Sunday, December 28, 2008

Poets and Light~

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
~ Leonard Cohen

Oh, how grateful I am for the poets of the world.  Poets are my saviors in difficult moments, when the challenges of living come to remind me of my humanness.  They remind me of the beauty even in the brokenness, even in the darkness, even in those spaces too ugly to speak of.   It is a most incredible experience to have a human life, and poets know this, they must know it, or they couldn't write the way they do, they couldn't reach into the very center of us and ring the bells of soul that resonate with the stars.  Don't you think? 

To Poets then~

Image by Bill Carlson

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Buddhist Himalayas~

On the winter solstice just passed, a most cherished and beautiful friend gave me a most cherished and beautiful book.   She gave me a picture book, filled with many photographed pages of Tibetan people, living their prayerful and dedicated lives in the Buddhist Himalayas. The book is over an inch thick and is mainly photographs, although there are some words, carefully chosen to give the readers a deeper explanation of the beauty their eyes are beholding.  

And yesterday, in the morning, while the snow continued to pour from the sky, I lit a candle, poured a cup of tea, and opened this beautiful new book.  And after looking into the faces of a people who have suffered so greatly, and lived in such difficult circumstances, for such a long time, I was amazed at their remarkable capacity to smile like the sun, to hold onto sacred strands of beads with hands that still know how to pray, to look out upon the world with eyes that seem to know a kind of peace.  

And there is a chance that I have romanticised these images, that I have made assumptions about these people that may not be entirely accurate, but if I have done, it is okay with me, because what I felt in my heart when I closed the book, was very real, and it had something to do with  prayer, and an all consuming belief in something that can only be articulated as love.

Images by: Oliver and Danielle Follmi

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Leg Warmers of Snow~

There is something about the way a dog enjoys a good snow fall that is wonderfully contagious. Something about the canine awe and thrill, as those paws touch down on the powdery whiteness. Something about those little balls of ice that cling to those furry legs like icicle leg brings on a kind of luminous gleefulness that unthaws anything in the realms of heart that might have been in danger of freezing.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice~

Winter Solstice Blessings to you all~  Welcome back sun, welcome back light.  Giving thanks for the darkness, for our journeys that went in and down, for the learning and the wisdom gleaned in these dark months. Let us sing and dance and celebrate the turning of the wheel, another cycle ending whilst another is beginning.  Let us ask ourselves...What are we leaving behind? What are we moving toward? What have we uncovered in the darkness?  Where are we heading, as the sun illumines the path before us, and we can see the beauty of this life all around...

This morning the world is covered in a soft snowy blanket of whiteness, the house is warm and cozy, still filled with the warmth of the smiling friends who gathered together with us last night to celebrate the return of the sun, to share food, and stories, and laughter. Gus and are heading to the woods to walk amongst the whiteness and the trees.  

To the Sun then, happy birthday sun!  I welcome back your returning strength, and as you are reborn, so are we.  Let us bring the wisdom of our inner journeys into the outer world and as the light comes back, let the fiery warmth fuel the positive changes and creations we are manifesting.

Blessed Be.

Image Source Unknown

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter Days~

Frosty snowy days have come, and Gus and I are dedicated to soaking up the beauty of this season. Sometimes we watch the snow fall from the sky, from inside our cozy house, past the windows, with sweet things baking in the oven and hot tea in the pot. And other days we head straight for the woods, bundled up in our warm woollies, and after a good play, we stand under tall trees and look up into the sparkling branches of frosty white, letting the snow land on our warm faces like pixie dust.

First Snow
~ Mary Oliver

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles; nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain-not a single
answer has been found-
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Visit From Senay~

Well, what can I say, I have been blessed with another marvelous visit from the wise and wonderful Senay, and this is a very lucky thing indeed. She came down to the stormy Pacific West Coast to see her nutty Auntie just a few short days ago.  It was a long journey through snowy mountain passes with Nana and Papa, but despite those long hours in the car she still bounded in through the door as though she had wings, and there she stood twinkling from head to toe.  ( I actually think she does have wings, but grown ups just can't see them).  

Senay, for those of you who don't know, is my 4 and 1/2 year old niece.  She is wise beyond her years and has an incredible way of reminding me of what matters most in life.  Bear hugs and belly laughs and wild dancing are absolute priorities for all days.  You don't need a special occasion to put on your best dress and twirl about in joyous ways.  Dog kisses and bubble baths are the cure for most ailments, and chocolate is the cure for everything.  Senay is truly the best sort of teacher, her questions always lead me into the very center of things, and soon my troubled mind is having way too much fun to be troubled at all. After no more than a few minutes in her sparkling company, it is clear to me that a cup of honey tea, a snuggle with someone you love, and a good hearty read of Winnie the Witch is all one needs to clear the cobwebs and see what an exquisite gift it is to be alive.  

