As I slipped into meditation this morning, a mist was floating along the surface of the river. When I opened my eyes 20 minutes later, the mist was gone, the sun shone bright. Shadows of naked tree trunks slid across the ice towards the west.
I smiled. How appropriate.
The question I had asked before meditating was, “What is here? Will you show yourself to me?”
I was not disappointed.
I am deeply engaged in a course on Radical Intimacy. Much of the time in this course is spent feeling from the womb, being within and of deep feminine wisdom.
This morning, I ‘saw’ a rootball, like one of the ones I hold in my hands when I am planting new spring flowers just bought from the nursery. Gently, I remove the plant from the pot, release its root ball and lovingly place it in the earth.
And that’s what I did with my feminine ‘rootball’ this morning. I gently began the process of untangling my roots.
I am unearthing my divine feminine essence that lives always within the womb of our humanity.
I’m growing. Deepening. Becoming, more and more, the essence of me. It is a lifelong journey, this becoming. A journey I dive into, retreat from, engage with again, retreat from again, in a lifelong dance of engage/retreat/enact – engage/retreat/inact…
I am smiling.
Sometimes the retreat is long. Sometimes, I am like the mist that floated along the river this morning. I follow the river’s course. I get lost in the confusion, uncertainty, despair of the times, and must allow the sun to disperse the mist hiding me from my truth — I am always becoming. Whether in engagement, retreat, acting out or taking action. I am always becoming.
Ice cold, waters flow
winter drifts stealthily past
spring stirs and sleeps on
Winter’s icy grip holds me in its thrall. Ice clogs the river divided into two snowbound channels that flow in sluggish, selfish disregard of my desire for spring to arrive.
I watch… the river flow… the sun creep across the farside bank… mist rise and cars drive over the bridge as this giant ball we call our home keeps spinning through space on its journey around the sun, oblivious to the hands of time turning fast over calendar pages.
We humans create such angst for ourselves. Such trauma and grief.
I awake and scan the headlines on my phone. I open my Wordle App and feel some satisfaction in figuring it out in three guesses.
I’ll take the small wins on this ice-cold day. The tiny moves that bring me guilty pleasures and simple joys and remember, that even though it seems the Arctic air will hold us in its grip forever, this too shall pass.
All things do.
Spring shall come.
The snow will melt
And life will continue to move on despite our struggles to hold it still,, to change the past, to change the course of life’s rivers flowing.
Some say age is irrelevant. Some say it’s everything. Some, that getting older is hard. Others, that it’s not for the weak of heart, spirit, or mind.
I say, age, and aging, are what we make of it.
We can’tnot age. Our bodies change and grow older with every passing day. And while we can’t stop the aging process, we can cultivate a young-at-heart state of mind no matter our age. We can consciously choose to remain spirited, open-minded, and mindful of how we see ourselves at every age, because, no matter how old we get, we always have the power to choose to not make our age the measure of our journey, but rather make our journey the measure of how we live our age.
I want to be as excited and enthusiastic about getting older as my grandson approaching his fifth birthday, counting each sleep left before the ‘big day’. I want to treat every day as the best day to be alive because reaching five, or whatever age I achieve, is the best age to be in this moment, right now.
I want to fill each day with memories to cherish and possibilities to fulfill. To stuff all the things that make my heart dance into each moment, unfettered by worry and confusion about what it means to be turning 70, or 80 or any other age I claim as mine. I want to dance wild of heart, living every day as if the question, “How shall I best live this day” is the only question I need to live into, every day.
I don’t want to feel like I’m crawling towards some finish line looming ominously like a dark cloud hanging low upon a not-so-distant horizon. I want to invite Lady Death to be my welcome companion. To run with her through fields of wildflowers blowing in the wind, to stand in silent companionship under a warm spring sun and feel its warmth on our upturned faces as we soak in the glorious nature of this day. I want to know that Lady Death is not lurking in the shadows waiting for some, indecipherable to me, signal that says, “Time’s Up!” but is dancing with me in the rain, catching raindrops on our tongues and splashing barefoot in mud puddles, arms wide open as we spin and leap with abandon. I want her to be my best friend. The one who comes and sits with me when I am scared of what comes next, encouraging me to stand up and live unafraid of whatever does come next.
