Beyond all that pain has taught me, the soft well at the base of time has opened, and life touching me there has turned me into a flower that prays for rain. Now I understand: to blossom is to pray, to wilt and shed is to pray, to turn to mulch is to pray, to stretch in the dark is to pray, to break surface after great months of ice is to pray, and to squeeze love up the stalky center toward the sky with only dreams of color is to pray, and finally to unfold again as if never before is to be the prayer.
– Mark Nepo –
Almost three weeks away from home – the first time in over two years – and into my eleventh day of walking, I chose Mark Nepo’s poem to uplift and amplify my commitment to knowing my life as poem and prayer, and sensing I might be in need of its kind sustenance and tender reminder.
Who gets up early to discover the moment light begins? Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms? Who comes to a spring thirsty and sees the moon reflected in it? Who, like Jacob blind with grief and age, smells the shirt of his lost son and can see again? Who lets a bucket down and brings up a flowing prophet? Or like Moses goes for fire and finds what burns inside the sunrise? Jesus slips into a house to escape enemies, and opens a door to the other world. Solomon cuts open a fish, and there’s a gold ring. Omar storms in to kill the prophet and leaves with blessings. Chase a deer and end up everywhere! An oyster opens his mouth to swallow one drop. Now there’s a pearl. A vagrant wanders empty ruins. Suddenly he’s wealthy. But don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth, without complicated explanation, so everyone will understand the passage, “We have opened you.” Start walking toward Shams. Your legs will get heavy and tired. Then comes a moment of feeling the wings you’ve grown, lifting.
– Rumi – (The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks)
On my long walk with and towards the metaphoric Shams, I anticipate days when my legs will get heavy and tired. I hope my feet remain blister free. I’ll welcome the moment(s) of feeling wings lifting me. And when I do, I’ll thank another of my guides, Rumi, and think of my friend Shawna and her wondrous latest novel, Everything Affects Everyone. I’ll whisper my gratitude to both on the winds.
Our Mother Who is always with us, Holy is our Being. Thy Kin-dom is present. They Desire is felt throughout the Cosmos. We graciously receive your infinite daily abundance. May we forgive each other our lack of skill and insensitivity. May we understand our inner guidance, and perceive each other’s needs. For Thine is the Kin-dom, the Power and the Story, in never-ending renewal. Blessed be.
– Glenys Livingstone, Ph.D. –
The week before I departed for Portugal, I listened to Edmonton author, teacher, organic market gardener and beekeeper, Jenna Butler read from her latest book, Revery: A Year with Bees. In response to host Rayanne Haine’s thoughtful questions, Jenna spoke eloquently of the big and deep questions she holds about place, land, environment, interconnectedness and what this means for her life, healing, food production and writing. Evoked for me was farmer-poet-activist Wendell Berry, though Jenna brought an oh-so-vital feminine and BIPOC perspective.
Reflecting on my reasons for making this long, sauntering walk, apparent is my need, as a woman, to reawaken my connections to land and sky, people and place as I walk in gratitude and appreciation within these new perspectives. It is to replenish my inner reservoir of impressions from which I create. It is to renew my commitment to stepping lighter on and in reverence for Mother Earth.
Mother’s Day has recently past, both in North America (May 8), Portugal (May 1), and Spain (May 1). Coming across this wonderful reframing of a classic prayer, I share it today to honour the sacred Feminine, embodied in life. Blessed be.
Every day I see or hear something that more or less
kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle
in the haystack of light. It was what I was born for – to look, to listen,
to lose myself inside this soft world – to instruct myself over and over
in joy, and acclamation. Nor am I talking about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant – but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations. Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help
but grow wise with such teachings as these – the untrimmable light
of the world, the ocean’s shine, the prayers that are made out of grass?
– Mary Oliver –
After posting this past Monday’s blog, Bom Caminho, in which I gave notice – to myself, actually – that I’d not be blogging and was unsure if I’d post on social media -recognizing how easy it is for me to be seduced out of myself in so doing – I realized I could schedule each of my Friday photo and poem features for the duration of my time away.
So, I’ve chosen poems that might reflect with where I’m at along the way. I’ll be curious to read back and see if synchronicity and-or prescience was indeed at play!
Today’s selection by my guide, Mary Oliver, is very much aligned with my intention for making this journey, taking this long walk: to be present with what arrives each day…to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this beauty-filled world…to remember my life as poem and prayer.
When you travel, you find yourself Alone in a different way, More attentive now To the self you bring along…
John O’Donohue, Blessing for The Traveler
A decade ago, I wrote a post about the Camino. Titled “Buen Camino”(the Spanish wish, above is the Portuguese), I described gathering with my friends to view “The Way,” a beautifully shot film about a bereaved father, played by Martin Sheen, trekking the Camino de Santiago, in devotion to his son who’d fallen to his death on the trail. I recalled meeting with two American hikers in Vernazza, Italy, where walking the trail high above the Ligurian coast towards Corniglia, they regaled me with their stories of having walked the Camino and shared a piece of wisdom I’ve held close and spoken forward on countless occasions. I wrote then “I know deep in my bones I’ll make that pilgrimage one day,” and so I am.
