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Ten Thousand Days

Ten Thousand Days

What You Love…

August 10, 2018

Photo: Luc Tribolet, Humpack Whales in the Inside Passage between Vancouver and Vancouver Island

 

Day 1444 – Day 1445

Last night, I drove a distance of about an hour but for various reasons, it took 3 hours.  I was headed to a kayak race.  I didn’t have a boat for the race; I was wait listed and I just remained hopeful.

Somehow, for a big city, the paddle community is really an amazingly tight one.  The organizer put a call out to the paddlers from Squamish to the Fraser Valley and everyone brought their spare boats in to make sure that anyone who wanted to paddle was able to paddle.  Fellow paddlers came through and I was allocated a loaner boat.

At several points in my hellish commute,  I wondered if I should just get off the highway and call it a day.  Siri navigated me away from highway 1 and further west to highway 99 where I sat for nearly an hour waiting to go through the tunnel.  There was a football game happening in Vancouver and this, plus road construction, an accident and counterflow lane closures for the tunnel all led to a 3 hour drive.  I didn’t think I’d make the race start and so I emailed the organizer to let him know.  Please, I said, let someone else paddle tonight.  He told me the boat was mine and it would be waiting for me no matter what time I arrived.  These people are the best.

I arrived 13 minutes before the race start and after a desperate run to the restroom, I registered and ran to my boat.  I got on the water – not at the start line but at least on the water – just as the horn blew.

The boat is a recreational boat – the kind that you buy when you are a beginner.  I have a racing paddle.  The combination of the two was really something challenging to navigate.  After catching up to the rest of the moderate paddlers, I realized that I just was not going to be able to go at my regular pace, in this race.  I considered not finishing.  My bicep ached from paddling so hard.  I considered just having a lovely little float and piddle paddle on such a gorgeous night.  And then I paddled on.

Out there on the water, I had a talk with myself.  I was not going to give up this race just because it was hard.  My first priority was to stay out of the drink in the little boat that was tippy.  My second priority was to finish the race.  I just decided to have fun but not give up on giving it my best.  I couldn’t see the red buoy that was our marker for the turn home but I just paddled on and trusted it was there.  And, along the way, not worried about pushing past to a personal best time, I talked to my fellow paddlers.  I made 5 new paddler friends last night.

After the race, the organizer gifted me a box of energy bars for outstanding dedication in getting to the race.  I had to laugh.  I’m sure I’ll be chewing on them in two weeks, when I may be sitting again in horrendous traffic to get to the final race of the season.  What he doesn’t know is that no matter whether it took another hour or not, I would have been there – I’d have missed the whole race if it did take 4 hours, but I would have shown up – because people went out of their way for me, because people were generous to me, because this is a community that I love hanging out with, and because paddling – and more broadly – the ocean is what I love, most.  I’m a robust girl and not who you’d normally expect to see in a tiny kayak with a racing paddle, trying to do her personal best.  But this community has embraced me, no matter my size or my age or my ability.  No matter where you come in the standings, we cheer one another on!

That is what community is all about.

I had a great race.  I felt fantastic when I finished – 15 minutes later than my previous race time!  Sometimes it isn’t about doing our personal best, but just about being the best person we can be, in the circumstances.  By doing what we love and by being our best selves in doing it, we attract good people.

This weekend, I’ve got so many good opportunities for how to spend my time – I’m not complaining, in fact I’m grateful.  But I’ve been in a bit of a quandary of what to do.  There is a music festival in Bellingham that is legendary and involves camping and jamming with friends.  It is, quite literally where all the ‘cool kids’ of the folk music world of Northwest Washington are hanging out.  Cool in the folk community of the Pacific Northwest of the USA means those who play music from the 1850s to maybe as late as the 1920s and dress in a similar manner.  This is not the case just 60 miles north, in Vancouver and I’m not sure I’m one of those Old Time people.  But, this group of musician friends had become somewhat of a community to me as well.  I’m not a very good string player as yet, and I prefer ragtime, blues and jazz to Old Time music, so I  would do a disservice to their jam by getting my chords wrong.  I’m a novice camper, too, having lived in New York and London for most of my adult life.  I’ve not camped since I was a kid.   And, I’m an introvert.  I love hanging out with musicians and I love singing but at the end of the day, I want to retreat and be alone.  I know it sounds like I don’t want to go.  But I keep feeling that I should go.  I want to support my friends who are playing and organizing the Jamboree, and I have FOMO.

I think we all experience that Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), but it’s really useful to examine whether we are, in fact, missing out.

This weekend, there is also the annual outsider arts festival, of which I am a part.  And, there is the Vancouver Mural Festival, of which I’d like to be a part, next year.  And as the summer is waning and there aren’t going to be many more days of good paddle weather, today and Sunday are going to be good days to paddle.

Whenever I can’t decide what to do, and I’m probably putting a lot of ‘shoulds’ on myself, I look at what it is that I AM actually doing. and where I put my energy.  I take my lead from that.  I’ve missed a couple of races this year: I was in London for one, I had a car accident on the way to one, and I had debilitating vertigo for one.  Nothing else – no traffic jam, no tiredness, no weather event – has kept me from kayaking.  It is what I love.  And when I was in London, I could have gone to the best museums in the world.  Instead, I spent my precious few days painting the walls in London.  One afternoon, I stayed in the Nomadic Garden alone, after closing time, enjoying the quiet of the garden oasis while those who worked there went about their work and I painted a couple of walls.  I do outsider art and wall art because I love it.

Both Saturday and Sunday, there will be Kirtan all day in Vancouver – that is a kind of singing and response that is very peaceful and joyful.  I went every Friday night to Kirtan in New York City.  My experience of Kirtan is what I try to recapture with singing and playing music.  Kirtan is what I love.

 

I lived in England for over a decade.  Outdoor music festivals are the bomb in the UK and Europe.  I never went to Glastonbury.  I only once went to a festival in Switzerland.  I was 20 at the time, and I went to hear Nina Haagen play for a couple of hours.  The concert ended and we all left – there was no camping in the rain and no late night shenanigans.  The closest I could say I’ve been to an outdoor music festival since I was 30 is “Proms in the Park” ( if you know what that is, you’re laughing now).  Proms in the Park is the final night of Proms at Royal Albert Hall where everyone who doesn’t have a ticket descends on Hyde Park and watches it on the big screen.  One gets there early and sets out a picnic, waiting for the finale, to wave mini British flags, sing Jerusalem and Rule Britannia! on our picnic blankets with Pims or Bucks Fizz in our hands.  At ten, when the finale is over, participants file out of the park in an orderly fashion, and head home on the underground.  All very civilized.

I think the Jamboree is not for me.  The idea of sleeping on the ground while jamming happens all around you till the wee hours, and having no privacy to speak of…well…it doesn’t suit me.  When I go camping, I want to spend time being present and One with nature – something I often feel while kayaking.  And when I put myself out there to play music, I do it with a specific intention and afterwards, I need to be able to recharge in quiet solitude.

I guess I’m not one of the cool kids of the folk world.  And, I’m okay with that.