For the past few days Senay and I have danced, and sang, and discussed the most heartfelt things.  We spent one morning gently anointing my antique Indian bronze statues with rose oil, we lit candles and we rang Tibetan bells.  Together we noticed that there was magic everywhere, in all things, and then Senay went through my house counting Faeires. There were six in total.  And after a long discussion about the most precious things, Senay informed me that the most important thing in life "is to have a really big heart Auntie, and one that is filled with love."  She said that this is what the bronze statues on my alter were teaching me. "You know Auntie, your heart is bigger than you think," she said, before bursting into an explosion of giggles, on my pillowed floor and heading into the kitchen for lunch.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

From St. Francis of Assisi~

"No one lives outside the walls of this sacred place, existence." 
~St. Francis of Assisi, 12th century Italian Saint.

This morning I started my day with this beloved Saint.  I hope he inspires you as much as he did me.


Such love does
the sky now pour,
that whenever I stand in a field,

I have to wring out the light
when I get

~ St. Francis of Assisi 1182-1226

I don't know about you, but my task for this day is to apply these words to my experience of living like a kind of holy salve and then simply notice what magic occurs.

And then again, perhaps it's something about Italian fields that basks one in a kind of indescribable radiance, because during our visit to Tuscany last spring I couldn't help but run through the fields doing ecstatic dances.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Patchwork Pondering~

As I stretch into this day, waiting patiently for my kettle to boil, I am realizing how very different my Sunday mornings are now compared with the way they used to be.  And as I contemplate these differences, each one, each difference that is, becomes like a piece of a patchwork quilt that makes up the colorful tapestry of my own being, dark in some places and light in others.  I can see them their now, these patches of self, all laid out in my minds eye, and each gentle thought like a kind of thread that holds the pieces together, creating a "quilt of being" that contains the diversity of my human ways.

The diversity that I am noticing in this moment comes from comparing the many ways in which I have been known to greet the day. I used to spend my mornings running and making lists, and getting things done.  I took great pride in this and declared to everyone around me with great enthusiasm that I was a "Morning Person."  The irony in this statement is that I was so busy, I didn't even know what morning was.  I had never really noticed morning, never really observed this beautiful time of day, never really admired mornings light, or her stillness, or her smells. In all of my doing there was not much being occurring, and so mornings quickly became afternoons, and afternoons evenings, and whole days could be swallowed up with tasks, without me having noticed that the light had changed.

As I write this, I have to giggle, because I am not immune to these ways. I have by no means out grown them, or risen above them, or evolved into some kind of verging on enlightened mediator, no, nothing like this.  The only thing I can say for myself here, is that sometimes, on some days, like today, I choose to greet the day with listening rather than lists.  And when I do this, I always feel better.  And then, I have also given up running, which was a good choice for me.  This all happened quite suddenly, some 10 years ago, when I found myself jogging at dawn on a beach in Thailand.  There was a young boy there too, and he started to run along beside 
me on the white sand, asking me in a panic " miss miss, can I ask you, what is chasing you, what are you running from?"  

Needless to say that young Thai lad  changed something in me forever, because when I stopped running to try and explain to him why I was running, I didn't actually have an answer.  And as far as what I was running from, well, I didn't have the ability to articulate this to a 9 year old boy whose language I didn't know.  And so, I thanked him for pointing out to me that what I was doing was confused, as indeed, there was nothing chasing me, and after that, I walked on the beach, and did yoga outside my grass hut in the mornings.  Now I mostly sip tea and read poems in the mornings or go for walks with my Dog friend.  

If ever you are wondering how to best spend your morning, watch a dog.  Dogs do the same things every morning, wake gently, stretch attentively, greet lovingly, pee, and then they take a few moments to sniff the air and the grass before expressing their happiness to simply be awake.  It's a kind of brilliant thing.  

So this post is dedicated to mornings, and wise children, and dogs, and listening, and acceptance, and pause, and breath, and light, and newness, and patch work quilts~

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cat Consciousness~

There is something about the wisdom of cats that cannot be denied.  In fact, I think it is safe to say that cats are very wise beings and simply leave it at that. I am continually in awe of the wisdom and playfulness with which they go about their lives, and just a very short moment ago my cat Moaph ( pronounced like Loaf, originally called Sophie) taught me something, that I hope, I might never forget.  

There I am, a stack of books spread upon the table before me, a cup of herbal tea steaming away, the light is dimming, dusk is upon us, candles are flickering, and I am seeking inspiration for an up and coming dance class.  I am looking for a poem, or a picture, or a concept that will lead me into a creative place.

