Reroot, Rewild, Retell

Today I enter the third week of “Rewilding Mythology,” hosted and curated by contemporary writer, Sophie Strand, who focuses on the intersection of spirituality, storytelling, and ecology. Compelled by several inspirations including a night time dream; Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation actions; the writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer and Richard Wagamese; and the valuing of the dark, decayed and dead in essays by Perdita Finn and Matt Licata, I enrolled in this 8 week online course, and only afterwards read its description:

“For most of human history, myth was a durable mode of knowledge transmission, kept alive and resilient by the breath-laced web of communal storytelling. Just as we plant a seed in soil, so were vital pieces of agricultural and ecological lore planted into stories that were built to survive environmental and social collapse.

Myth-telling, as primarily oral and embodied, was revitalized by the same ecological cycles that depend on a balance of decay and regrowth: breaking down dead wood to generate new soil. Our culture-creating cosmogonies rarely grew stale because they were refreshed and adapted to new conditions each time they were retold. Myths were the maps of communities intimately dialoguing with their environment. Most importantly, they were contextual.

But the rise of empire depended on the deracination of mythologies. Just as landscapes were stolen and terraformed so were whole pantheons uprooted from their social and ecological contexts, coopted by the very cultures that ensured the demise of their originating cultures. Galilean magicians were turned into militaristic figureheads. Serpentine divinities were transformed into gorgon-headed monsters. Uprooted from their context and from the renewing respiration of communal storytelling, these stories ossified into abstraction and reinforced the anthropocentric hyper-individuality and colonial capitalism of today.”  

Following intuition. Knowing little. Not knowing a lot. Catching wisps – from last week’s poet story-teller, and the depth psychologist featured in Friday’s bonus session – that are coalescing into some kind of vague, embodied comprehension. Yet already it’s been informing what I’m hearing and seeing and talking about. Already, it’s re-shaping my context.

Quoting the host from her invitation: “I can’t wait to see how I’ll be changed by it.” And I wonder, too, “How can we reroot, rewild, and retell?


I’m far from integration, synthesis, or even a coherent articulation about any of it, but from my notes, right now this excites me and grabs my curiosity:

“When you uproot a myth, dogma is the result.”

“Reading our alphabetic language makes it available for capture rather than response, while speaking we feel the energy vibrations in our body.”

“Is there a mode of writing that allows for space, breath and context?”

“Consider anthropomorphism as courtship to learn how to be in conversation and communion with the land and interior world, so that we can cultivate subjectivities that are less commodifying.”

“What if magic wasn’t supernatural but the most natural experience?”

“Magic is the logic of the world when the world is experienced from its own depths.”

“We’re used to listening in an habitual, usual way in the body. Let’s awaken the ancestral faculties of listening through the body to then become hollowed out for lightening to pass through…to be seized by a flow…”

“What stories are living us?”

Last week a friend invited me to his podcast conversation centering on wisdom, creativity, and living with uncertainty. As prompt, he referenced a meme he’d seen posted on my Facebook timeline:

“The ghosts of all the women you used to be
are proud of the woman you’ve become.”

@the global sisterhood

He asked what wisdom I’d have for those ghosts.

As is often the case with such a thoughtful question, in such beautifully contained conversation where we listen and are seen beyond habit, a conversation that is generative and holds the possibility for emergence, I found myself saying out loud things I’d never quite thought about before, let alone spoken. The stories living me. Asking to be spoken and shared.

After a lengthy pause, for his question deserved consideration, I responded that I’d ask about what excites them, grabs their curiosity, incites their wonder.

Theirs and mine. Then and now. To help us “reroot, rewild and retell.”

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Inside the Season’s Cocoon

While a week late, and a post missed, I’ve kept my promise to myself to “stick to the knitting” and my writing practice here. During the interim, two rejections from the group where last year I’d been invited to read my submission to their ekphrastic poetry contest (beginner’s luck?) – I was sure I had a good one – and another written in the wee hours of Wednesday’s dawn to meet another contest deadline. Fingers crossed and regardless, I’ll get feedback from the judges. Always a boon.