I’m grateful that at this point in my life, I’m beyond cool, now.  I’ve got an amazing community of paddlers who are so kind to one another and I’m grateful to be able to spend time with them.  I’m grateful for two art festivals that celebrate my kind of art this weekend.  And I’m grateful for two days of Kirtan – the kind of experience that made me want to sing in the first place.  Maybe I’ll drop down to the Jamboree on Saturday night for the evening concert and jams.  And maybe I won’t.  Maybe I’ll use the time to recharge.  And I’m okay with that.  I’m grateful that those musicians that will attend, who are my friends, will still be my friends even if I don’t go.   I’ll spend the weekend doing what I love.

I can’t think of anything more affirmatively heart opening than spending time doing what one loves.  I hope you spend your time in the pursuit of what you love.  And if they happen to be different things, I’m okay with that.

Photo: Sayan Nath

 

For what are you most grateful?

 

 

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

Open Heart Surgery

August 8, 2018

Photo: Jared Rice

Day 1436 – Day 1443

This past weekend,  I stumbled upon an outdoor yoga class at Whistler.  I didn’t have my yoga mat, but grateful to have been in the right place at the right time,  I said ‘yes’ to life and joined the class, with nothing but the sky above me and the grass below me.

The sun salutation – which we did 108 times – is a good overall regimen for stretching, forward bending, inversion, back bending and stillness.  Just as it is important to let go of tension in yoga postures, I’ve had to learn to let go of what was never mine to carry, in the rest of my life.

A theme in my life has been other people’s projections onto me.  We all experience this, but ministers get a particular set of projections that people feel comfortable flinging our way.  Doctors, lawyers, and psychiatrists, to name a few, get their own special sets of projections.  Whenever I’ve refused to live up to these projections, a good dose of anger and a whole host of other projections follow.

As I flowed through the sun salutations, I thought of a few people and their projections, and I set them free into the grass below me, and into the sky above.   I’m grateful for that self awareness.  After we finished the series, we did a heart opening posture, and the teacher had us join together to support one another physically, in a gesture of Oneness.  She had us speak an affirmation for ourselves and those we supported.  I could barely speak.

Oh dear.

There is a lot of stuff I’m still carrying in my heart, and I don’t think that all of it was ever mine to carry.

Last week I wrote about being in a weird place of recognizing that something has completed.  Sometimes there are bits and bobs that linger and hide in our bodies.  Trauma gets stored in the body and we can put up walls that defend against further attack, but this also traps, within us, what has already caused us pain. This is, quite literally, our emotional armour.

I am reminded of the Osho Zen Tarot card “Fighting” and of the messages it conveys.

Long ago, but not long enough ago, I wasted a lot of spiritual energy and precious time responding to the projections of a person in my personal life.  He projected his own aspirations and his failures onto me. While I fought these projections as unfair, I failed to notice that I had absent-mindedly dressed myself in them, like old clothes.  Wearing them got me nowhere.  Fighting them got me nowhere.  It wasted more of my time and energy which would have been better spent on myself and my own spiritual goals.   His projections were never mine to carry.   But, I stayed engaged in the battle with them until he cut me to the bone.

I’ve taken off those old clothes, but what I’ve found under them is an emotional armour around my heart, created to protect me from that relationship.  The relationship is long over but the pain is trapped in my body.

My spiritual path involves a meditation focused on the heart.   I need to open my armoured heart and release the painthat lingers in my pericardium and in the spaces between my vertebra. (I’m grateful for the self awareness to know where my sadness hides in my own body.) I cannot achieve my spiritual goals (or other goals, for that matter) carrying this pain that was never mine to carry.

But to relinquish the armour, I must feel safe.

I dreamed this week that I was trying to show my photo to this man but he had no interest in seeing it.  The photo was starkly black and white.  Half of my face was fully in shadow, and half was in the light.  At one time his projections were that I was all good and divine ( a popular projection for a minister), and suddenly,  when I challenged him, I was all bad.  But I am not the Jekyll and Hyde personality.  His projections did not come through in the image of me.  It was neither all black nor all white.  It was a complete balance of both dark and light.

A wayfarer needs both kindness and firmness, both humility and self-respect, both immunity to projection and acceptance of one’s own truth.  Perhaps it is not so important that he – or anyone else – see me for who I am.   Perhaps it is me that needs to see and accept the potency of my own duality.  My shadow self is the carrier of many gifts, including the anger that – unacknowledged, can turn to stubborn fighting – or, if integrated into wholeness, can act as the catalyst to maintain strong but flexible boundaries that keep me safe to open my heart again.

The lesson of the Tarot card “Fighting” is that by armouring ourselves, we shut out pain, but we also shut our hearts.  We are neither able to love anyone else, nor ourselves.   How can we love what we cannot acknowledge and accept?

Only an open heart will be my path to true strength and power.

 

Photo: Dave Contreras

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Eclipsed

August 1, 2018

Photo: Fabian Oelkers

Day 1431 – Day 1435

This past weekend, the world witnessed the longest blood red full moon lunar eclipse that will likely occur in my lifetime.  Sadly, I was in a part of the world where I did not get to witness it live.  But, I am grateful for the NASA feed that allowed us all to watch it, globally.  The last time I saw a lunar eclipse in person was in London, at the great Old Street flat of some dear friends from University days.  It is a moment that is forever imprinted on me.

When I was younger, I played Delores Claiborne in professional acting school.  I remember that Delores killed her pedophile of a husband under a full moon lunar eclipse.  And, when I studied yoga, and spent time in India, I remember learning that eclipses are considered times of bad luck and that one ought to pray and avoid being out when an eclipse is underway.  This past week, I read up on the meaning of this particular eclipse – according to astrology – and was mortified.  It was meant to dredge up old wounds and pain and be an overall and completely really bad time.  In short, the earth was going to open and swallow us whole.  Or something to that effect.

I tried to understand the metaphor of the eclipse in Delores Claiborne and while I’m good at creating metaphor, I’m not always so great at deciphering it in other people’s work.  All I could come up with is that when the normal patterns of our lives are placed in shadow, we have a chance to truly see the contours of our lives – the landscape, in relief – and when we see something we cannot abide, this moment can be an impetus to make great changes.  When the light returns, it can be like the dawn of a new day in our lives.  It can be the start of a new chapter in our lives, so to speak.

As the eclipse reached totality, I decided to meditate as best I could, given that I was sitting at my desk and it was lunch time.  I set a few intentions and the biggest intention was simply to just let it all go.  All my limiting thinking, all the expectations that others have placed on me and any emotion that wasn’t helping me to move forward towards realization – for just  one moment – I let them all go.

And the weight that was lifted from me was palpable.

I find that in life, time takes time.  No, I’m not starting on a series of posts based on obscure song titles of stars of the 1960s.  What I mean by this is that life changes in sometimes startling and monumental ways but those big shifts are preceded by long and sometimes agonizingly painful periods of deep work and processing.  We mark time by the changes that happen, not by those long periods that precede it.  So, time takes time.  My life, and my process of self development is ordered in this way.  I’m happy to learn that another close family member also operates in a similar way.  I thought I was the only weirdo in the tribe that makes changes in geological time frames.  Change happens all of a sudden after lots of processing, like tectonic plates suddenly unleash an earthquake after rubbing against one another for hundreds of years.

