
is to us
so are we to the trees
as are they
to the rocks and the hills.
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image credit: Jeff Suchak—  Mythic Landscape

As the days grow shorter…

Yes, Solstice has passed and we now look forward to the arrival of the Raspberry Moon on Sunday, July 9th. The heat of summer. The “lazy, hazy, crazy days”. But it would seem that the weather hasn’t gotten the message. Well, except for perhaps the hazy part.New_1_DSCF0524

Today is an overcast, grey, cool, cool day. It is a lovely day, a soft and gentle day, that encourages me to “move at the pace of guidance” that is, not to rush about, hurrying and scurrying. But it doesn’t feel like summer.

My garden is wondering where the heat has gone and patiently sits, trying to bloom and blossom to no avail. But I notice that the garden too moves at the pace of “guidance” which is to say, flowers, herbs, and veggies grow as “guidance” instructs. And Guidance is saying just wait patiently.

Patience is becoming more and more what I need to practice, which seems odd because I am realizing quite dramatically that I have more days behind than in front of me. So, it would seem that I better get busy accomplishing that long list of what I feel called to do.

As for me, this weather is good. It forces me to work on preparing for two exciting weekends of gifting UNIFOR folks with ways to become allies as we try to join hands and make a Canada that is fair for all who live here – indigenous and settlers and newcomers alike. But not to rush about. To sit with the material and find a way to speak and show what I need to share.

What are you doing to move at the pace of guidance on this soft summer day?

Hygge (really)

20140129-DSC00353My New Year’s post started out talking about hygge – a Danish term for the cozy feeling of snuggling up with a warm drink, a loved one, wearing your warmest wool socks and peering into the fire or watching the snowstorm rage outside. You can learn more about hygge in this BBC article.

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Only one brave reader dared to point out that I lost track and went off on a tangent. And I am ever so grateful that he did.

I have lived a whole lifetime with undiagnosed ADD, but that’s only because no one in my generation was diagnosed as a child – or if there were such a thing, I certainly never benefited from it. Indeed, my parents would think it preposterous. I was just an “over-imaginative”, “forgetful”, “jittery”, “ornery”, “daydreamer” who just wasn’t living up to my “potential”.

At first I was puzzled, when he claimed that he “was turned off when I started talking about ‘fear’ and couldn’t finish reading the post. I asked him why? And he let me know in no uncertain terms. This man is straight from the shoulder and right to the point.

The title was hygge but then I switched to talking about fear and fears switched the gears. The two near opposite topics just didn’t make sense. So, he quit reading, which is always the reader’s option.

Wow! He was right and even though I had read and reread the blog post before I put it up there for the world to read, I hadn’t caught that. Sometimes we are just too close to the forest.

I am indebted to his candid comments. Few bother to share why they quit following your blog. I guess I should hire him as an editor!

Today, seems like the kind of day to write about hygge … and to stay on topic all one needs to do is look out the window. Right now, there is a medium size dog walking his human wearing boots. The dog that is. The dog is wearing boots. So is the human, but that would be expected.

Our 80-year-old, next-door neighbour appears on the sidewalk with her tiny dog; she and Lola (the dog) are dressed in very warm coats with snug, high collars. The human doesn’t make it past our laneway. The cold and wind has glazed the pavement with black ice. The dog would carry on, but the woman has fallen in past and broken a hip. Twice cautious.

The wind is whipping around what little fine snow fell earlier and the sky is a very flat light grey. She turns back and trudges, head down, across our lawns which aren’t ever slippery. I nod in agreement at her. Where she is headed is far more inviting.goinginwardinvite_tree_sky

Best to stay inside. Warm beverage in hand. Art materials, books (e- and otherwise) waiting to take me to warmer climes or at least another place where I can imagine being bundled up and warm. Warm. We crave warmth all through January. For me, the coldest month of all.

Hygge is only comfort, though, taken in short doses. I think I’ll take the snow and snuggle up with a book under a warm afghan – and dream of spring’s arrival. I can consider the daydreaming as part of what is wonderful about winter. The other part is that it doesn’t last all the time. Winter does have its own beauty and charm.

I am married to a photographer who braves the elements so that I can see snow draped over boughs, or bathed in the soft glow of pink-gold light. I get out and hike in that snow when the sun shines and the wind calms. I come home to a warm house. I am blessed.

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A Benediction for 2017

by susanna suchak

adapted from “A Blessing for the New Year” by Kayleen Asbo

(dedicated with gratitude to Mike Prepsky who always inspires)

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As the presence of light

begins to grow with each passing day

may the fearful places in your heart

unclench their grasp on your life;

may your courage blossom and bloom.

 
Let this be the year that you

silence the monkey’s chatter,

pick up the drawing tool,

the pen, the paintbrush, the rasp,

and compose together with

the chorus of creativity.