Too, after a record-breaking long and warm and sunny August, September and October, wherein I was playing pickleball outside until Hallowe’en, winter – apparently fed up with waiting – suddenly, unequivocally barged in with November. Blowing and blustering throughout Alberta, it dropped nearly a foot of snow in a matter of days, wreaked highway havoc, and gave us the dubious distinction of being among the coldest spots on earth this week. Add Tuesday’s full moon lunar eclipse; peculiar and powerful planetary alignments wreaking their own astrological chaos; news from home that a high school chum has been seriously afflicted by dementia; another friend coping with pneumonia and two small children; a frozen vehicle; Annie down with a GI tract infection (she’s better now)…

Neither complaining nor making excuses, I’m simply noticing what now has the capacity to knock me sideways, crawl deeper into the covers, and, despite the sun and blue sky, colorfully renounce my gratitude for the seasons, especially this one. I refuse to call it a symptom of age…more the wisdom that comes with…a finer attunement to the nuanced…the paying with attention in my body, and not over-riding it with my thinking. Saturday’s Camino walk in the river valley with a reprieve in temperature, and later with Annie, restored my appreciation.

Last weekend I took the bus to Calgary to attend a Friday poetry evening and Saturday workshop with Pádraig Ó Tuama. Such a treat to physically sit in his presence and hear him do so brilliantly what I’d only ever heard him do through Zoom and podcast space…recite remarkable poetry and invite us into how to listen to its structure for its meanings. Thank God, I knew to book the bus when I’d made the arrangements during early September’s golden glory. (I have a kind of prescience when it comes to weather…that finer attunement thing.) Both of us walking alone as we approached the venue, I introduced myself, said a few words as we climbed the stairs to the entrance, and then made our separate ways. Pretty neat for this enthusiastic fan. Too, I was standing in line to purchase his “hot off the press” Poetry Unbound collection, only to recognize immediately behind me award-winning Calgary poet Rosemary Griebel. We have a virtual friendship initiated when she wrote me a lovely compliment on my blog. Knowing she’d be there, I’d brought my copy of YES, her most recent collection, for her signature. Again, pretty neat for this appreciative fan. And then at the Saturday workshop, of all the coincidences, by way of her friend, Peg, we discovered we share a birthday. How neat is that!?! A bit of kismet perhaps…especially as we talked about Camino walking and her interest in Portugal.

I had several takeaways from the weekend inspired by both Pádraig and Rosemary. With my own rejections fresh, I felt restored hearing Pádraig say how difficult it continues to be for him to find places and publishers for his poetry, still how many and often the rejections. Its antidote, he said, was finding a small, intimate group of writers with whom to share the work, so as to uplift each other in the efforts made, support each other through the process of editing, submitting, and receiving rejections and acceptances. In the acknowledgement of her book, Rosemary mentioned the friendship and support received from her regular local poetry writers’ group. Into my new vocation now for a couple of years, I know its solitary, often lonely nature. I returned home committed to putting a call out, both to the Universe (trusting my efforts are adding), and to some writers to ask if they’d meet me in the sandbox – virtual is fine – to support each other as we make our way with words.

And speaking of Camino, mid week I was invited to present “A Creative’s Way of Walking Her Camino” to the first, post covid, in person gathering of our local chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims. Using a story I’d written for Portugal Green Walks and the upcoming issue of Sage-ing: The Journal of Creative Aging – a synthesis of my blogs – I shared my way of traveling in general, and in particular how I had walked the Portuguese Coastal Camino – using journal, painting, photography and poetry to grok within the experience’s impressions and memories. I was delighted not only with the feedback from attendees and planning committee, but more so to have been “seen” in this way of my vocation, to be, as one of the members said, the chapter’s “resident artist-poet.” Now this is very neat!

I am now inside the season’s cocoon, wintering. Despite the initial shock, I am surrendered to the inevitable, ready to savor having designed time for writing, studying Italian and “rewilding,” walking, cooking, hand work, seeing friends, sharing time with my “pack,” playing pickleball. Feeling life full in the midst of its fallow.

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

These Marvelous Women

THE MARVELOUS WOMEN

All women speak two languages:
the language of men
and the language of silent suffering.
Some women speak a third,
the language of queens.
They are marvelous
and they are my friends.

My friends give me poetry.
If it were not for them
I’d be a seamstress out of work.
They send me their dresses
and I sew together poems,
enormous sails for ocean journeys.