I want to live as if dying is not the end of living, just the end of life as I know it. That, in living this life the best I can, I can trust Lady Death to take care of whatever glorious mystery lies beyond it, in its own time that doesn’t matter to me.
I want to live wild, free, and magnificently alive right to my last breath no matter how my body carries me across death’s threshold. A threshold I am confident will arrive in its own sweet time, saving me from having to discover whether or not I had a ‘best before date’.
Because I know, deep within my body, that I don’t have a ‘best before date’. I only have dates with my best daysever, days, not to be used up, but used to the fullest of my ability, no matter my age.
I don’t want to be used up by life. I want to use up life bite by scrumptious bite, savouring every morsel of life as if it’s some delicious meal inviting me to consume it to the very last delectable drop.
I want to live this life as if it’s the only life I have to live because it truly is the best life I’ll ever have and celebrating my birth date with as much enthusiasm as my five-year-old grandson celebrates his, is the best way to say as I blow out all 70 of my candles (and however many more are yet to come), “Thank you for this amazing, magnificent, glorious life. It is the best gift I’ve ever received. And my wish is on this day and every day, I use it well every day of my life.“
6:30 am. I am sitting at Gate 54 waiting for my flight. Which doesn’t depart for two hours. And already, the airport is busy. The waiting area getting crowded.
The drive was fast. Security even faster. The line at Starbucks the only thing with a wait.
I sip my latte and watch and listen to the people all around. The wheels of someone’s rollie suitcase thrums as it rolls along the tile floor, its reveraberations rattling like a train chugging along the tracks. Its owner is walking quickly. I imagine his eyes focused on the Starbucks sign just ahead. In his intent to grab his first coffee of the day he is oblivious to his surroundings. Or perhaps, his flight is boarding and he is rushing to get to his gate.
He’s gone. Rolls out of my mind like a cloud passing-by on a sunshiney day.
Airports fascinate me. That opening sequence from Love Actually, of people joyfully, some tearfully, greeting one another at the International arrivals gate one of my favourite all-time scenes.
Smiles. Laughter. Tears. Music to stir the heart.
There is no music at the airport. No ambient tunes or annoying elevator music being piped in to fill the space, keep things calm. .
I haven’t noticed this before. Even though I pass through this terminal many times a year. I haven’t noticed that there is no music playing at the airport.
People are the music. The sounds of voices, suitcases rolling along the tile floor, voices in many languages chatting. A child laughing. Another crying. A man on his phone. Talking loud in a language I do not understand. I wonder if he thinks he is alone. Not at the airport but in his language here at a terminal filled with many voices, in many tongues, speaking languages from far and away. I wonder if speaking in his native tonue gives him a sense of security, of believing no one can understand so why bother to try to soften his voice? Or perhaps, he just always speaks in a loud voice and never worries about anyone else’s comfort?
I wonder how many hopes and dreams, disappointments and regrets those around me carry. I wonder if they are going to something with great anticipation, or dread. I wonder who will meet them at the end of their journey, and who will not. Will they come through the exit doors, search the crowd only to realize. ‘They’ did not come. What then? What happens next.
Lives interesecting, paths crossing, people travelling in different directions. Some towards. Some away from. Some, not sure where they’re going or what or who will greet them at the end of the line.
when I arrive in Vancouver, I shall wait for my suitcase, (hoping it turns up while keeping hold of the confidence it will), suitcase in hand, I’ll walk the length of the terminal, take the elevator to the third floor and board the Canada Line to downtown.
