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.
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.
“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 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.
“But this week, we entered yet another hard, shocking chapter in the life of the world.”
Krista Tippett, The Pause, March 5, 2022
Yes, here we are, the global community, again trying to keep our collective hearts open in the hell that is war. These weeks in Ukraine. Before that…and before that…and before that…In a recent poll close to 70% of Canadians believe we are poised for a third world war. (Global News, March 3, 2022) With the invading leader stating that all sanctions levied by the west are akin to a declaration of war (Reuters, March 5, 2022), anxieties, already exacting their cost during the pandemic, continue to manifest in myriad ways within and among us.
“Trauma isn’t limited to the mind or body of a singular person. It has the ability to have a cumulative impact on an entire people…When an entire society is desecrated, demonized, invaded or imprisoned, it reshapes the cultural gene pool of that entire generation. What is trauma then, but a collective and cumulative phenomenon.”
Mark Gonzales, In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty, 2014
Last week I wrote in my regular Friday photo and poem feature that I had been reminded by a friend with whom I had shared Mark Gonzales’ In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty. Selecting a piece for that post, I scanned other of his entries in preparation for my virtual women’s circle, wanting to offer into the centre a “start point” inviting us to each speak to the impact of the current world events:
“In this moment, an echo is occurring across the globe. It is the human spirit craving to be reminded one does not need permission to grow.
In this moment an echo is occurring across our hearts. It is the realization that love has its own logic.
Live. Love. Grow. Even if one cannot make life more beautiful, at least make it more bearable. This should be considered the base for being human.
May the passion continue. May the circle expand.”
Mark Gonzales, In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty, 2014
We felt deep resonance and relevance with Mark’s words as each of us took our turn speaking, passing our virtual talking pieces through several rounds of conversation. Our time together marked easefully with several substantial pauses for silence. One by one, we shared evoked images and memories, silent tears and fears, wisdom borne of dreams, intuition and lived experience. By the end of our two hours together, soothed and more settled. Life made more bearable.
In my imagination, I see copies of Mark’s book, translated so all can read, dropped from the skies into the hands of every person on earth, much like the millions of propaganda leaflets dropped from planes during World War II. Instead I’ll end with more of his good words, medicine to heal our aching souls and make life more bearable:
“What better way is there to shift a paradign than by speaking in ways that encourage dreams, laughter and imagination. For those acts of creativity are not luxury, short sighted or simplistic, they are essential.”
“In this collective environment, an isolated story transforms into a personalized submission into an anthology of shared experiences and unique memories. With each new telling, we cocoon to butterfly that sees each breath we have left in this life as an exercise in evolving our own narrative.”
“This is way for you who battle with self-doubt and hyper criticism, I remind you we are a generation experimenting with healing in public. Be fierce. Be forgiving. Hardcore is a façade and a trend.”
“Educate the human heart. Elevate the human mind. Grow the human soul. This will be our generation’s idea of a multi-taking model of learning.”
Look up. Look around. Listen. See and hear the echoes of your wounds and dreams all around you. Know that you are never as alone as you think. We may even be in the majority. Each point of connection with another transforms them from stranger into ally in the healing process.
If you read this and still feel abandoned, walk with head high knowing there are generations of ancestors inside of you. We will survive this era as we did the eras before: using the skills we have, inventing the ones we need.
On those days when the spine or soul become tired, imagine all of humanity whispering a twelve word prayer inside your ear: “we are not the children nor the descendants of a weak people.”
Mark Gonzales In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty 2014
Several years ago, I “met” Mark Gonzales via this remarkable collection of piercing, pithy poem essays. Last week, as war in Ukraine grabbed hold of our world by its throat, a friend reminded me that I had introduced her to his work. Any page would have been perfect today. I expect I’ll turn to Mark’s words for my Monday blog. In the meantime, if this sampling touches you, buy his book, In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty. There is no better time.
“It’s a piece of deep psychological acuity, carried in many religious traditions: that each of us is defined as much by who our enemies are and how we treat them as by whom and what we love.”