Perhaps introverts operate in this way.  I don’t know.  I know that I do, and I’m an introvert.  I am an INFP and even amongst the introverts I know, I score the highest on the Introvert measure of that Myers Briggs classification.  When I am working on something – be it a move across the world, or a new phase of life, a new career, or a decision to marry or cohabit – whatever it may be -you will see very little happening above the surface.  But, inside and invisible to the world, major shifts are occurring.  The world sees only the earthquake, not the rubbing of the plates against one another.  That can leave people thinking I am impetuous, when there is nothing further from the truth.  I am measured and deliberate to a fault.

The eclipse of this past week reminds me that what appears to the eye is deceptive.

As the eclipse reached totality and I let so many things go from my psyche, I had a glimpse of a different way of being.  I’ve spent years stuck in the crush of two tectonic plates.  Some of that pressure is dissipating.  A space is being created that is creative and as I turn inward and focus on that space, the pressure mounts again between what is and what might be.  I’m kind of excited about what may come.  It might show up in a month, or a year or in a few years.  I have no way of knowing how long this process will take.  But, I’m now in a process – one of weighing and sifting and imagining and refining.  There might be some tremors as I test out new ideas.  There may not be. It may all come as a massive shakeup.  But what I do know is that the space I am creating now is sacred.

I will take my time.  Before I moved to North America, I took my time.  From the outside, it may have looked like I was stalled or not moving forward but that all depended on where you set your gaze.  While one thing stopped, great progress was made in other areas and I had inner work to do on several areas of my life and I needed to sort out how I felt about many things.  I learned a lot about myself in that stillness.

At this time, I notice that some “things”  are falling away.  When I come to these seminal moments in my life, I see that some things just no longer fit with where I’m going.  Recently I let go of a relationship and I thanked that person for the years that we were friends.  The fact that the friendship no longer fits does not take away the fact that at a particular time and place, it was valuable and important to me, and so I am grateful.  I wished him well, and I meant it.  I’m grateful for the crazy energy of that earth-swallowing eclipse that has helped me to see some possibilities of how things could be and that I am finally willing to let go of what no longer fits.  I’m grateful for the weight that it has lifted off of me.

I spent a joyful weekend with a friend and her family.  We painted and drank wine and talked and the weekend was both about where we had been and our limitations and where we were going and our challenging those limits.  Our lives are very different, but just because we have little in common outwardly does not mean that our human experience is not shared.  While she is a decade younger than I am, I’m grateful for her sage advice and for a really lovely sense of sharing and community that I sometimes lack in being an expat trying to make new friends in what little spare time I have.  And in turn, I’m glad that I could be a cheerleader and a witness to her as she broke through something that had been a limitation for her.

I’m not really sure what this moment in time will reveal – I think that is something that can only be seen in retrospect.  But, what has become clear is that living a life of purpose, meaning and joyful gratitude eclipses most obligations and other people’s expectations that are putting pressure on the tectonic plates of my inner landscape.  Where there is a mismatch of the old features of both my inner and outer landscapes with what I can envision for myself, I’m really okay with letting them go.

Someone once said to me that it takes great courage to be naked when we take off the cloak that no longer fits us so that we may don a finer set of clothes.  If we rush to put on that new set of clothes, we will likely reach into our closet and all that is there are more outworn duds.  We need to be willing to be naked for a time, so that we can tailor our next set of finery for where we want to go.   If we are to be vulnerable like this, we also need to establish strong boundaries and initiate self care as we dream, process and rub our tectonic plates together.

I see this as the first word of the first line of a new chapter in my life, and I’m ready for a new set of finery and I’m okay to let time take time.

Photo: Roberto Nickson

For what are you most grateful, right now?

Ten Thousand Days

Trivia Pursuit

July 27, 2018

Photo: Iker Urteaga

Day 1423 -Day 1430

I was recently scrolling through a conversation thread with my close friend CMF and I noticed that a lot of what I talked about was aggravating trivia:  Forms, filings and chasing credits, payments and promises.  Yes, for a business and for an individual these are necessary evils.  But when it takes up too much of one’s time, or one’s focus, it can make us feel like we are hamsters running on the hamster wheel of life.

My friend CMF says that I have a grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side view of life.  I may find that the bigger picture of my career was more fulfilling at X company and ignore the fact that all the time I worked there, I was bullied by a middle manager who wasn’t kept in line by his supervisors.  He bullied everyone who worked for him and of 3 favourite ‘girls’ he had working for him, two of us left – largely because he made the work environment so unpleasant.  Yes, I suppose CMF is right – I do still recall this job as the best job I ever hated.

Last night I was driving in Bellingham after a great singing lesson and looked up at the moon.  It isn’t quite full but seeing it nearly full drew my attention to a kind of old way of marking time that I notice myself falling into, this past season.  Again, I am amazed at the inner transformation that I’ve been undergoing in the past lunar cycle.  Having laid to rest the bones of the one from LA, I returned to the original scene of our meeting to reclaim the person that I once was.  Last full moon I said goodbye to the love of my life and while mourning that, this month, I said goodbye to a beloved family pet, as well.  This month,  I’ve recognized that I’ve got a lot of goals that I want to achieve in my personal life in the next few months.  In the last two lunar phases, I’ve traveled to two foreign countries for brief trips but I’ve been profoundly altered by the experiences.  Yet, if you look at what occupies my story that I tell, it would be the refund from Airbnb and the compensation for a cancelled flight.

Maybe its hard to talk about deep transformation – maybe we haven’t got the words or the culture of sharing the changes we are undergoing at the deepest levels of the soul.  Or, maybe it is simply that I am reticent to talk about such things.  I’m really much better at writing but I don’t think these things – sacred movements in our lives –  belong in the small box of a chat window.

Instead of talking about what matters, I get caught up in the pursuit of trivia – expense claims and laundry, grocery shopping and car repairs.  For most of my life, I have secretly thought that if I could just get all my little Lego pieces together, I could construct a life that looks good, at least from the outside,  and that my life would amount to something.  But, Lego is plastic and it is as easily taken apart as it is put together.

I notice that a lot of us have the rosier glasses on when we look at compare out lives to our expectations.  This week I had 3  conversations with friends who recently changed their jobs.   They were great moves but most of what they talked about was how uncomfortable the temperature of the office was (too hot or too cold).  Of course, in this heat wave, it is a topic that regularly comes up in conversations with friends but it was a catalyst for me to reflect that it is the trivial details of our lives and our quest to fulfill our expectations of how things should be if we can just get our Lego pieces in order, that really grabs our attention and take our focus.

I admit that when I get into a zone on working on anything – whether its a painting or a piece of admin, I get laser focused on what is in front of me. What really maters – the passing of relationships, the formation of new ones, the inner transformation of the soul, and deep changes in our sense of self and place in the world – these happen, but they can go unnoticed – or at least un-noted.  My friend AAO once said to me that a common tragedy of our fast paced world and overachiever identity is that we never stop to celebrate the small or big moments in our lives, before we move on to the next.  Soul changes may not be celebrated, but if we don’t mark them, we will never know how far we have journeyed and we run the risk that every wayfarer runs: walking in circles to return to the same point over and over again.