My daughter and grand-daughter will be waiting for me at the end of the line. We’ll greet each other with hugs and smiles. My heart will feel full and overflowing with joy and love and happiness and anticipation of the celebrations to come.
It is my grandsons 5th birthday.
I am so excited to spend it with him. Excited and grateful to have the gift of time to be part of his life, to watch him grow and mature as he steps into his future confident that the past, the present and the future is full of LOVE. That no matter what happens, no matter what wrong roads or right, no matter what tumbles he may take, what pitfalls he may navigate, he was, is and always will be part of this family circle that begins in endless, enduring exquisite LOVE.
I sit at Gate 54 waiting and know, no matter where I am, or where I go, LOVE is always with me.
I love to cook and entertain. Fortunately, my beloved enjoys entertaining almost as much as I do and finds my desire to ‘create beauty’ umm… amusing/admirable/adorable… Yeah. That’s it.
Anyway, I do love to create a beautiful experience for everyone who comes to our home. To have the table look as good as I hope the food tastes.
This is why I spend a lot (read that – an inordinate amount) of time creating placecards for each guest and a unique look for the table-setting along with a menu that is inspiring and intriguing, as well as appetizing and fulfilling.
It pleases my creative heart and soothes my yearning to create beauty in the world.
I tell you this because I believe the world needs more beauty.
I believe that the only way to offset the ugly out there, is to create beauty, in here.
It doesn’t mean I’m ignoring the ugly in the world. It’s hard to ignore when newsfeeds are full of graphic accountings of humanity’s ability to destroy one another and the planet we depend upon for our very breath.
But there is little I can do about the bigger world beyond my own sphere of influence. And so, I do my best to ensure my sphere (some might call it a bubble) is as devoid of conflict, strife and hard edges as it can be.
That also doesn’t mean I cannot be prone to being edgie at times or behaving badly. It does mean that when I do miss a step or fall down in my behaviour, I do my best to get accountable and take responsibility for my missteps by cleaning up my act whenever I can.
And sometimes (read that most times) cleaning up my acting out requires I come back into integrity with my own self, inside me.
It means getting authentic inside so that who I am in the world is aligned with who I want to be in every aspect of my life.
When I used to coach at Choices, I remember every Sunday evening at the end of the five-day training, I’d think about how I am in ‘the room’ and ask myself, “Is how I am in the world outside this room aligned with how I am in this room?”
Often, I’d find gaps in my behaviour, in how I was presenting myself out there that were not aligned.
See, in a sacred space like the Choices room where hearts are broken open to the power of love and possibility (Discovery Seminars now that Choices no longer operates in Alberta) it is easy to be authentic. Not only is the room a safe space, it is a brave space – a space where no matter your human condition, you know without equivocation, you are loved, lovable, Love in action.
In the big world out there, it doesn’t always feel safe, and being brave can feel not only scary but dangerous.
How do you stand up to a bully when that bully has a gun?
How do you speak truth when truth-speaking could cost you your life or your family’s freedom?
And how do you create beauty wheneverything and everyone around you feels shrouded in the darkness of anger, fear and hopelessness?
I don’t have answers for the world ‘out there’. I do, however, now that what I create in here will ripple onward, out into the world in ways I can’t imagine.
And for that ripple to be filled with beauty, wonder and awe, I must release droplets of beauty, wonder and awe into the world around me with everything I do.
We live in times that feel unprecedentedly uncertain, at times confusing, at times nullifying and frightening.
I don’t know if what I feel today is worse than what my parents and their cohorts felt during WW2, or when I was a child and the Bay of Pigs was unfolding and we children were practicing hiding under our desks at school in case of an atom bomb going off. But, what I do know is, like my mother who wanted only to create beauty and peace in her world, I am doing my best to walk in her footsteps and do the same.
It is only the steps I am taking that can fill in the gaps between fear, hopelessness and possibility.
Sometimes, knowing I am imbuing each of my steps with beauty is all I need to bring myself back into integrity.