Krista Tippett, On Being, October 31, 2013
Fitting food for thought as we, the world, contemplate the current circumstances unfolding in Ukraine. A simplistic response to vilify the invaders and yet…
We see Russians courageously take to their streets and squares in protest. We read of notables resigning from posts refusing payment from their government. We know people who know people, Russians whose roots run deep and like us all, whose hearts bleed red.
Over the past few days, scrolling social media and participating in online seminars, I’ve been struck with the extent to which we are calling forth the balm found in poetry and prayer, in the arts, dance and song. Evoking the highest good in us, for us all. With poetic irony and prescience, this published in 2009 by Ilya Kaminsky, a poet born in Odessa, Ukraine, now living in the United States after being granted asylum with his family:
We Lived Happily during the War
And when they bombed other people’s houses, we
protested but not enough, we opposed them but not
enough. I was in my bed, around my bed America
was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house—
I took a chair outside and watched the sun.
In the sixth month of a disastrous reign in the house of money
in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money, our great country of money, we (forgive us)
lived happily during the war.
Let us hold the centre, dear friends. Present with what is unfolding. Poised amidst conflict within and without. Persistent in remembering the best in who we are.
Let us take note of the ever-present beauty around us. Remain open to the mystery in the mundane. Tenacious in our tenderness. Committed in our care.
Living our lives as poem and prayer.
“Do you think it’s an accident that you were born at a time when the culture that gave you life is failing? I don’t think it is. I think you were born of necessity with your particular abilities, with your particular fears, with your particular heartaches and concerns… I think if we wait to be really compelled by something… something big, well… we’re going to wait an awful long time and I don’t know if the state of our world can tolerate our holding out until we feel utterly compelled by something. I think it’s more like this, that we have to proceed now as if we’re utterly needed given the circumstances. That takes almost something bordering on bravado, it could be mistaken for megalomania easily, though I don’t think it is. It had a certain amount of nerviness in it or boldness for sure, something that’s not highly thought of in the culture I was born into unless you’re a star or something… regular people aren’t supposed to have those qualities. I say they are of course. That’s what we’ve got to bring to the challenges at hand, not waiting to be convinced that we’re needed but proceeding as if we are. Your insignificance has been horribly overstated.”
“One discovers the light in darkness, that is what darkness is for; but everything in our lives depends on how we bear the light. It is necessary, while in darkness, to know that there is a light somewhere, to know that in oneself, waiting to be found, there is a light.”
James Baldwin, Nothing Personal (1964) cited in The Marginalian, February 6, 2022
For much of January, my internal weather has fluctuated as rapidly as the external. Feeling flux and flummoxed, with waves of inexplicable sadness, and flashes of rage, these are times when deep in the belly, I don’t have words to write, hence a couple of missed Monday posts. Time this week in my virtual women’s circle, listening and giving voice to my inner meanderings, together with the words of others arriving in the last twenty four hours, have helped prime mine.
With last month’s passing of several luminaries – Archbishop Tutu, Thich Nhat Hahn, and even Betty White in her radiant, joy filled centurion way – I felt humanity had once again lost powerful visionaries who served to hold its centre. In response, I felt a deep wobbling, compounded here in my country by the ever-growing anger at our nearly two-year public health covid sanctions. Truck convoys, now being copied around the world, are barricading highways, border crossings, and downtown cores. As in many instances of late, here and elsewhere, what starts out as a demonstration of dissent becomes hijacked by far left and right agendas intent on spewing violence and hatred.
Paradoxically, within the relative quiet simplicity of my life – an ever-present gift of the pandemic – sometimes it’s challenging to block out the overwhelm from all of it. Not just anxious, frankly I’ve felt frightened with what’s continuing to unravel, exposing humanity’s underbelly. Perhaps more so because of the prolonged weariness with navigating the pandemic’s continued uncertainties, while revealing more of its impacts. Speaking virtually today to a dear friend a few streets away, I wondered how much at its root these are all the many manifestations of grief.