It was during this exact moment that I thought I might take a rest from the searching and the looking, a break from my dedicated need to find something of magikal and mysterious importance.  And as I paused, and breathed, and took a sip of tea, and looked across the room, I noticed Moaph, my calico feline friend, doing a most interesting thing.  

She was watching something with that kind of soft alertness that cats are famous for.  At first I thought she had found a mouse, but no, it couldn't be because her gaze was moving from place to place too quickly.  Then, she got up from her stationary position on the floor and began to follow something around the room with a kind of playful inquisitive enthusiasm. "What is she following," I thought, and as this thought came into my mind, she took her delicate paw and began to gracefully touch it down on various parts of the floor.  She did this, this graceful touching down of paw to floor, paw to floor, whilst moving around the room in the most joyful way, and that's when it struck me... that's when I realized just what she was doing.  

Moaph was playing with her shadow, she saw it there in dusk's light. The pale December sun setting outside the window made a soft yellow glow that illumined the living room and made the most perfect shadows on the dark wood floor.  And Moaph being the wise and content being that she is took full advantage of this fine moment and made a game for herself.   And when she tired of it, which was not so very long after she began, she simply stopped playing, stretched and took a nap.

And, as for me, well,  I took another sip of tea and I thought.   I thought what a good idea Moaph just gave me, for the next time my shadow,( and I am speaking of my psychological shadow now) comes out to find me, the next time I find myself surrounded in my own darkness, I will do what Moaph does.  I will try to see my shadow for what it is, and then,  I will follow it around in a playful way, until I tire of it, at which point, I will pause, stretch and take a rest.

See what I mean, cats are brilliant, the cat consciousness is truly something to marvel at.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sweet Smells~

Isn't smell an incredible sense? The journeys I find myself on because of a delicious scent wafting through the air, the places I go, the images that are conjured when my nose finds something to delight in.

Mmmmmm, yes, sweet scents, those good smells that whirl us away to exotic places, or lead us to a magical memory from childhood, or who knows, maybe even another lifetime. Are they not completely wonderful, like a kind of invisible gift? The power of a good smell is something to marvel over I think, something to give thanks for, something to cherish before it's gone, a kind of fleeting treasure of the air.

Press your nose into the pink bloom of an old fashioned rose and breath in, and you know what I mean, walk down to the sea at first light, and breath in, get down on your hands and knees and bring the soft earth up to your face, and breath in, press your face against the chest of the one you love, and breath in, stand under the sky of the first snow fall and breath in....and breath in...and breath in.

On these wintry days, I open bottles of Indian rose oil and frankincense. Somehow they have the ability to pierce the darkness of a winter's night and wrap me up in desert sunshine. I drop them into the bath water with dried petals from summer, and burn them in diffusers. I add them to jojoba oil and rub them in to my hair, so that wherever I go, the smell of petals and tree resins from warm faraway lands escort me.  

I think the sense of smell is not given enough credit, often forgotten in our culture. We live in a world dedicated to sights and sounds, and not necessarily smell.   

I recently read  that "In the East, no sense is more lovingly cared for than that of smell, which is regarded as the most "spiritual" of all." (Grandmothers Secrets, The Ancient Rituals and Healing Power of Belly Dancing, Al-Rawi, Rosina -Fawzia)  I thought there was something beautiful about that.

So, this post is dedicated to good smells and the wonderful ways we experience our lives, because of them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beautiful Words from Rabia~

~Rabia of Basra ( c 717-801) Islamic Saint of the Sufi Tradition

I know about love the way the fields know about light,
the way the forest shelters,

the way an animal's  divine raw desire seeks to unite with 
whatever might please its soul- without a single
strange thought
of remorse.

There is a powerful delegation in us that
lobbies every moment for

How will you ever find peace
unless you yield to love

the way the gracious earth 
does to your hand's

Friday, November 21, 2008

At Home~

Yesterday my plan was to garden, but then the rains came, and they came down at a nasty angle, and the winds whipped the garden about, and all the leaves that were clinging on to the bare trees for just a little while longer, they let go, and gave themselves back to the damp earth. 

I changed my mind about gardening.  Instead I worked on my book (more on this topic soon), made endless pots of tea and distracted myself from the tedious stages of editing by rearranging my tea shelves and putting all my loose herbs into tidy jars. 

Gus invented a new game involving an Indian blanket and an orange ball. He discovered that if he hid the ball on himself, in the blanket, there was no need to bother with his busy human friend and he could enjoy hours of entertainment, without the slightest desire for human company.  