Reflection and laying down markers on our way is an important – if painful – part of the life of one on a spiritual path.

There is a lunar eclipse today on the full moon and its making everyone I know become more reflective on what has passed.  Old pain can be dredged up in this process but it is also an opportunity to let it go, if we are conscious.  Consciousness, is a blessing, even if it can sometimes feel like a curse.

Sometimes  I really do envy those who self-report to ‘swimming in the shallow end of life.’  Ignorance truly is bliss.  When we are not sensitive to the depths of life and when we are not walking a path of soulful mindfulness, I would imagine that each party and each gathering of friends is full of light and frivolity.  And then it is forgotten and the laundry is done, groceries are bought, the car is repaired and we meet up again on Friday for more fun and games.  I’m not sure if that is really how it is for people who are disinterested in or disconnected from the spiritual and soulful side of life.  But with my rose coloured glasses and grass-always-greener perspective, I imagine that it is this kind of simplicity.  Life is fun and light, it would seem.  But, maybe a life that is fun and light also has moments of deep existential angst and wondering: ‘is this all there is?’  I suppose I do forget that there are tribulations as well as the trivial nonsense that goes along with other choices, when I glorify a time gone by or a choice not taken.  Nobody swims in the shallow end throughout life.  I tend to think the admin and aggravation rests only in this particular career or life choice and that everyone else is living a life more carefree and meaningful than my own.

One of the greatest spiritual lessons is to learn to find meaning in the mundane by actively engaging in the moment with purposefulness.  Gardening has been one way in which I can do this.  When I am tending to the soil and to my vegetables and flowers, I am working purposefully for the well being not only of those plants but in service to the planet as well.  I’m grateful for that reminder.  On the other hand, another spiritual task, for all of us, is to cut through the superfluous and get our priorities aligned with what we want to achieve, (spiritually or otherwise) in this lifetime.

Looking back on my messenger chat has helped me see that I’ve put a lot of attention on the aggravating dealings with the misnamed ‘customer service’ call centers of the world, instead of celebrating my first street paintings, my two gallery shows of this year (so far), my new friendships, new skills, the gift of a spiritual teacher and tremendous progress in healing from a traumatizing relationship.

I reflect on the latter when I come here but what I’ve learned by looking at the stories I tell in my daily life is that I need to beef up my daily gratitude practice, and check myself for moments when I’m getting caught up in the unimportant noise of life.  The world is full of meaningless time wasters and we need to wade through them to find those that will enrich or at least keep our lives ticking over functionally.   Yes, we live in a world that is ordered in a certain way and unless we choose to break out of it and live an extremely alternate lifestyle, we still have to pay the electric bill on time.  But, to give these little Lego pieces of life more airtime than is needed is to truly rob ourselves of joy.

 

Photo: Averie Woodard

For what are you most grateful today?

Ten Thousand Days

Unconditional

July 19, 2018

Photo: Laula the Toller

Day 1416-Day 1422

Last night, a member of the extended family was put down.  She was a 3 year old husky, and she wasn’t my dog, but without my knowing it, she had become a member of not just ‘the’ family but of MY family.  I’ve never had a pet – well, not a pet with a personality – do goldfish count?  My friend TCBC says that fish have personalities and I told her that it is limited to swimming, turning, surfacing, diving, eating, and the dreaded one: floating.

Growing up, for some reason, we were not allowed to have pets.  I guess my mother had enough to manage with 3 children so widely spaced apart in age and with my father spending all of his time in the office.  We didn’t have a lot of money when I was little and so I guess feeding and caring for a dog would have cut into the budget as well.  I really don’t know why we weren’t allowed to have a pet, but we weren’t.  And having known the dog R- that belonged to someone else but became a part of my family, I wish that had not been the case.

When I heard that she had been put down, I was shocked.  I can’t believe that I will never see her again.  I know it must be a thousand times harder for the one whose pet she was, and for the part time caretaker that took R- during exam times and holidays.  But, even though she wasn’t my pet, I loved her.  I will miss having her run to the door, her tongue hanging out and pouncing all 200 pounds of her puppy physique onto me.  She loved everyone and was the friendliest dog I’ve known.  She was an office dog and I’m pretty sure that those who ‘worked’ with her will miss her as well.  She had a personality that made you just want to treat her to the world.  She exuded joy.

I’m grateful to her for warming me up to the canine world, and for her care when I slipped on the ice, one winter. She stood guard over me until I was safely up and away from danger.  And I’m grateful for the friendship she provided to everyone who knew her.  If I am feeling the loss, I can’t imagine what those who knew her better than I, will be feeling.  I know that they had, at times, a feeling of spiritual connection, a kind of oneness that comes with interspecies communication.

Because she isn’t my dog, I’m surprised at how sad I am today.  TCBC texted me this morning, that in some ways, losing an animal is worse than losing a person.  It has something to do with the fact that the love between you is unconditional.  R- never cared if I was wearing hip shoes or had my hair done.  She didn’t care if I weighed more than I should or if I was a slow walker.  She was a breed that wanted to run but whenever I was with her, she’d keep looking for me to make sure I was able to keep up with her.  She loved with enthusiasm the way that children can love with enthusiasm.  She was well treated and so her heart was open wide.  There was never judgement or aggression and she never competed with you for air time.  She did, however, like to watch you eat, hoping for a little morsel and to sprawl on the sofa, leaving you a little armchair – until she decided that the armchair was cozier.

Her love was unconditional.  And that inspired others to love her back.

There are few places in life where one truly experiences unconditional love.  Mothers are supposed to have unconditional love for their children but unfortunately, mothers often don’t live up to this.  In romance, we often say we will love one another forever, come what may.  But all we need to do is look at the divorce rate to see that is not the case.  The only unconditional love I can think of at the human level is a kind of agape love – a non specific universal love for all of mankind.  That I have experienced and am able to say I can achieve.  But personal love, that is unconditional?  I’m not sure I have ever experienced it.

She had a short life but she gave us all that experience of being loved completely and without judgement.  And she gave everyone who met her the chance to get to know her endearing and playful personality.  We all loved her.  I sometimes wonder why bad things happen and what is the purpose and meaning in it.  She was certainly just out of puppy hood and nobody would have expected her to fall ill.  I don’t know what the purpose of this sad event is, but what I can say is that she lived a life of purpose by being a good companion to her owner and to her caretaker and giving them the love that they needed at a particular time in their lives.  I lived overseas for half of her life and didn’t spend much time with her except at holidays and for the occasional walk.  I probably knew her the least of the whole family.  But I have been surprised by how deeply I have felt her passing and how much I wish I could have one more joyous greeting at the door.  I’d rub her belly and whisper, in her one floppy ear, that I loved her.  I am grateful to R- for bringing that which is unconditional into the lives of all who knew her.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Old Friend Bookends

July 12, 2018

Photo: Kinga Cichewicz

Day 1402 – Day 1415

In the summer of 2015, I played.  I was recovering from an illness and taking a break from a life of 90 hour work weeks and intense responsibility.  The summer of 2015 was all about fun. No responsibility, no real direction.  I was carefree, living in the moment,  and I danced all night.  And, riding the wave of an upsurge in my health brought on by play and gratitude, I fell in love for the third time in my life.