 

Let this be the year that you

break the invisible yardstick

of impossible expectations

and learn that, just as you are,

you are enough –

and so much more.

Let this be the year that you

embrace the messy wonder

that is your life

as it is;

hold it close 

and do the tango.

Let this be the year you

cherish your own humanity

be tickled by its

quirky charm.

Elope with the wonder

of your own true calling,

and invite the hungry world

to the wedding feast.

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Have a hygge 2017!

testing2017Many are making New Year’s Resolutions today, January 1, 2017. Because, rules (and resolutions) are meant for breaking. Right?

Some others are choosing ONE WORD that will define their year. As if one single word can sum up the whole glorious train wreck that is our life.

Some are planning their next expenditure on their wardrobes … or the newest technological toy that they must have. Spending money they don’t have in their bank accounts … yet. Because they deserve it right?

Some are eating like there is no tomorrow. And like their wardrobe magically expands to fit … one size fits all? Because I’ll start to run or work out or diet tomorrow. Right?

And who can own too many books? Right?

Why do we do this to ourselves? I’ve done it so I think I have some insight.

We do it because deep down we are wired to be afraid.

Yes, we are.

We have no choice. Our ancestors were wired to be hyperalert and afraid too. If they weren’t they wouldn’t have been our ancestors because that long ago you were either afraid or you were dinner.

What we do have choice over is whether to believe that we MUST BE afraid. We must feel the fear, admit that it is there.

Then we must examine what we are afraid of. Realistically speaking, there are no sabre tooth tigers just around the next corner.

We live in a safe world. Safer than the media and many politicians would like us to believe. Not to say there are no dangers, but we can face that too.

Certainly, anyone in retail wants us to be afraid. Why else Black Fridays? Why else a whole week of Black Fridays? Or Boxing Week sales? We need to get a little cynical and less afraid and gullible.

Fear is the underlying emotion for what we do. Yet, I think we need to look at the broader picture. What is the fear about?

Perhaps, I can propose one reason, or maybe two.

Fear that we won’t fit in.

That we will be called out … like Joseph Boyden. (http://www.canadalandshow.com/question-joseph-boydens-indigenous-ancestry/) That we will be viewed as an “outsider”. Or in some cases, that once the “outsider” position becomes favourable we will need to switch our identities to that so as to fit in.

I can’t count the people who express surprise, near shock, that we don’t own a television.

And next year, when we do, we won’t be watching cable, or any sitcoms or “normal” television programming. We do like Netflix; we pay a small fee for the privilege, but I don’t have to listen to commercials that try to chip away at my identity and self-esteem, so it’s a bargain.

Facebook also presents us with that fear. Like if you agree. Blah blah blah. Did you see what these women are doing to protest? No, and I won’t be out demonstrating against The Donald, not because I agree with who/what he is (as if I could really know that), but because I have better, more positive, things to do with my time.

So, either age or financial status has saved me from the first “fear”.

Not enoughness.

And the second fear is rooted in the socially addictive “scarcity principle” … fear that we don’t have enough is just another way of saying we are not DOING, BEING, LIVING enough. We believe or buy the hype that if we don’t HAVE enough, we ARE NOT enough. It was blatantly obvious in high school. Can you remember that far back?

If you didn’t have the exact right brand … not enough. Whatever label your generation pasted on it, that is what it boiled down to.

I had to wear Adler’s wool crew socks and Keds canvas runners. Had to shop in Detroit to find them too. Really. The socks always got thrown in the washer and I ended up with yellow socks, but they were cool.

But that didn’t make me cool. I was still on the fringes of the cool crowd. I didn’t have enough cool stuff – socks and runners are just tiny tokens in the coolness game.

Things have changed over time. Not for teens. Not for many. Many adults hop on bandwagons and then question their actions after they find out more, or the truth. I’m a little slower off the mark and I think that may just be a good thing.

I now believe I am enough. Just as I am. And I am very uncool.

And that’s why I choose to work on continually improving myself.

Not to fit in. Not to be cool. That is so ludicrous an idea that I shouldn’t even mention it. No, that will never happen. I don’t even know who or what crowd I would aspire to fit in to.

But because I am enough, I can always get better. I can draw every day so my drawing skills will improve. I can write every day so my writing skills will sharpen. I can spend some time every day preparing and eating nutritious foods so that I will stay healthy. I can spend time every day doing yoga, walking outside, doing my “farmer’s walks” up and down the stairs to build up my skeletal structure. And I can smile more. Complain less. I do these things because it removes the cognitive dissonance from my life. It feels more like me to do these things rather than some fake me that is popular or perceived as cool.

Are you enough? Yup.

Can you stand to improve a little?

Only you can answer that. But I have a sneaking suspicion that you could.

How is now the question. What will you focus on in 2017 that will make you feel more like you?splashnewme-2017