During all this drinking of tea, and arranging of tea, and re-arranging of words, I paused in my day, chamomile petals and rosehips spilling across the table.  I paused there, hands full of nettles, and I thought to myself, "I feel at home in this moment".  It was a feeling that came bubbling up, like a kind of underground stream, a nourishing spring from a deep down place. Yes, indeed, the feeling was of being "at home," content, perfectly safe, warmth in my bones and love in my heart, as I pottered about, doing all things precious to me, in my little green house, with my fluffy white dog, on this cold rainy old day.

And then I wondered where that feeling of "being at home" comes from, that feeling that assures the heart and makes every little thing okay.  The warm feeling that soothes us to the core and envelopes the soul in a blanket of contentment.  The radiant light of mother that reaches down into the very center of our beings and reminds us of something true, and real, and steeped in love.

Sometimes, for me,  this feeling of home, comes from the physical arrangement of things.  I am someone dedicated to creating 'home' wherever I am, usually it involves cooking something wonderful and allowing the smells to waft through the surrounding air.  When I am camping I create tables from tree stumps and arrange bouquets of flowers in empty wine bottles.  I hang special things in the branches around my campsite, and make soft beds out of cedar bows and wool blankets.  I carefully arrange feathers and stones under moonlight whilst saying prayers for all beings.  I stir pots of chai tea on campfires and let the smells of cardamom and cinnamon rise into the night.  And when my camp is set up, and I have a hot chai cupped in my hands, and the lake is still, and the moon shines bright, I sit beside the warm flames and I feel, at home.

But then sometimes home has nothing to do with arranging physical objects, nothing to do with arranging anything, nothing to do with cooking, or creating, or camping. Like the first time I walked through the streets of Kathmandu, or the feeling I felt upon hearing the sound of wooden flute being played in a Balinese market, or being in the arms of someone I love, or putting my face in the soft fur of my beautiful dog and breathing in the hay barn smell.  

I think the Great Mystics have been discussing this one for a long while.  And I am sure that they are on to something when they say that home is where God is, and that God is everywhere, in everything, in all of us~ 

(Great Mother, Great Spirit, Buddha, Brahma, Allah, Jesus....).

"May the long time sunshine, all love surround you, and the pure light within you guide your way home..." ~Sufi Chant

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Prayer~ A Poem

This is a poem which was just introduced to me this past weekend.  It is one that I have read every day since our initial introduction.  I have read it in the bath, in the mornings whilst sipping nettle tea, in the evenings after supper, in candle light, out loud to my animals, and on my sunny front porch.  And oh, how happy I am, to make this wonderful acquaintance.  I find poems are like that, like new friends, friends that I look forward to getting to know beyond the first impression, beyond the first moment of soulful recognition.  

By Lisa Colt

May we reveal our abundance without shame.
May we peel back our sleeping wintery layers
like snakeskin's, like the silk chrysalis,
like clothing cast off during love.
May we unravel with abandon like lover's knots
before knitting ourselves back to the heart.
May we settle into our own
 rhythms as tides do-
within the borders of the moon's calling.
May the music of our souls
be accompanied by grand gestures
and the persistent clapping of humming
bird's wings.
May the milky fingers of the moon 
reach down nightly to cherish and unveil us.
May we turn our bodies generously in its light
like tranquil fish glinting underwater,
like precious stones.
When we open our mouths to sing
may the seasons pause in their long journey
to listen and applaud.

Artist's Unknown~  Images from Internet

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Alchemy of Spring Bulbs~

"Nature Loves to hide (Becoming is a secret process)" 
~ Heraclitus, 6th Century Philosopher.

Today, I take these words of Heraclitus with me, to the dusty little gardeners shop just down the way. Today I am filling my cotton shopping bags with spring bulbs of every size, shape, and color.  I really don't think one can plant enough tulips and daffodils and crocuses. Each year I wonder if I need to plant more, and then, barely a moment is past before I quickly I realize that, yes, indeed, I do! When these spring beauties burst up through the earth's surface, in all their radiant glory, it is pure magic.  The exquisite timing of spring blooms after the dark winter is something to marvel at.

And then, whenever I put a bulb or a seed in the earth, I think to myself, "this is alchemy." What a miraculous transformation is taking place down there below the surface, in the rich dark underneath.

Alchemy, defined by the Oxford dictionary is: "a miraculous transformation or the means of achieving this."

So the earth then is an alchemist of the highest order, wouldn't you say? 

It makes me wonder about what is happening in my own being beneath the surface. What is stirring in the deep downs of my own heart, what seeds are sprouting, what is transforming, being born out of the fiery ash of my own living, the Phoenix of the soul if you will? 
Image of woman by Mara Freidman

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Plant Magic~

One of the things I love about the winter months, is the time I spend in my warm little kitchen, opening jars of dried herbs and bottles of flower essences that I have stored away during summer's harvest.  