“The individual has to wake up to the fact that violence cannot end violence; that only understanding and compassion can neutralize violence, because with the practice of loving speech and compassionate listening we can begin to understand people and help people to remove the wrong perceptions in them, because these wrong perceptions are at the foundation of their anger, their fear, their violence, their hate.”
A hypothesis, not an excuse. A way to reframe, reconsider, and re-create space in my perceptions of myself and others. The means to a more tender response to myself and others.
FOR WARMTH by Thich Nhat Hanh
I hold my face between my hands. No, I am not crying. I hold my face between my hands to keep my loneliness warm — two hands protecting, two hands nourishing, two hands to prevent my soul from leaving me in anger.
Yesterday a chance scrolling through social media and I arrived at a lengthy post from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves. Reading, I remembered that like those luminaries who have since passed, “dr. e” continues to hold the centre. Excerpted from her post:
…feeling tired of the whirl and sway of the needful world, which has ever been with us, perhaps far away or up close, nonetheless, the remedio is often to withdraw from the energy of outrage and ‘latest horrible thing ‘they’ are doing now’ and instead rest with the peace Beings, which are Beauty, the natural world of plants and animals , trees and sky and clear water and air… and Love, unhindered Love.
…Walking with those who are just and who work for thus, are billions in our world. Billions…Rather, they work daily as good, in good, for good. I know so so many. They are right there before you also.
…That our children and our fur children are treasures is exactly right.
…We are born gifted and every day, can create even in small ways, from what we truly are. Indeed, one massive creative act is to be kind to oneself…
…Strive to be sure every word from you, every art from you, every step is steeped and considered deeply through the lenses of Love, Mercy and Vision…
Creating even in small ways: Working on my poetry collection. An extended call with Karen to finalize the twelve submissions for the spring issue of SAGE-ING. Walking Annie in the sunshine. Hearing a favourite poet recite her work while being in conversation with another. Catching up on podcasts while doing my needlework project. Connecting with friends. Sitting in circle.
Tender balms bringing me back to myself. Reminding me the light is always there, somewhere, waiting to be found.
“The longer I live, the more deeply I learn that love — whether we call it friendship or family or romance — is the work of mirroring and magnifying each other’s light. Gentle work. Steadfast work. Life-saving work in those moments when life and shame and sorrow occlude our own light from our view, but there is still a clear-eyed loving person to beam it back. In our best moments, we are that person for another.”
Maria Popova, The Marginalian, February 6, 2022
May your opportunities to mirror and magnify such light for others be many. Your opportunities to receive the same, tenfold.
Of course it’s to be expected: the dim light and early dark and the endless days of rain. And if the week of brutal cold wasn’t what you signed up for, well, it’s what you got, so might as well make the best of it. Other people got blizzards, and friends have flooded basements or days without power or lost everything to wind-whipped wildfire. Of course, there’s nothing less comforting than the notion that others have it worse. Misery doesn’t love company, it just spreads like an oil slick across the dull land, and we have moved on from terror to a cranky ennui. But one day last week, the clouds lifted, and there was the mountain, shining in all its snow-clad glory. My breath caught to remember that what I see is not the sum of what is there.
– Lynn Ungar –
So this is January, 2022. Today, a Facebook cartoon meme showed Lucy complaining to Charlie Brown of the new year, suggesting we had, in fact, been stuck with a used one. Last year, or even the one before that. Where I live, we’ve had weeks of “brutal cold” suddenly broken overnight by above freezing temperatures and rain, making for treacherous travelling, by car or foot. House fires with fatalities. Inflation rates the highest in 30 years. Unprecedented numbers of Covid caseswith friends suddenly succumbing.
And yet the beauty of snow laden trees and brilliant blue skies. Wolf Moon an incandescent marvel illuminating the night. My parents’ 68th anniversary. The birthdays of my husband and niece. Poetry books in the today’s mail. Stories shared and books reviewed on Zoom. Tonight’s easeful meanderings in my women’s circle. An abundance of goodness and gratitude, more than named here. This is my January, 2022.