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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

To the Country!

Heading to my hometown for a few days.  Off we go, into the wilds of British Columbia's interior to breath in the fresh air, see the wild folk that live there, and learn more about Faerie wisdom from Senay. Will soon be back in this cozy kitchen after brief adventure into the mountains. 

Until then, "May the long time sun shine, all love surround you, and the pure light within you guide your way home..."

Home Again... Home Again Jiggitty Jig!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The 5th Cup of Tea~

The rain is a comin down today and the dark days of late autumn seem to have officially descended upon us. It is without question time to cozy up indoors with warm socks and hot soups.  There is a pot of barley soup bubbling away on the stove-top and fresh bread baking in the oven as I write this. The smells that permeate this little green cottage make the darkness of this grey day quite wonderful. Yes, indeed, now is the season for steamy cups of tea by the fireside and after dinner sing-along's with good friends that extend into the dark nights until candles burn down in their holders and disappear.  

Speaking of friends, I just found this excellent Chinese proverb that I am bursting to share.  It comes from Robert Johnson's book "Lying with the Heavenly Woman" and it goes like this:  

"Chinese culture has a gentle way of talking about friendship: their proverb is the that the fifth cup of tea between friends is the best.  Tea was made in old China simply by pouring hot water over loose tea leaves in a cup.  The explanation of the proverb is that when friends meet, busy and tense form the outside world, the first cup of tea is drunk hastily and without much grace. The second pouring of water requires a longer time to steep the leaves.  This is better.  The third cup requires still more time.  The fifth cup stands for an appreciable length of time before the tea is of the required strength.  It is this fifth cup that becomes the symbol of friendship at its best." 

So here is to a winter filled with cozy teas in the company of wonderful friends, to food and music and laughter shared ~ And to start our teatime travels off good and proper, Mark has just brought home some more of his beautiful pottery.  I will attach a photo to this post of his latest creations for you all to enjoy.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Breakfast of Poetry~

Whenever I can, I try to start my day with poetry. Some people like to start their days with a hearty breakfast, or yogic breathing, or brisk walks, or a strong coffee, but not me.  No, I  feel I need to feed
my soul first. Once I am full to the brim with inspired words, I go to the kitchen and make myself something delicious to eat, before I find my dog and his lead, and go wandering out into the morning. 

So here is one from Rumi that began my day today, and my lovely cats too.  So far it is having a most excellent effect on us.  I hope it will have the same wonderful effect on you too.


Okay, I'll do it:
sing longer songs tonight because sometimes
you're just so damn hard to please, and I guess I am
still courting you, trying to get into 
your souls knickers.

What makes you like that-grouchy around the edges?
What classrooms have you lounged in;
what nonsense have you traded 
your gold

How can you look so needy,
God is growing in fields you own.

He hangs from trees you pass every day.  He is disguised as that
peach and pine cone.

Every sound I hear-he made it.

I have been walking with two canes these days-
guess why?

It is because of His beauty and that blond peach fuzz floating
everywhere like dust-

it has made me
so drunk.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Our Wanderings~

"...As the romantics  put it: we are defined not by what we are or what we do, but by our Sehnsucht (german -wistful, longing): Tell me for what you yearn and I shall tell you who you are.  We are what we reach for, the idealized image that drives our wandering."
From Blue Fire: Selected Writings by James Hillman p. 286.

I woke up this morning with this James Hillman quote on my mind and felt compelled to share it with you.  I apply it to my soul like a soothing salve whenever I struggle to locate my identity.  And although I'd like to say I know who I am, I don't always, but I do know what I love, and what I long for, and what I am searching for in this beautiful life.  And so, these words, well, they help me to rest; they give dignity to my human quest.  

And if you haven't read anything by James Hillman and your interested in the souls quest, I highly recommend him.  I am currently devouring his book "The Souls Code," it is the kind of book that begs you to fold down every page and underline almost every word.  The kind of book you want to buy a thousand copies of and leave at random bus stops.  The kind you want to secretly drop into friend's handbags when they are not looking and see on college reading lists around the world.  ( well this is my opinion anyway).