I have a tendency to put my nose right up close to their open lids of dried goodness and breath in the sweet freshness of mint, and nettle, and chamomile, or rose petals and lavender.  It's as though the light of summer's sun has also found a way into the jar.

Flower essences in little blue glass bottles line the shelves. Each one is its own special healing magic, and when the rains outside refuse to cease, I open these wondrous elixirs and take the sunshine in.  The medicine of flower essences is as ancient as Egypt, medicine to open the heart and stop the worry, to bring peace and take away anxiety.  The teas I sip while reading good books, in comfy places, on cold days, strengthen body and soul, constantly reminding me of the many blessings bestowed upon us by our Mother Earth.  

Yes, indeed, I am a lover of plant spirit medicine.  Summer days  are spent gathering herbs and making flower essences from my wild and wonderful garden. When the sun is out I am as busy as the bees, and when the winters come, I enjoy all the goodness that I have preserved from those hardworking, root digging, leaf picking, petal preserving months. 

This image is of a Dahlia essence being made in August of this year.

And this week, while the winds rattle the windows of my little green house, I am remembering how much I love Nettles.  Those dark green chlorophyll rich beauties, blood strengthening, full of iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B and C.  Such a deeply nourishing herb...who can resist it?

For, as the Wise Witches have been known to say, 3 cups of nettle tea per day, for nine days, is the cure for almost anything.  

And so I dedicate this post to my plant friends, thank you all for your healing magic~ My heart is filled with gratitude for your wonderful existence.  And my winter days are blessed with the light you continue to show me.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Today, upon waking, I am thinking about Unicorns.  Those mystical horned horses from whimsical places.  As a child I would stand in the hills, on the edge of the wild wood where I lived, and I would wait for a white horse with a single horn to come galloping out of the trees. I would wait there for a long time, until I heard hooves on the soft earth, until I smelled the damp sweat of horsey hair and felt the warm grassy breath on the back of my neck. I believed my Unicorn would come, that she would carry me to the land on the otherside of the wood where she lived.  The land where all creatures lived, who struggled to exist, under the adult reign of disbelief.

This morning, while I sip my tea, I am reading Rilke's poem about a Unicorn.  And I remember my love of these beloved creatures.  And as I let this poet's words into my heart, I begin to wonder if this Unicorn that Rilke speaks of, lives not in the land on the otherside of the wood, but inside each of us. Is Rilke's Unicorn perhaps the mystery of soul that we cannot always see, but only know?  A kind of wonderful mystery to believe in? 

Don't you find the most beautiful and mysterious things are like that; born from the soil of our believing?

This is the creature there has never been. 
They never knew it, and yet, none the less
They loved the way it moved, its suppleness
Its neck, its very gaze, mild and serene.
Not there, because they loved it, it behaved
As though it were.  They always left some space.
And in that clear, unpeopled space they saved
It lightly reared its head, with scarce a trace
Of not being there.  They fed it, not with corn,
But only with the  possibility
Of being.  And that was able to confer
Such strength, its brow put forth a horn. One horn.
Whitely it stole up to the maid-to be
Within the silver mirror and in her.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

Friday, November 7, 2008

To Irish Jigs~

This morning I blew the dust off my fiddle case, and as the rain came pouring down outside, I took my beautiful instrument into my arms and I played.  

I let those Irish reels whirl into my heart, while my stiff fingers, rusty from lack of practice, hit every second note incorrectly. I might have played badly, indeed I did play badly, but somehow it didn't matter. That my cats went running from the room, ears down in irritation, didn't matter. There is something about an Irish reel that says, "you just can't be so damn serious."  

So I have decided, I am dedicating this day to all things non-serious.  To doing jigs and eating sweet things and wearing a silly hat that looks more like a tea cozy then anything else.  As long I am not hungry or cold and there is music, it is a good day.

After all, as I learned from the man in the laundromat, "too much thinking, makes the heart sick."  

Hey, diddle, diddle!
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed,
To see such a site,
And the dish ran away with this spoon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ooops~ A Rant on the Hazards of the Happiness Masquerade

Yesterday I read this quote, taken from an interview with Paula Reeves a Jungian Analyst:

"Following your souls journey does not grantee happiness.  The souls journey moves toward meaning.  Each time we uncover a piece of our unclaimed shadow we step into another initiation that leads us to an ever more meaningful relationship with the self. There is profound value in recognizing our own shadow, that is our own unlived, unquestioned, and rejected life.  The shadow is not a terrible, terrifying and reprehensible bit of our self that must be kept secret no matter the cost.  It is the repository for all the fragmented and unclaimed aspects of each life waiting to emerge into consciousness, allowing us to be authentic and whole."