My marvelous friends, these women
who are elegant and fix engines,
who teach gynecology and literacy,
and work in jails and sing and sculpt
and paint the ninety-nine names,
who keep each other’s secrets
and pass on each other’s spirits
like small packets of leavening,

it is from you I fashion poetry.
I scoop up, in handfuls, glittering
sequins that fall from your bodies
as you fall in love, marry, divorce,
get custody, get cats, enter
supreme courts of justice,
argue with God.

You rescuers on galloping steeds
of the weak and the wounded–
Creatures of beauty and passion,
powerful workers in love–
you are the poems.
I am only your stenographer.
I am the hungry transcriber
of the conjuring recipes you hoard
in the chests of your great-grandmothers.

My marvelous friends—the women
of brilliance in my life,
who levitate my daughters,
you are a coat of many colors
in silk tie-dye so gossamer
it can be crumpled in one hand.
You houris, you mermaids, swimmers
in dangerous waters, defiers of sharks–

My marvelous friends,
thirsty Hagars and laughing Sarahs,
you eloquent radio Aishas,
Marys drinking the secret
milkshakes of heaven,
slinky Zuleikas of desire,
gay Walladas, Harriets
parting the sea, Esthers in the palace,
Penelopes of patient scheming,

you are the last hope of the shrinking women.
You are the last hand to the fallen knights
You are the only epics left in the world

Come with me,
come with poetry
Jump on this wild chariot, hurry–

Mohja Kahf

Quite simply, how could I not share this marvelous tribute to women?

Evoking myth and magic, ancestors and ancient, wild and wise ones throughout time…yes, women are the only epics left in a world still hell bent on trying to silence and destroy us.

Thank you Moha Kahf for your words, Renée I.A. Mercuri for posting it, and my friend Sharon for sharing it.

Camino Provides

Portuguese Coastal Camino
Stage 11: Corujo to Vigo
Stage 12: Vigo to Redondela

(In lieu of Friday’s photo and poem feature.)

Vigo, with its oyster and mussel flats in the Ria de Vigo

“There are no wrong turnings.
Only paths we had not known
we were meant to walk.”

Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana

And so describes the next stage. After a night of thunder, lightning, and rain pelting down on the balcony, morning dawned with heavy cloud cover, puddles, and mud. It would be a wet walk. From my journal, Sunday, May 22, 2022: “Lo and behold, if Carlos, our driver yesterday, didn’t come back to take us to Corujo, our starting point for and a suburb of Vigo, missed when we’d walked along the coast and never did merge back onto the ‘official’ route. Walked thru the quiet village, mostly along the small murky creek, on muddy paths busy with Sunday saunterers, cyclists, dog walkers…thru the Parque de Castrelos, into and up residential streets. We overshot and had to back track, asking for help to find our way to the hotel, but en route, on the pedestrian main street, stopped in a pastry store selling empanadas – octopus and scallop – and ate them in the rain – checking off another culinary ‘musttry’…Bueno!!!”

Vigo. Spain’s largest Atlantic seaport, and Galicia’s most populated city, with an ancient history of Celtic and Roman settlements. When I’d returned home, our Camino friends from lunch a week ago in Viana do Castelo sent their photo slideshow of their walk. In response I wrote: “As one photographer to another, how similar and then how different what catches our eye, and makes for a wonderful photo. You saw a Vigo that I missed completely – one rich in history, texture, colour. Perhaps it was that we had walked in the rain, got a bit misdirected finding our hotel, but it felt so urban, cold and industrial…your photos gave me a fresh and more balanced perspective.”

But then again, we did taste those famous empanadas. And right outside our urban hotel, I spotted the first and only Illy coffee sign of my trip, and opted for a quick Americano before dinner – the best coffee since leaving home – which became a belated birthday celebration with chocolate cake, my companion’s treat. “Eat dessert first!” so I’m told and did, with gusto!

Another Monday. Another day of walking in the rain, to Redondela – where the central and coastal Portuguese Caminos converge. From my journal, Monday, May 23, 2020: “Straight forward walking up and out of Vigo into fog, mountain mist and steady rain. Thankful for having invested in that pack raincoat. Kept dry but damp. Finally learned that those dark containers we’d seen heading out to the Cies Islands were mussel and oyster flats. Saw hundreds of them along the Ria de Vigo.