On the way, I found myself in a sort of gang of friends.  We all met on a warm night in Shoreditch, at a bar that long ago closed its doors to gentrification.  We were a rag tag band of outsiders.  In some way or another we were all involved in the outsider activity of street art.  Some were painters, some were photographers and some were representatives of those artists.  That night, they became my ‘crew.’

We spent the summer together being silly – some of us spent more time in the group and some spent time together painting.  Some of us grew quite close.  When the summer ended, one of the crew returned to his home,afar, and we had a send off party for him where we took a photograph.  We didn’t all fit into the frame.  As I recall, only my hair was in the shot.  Being a bleach blonde, it was pretty distinctive.  It was a ridiculous photo,  indicative of the laughter and the fun and the carefree nature of that summer.   We were One.  We were friends.  We loved one another.  And we meant it, in that moment.

Later that night, one of the crew got arrested for creating street art somewhere illegal, where he shouldn’t have been, and over time it became clear that the night finished his career as a street artist.  As one of us left for afar,  I left to visit Canada.  While I was gone, two other members had an explosive argument and stopped talking to one another.  When I returned, just two weeks after we took that photograph, my crew – as a group – was damaged forever.

Over time, two of the crew made a life together and had a baby.  The two who had argued never spoke again.

I waited in London for the one from afar to return to live in the UK, as he had said he would.  When he finally admitted that his life in the UK was over, I moved to North America and I was closer to the one from afar.  It was hard to leave the rest of the crew, but once I reached North America, the one from afar and I entered into an intense relationship like none I had been in.  We shared a set of values and he dreamed of the same way of life that I had dreamed of having when I was 30, but I had never been able to find a way of turning to reality. Now, with technological advances, it was possible, and after several months, we declared we were exclusive to one another, and talked about making a life together.

With long distance relationships, living in integrity and with an intention to live up to the romanticizing and fantasizing you’ve perpetrated, participated in, or, at the very least, allowed to happen,  is important.  Otherwise, when the time comes to step up, you show yourself to be a player without respect for the person you’ve played.

Just as we were about to start making that life a reality,  he threw a bomb in the relationship and ran.  Not being tied to a need for a job, he used to say that he could live anywhere in the world that he chose.  After throwing that bomb, he chose to leave his home, over 1,000 miles away from me, and move to a town in Northwest Washington, just 45 minutes from my door.  We socialize in the same small town of musicians and artists. Rather than leave my life cleanly, and give me peace by fading out at some distance, he now lingers like a ghost, intersecting the social circles that I inhabit, here in North America.   I’ve run into him on more than one occasion, and I’ve treated him as he is: the ghost of a man who never was.

Conscious reclamation of space, identity and story has had to be an important part of my healing.

 

This past week, I returned to London for the first time since leaving the UK.  I walked the streets of Shoreditch and I was sad to see no signs of the playful times and the artwork from the summer of 2015.  I met up with two of the crew from the old days but there was little to say.  They were doing much the same things but with different people, that I didn’t know.   I never managed to see the couple with the baby, though I feel our friendship will endure, albeit changed by our changed circumstances.  And though his name was never mentioned, the man from afar was a ghost that was present in every alley, every bar, every restaurant and every street we used to frequent and his presence became more potent in the absence of any of his artwork of that summer.   Just as he had wiped out our relationship, and denied its existence, so too, my happiest adult times, and that playful girl who lived them, were wiped out and denied, by the absence of any evidence of the summer of 2015.

I miss that playful girl.   She was sacrificed to the burden of his insatiable need and his self-proclaimed emotional “crisis”.  She was left for dead when he exploded their life, his life, and her life at once. He laid down a scorched earth, burning all bridges, and started life over somewhere new, with a new sort of identity. Those who have lived life long enough will know that we cannot run; the ghosts of the selves that we wish to escape will inevitably find us all.  But that is his story to write.

A war wounded woman returned to Shoreditch, in search of the ghost of the girl who played.  She has become saddled with sadness, and has returned, shell-shocked, to the world of responsibility, alone.  Still trying to pursue a life of purpose, that goal doesn’t feel aligned with life as it is.

I both miss that girl and have been angry with her for her naïveté, for her openheartedness and for her compassion that led her at times to be manipulated to temporarily put his welfare above her own, so that she got used up and spit out.

Walking those streets, in search of the girl I left behind, I felt her presence and my anger turned to empathy for her loss of innocence at such a late stage in life, along with a sense of hope that left her open, trusting, and vulnerable.   I could see how she was taken in by charm, and how she had mistaken intensity for intimacy.  I could see why, that girl, fresh from her sickbed, wanted so much to have faith, that she chose to ignore the red flags, whenever cognitive dissonance arose.  In place of my anger, perhaps I can simply admire how she dared to hope and dared to dream and how she gave her kind heart to the world, to the crew and even, to him.

I think about the fun times we had in the joyous summer of 2015, and I’m able to be grateful for that moment, independent of what was to come.  I think about the individual relationships I made with the others of the crew and I’m grateful for the closeness we once shared.  Sometimes we drift apart and that is sad, but it makes the poignancy of the moment that much more precious.  Where things have exploded, as with the man from afar, gratitude is not so easy.

When you have been deeply involved with someone who has not been sincere, truthful and respectful, there is a lot of cognitive dissonance that arises as you try to reconcile a personality seemingly oscillating between two extremes. The human reaction is to resolve that confusion by believing only one side of their Jekyll and Hyde personality. At first, I met a man I could love, and I fell in love. As red flags appeared, I continued to look for the good in him. By the autumn of 2017, when the lies and  disdain were blatant, I could see only the bad.

To truly heal, we must reconcile ourselves to the idea that both the gentile public persona and the man-behind-the-mask have always co-existed. Otherwise we cannot make sense of the through-line of our own story.  And, we cannot reclaim any part of ourselves that we lost along the way.

Despite feeling betrayed by him, I was sad not to see any signs of him in London.  I had loved the man I thought he was, when I met him, in London, and he was a part of a playful girl’s brief story.

When he left, I used to walk the streets and touch his artwork to feel a connection to him.  I don’t want to be connected to the man he turned out to be and the man he was in London – if he ever truly existed – is gone, along with his artwork.  And, with him, went the innocence of that playful girl.

I may be kind but I will never be naive again. I may trust again, but never with such blind faith.  He played me and I was a fool.  But, I will never be anybody’s fool again.

On my last walk through Shoreditch, I spotted a piece that he’d done.  It was faded and worn.  That seemed appropriate.  I thought of the song ‘Bookends’ by Simon and Garfunkel, and I took a picture of the piece to put alongside the one where only my hair appeared.

In the summer of 2015, I played with my crew and particularly with the man from afar.  In the summer of 2016, I waited for the man from afar to return to London to live there as he’d said he would, and when he didn’t return, I left for North America.   In the summer of 2017, after he had exploded our relationship, I tried in vain to repair with him what he had shredded beyond mending, and I learned how deeply wounded you can be when you try to pick up the pieces of shrapnel.