I read this quote on a recent bus journey to my work at the Healing Center, early in the morning, on a rainy day, surrounded by fifty other people, stuffed into a cramped space, making their way to work with coffee in to-go cups.  It felt wintry and the first bit of November had soaked everyone with icy rain, hands were cold, clothes were wet and clinging to skin, the windows were all fogged up, and there was no fresh air to breath.  Most people were beginning their work weeks, and I think I can safely say that not too many of them were feeling positively thrilled about this.  

The thing that struck me as odd though was the great efforts people appeared to be going to, to force smiles onto their tired early morning faces.  The sheer amount of will it seemed to take for people to muster polite and enthusiastic conversation with co-workers and classmates, despite their contemplative tired expressions.  And I thought what a lot of bother we go to, to exude a false sense of happiness, and for what purpose does this serve?

As the day progressed I found I began to notice this phenom everywhere I went, this was not something only destined to occur on city buses, in the early mornings.  The lady at the grocery store was doing it too, the clients coming into the Healing Center were also dedicated to tight smiles and tuneful "how are you's!"

It wasn't that I felt the whole world should embrace a tendency to be depressed, or that I even thought people were depressed.  Mostly I just found that people in general are often more inward and contemplative then they are willing to reveal to the world.  Some people were sad, yes of course they were, and some might have been seriously depressed. But either way, most people are not naturally upbeat and entirely joyful with complete and utter zestful enthusiasm all day long, every day, and this is FAIR ENOUGH!
That we so often feel the need to display a sense of happiness when we're not actually feeling this way can be somewhat haunting.  We live in a culture with a strong moral sense of honesty, and yet, we can hardly manage the basics here, and as far as I can tell, this is a problem.  If we can't be honest about what we are feeling, what can we be honest about?  How we feel is the foundation for our experience of living, it's how we are perceiving and relating to the world.

Anyway, as I began to think about why this "need to be all smiles" was occurring I came up with many theories. The following is one, I have since cast out, but it made me giggle and so I thought I'd share with you.

At first I thought that this strange human way was perhaps a "New Age West Coast idea gone terribly wrong.  That this whole trend focused on "creating and manifesting your own reality through BEING the change you wanted to see in your life," had been taken to some kind of distorted and ugly extreme. That our spiritual desires for sweetness and light had skewed our perspectives in a big ol'way. Somehow I don't think that we can live a human life in a state of constant joy and I don't think that this is necessarily the aim.  The desire for a life free of suffering is like a world with no rain, or no night.  Sunshine and constant daylight would kill the living things on this planet very quickly, a constant state of joy is a kind of fire that would burn out eventually, not to mention create a lopsided experience don't you think?  Don't get me wrong I have great respect for the souls journey, but over the years I am more inclined toward the wholeness of my experience, including the dark depths, including the bits that bring me to my knees, including the rage and the tears.  

Later I realized that we live in a world where honest expression of how we are feeling is taboo. And the reasons for this are many.  You know what they are, they're cultural, they're social, we learn them at home and at school, from young ages, and we carry these ideas into our adulthood etc etc...( nothing new here) I don't need to list them.  

And so, the purpose of my rant today is to remind us all that there is something wonderful to be found in the quiet moments, something deeply healing in the sadness, something unbelievably peaceful in the resting, something beautiful in the ugliness, something new in the oldness, something meaningful in the rage, something real in the honesty, something worthwhile in the tears, something hilarious in the humanness, something glorious in embracing the shadow and re-claiming wholeness, something really wonderful about having the ability to feel and live and breath and BE!  

This post is dedicated to the Women in my dance classes.  I thank you for your company and the courage with which you explore the shadowy depths.  

Paintings by: Joseph Lederer and Charles Bragg

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Oh to Dream~

  ~Image by Mara Friedman

I think that there is a secret in every dream, a message tucked away in a metaphor, written in the esoteric language of soul, to yourself from yourself.  I think that dreams are mysterious blessings. And this morning, I remembered these words from Mary Oliver, and I couldn't help but share them. 
~ by Mary Oliver

All night
the dark buds of dreams

In the center
of every petal
is a letter,
and you imagine

if you could only remember
and string them all together
they would spell the answer.
It is a long night,

and not an easy one-
you have so many branches,
and there are diversions-
birds that come and go,

the black fox that lies down
to sleep beneath you,
the moon staring
with her bone-white eye.

Finally you have spent
all the energy you can
and you drag from the ground
the muddy skirt of your roots

and leap awake
with two or three syllables
like water in your mouth
and a sense

of loss-a memory
not yet of a word,
certainly not yet the answer-
only how it feels

when deep in the tree
all the locks click open,
and the fire surges through the woods,
and the blossoms blossom.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Rains Have Come~

"It's going to rain for the next week," my man informs me," as he breezes by with his coffee cup this morning.  It's going to rain for the next several months I think, as  I look out the window, upon this dark autumn day, and for the first time this year, I can really feel the onset of winter.  