Walked along forest paths, thru residential areas so no cafés. Finally I said out loud ‘I wish someone would invite us in for a hot cup of coffee.’ Not a minute later I see painted on the tarmac, ‘Coffee Bar’ with an arrow pointing up to a sweet little home café – warm – serving hot, homemade chicken soup! We had the place to ourselves, but a half hour later, every pilgrim walking to Redondela was lined up and out the door, stopping to dry off, warm up, and get their stamp.”

By the time we’d finally walked into Redondela, seeing many more pilgrims on the streets, the sun broke through to reveal its 19th c viaducts, 15th c church dedicated to St. James, and Alameda Park and gardens.

There’s an oft spoken saying among those walking that the Camino provides. In the rain, in need of something hot to drink, seeing that yellow painted sign on the tarmac seconds after asking was an unequivocal example. Too, the numerous strangers who pointed us on the way, or gave us directions when off route, weary, and wanting to find our accommodations. The server who saw a woman in need of the care an extra large glass of wine would ensure. The pharmacists in every town, knowledgeable about and prepared for the range of walking ailments – from heat rash and the ubiquitous blister treatments, to sunburn, colds, bruises, inflammation, and infections. Or in a later stage, the “peregrinos” soon present when my companion tripped and fell, their support and skills a much appreciated balm to her limited, and thankfully superficial injuries, and to my recovery from those initial moments of feeling terror as she lay facedown, motionless on the ground.

One of my travel strengths is asking for help from strangers. A lesson from my father, that if I don’t ask for what I need, how would anyone know what to offer? I’ve learned that asking for help gives another the opportunity to be of service. An encounter which, despite language differences, creates connection through a gesture made, a smile shared, a vulnerability acknowledged, an open heart in need. It joins us in our shared humanity, making for memories and stories that uplift and amplify kindness, generosity, and gratitude…reminding us, this is the way.

“As you start
to walk on
the way, the
way appears.”

Rumi

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Wings I’ve Grown

Portuguese Coastal Camino
Stage 5: Castelo do Neiva to Viana do Castelo
(In lieu of Friday’s regular photo and poem feature.)

Viana do Castelo across the River Lima and Eiffel Bridge, with Santa Luzia Basilica on the hilltop

“…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, “Who?” in The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

Prior to departure, I had indicated that while I’d not be posting stories nor photos on social media, nor blogging, I would select and schedule posting my weekly Friday photo and poem features during my walk. That I’d be curious once home and looking back at my choices to see what, if any, correspondence they had to my actual experience. Rumi’s “Who?”– excerpt above – coincided with the day before our shorter fifth stage, walked again in heat though now with humidity thanks to early morning rain. Coupled with a particularly intense climb on tarmac, giving us the first view of our next destination, Viana do Castelo, “heavy and tired legs” were a reality. But first, breakfast at Quinta do Montevedra…


Waking to steady showers and seeing heavy clouds rolling down the hills to the sea, we opted for a leisurely breakfast in another of the Quinta’s beautifully appointed spaces, hoping an hour or two would bring sunshine. Delicious hot coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice and other fruits, creamy scrambled eggs, an assortment of fine sausages – chorizo and Iberian ham – and cheeses – soft brie, aged sheep and fresh creamed – crusty bread, crispy croissants, flaky pain au chocolate, and soft Portuguese pastries. Yes, to linger enveloped in such sumptuousness…listening to music that evoked the memory of a recently passed friend who would have loved this walk, in this way…“we have opened you.”

The sun eventually broke through. Cozy warm and waterproof layers dispensed. The cab called to take us the few kilometers to the stage’s beginning. “Obrigadas” and gratitude gifts exchanged with our host, Fatima. And we set off. Through the forest, with the ocean in the distance to our left, on paths of glittering stone and mud; cobbled roads through villages and vineyards, to the 11th C Sao Romao de Neiva monastery where not a moment’s pause was given to consider climbing this 186 step stairway to heaven!

Once across another Eiffel Bridge – the first we had cruised under on Porto’s Douro River the week before – we passed the city’s cathedral en route to the what, in hindsight, would be an adequate, but least favourite hotel.