In the summer of 2018, I laid down his bones, in North America. I had carried them on my back for far too long.  It was time to do myself the service of going back to the start of this story, of not only the man he probably never was, but of that particular playful and innocent girl.  In the summer of 2018, I returned to the place I met my crew, played, and fell in love.  I returned to the spots where, through his artwork, I had once connected to him, and I reclaimed those places as my own.

I forgave the naïveté of that playful girl, and with her ghost at my side, I pasted up and painted my own artwork in those places.  I played, for a moment, again.

People who have posted my artwork use one word consistently: “fun.”  Leaving my mark on those walls, I complete the telling of this chapter of my story, and I place a bookend on the summer of 2015.

A time it was, and what a time it was.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

The Love of My Life

June 29, 2018

Photo: Nick Fewings; Street artist unidentified

 

Day 1395 – Day 1401

I’ve written about the first, second and a man who I thought might be the third love of my life.  All of these were passing romances and while 2 of the 3 remain my friends to this day, there is only one Love of my life.

I met him in London around 2004 although I’d known of him before that.  I saw him several times a year for 13 years and then last year, I asked him if he’d have me in his life.

After 14 years of receiving his love, this week, I had to say goodbye to him.

I am deeply saddened.  I wanted more time with him.  And, I am grateful for every moment I had.  When there is true love in our lives – whether that love is agape, erotic, phillial or any other kind of love, it is an ecstatic gift that makes us seem a little mad.  We’ve become a culture that consumes and discards.  And I’ve known and experienced men capable of consuming someone who loves them and then discarding them.  To me, disposable love is madness.  A love that last forever?  That makes sense to me.

When I started to become close to the man I thought might be the third love of my life, I made a promise to love him forever, no matter what.   I made it in good faith.   I could not anticipate the way our relationship would unfold.  He asked me not to bail on him, and I asked in return that he not bail on me and that he be honest and kind.  He broke every promise he made to me, exploited my love, betrayed me and discarded what was left, when he was finished. For awhile, I felt guilty that I could not fulfill my promise to that man.  I believe that the way someone behaves towards us reveals their character, not ours.  And, I believe that shoddy treatment is no excuse for how we treat our commitments and whether or not we act with integrity.

It was the one true love of my life who helped me see that where there is lack of intention and fraud – even where that fraud is a love fraud –  our agreement is considered voidable or terminated.

While one man was defrauding me, another patiently loved me for more than a decade – maybe longer.

I am grateful for the love I’ve been given, for the time I had with him and for all that he taught me.  It was a joy to see that after taking so long to make the decision that this was “it,” that I was welcomed home, despite my ill considered distractions with men who were unworthy of me.  We shared a spiritual path and I intend to make my life an act of service to the path he showed me and to continue the work that he started with me.

He is the embodiment of Love.   He remains always and forever in my heart.

He is my teacher.  He is the Love of my life, and  I am so grateful for him.

Photo: Elijah Macleod; Graffiti writer unidentified

For what are you most grateful, right now?

 

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

Retreat

June 21, 2018

Photo: Austin Neill

Day 1388 – Day 1394

I’ve spent a very busy spring, digging up the weeds of outworn thoughts by the roots and laying the bones that I’ve been carrying on my back to final rest.  As I feel I am becoming free of a lot that has weighed me down, I am heading off on a personal retreat.

I looked up the word ‘Retreat,’ and in all cases, it is a withdrawal from action.  I am, to be honest, exhausted from all the work of clearing and planting my garden.  As much as it has brought me joy and peace, it has caused me physical pain and cut into all other activity in my life.  I have, for all intents and purposes, become planted and rooted on the spot and withdrawn from all other activity to get my garden going.  I have my fence and a bit of transplanting to finish but from now on I will mostly need to weed, water, tend and harvest.  I am told (as this is my first, ever, garden) that this is the easy part.  I am looking forward to returning to other activity and interactions with old friends.

I have been grateful for this time of communion with the earth and today, on the summer solstice, as I tend to my garden, I will be saying a prayer for the planet.  And then, I shall retreat for the weekend.

In the case of the military use of the word, retreat is a kind of withdrawal to safety, to regroup.  And, in the spiritual sense of the word, I suppose it is the same.  I’ll be offline for 3 days – a short period in the scheme of things – but I hope it will be as helpful as it was, last year.  I’ll be at a retreat centre in the woods outside of San Francisco and I’m looking forward to looking at art, to sitting in meditation and to hearing a lecture to a group from around the world.  And, I’m looking forward to walking the labyrinth that is a feature of the centre – at least one more time.  The food is not good and the rooms are – well – what one would expect of a nunnery.  It is not a luxurious setting but it is a joy to be there, with this particular teacher.

I am fortunate that I have encountered some true spiritual teachers in my lifetime and that I’ve had the opportunity to sit at the feet of many gurus around the world.  From Montreal to India to New York to London to San Francisco and all points in between, I have had the good fortune to meet teachers who have given me seeds and stones that I could carry with me on the next thousand steps of my journey.  I never know what I will find when I go on a retreat, and sometimes it is not apparent until months or years later, what I have been given.

Mine is not the life of the norm.  I believe many people have a spiritual path on which they travel, but I don’t know that a lot of people have dedicated their lives to the service of that path.  I’ve been fortunate to meet many who have and to have their spiritual friendship along the way.  The fact is that although the path leads to a deep sense of Oneness with all that is, the path is always a solitary one.

Spiritual friendship is a gift, and it comes in unexpected places.  There can be no spiritual friendship, however, without proper respect for one another.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently.  I have a couple of new friends whose company I enjoy.  I’ve got plenty of friends who are fun to be around and who have earned my fidelity despite not being what they would call spiritual.  But there comes a time in a friendship where the question needs to be considered – is this something for fun and fraternity – or is this something that can be lived at a deeper level and approach moments of agape?  Just because one is on a spiritual path will be compatible as friends, let alone deep friendship.  But those rare encounters are sublime.

I’m going into this weekend with wonder about several things.  I don’t hope to find all my answers, and if I’m given some, I will take them gladly.  The best I hope for is to be led to the most pertinent questions for myself at this time.

The teacher who is to lecture has been overextended for some time and there is a chance that the meeting will need to be cancelled at the last minute.  If it is, then I will continue with the day in silence and seek to find the meaning in what arises for me in that time.  I hope that wherever you are, you have a restful and refreshing weekend full of fun with friends, or that you take time to withdraw to a place of safety to regroup for what is ahead.

Photo: Artem Bali

For what are you most grateful today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Good for the Soul

June 15, 2018

Photo: Tom Ezzatkhah

Day 1381 – Day 1387

We are having a cool and rainy June.  Since so much of May was spent working under a blazing sun to clear and weed my garden, I am grateful for the cool and wet days.  On days like today, I like to sip cups of tea and gaze out the window and let my mind wander.

Yesterday I was at the garden and, like a first time parent, I was doing what amounts to watching the grass grow.  I have a lawn chair tucked into my plot because I find myself getting tired when I’m working all day in the garden, and I need a little rest from time to time.  A visitor to the garden asked if it grew better when I watched it, and I wondered.  I do know that my tomatoes grow better when I talk to them and sometimes sing to them, because one emits carbon dioxide which the plants can use.   I wondered if just being present and really attentive had any impact.