Image by: Charles van Sandwyk 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Best Medicine~

Having spent the morning in a nest of blankets, sipping hot honeyed herbals for sore throats and stuffy noses, with my dear dog-friend Gus, I am convinced, that dogs, are all nurses in disguise. They are also the best hot-water bottles and foot warmers.  Beyond this, they are easily the best company and have the most exceptional bedside manner.  I feel entirely cared for and completely loved by my exceptionally cute and cuddly canine care-giver.  He has completely assured me that stillness, a good book, and a warm blanket are just what the doctor ordered, and as Gus drifts in and out of peaceful sleep I give myself permission to do the same.  

I am fairly certain that medicine does not always come in a little brown bottle with a tight lid. Sometimes the best medicine is not anything 
you swallow or sip. Sometimes the most healing thing is a kind of nourishment for the soul; a moment for the soul to drink in and be soothed. And that 'soul nourishment,' for me,  on this day, is in the "grassy outside smell" of the soft white fur of my beautiful dog, it's in the warmth and weight of his relaxed body pressed up against my feet, and the sticky wet dog licks he gives my toes upon his waking.  Today the most healing tincture for me is not in my dark dry cupboard of wild crafted plants and potions, but rather, slumbering away beside me on my warm and cozy bed.

This post is dedicated to Gus, our wonderful dog, loyal friend, and loving nurse.     

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Dream-Time

Isn't the ability to go to sleep at night and enter the dream world an absolutely extraordinary thing? I mean, how can anybody actually consciously use the phrase that was "just a dream," like somehow just because this adventure occurs outside of the physical realm it is less important or less meaningful.  To be honest, I think this is what makes dreams even more wonderful, the fact that we experience them outside of our waking lives.

Yes, indeed, I am a big fan of dreaming; fully on board with Carl Jung and his posse when it comes to the sleeping adventures through the psyche.  I think dreams are rich treasure boxes of historical, mystical, and psychological data ready to reveal the most profound and insightful things. I mean every night we have the opportunity to enter in to worlds where anything is possible, where mystery and outrageous possibility are guaranteed.  Even the horrific dark and shadowy ones are deserving of respect and become some of our best teachers if we are interested in listening to what they have to say.

I love becoming familiar with my dreams.  I like to write them down and find their common threads.  I like to look back over them and see the incredible collective tapestry they weave.  I like to sit with my tea, in the mornings, and marvel at their patterns, and themes, and colors.

Lately I dream of apple trees.  Big bountiful apple trees dripping with ripe fruit.  I seem to discover them with a kind of disbelief, as though I had no idea I as going to stumble upon such a magnificent thing. I don't yet fully understand the meaning of these new dreams, but I am certainly open to their wisdom.  

I think the Aboriginal people of Australia are on to something with regard to their Dreamtime philosophy.  I have heard it said that they believe more in the reality of the dream world than that of the waking, and who's to say what's real and what isn't, I certainly am no expert.  I do know though, that when I look back upon the memories of my lifetime to date, I am often not always sure what I did, and what I dreamed.  All I know for certain is that my dream world is an important part of my living, and I am deeply grateful for the insight, healing, and wild adventures I find myself on, night after dream filled night.

Yes, if ever you feel bored with the day to day, I recommend taking a nap.  It's a sure way to find yourself on a spontaneous and thrilling adventure. 

And now, here I go, off to the dreamtime myself, to nurse a nasty little head cold and to discover the secrets of apple trees. 

Sweet Dreams.

Images: "Apple Trees" by Olbinksi and "The Listening Room" by Magritte

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Note About Faeries~

Having just returned from my mailbox I have discovered the most deelightful surprise.  My 4 and 1/2 year old niece Senay has sent Auntie a letter.  The letter was dictated by her and written by Nana, not less than a week ago.  It then came 300 miles down through the mountains to finally arrive on my doorstep with unbelievable flair.  Of course these letters are always accompanied with fabulous drawings of important things like sunshines, and dogs, and people she loves.  They come in colorful envelopes smothered in sparkly faerie stickers and rainbow glitter pen.  And, I feel it most important to add to this, that if a letter from Senay awaits me, the mailbox is positively glowing from the inside out before I even open the lid.