Living on the pacific west coast of Canada, is like living in a kind of northern rainforest.  During the winter months it can rain for weeks on end, day after day without sunlight.  

When I first moved here I felt like I was living in a constant chapter of "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day."  Some people get very depressed when the rains come, and others fly away to sunny and exotic places, and as for me, well, I normally prepare for another kind of journey.  

The kind of journey I begin now requires no airplane or jet lag, no trains, planes, or boats of any kind.  No, this journey I speak of, goes in and down.  The suitcases I pack are metaphorical and they are filled with good books to read, blank pages to draw upon, colored pens to write with, cozy sweaters to wear, woolen shawls to wrap around, soft fuzzy hats to keep the warmth in, warm boots for walking on the muddy forest trails, hot spicy teas in potted mugs to hold and sip, hand quilted blankets to dream under, musical instruments to play, friends to sing and dance with, candles to keep vigil in the darkness.

Yes, indeed, we are moving into the dark time of year, with the Celtic celebration of Samhain just a day away to mark this sacred transition of seasons, both internal and external.  

I have always loved this time of year. I appreciate and cherish the dark season, as it gives me permission to rest and dream. Winter's darkness is not a kind of darkness that I am afraid of.  Instead I find this seasons darkness nourishes and soothes, it rocks and holds me like a loving mother. 

As I light my candles this dark and wet morning, in honour of my ancestors, I give thanks to this sacred time.  Each flame burns in honor of the mystery; of the magical beginnings stirring in the darkness, deep beneath the surface.  Now, at this time of year, I find it is easier to recognize that death and rebirth are two parts of the same whole.  

Samhain Blessings to all of you~  
(and to my blog friends in Australia, well, Happy Summer Solstice!~ I think)

Image Source Unknown

Monday, October 27, 2008

Singing and Laundry~

Yesterday, in an ordinary moment, in an ordinary place, doing the most ordinary thing, I met an extraordinary person.  

It was just after breakfast, and sometime before lunch when it happened. I had just entered the laundromat in my hurried way, thinking about the hundred things that needed doing. I was carrying an awkward basket of dirty clothes and they were spilling out onto the floor, when I heard it, the most beautiful singing. Singing that brought all my thoughts to a halt and begged me to do nothing but listen.   

It was as though I had entered a temple, somewhere deep in the jungles of south east Asia, not a laundromat full of loud whirling machines and abandoned stale coffee cups.  The singing was in an old and faraway language and the voice that carried it had the same quality of ancientness. The melody filled my ears and my heart. I put my basket of dirty things down and I went to investigate. 

And there, not far from where I stood, was a small elderly asian man, sitting on an old rickety wooden chair, with a wooden cane propped up beside him.  His eyes were closed and he was singing with all his heart to soapy laundry, swirling around in a sudsy spiral.  

When he paused for a moment between songs, I couldn't help myself but speak, to stammer out some kind of authentic, honest expression of the joy that had instantly sprung up in my heart upon hearing him sing.

To my poetic dismay, all I could manage was ,"I like your singing."  To which he replied, (and the poetry of this moment was all his); "me too, singing is medicine, it keeps the head from thinking, more singing, less thinking, less thinking, less sickness. Where I come from people sing when they do their work, because that way they don't have to think too much, and everyone knows that too much thinking makes the heart sick. I like to sing my songs to God," he said.  And with that he closed his eyes, and began another song.

I put my laundry in the machine, added the soap, and then the coins, before I paused for a long moment to give thanks to this wise person, whose song, touched my heart, as surely as it did Gods.  I do agree with him I thought, singing is indeed a kind of medicine, it heals our hearts in profound ways.  Soulful singing is not reserved for holy places, or stages, or the shower, but as this new friend showed me, singing brings the holy place to us, and can be done anywhere, at any time. 

Image source unknown

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Goodnight Garlic~

I put my garlic in this week. Spent a crisp sunny morning in the muddy earth, tucking each little clove into the dark humus for a long winter sleep. And as I was doing this, I thought, isn't it amazing, the transformation that is born out of stillness, the magic that happens beneath the surface, the miracles that are rising up from underneath?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Faerie Lesson Number II

For those of you who don't know, my niece Senay is what you might call a "leading expert in the field of Faerie."  
( There is a post from earlier this month about this same subject, entitled, A Note About Faeries, should you care to read more about this topic.) 

I first discovered Senay's expertise in this area, while camping with her at the lake this summer, and since then, I cannot help but ask her more about this fascinating subject whenever I see her.  