A week from today, I’ll be airborne for Lisbon, Portugal where, with a friend, I’ll settle and sightsee for a few days there and in Porto before a week later beginning my trek along the Portuguese Coastal Camino, returning home in early June. Last fall, walking my second local Camino de Edmonton, my twenty year dream of walking – one that has waxed and waned many times over many years – became re-ignited. In a more recent blog I wrote about that experience, what I had learned about myself, and how I’d need to apply it when making my dream come true:
“I learned that my way of walking is to saunter. I need to take my time to notice, to observe, to photograph, to hum a tune, sing a made-in-the-moment, soon-to-be-forgotten lyric. I enjoy conversation, and have had some delightful, edifying ones. And then what I notice – the shiny and the shimmer, the magic that suddenly catches my eye and speaks to my heart – shifts my attention.
And so, thinking more intentionally about a long distance “saunter” to Santiago, through Portugal, next year, the “easy walk” – taking several more days than the typical two week allocation – with ample time to rest and appreciate the ambiance of local villages, having my accommodations with breakfasts pre-booked, and luggage transferred, viscerally has me gasp with delight and settle my covid concerns. New impressions…the moments inside the moments…the magical stuff…the glory of life.“
In response to that post, a friend told me about Portuguese Green Walks, a company specializing in designing treks through Portugal, including an “easy” coastal Camino. I loved that I’d be “living local with love,” investing in Portugal and her people, post pandemic. After several weeks corresponding with Paola, their customer service rep, despite being in our 5th Covid wave, in need of bringing the Christmas promise of joy into my life, I metaphorically struck the earth with my warrior-walker’s staff by making the 25% deposit, thus signaling to the gods and fates my commitment and requesting their support in helping me pull this through.
A customized 20 day itinerary, in contrast to the typical 12 or 14, with an average 10-12 km per stage, accommodations booked, bags portered, breakfast served, giving me ample time to take in the vistas and villages along the way. Meeting with people, savoring the food and culture, time for writing, photography, painting…walking alone and together with my friend who is “simpatico” in this way of wanting a more immersive, esthetic experience. And while I had weighed going solo, I am happy for her companionship, particularly as it will be our first time travelling internationally since the pandemic.
A journey can become a sacred thing: Make sure, before you go, To take the time To bless your going forth, To free your heart of ballast So that the compass of your soul Might direct you toward The territories of spirit Where you will discover More of your hidden life, And the urgencies That deserve to claim you.
John O’Donohue, Blessing for The Traveler
In the spirit of “freeing my heart of ballast,” I won’t blog and hold only lightly the possibility of posting on social media. Not from a desire or need to get away from it all, but rather to enter more deeply into what this is – admittedly not really knowing what this is – wanting instead to give myself over to “the urgencies that deserve to claim me.”
May you travel in an awakened way, Gathered wisely into your inner ground; That you may not waste the invitations Which wait along the way to transform you.
John O’Donohue, Blessing for The Traveler
What I know most of all is by taking flight next week to realize my twenty year dream, I am going to walk my Camino “because I knew others who had gone, and the experience filled them with wonder.” – Peter Coffman, Camino, 2017
Much love and kindest regards, dear friends. I’ll be back here sometime in June.
When it comes back to teach you or you come back to learn how half alive you’ve been, how your ignorance and arrogance have kept you deprived — when it comes back to you or you yourself return, joy is simple, unassuming. Red tulips on their green stems. Early spring vegetables, bright in the pan. The primary colours of a child’s painting, the first lessons, all over again.
Though it was nearly a month ago when I posted my poem, Call Me Caprice, describing the often ambivalent arrival of an Alberta spring, given this week’s snow storm and persistent cold, I could have posted it again! Instead I opted for optimism, trusting red tulips and daffodils will eventually blossom forth from more than the flower shop’s bouquet.
It’s been nearly as long since I last posted…and I hope to muster up my own words for a blog on Monday. In the meantime, much love and kindest regards, dear friends.
What if, on the first sunny day, on your way to work, a colorful bird sweeps in front of you down a street you’ve never heard of.
You might pause and smile, a sweet beginning to your day.
Or you might step into that street and realize there are many ways to work.
You might sense the bird knows something you don’t and wander after it.
You might hesitate when the bird turns down an alley. For now there is a tension: Is what the bird knows worth being late?
You might go another block or two, thinking you can have it both ways. But soon you arrive at the edge of all your plans.
The bird circles back for you and you must decide which appointment you were born to keep.