Senay, is a faerie expert, I don't know if I mentioned that.  Her knowledge of the Little People far surpasses any adult wisdom in this arena.  This summer, while camping together for 10 days, beside a mountain lake in British Columbia's wild interior, she educated me in the department of faerie dwellings, faerie entertainment, and faerie transportation.   

I learned that faeries live mostly in trees and hollowed out mossy stumps, however there are some who choose to live in secret crystal caves and others that live in the water, and, unlike us, breathing under water is not a problem for them.  Fairies like to catch rides on the beautiful stones that people wear around their necks, and to use the words of Senay..."the more sparkly the necklace, the more the Faeries like it."  

She commented on the sparkly quality of my tourmaline necklace, and then, without hesitation informed me that there was a "Faerie Party" going on around my neck, and "was I aware of this?"Late that night, in the wee hours of the morning, when I found myself wide awake, under a big fat full moon, in my little yellow tent, I remembered the Fairy Party Senay told me about earlier in the day, at which point, I removed the necklace, and instantly drifted off to sleep.  Go figure.  

Senay is also an advocate of Faerie rights and takes particular care of her little friends.  If anything should threaten them in anyway, she rises up to protect them with faerie feirceness. There was some panic at the lake this summer when Opa was eating all the "CHERRIES," and Senay, who was playing in the woodpile nearby thought that Opa was eating all the "FAERIES," and well you can imagine. Otherwise, the only other thing she mentioned that I feel I must report is that if you can't see Faeries, it's only because "your not looking." 

This report was taken in July of 2008.  Senay has been doing  much more research in this area since the date of my report, and is currently trying to discover why there are so many fairies in her mother's hair  in the mornings?
Faerie Image by Brian Froud

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ramblings of the Heart~ To Journals!

Today, upon waking, I have discovered that my journal is full, full of words, and pictures, and ideas and stories, and plans, and poems, and scribbles, and dreams.  Yes, indeed, this one has reached its maturity and is ready to retire on the top of a wooden shelf, in my living room, amongst its kin.  Its once blank pages have been filled with inspired longings and ravaged completely. These pages have been cried on, laughed over, smudged with dark chocolate, and stained with tea.  I find that journals have a life beyond the words of the stories of our lives that fill them.  I look upon my journal collection of 14 years with the greatest respect; each one has become a self contained history of my heart's wanderings.  

My whole life I have put words into blank books and pictures on to pages.  I have written poems on napkins and bus tickets and down the sides of receipts.  As a young girl I wrote the trials and tribulations of my small town life on Chinese writing paper, bound in colorful embroidered diaries, sent from a far away city.  

I  wrote shamelessly about unpopularity and adolescent insecurity, about rebellion and self discovery, about dreams and love.  I wrote every day after school, in my shared bedroom, secretly sheltering the page with my hand so that my sister couldn't see the secrets I was putting there.  I named my journal Bunny, because I liked the way Anne Frank called her diary Kitty.  And then, when I was 18, or there about, I burned them all in a frustrated and confused moment. I opened one, one day, and found a piece of myself vulnerably displayed upon the page, and like most humans, I simply couldn't bear it, couldn't find a way to fold it into my wholeness, and to love myself there.  Somehow I must have thought that by getting rid of the evidence, I could get rid of the pain.  It was an honest and understandable thing to have done, and now my heart aches with regret.
My rule now, when I come across something that I have written that makes me squirm and fold into myself with unrelenting embarrassment in the the face of...well who, perhaps God? Now I try to hold myself there, I make extra efforts to love the vulnerable woman that I can sometimes be, and oh, what strength there is here, not to mention that as the years go by I am quite confident the GOD is okay with my humanness.

So, yes, journals, words on pages, such a beautiful tapestry of soul, how can we possibly judge those authentic ramblings.  ( Course blogging is another way to get over this vulnerable landscape, eh eh eh)  I don't think we can, and I beg you not to, if ever the urge is there.  I hope that those journals in your closets, or on your shelves, or by your bedside have as much respect and revelry as all the stories you cherish.  I keep mine next to Shakespeare now. 

And so, today then, will involve a trip to my favorite book store to find some kind of wonderfully bound, blank unlined pages, just waiting to be filled.