You see, I too am a believer in Faerie magic, but since finding my way into the land of adulthood, I have had a slightly more difficult time connecting with these winged and ethereal friends. However, after talking at length with Senay about this issue, I am less concerned about it then I once was.  Senay has advised me not to worry because "the Faeries still love me, they have since I was a little girl, and they want me to know this."  Seeing them is after all,  just a matter of "looking for them."

During my most recent visit to the country I had the privilege of another delightful lesson on Faeries, while walking with Senay through the beautiful woods that surround her home.

Senay lives in the mountains of British Columbia's interior, in a little wooden house with her Mom, her stepfather, 2 cats, 3 dogs, and hundreds of Faeries.  The Faeries, according to Senay, are "everywhere," including in the soft fur of her dog Jenna.  Not so very long ago, she spotted four Faeries living there, one was pink, one was yellow, one was green, and one was black.

During our walk Senay took me to some of the places where she regularly visits with the Faeries.  The photograph here, illustrates one such place and captures her in mid explanation of Faerie habitat.  

I learned that most of the Faeries on her property live in trees, however, some of them live in the house, and can be found in the cupboards and even in the piles of soft blankets, on the beds. Since the weather in Canada is turning from autumn into winter I thought I might ask Senay if the outdoor Faeries would be moving indoors for the winter months, to take up residence in the blankets and cupboards of Senay's warm little wooden house.  To this question Senay responded without hesitation, "probably not Auntie."  She then went on to assure me that Faeries, "do not get cold."  To quote Senay directly, "They may need to wear jackets in winter Auntie once it snows, but for now, they are very warm, and it's because of all the flying around that they do."  

Furthermore, Senay not only sees Faeries, but she also acts as a spokesperson for them. More often than not she has messages for the people that she loves, from the Faeries.  During our most recent interview, I asked her if the Faeries had anything they wanted people to know, to which Senay replied, "yes, the Faeries have a message for all people,"  and this message is, "that all people are special."  I asked her if there was anything else the Faeries wanted people to know, to which she replied with complete confidence, "no, that's it." And the look that came afterward, seemed to say, "how could there be?"

This report was taken in October of 2008, in Cherryville, British Columbia.  It is dedicated to Faeries and the Friends of Faeries everywhere. 

Walking through the Faerie meadow.

Monday, October 20, 2008

To Papa Sigi~

After a whirlwind trip up into the mountains we're back with sacs of potatoes, onions, apples, pears, and 10 pounds of garlic seed. If I had to give this trip a theme I would say it was about gathering. Gathering people together, gathering the harvest, gathering stories.  It was about collecting those things that get us through the dark months, whether it's the peach preserve that goes on toast, or the stories, the ones that keep us inspired on dark winter nights. For me stories are a kind of food, they sustain me like the thick hearty stews that simmer on my winter stove-top.

Speaking of stories, I finally recorded the incredible life story of my 92 year old Japanese grandfather. He sat with us for three hours drinking strong coffee on a rainy day, and filling us in on the details of his life.  The kind of details that can make time travel possible; 
descriptions of sun on a dry bean field in 1933, the smell of a beef heart cooking in a pan, the feeling of a cold icy 
draft, coming through the cracks of a chicken coop, serving as a home to Japanese immigrant farmers.  The sound of an engine, in a Model T Ford, bought for ten dollars, working hard to get over the mountain pass. 

And like all good stories this one too had a theme, but it was not the theme you might expect. It was not a theme built from hardship, or heart-ache, or brokenness, although these were all parts of his story.  No, the theme of my grandfathers story, was, would you believe, LUCK.  Luck that he found work in dry bean fields for 2o cents a day, luck that there was a beef heart to eat from time to time, luck that there were abandon chicken coops to live in; shelters to keep the snow out. Luck that he did not have to go to war because he was an immigrant.  Luck that he survived, that he lived, that he got to have a bicycle and fall in love. Luck that hard work makes a strong body and that sometimes the people you meet, are kind.  

I have asked my grandfather to tell me his story many times, but in all the telling, I don't know if I ever knew of his gratitude before now. Or perhaps, what I mean to say is that I don't think I knew of the sheer enormity of his gratitude.
And this thing he calls LUCK, well, I think I am more inclined to call it perspective.  I think my grandfather has one of the most incredible perspective's on "living" that I have come to know thus far. My love and respect for him is limitless, and to use his words, I feel LUCKY, LUCKY to know such a remarkable man, with such a beautiful way of traversing this human experience. 

This post is dedicated to Papa Sigi Kuraoka, my grandfather, whom I love, with all my heart.

PS- Senay and  I also had a story telling session, so stay tuned for her up coming wisdom on faerie folk.