– Mark Nepo –
I have a poetry folder in my SAVED Facebook posts, collecting ones that strike a chord, or ring that inner bell. This wasn’t one I’d saved. Prompted by another, wandering down a short rabbit hole, I discovered it. With so many people leaving their homemade, makeshift offices to return to their worksites and places, I thought this might ring a bell for them.Ironic how now, once again when the world sits poised on a 5th wave of covid, we have to consider which appointments we need, want, or were born to keep.
“This time of the year in the mountains is always one of dialogue, between the winter doing its best to hold on and the spring who is longing to emerge. In one moment it can seem like winter is taking the lead, only a few hours later for the spring to burst forth. Just like it is in the soul at times, there are wild swings between the various poles.”
Matt Licata, A Loving Healing Space, March 27, 2022
Caprice: a sudden usually unpredictable condition, change, or series of changes.
That would describe the weather in March here on the prairies, where on the first day of spring last week, we had a blizzard blowing during the day, dropping several new inches of snow. By mid week, temperatures blasted through the forecast to reach a balmy 17 C. Annie was panting, and my black winter insulated Blundstones were ready to be traded in for cooler trail runners. Then a day later, the temperatures dropped, and by Friday night, another snow fall. We have learned this is spring, that she takes her time given winter’s reluctance to leave too soon. Though already there are indisputable signs of her arrival: geese flying paired and in their signature triangle formations; robins warming up their warbling mating melodies; tender green shoots of longed for daffodils, hyacinth and tulips peeking though.
“Caprice” would, too, describe my outlook of late. A narrow field of vision, with my eye and energy focused on several necessary and pressing deadlines helps me navigate the world’s wider angle of continued uncertainties and devastation. Capturing the macro moment, up close and defined against the present but softly blurred background becomes a metaphor of hope, to cope.
I wrote this poem a few years back, posted it in 2020 and offer it now revised and refined. Its message remains constant.
Call Me Caprice
March blew in strong. The proverbial lion, rattling leafless branches. Made tall spruce and pine dip and dive in a pre-dawn dance. Egged on clouds to race across still dark sky, streaking it silver in morning’s moonglow. On her wind, the first, fresh fragrance of Spring.
“I’m coming but be patient,” Spring scolded. “You know Winter likes to take her time leaving. A bit slow and sluggish, she likes to dig in her heels when she feels my push to get going and growing.”
Come noon, sun reigned higher in the southern sky, nudged warmth into wind’s still icy chill. Their partnership melted Winter’s tiresome leftovers of grungy snow and gritty ice; pooled puddles into ponds on streets and alleys; exposed sodden soil and mangled mush in garden beds and farmers’ fields.
“I’m coming,” Spring murmurs her assurance. “But remember, I’m temperamental. I like to take my time arriving. Ensure that I’m welcome. So, I suggest you call me Caprice.”
If you don’t know the kind of person I am and I don’t know the kind of person you are a pattern that others made may prevail in the world and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind, a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood storming out to play through the broken dike.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail, but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park, I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy, a remote important region in all who talk: though we could fool each other, we should consider— lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake, or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep; the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe — should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
William Stafford The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems, 1998
Two weeks ago, wise elder Parker Palmer shared this poem with an incisive commentary on Russian president Putin’s “bloody, power-hungry invasion of Ukraine,” while imploring his American readers to demonstrate bravery by confronting the anti-democracy darkness wielding its way in their country. I would add, around the world.Moments ago, doing a quick scan of the today’s news, I read that over 400,000 Ukrainian citizens have been forcibly taken to Russia, many to be used as hostages in the battle for Kyiv. Too, that more than half of Ukraine’s children have been driven from their homes, with their mothers, to take refuge in neighboring countries. As I wrote last week, I hardly have words. What I do have is a silent scream that could shatter if I gave it full voice. So instead I will do as Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes implored earlier this week, “Dear Brave Souls: Now would be the time for prayer that uses everything you’ve got: muscle, fervor, rigor, verve, pounding down and raising up…”
May we all be brave in such ways. May we be awake for the darkness around us is deep, lulling us back to sleep.
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
Mary Oliver, Devotions (2017)
“There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be.” Posted by a friend mere days before Russia invaded Ukraine, I saved this gem for its reminder, and the abundance of joy described, never imagining the mind-numbing poignancy of its prescience.
My writing here has been episodic, due in part to Russia’s horrific war on Ukraine, for which I am at a loss for words. So as you may have read, I have relied on those from others (again, my plug for Mark Gonzales’ In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty – please consider buying and sharing it far and wide.)
Too, I’m quite full of my own words, preparing a manuscript of poetry for publication, riding the slipstream created at the start of the new year, when I submitted 22 pages for a chapbook contest. Both longshots. Both labors of my love. Both my ways of fighting back. Both my ways of saying,
Beauty made from love matters makes a difference during days of such madness.