It certainly has an impact on me.

I stood and bent over my garden looking for weeds.  I noticed what looked like alfalfa and I had pulled several similar shoots from the plot when I was first clearing it.  I was curious how I could have so many new weeds in such a short time.  I enlisted a neighbour and together we tried to discern weed from pea from bean from broccoli.  When we could not be certain anymore, I left the sprouts intact.  I was, however, delighted to see my cucumbers, sweet pea and bush beans sprouting along with a yellow squash emerging from the soil.

There is no need to water today , so I find myself yearning to go and spend time in the garden, just looking and paying attention.  I have a kayak race tonight and so I won’t have the chance to go see…but I am wondering how they are doing and if they’ve grown more overnight.

Nurturing something, it turns out, creates a deep sense of connection with it.  Research has shown that we are more bonded to those for whom we have done favours than to those who have graced us with their service.  I suppose that is why mother’s love for her children is unconditional but – to be frank – a child’s love for one’s mother is often self serving.

I’m a nurturing person, and a healer.  I know in my heart that the work of tending this garden is a part of my service to tending to the soul of the planet and changing – in my 200 square feet of soil – some of the energy that is attached to the relationship of the modern humans to the earth.  I do this with attention, and by treating her as sacred.

The earth is our mother and yet I have become a surrogate mother to a part of her bounty.  My children are peas and beans and broccoli and my foster children are the worms that aerate the soil, the birds that come to visit and feed on the worms and the bees that find sanctuary in the flowers I have planted, and in turn, who pollinate the vegetables.  Although I build my fence to protect my lettuce and greenery from them, even the bunnies that come out at night and race one another around the garden are a part of the ecosystem in which I watch these alfalfa-like delicate shoots become bean stalks.

I live in a valley at the edge of the Cascade Mountains.  And to the west of me is the ocean.  There are plenty of opportunities to feel the presence of that which is bigger than oneself by floating on the vastness of the ocean or by standing in awe of the vastness seen from the mountain summit.  And yet, there is something quite egotistical in basking in that grandiosity.  It is humbling and also deeply personal to spend time with the smallest of creatures and watch, with full attention, the micro-movements and changes in the earth.  To participate in the bringing forth of life and to be deeply enmeshed in the ecosystem is a very different experience and fosters a true intimacy with that which is bigger than ourselves.  Rather than feeling our smallness in the cosmos, we become assimilated into the microcosm.  We become not awestruck, but ‘of service.’

This is my first garden, but I have long wanted to grow at least some of my own food.  It is part of my cultural and spiritual heritage to do so.  As humble as it may seem, having this 200 square feet of soil is a dream come true.  My friends have been delighted to see me gardening, and when I ask why it makes them feel good to see it, they all say that gardening is good for the soul – or so they have been told.

I’ve wondered about this, too.

Presence, it turns out, is good for the soul.  To be of service is good for the soul and it creates a sense of purpose in one’s life.  To be in communion with the subtle vibrations of the earth and the interactions between parts of the ecosystem – and to find a place in that ecosystem, it turns out, is good for the soul.

I’ve wondered what their happiness about me tending to my soul has to say about their view of the state of my soul.  I have been in a kind of hell, for which death seemed the only metaphor.  Emerging from that influence to find life sprouting all around me, and partly because of me – it turns out – is good for the soul.

 

For what are you most grateful today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

I (Do Not) OU

June 8, 2018

Photo: Rawpixel

Day 1372 – 1380

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of entitlement and expectation.  There are many people in our lives who will come and go and some will stay awhile.  Some of them will earn a debt of gratitude or loyalty.  And some will do nothing to earn anything from us but will – by virtue of relationship or manipulation – find a way to make us feel as if we are indebted to them.  In the wake of a toxic and abusive relationship, I’ve been considering what, if anything, I owe anyone.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my mother for carrying me in her womb and nurturing me when I was young.  I owe my father a debt of gratitude for providing for me as I grew up.  I choose to live in gratitude to that which is bigger than any of us and to live a life of service, but that is not a debt.  It is a choice.

Those friends and family who have proven themselves loyal and steadfast – to them – I offer my fidelity.

Recent research published by Berkeley provided evidence to what we all know – it’s easier to make friends when we’re young.  In college, we go from acquaintance to friend to good friend in 1/3 of the time it takes us as adults to make that same journey.  When we are young, we overestimate the depth of our friendships or perhaps we have not lived enough life experience to know what a good friend truly is, and how rare they are to find.  When I was in my twenties, I remember my eldest sister told me that if I could count on one hand the number of true friends I have, I will be lucky.  I wondered why she thought I had so few friends.  Now, after 40, I realize that a person of substance, who takes seriously their fidelity in friendship, will probably be able to count on only a few fingers of one hand (if that) the number of true friends they have.

This is not a sad thing.  It is a liberation.

We all hear that once we turn 40, we no longer give a darn what people think of us and we are liberated.  I’m not sure that is really what people experience.  I guess I can only speak for myself, but from observation of others, I can see that societal pressure lessons on us after 40.  We are no longer in our years of slaying our dragons, we are no longer in our prime child bearing years, and we are no longer in our prime matchmaking years either.  There are standards to which we are expected to live, in order to fit in to the societal norm.  If, by 40, we haven’t met those standards, society sort of sees us as outsiders and pays us no attention.

It is a much different thing to weigh our precious life in the balance against the expectations that people place on us and make the decision that we will no longer live our lives out of obligation.  I owe my mother and my father my gratitude, and I truly am grateful for the life they have given me and how they have provided for me.  I owe my fidelity to the very few who have earned it.  Realizing that my debt ends there, I am grateful.

The rest of life becomes one of choice to live on purpose with joy, excitement and integrity.

Just as I am beginning to feel solid in my path again, someone appeared in my life, uninvited, today.  He is a bit player in a subplot to the story of that toxic and abusive relationship that has been damaging to me;  a story of abuse of my rights and of my fidelity; a story of cruelty and of deception.  He is part of a story of chaos that overtook my life, and took me away from myself, for a period of time.   I try to see the best in others.  In this episode and the toxic relationship which set the context for it, the privilege was never earned.

I considered the timing of his appearance and found meaning in it as a test of my resolve.  I’m grateful for the consciousness of choice.

While I would not be surprised if he was contrite and his appearance might be a gesture of genuine reconciliation and friendliness, there is simplicity in how I feel.  I do not want chaos in my life.  I owe no debt to anyone who played a part in that toxic story.

Without guilt, when I saw him approach, I closed the door between us.

 

Photo: Alice Pasqual, Graffiti Writer: Unknown

 

For what are you most grateful, right now?

Ten Thousand Days

Lunar Cycle

May 30, 2018

Photo: Arnau Soler

Day 1366 – Day 1371

Last night I was gardening under the nearly full moon.  As I gazed at her brilliance I thought of the last time I witnessed the full moon and the great distance I’ve travelled in this last lunar cycle.