Since medieval times, Viana do Castelo has been a pilgrimage stop en route to Santiago. Rich with history, architecture, and culture, we took a “rest day” to more fully appreciate its credentials. The next morning, Sunday, after waking to the news of the race-related mass shooting in my birthplace, Buffalo NY, rain threatened to fall from heavy clouds as we rode the funicular up the hillside to the famous landmark towering over the city, Santa Luzia Basilica. Foreboding weather and gloomy vistas were an apt reflection of grief.

The city’s annual floral festival where gerbera blossoms festooned the riverside plaza, echoed the colors and designs in the embroidery and weaving of the region’s traditional clothing seen in the local museum.

Finding color on a dreary day was surprisingly easy wandering through the historic centre, past the floral embellished 16th C Praca da Republica Fountain to a children’s art gallery, and then onto a side street festive with suspended umbrellas which held the day’s delight. Waiting in line, a fellow “peregrino” from Colorado invited us to share a table with him and his sister and brother-in-law at a restaurant favoured by locals for their traditional Sunday lunch. Served family style, platters of grilled bachalau with braised carrots, cabbage and potatoes, and again, the beverage of choice – tinto verde. Being the only one game to accept the owner’s invitation to sample an after dinner brandy, he placed the snifter and bottle – Aguardente Velha – beside me while the others wished they’d said yes! Remedied, he brought them small glasses and another Portuguese liqueur – all his way of saying “obrigado” to us for eating at his restaurant. Flan to follow, sated, warmed, and smiling…I wrote later in my journal: “a true Camino experience of sharing a meal with others. I hope it is the first of more to come, being in community, on The Way.”

Bordering the journal pages of this day’s entry I wrote a quote, which like the scheduled poem, had been chosen many days before, and yet too, was on point: “There are times in your life you are flung into an undiscovered country of being, a place beyond time and tide and details, the full magical breath of you heaving with the joy of being, and you realize then, that parts of you exist in exile and completeness is journeying to bring them home.”

Such synchronicities become that “moment of feeling the wings I’ve grown lifting,” bringing me home.

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

The Base for Being Human

“But this week, we entered yet another hard,
shocking chapter in the life of the world.”

Krista Tippett, The Pause, March 5, 2022
beauty in a hard place

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.

Agrigento, Sicilia

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.”

“Long live the children of fierce vulnerability.”

“In times of terror, wage beauty.”

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty

Buds in Spain

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.

Life as Poem and Prayer

“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.

Today I watched an English subtitled speech given on Friday by Ukraine’s president to Russia’s people. Clarifying misinformation, stating his position and boundaries on behalf of his country’s people, imploring Russians to remember themselves and their relationships with the people of Ukraine. Fiercely compassionate is what comes to mind.

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.”

Stephan Jenkinson

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Weaving

WEAVING

First set the warp,
the plain, stable threads
that hold the pattern in place –
the infrastructure of joy,
the girders that hold up all we build
of meaning, or justice, or peace.
Use strong threads left
by those who have gone before.
Only then pick up the weft,
the colored thread that you will use
to weave accordingly to your plan.
Choose carefully – this is what
the world will see, each tiny act
that builds the bright pattern
of your life. Yes, the threads
will tangle or knot or fray,
and the flaws will show.
Oh well. Tuck in the ends
as best you can and start again.
This is not the time to stop your weaving.
So much is pulling at the great design.

– Lynn Ungar –
Breathe, 2020

Call it synchronicity or coincidence, I quickly picked up one of two poetry chapbooks I had just received from Lynn Ungar and the page opened to this poem, the perfect companion to Monday’s blog post, Spinning the Sacred Feminine. I’d been inspired to feature a poem on weaving today, thinking back to one I had “composed” as the conversation harvest from an activity designed in collaboration with a textile artist-community developer eleven years ago for our professional community of practice. I don’t recall the specifics, but we provided strips of fabric for the group of facilitators to weave together as a way to consider our work grounded in conversation and story. This was the result:

WARP and WEFT
An engaged community inspired by the virtues of beauty, hope and simplicity.
Texture foretells of mystery and transformation.
Beauty, the loom for creativity.
Inspiration, the weft.
We, the warp.
Beginning.

Berber Carpets, Chefchaouen, Morocco



Spinning the Sacred Feminine

“Women are spinners and weavers; we are the ones who spin the threads and weave them into meaning and pattern. Like silkworms, we create those threads out of our own substance, pulling the strong fine fibres, out of our own hearts and wombs.”

Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted, 2016
sisters weaving in Errachidia, Morocco, 2019

Gently teasing threads to weave together this week’s post, most vivid are my impressions from the deeply soulful virtual spaces in which I’ve been sitting this month. To name a few:

  • The monthly Poets Corner Sunday gathering featured Ellen Goldsmith and Lynne Ellis reading several of their poems for healing;
  •  “Chai, Love and Prayer,” monthly space hosted by my friend and Sufi scholar, Omid Safi;
  • A masterfully facilitated introductory meeting for thirty women each writing a chapter in an anthology on women leaders in education;
  • A consultation with our local library’s new writer-in-residence, Rayanne Haines, to help me understand judges’ feedback on several poetry submissions;
  • A book salon on Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass hosted by educational leader, instructor and friend, Kathy Toogood;
  • “Reawaken the Joy, Meaning and Sacredness of Being Alive” – a conversation between authors Sue Monk Kidd and Terry Helwig on Terry’s newest book, Shifting Shorelines: Messages from a Wiser Self;
  • My bi-weekly women’s circle;
  • A brief exploration of the wisdom of Mary and the sacred feminine presented by a favourite teacher-writer, Christine Valters Paintner, over at the Wild Luminaries series from Seminary of the Wild.
silk and wool threads and pattern for carpets in Kusadasi, Turkey, 2014

Spinning together these threads, the pattern emerging is my noticing how, in each gathering, women figured predominantly as sources of inspiration and wisdom – either in founding and-or hosting the groups and conversations, or in presenting, writing, teaching, sharing. Noticing how they, their process, and their offerings to the world, reflect and embody qualities of the sacred feminine as described by Christine Valters Paintner:

  • following intuition
  • attending to synchronicity
  • listening deeply to the natural world
  • surrendering striving
  • trusting the wisdom of underworld of shadow
  • honouring vulnerability as strength
  • embracing slowness and spaciousness
  • valuing being over doing

Struck by the conversation between Sue Monk Kidd and Terry Helwig – long-time friends and supports to each other’s writing – each described how shedding what no longer matters, simplicity, and literally driving in the slow lane to avoid the felt obligation of rush, make it easier to see, hear and embrace what matters now. How women make each other braver to follow their intuition, honour their vulnerability, do their inner shadow work.

“I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:

‘I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.’

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think.”

Brene Brown

In her words written and spoken, Robin Wall Kimmerer poetically teaches students and her readers how to listen deeply to the natural world, to appreciate indigenous world views and the truth in “all my relations.” Echoed in our book salon conversation, rich in individual perspectives, impressions, and associations, I came away with deepened regard and much deeper regret for all that had been taken away and lost through the colonization and residential schooling of our First Peoples.

“It’s time to make some new threads; time to strengthen the frayed wild edges of our own being, and then weave ourselves back into the fabric of our culture. Once we knew the patterns for weaving the world; we can piece them together again.”

Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted, 2016
fabric woven in Errachidia, Morocco, 2019

On Saturday I woke to an email announcing that my ekphrastic poem written in response to a track from an electronic music album had been accepted for its anthology. For payment! With a contract coming! The feedback and edits from my writer-in-residence were terrific, just what I need to help this self-taught poet-in-process develop, and realize my innovative contribution to the leadership anthology: “poetic” process observation-recordings of our meetings, and synthesizing chapters into poetic “pauses” to introduce or close chapter sections.

Right about now, two years ago, we were getting ready to leave for a winter sojourn in southern Spain. A couple of weeks, mid to late February, travelling by bus and train through Andalusia – Sevilla, Aracena, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga and then back to Sevilla. And then upon our return home, the world would change. Today, nearly two years later, unprecedented impacts from the pandemic continue to roll out like an endless line of falling dominoes.

In response to a friend’s blog last week, I wrote “this seems to be the time and the place where the art, the poem, the story, the prayer, the silence, the conversation, the thank you, the kiss, the embrace may comfort, soothe, sustain and help us find our way.”

“Women can heal the Wasteland.
We can remake the world.
This is what women do.
This is our work.”

Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted, 2016

And so we do, as we do.

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

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