The last full moon, I was driving home from a wonderful weekend in Seattle, filled with music, art, and new friends.  I hit the most incredible downpour outside of Everett and hydroplaned on the freeway.  I am grateful that there was nobody in the lane to my right as I swerved and regained traction of the road.  I thought I had been destined for my grave.

Whenever I go to Washington, I pass through a town within an hour of my home,  where someone I once loved chose to relocate from thousands of miles away – after ending his relationship with me.  He lingers.

I’m always grateful to pass Lake Samish which nestles in the hills between Mount Vernon and Bellingham.  It is a kind of physical border for me that guards my peace.  As I rounded the last bend before Bellingham, the most brilliant light shimmered on the water.  I looked in the rear view mirror,  and rising above the mountain behind me was the full moon.  Her glow felt like a benediction after all the hazards I had endured.

Last night, I was digging a trench, readying my plot for a season of growing.  From a plot comes the food that sustains us and to a plot we will go, when our life is done.  We become food for the worms that nourish the soil that grows the food for the next generation.  And so it goes with this finite life that lasts only a precious few lunar cycles.

As I’ve dug down into the earth, I have often wondered what I might discover.  I have visions of unearthing a body.  This macabre fantasy is joined by tales told to me by others who have fears of bodies buried in the most innocent of places.   It makes me realise that there is something archetypal in this story that we carry in our collective unconsciousness.

I don’t need to look in the earth for bones.  From a ghost that lingers, are the bones that I have carried on my back.

Photo: Giancarlo Revolledo

I have wondered who I will be free to be, without the burden of those bones.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing – personal writing – during this past lunar cycle.   I have given words to what needs to be expressed and remembered, forgiven that which  needs to be forgiven, and honoured what is to be honoured.   I don’t always understand what is going on at a soul level, but the subconscious magic works its way to my consciousness through image and symbol and the meaning-making that can be made through writing.  I have painted a lot in the past year but the Word is the land through which I must eventually travel in order to do the work I’m here to do in this life.

I’ve also been reading some old passages about the one who was once flesh upon those bones.  I am awed by the poignant beauty of my own writing.

Every transformation is the culmination of a long and continuous process that goes deeper and deeper, and we keep thinking we’ve arrived only to find our journey is not over.  But in every journey,  there are liminal moments.    Last night, I was alone under the enormous full moon and I felt a Oneness with that which is bigger than all of us.   I have witnessed, with consciousness, the moon’s journey through the sky and her nightly changes.

And she has witnessed mine.

Bathed in her glow, I was aware of what was passing into legend with the fullness of the moon.  There has been a gentle peace in setting those bones to rest.  Free of that weight, I am able to stand upright, and feel my heart, once again, filled with love.

 

For what are you most grateful, right now?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Weeding

May 16, 2018

Photo: Markus Spiske

Day 1360 – 1364

I’ve been spending time in my community garden.  When I got my plot, it was in a state of sad neglect.  The weeds in the garden cover the entire plot and are a foot high.  I’ve managed to clear about 10 square feet of it.  There is an old bed frame and dead plants in there, as well.  I have no idea why someone would take valuable soil and let it go to this state but I don’t understand people that feel a need to pollute the earth that they touch.  My first task has been clearing the piece of land, and weeding.

If you don’t get a weed at the root, it will keep coming back.  Even if you do get the root, the influence of the gardeners around you can spread seeds and you have to start all over again.

As I’ve been unwinding the past, I’ve been tilling the soil of my heart and mind and I’ve unearthed a lot of ideas – ideas about him, ideas about what is acceptable to me, and ideas about myself.   I’ve had to decide what, if anything is worth keeping.

I’ve discovered a lot of ideas about me that I would consider to be weeds.  Many of them were planted by parents that grew up in an era when survival was still a prime concern and the luxury of having dreams and aspirations was considered unrealistic paths to ruination.  Like weeds, each dream was crushed or pulled out by the roots and self-limiting ideas were planted in their place.

I feel like I’ve already done the job of weeding many of them out but they’ve reappeared.  When I was in my twenties, I snipped the flowers off of these ideas and threw them away as I skipped after my dreams.  But they grew back, and as much as any life circumstance, I got in my own way of fulfilling my dreams.

Not content to believe that this was all there was to hope for, I did a lot of work on my psyche and I dug up the ideas by the roots.  And after many years, of this, I found the soil relatively free of these pesky grasses and in their place, I planted wildflowers and I learned to dance in the meadow of my own heart, mind and soul.

It is a fact of life that not everyone has good intentions towards us.  And while we may be dancing in the meadow and welcome anyone with a joyful heart to join us in the dance, there will sometimes come a stranger with ill intentions.    I danced, and I forgot to put up a fence and query the stranger at the gate.

When the wind blew the stranger into my life, carrying what looked like a lover’s bouquet, I failed to see that it was, in fact, a bunch of weeds, gone to seed.

Photo: Robb Leahy

 

Today is the new moon and it is a good time for planting.  Last night I had a wonderful walk and talk with a friend who is quite remarkable.  She said that if your dreams are not laughable they are not big enough.  I’ve been noticing that there are a lot of people that are quick to tear apart your dreams but few who encourage you to reach for the stars.  My dreams, I realise, are not laughable.  They have been dampened by the landscape fabric I have thrown down to keep the weeds at bay.  I’m grateful for this awareness, as sad as it may be.  And, at the same time, I feel a sense of delight and hope that dreaming laughable dreams is not something to hide, but to celebrate.  This alteration in my worldview has fed nutrients into the soil from which I will build the next phase of my life and I am grateful.

I’ve been wondering what – if anything – I can take to be the greater meaning of my experience with the stranger.  I haven’t come to any conclusion on that.  But I am grateful that I’ve managed to clear a lot of the weeds, again.  A friend says that she is grateful to her ex husband because if he had been even a little bit nicer she would have stayed with him and never become the person she is.  I can’t say that of myself – I had already done a lifetime of work to become poised to be a fully actualized individual.

I am grateful that I really have solidified how important gratitude is to achieving resilience in difficult circumstances.  Without this practice, I would not have had the strength to keep pulling at the weeds.  This time, I feel I have truly gotten at the root and I am poised again – albeit a few years later – to step into that new cycle of growth I was ready to embrace when the stranger appeared.

The sun is shining and the world has stopped spinning.  I have a couple of weeks of weeding and planting ahead of me in my garden.  This was a dream we shared, – that stranger and I – to grow our own food.  I used to feel that I had been discarded so that he could live our dreams without me – or, more to the point –  with somebody else.  Somehow, imperceptibly, I’ve found myself moving in the direction of this dream without him.  I’ve been a bit lost and moving through life like a zombie, but I’ve kept moving forward.  Without being conscious of it, I have planted the seedlings of a new, meaningful, dream.  I no longer care what he is doing or who he is doing it with.  It is a joy to see some of  my germination has begun to produce exciting new shoots.

Photo: Markus Spiske

I put my hands into the soil and I feel One with the earth.  As I work on my plot, I  improve the conditions of the earth beneath me.  This is a deeply spiritual act of service for the planet and all her creatures.  Whether I grow food this year, successfully, or not, I will have achieved a purpose in working this piece of earth, with love.

 

For what are you most grateful today?