PS. It was my youngest daughter’s 35th birthday yesterday. To celebrate her, we held a dinner on Sunday night for family and friends. These are some of the photos. (thank you @ChristieeJames for the photos!)
And PPS. I used to avoid making cakes. I’m learning to love it! She wanted a “sprinkle cake’ – read that – Confetti Cake. I loved how it turned out!
Wrapped in the soft glow of candlelight illuminating the dark, I sit in the quiet of night’s velvety embrace.
It’s early. Dawn sleeps deep, bedded down in night’s arms. The dark envelopes the sky.
I sit at my desk, breathing in the silence and watch the lights from the pedestrian bridge that crosses the river outside my window shimmer on the water’s inky black surface.
I am awake. I don’t want to be. But a dream I cannot remember awoke me. Unable to find sleep again, I do the thing I always do when sleep evades me. I get up, light a candle on my desk. It sits in front of the large picture window in our living room, looking west. Looking out into the darkness, to the river, the dark silhouettes of the trees that line its banks, nature’s painting of black on light shadow, waiting, like portals into some magical, far away land calling me to let go of what I know to enter the realm of all there is yet to discover.
My fingertips skim the keyboard on my laptop. The river flows. Olafur Arnald’s piano quietly plays in the background. The fridge hums. Beaumont the Sheepadoodle, lies at my feet, sleeping.
A light moves along the bridge. Someone on a bicycle is crossing. East to west. For a moment I am distracted. Where is he going? What is he doing riding a bike across the bridge at 4am?
His light disappears. I return to this moment.
The river flows. No wind stirs the naked branches of the trees that fill the gaps between tree trunks like cracks in ice spidering out.
Morning has yet to beckon.
Day has yet awaken.
I breathe in the quiet of the moment and feel my body easing into the darkness.
There is nowhere to be in the dark of night. No one thing I have to do. There is only this. This moment where I sit typing, breathing, and watching the river flow and the lights dance on its surface.
Day will come. Light will return to the sky. For now, I sit in the dark belly of night and let my mind flow like the river and dream of dancing with wild, fierce abandon into the unknown adventures of the day yet to rise.
It was just a plain cardboard box labelled with my name and address. The name of a town in New Brunswick the only clue as to the sender.
I knew who sent it. A woman named Sharon who for the past three years had been sending an identical box because two of her children had once found their way to the emergency homeless shelter where I worked before finding their way back home several years later.
In her note that year she wrote:
“Enclosed is a box of handmade mitts and hats from two gals from New Brunswick who truly believe in the work that you and your volunteers offer the residents of Calgary. As in the past, you have supported our children as they went out west to find employment, and start a new life, that may not have been so glamorous, and ended up in your shelter.
In our appreciation, please accept these small tokens, made with huge hearts by mothers who know what it is like to have a child that has lived on the streets in Calgary. May these warm gifts from our heart help others that are in need this coming winter.
As in past years, these items are made with wool from sheep that have grazed in New Brunswick, wool spun and manufactured at Briggs & Little in New Brunswick and knitted by myself, a New Brunswicker and Marg, a Newfoundlander.
May you and your volunteers know that your work has not gone unnoticed but has encouraged many, even mothers on the east coast of Atlantic Canada.”
A plain cardboard box that held all the prayers and hopes of mothers the world over. May my child come home, safe and sound — for Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan. Whatever the occasion. May my child come home, safe and sound.
We never know when something we do will make a difference. We never know what that difference will be. We never know whose heart we’ll touch.
Sharon touched my heart that day and memories of her grace and kindness continue to resonate in my world today.
She reminds me that this is an amazing world. A world where on one side of the street people walk wrapped up in the warm coats of lives stitched together from one moment to the next filled with things to do, places to go, people to see. A world where, sadness and bleakness wear weary paths to the place where shelter is found in every kind of weather, just across the street.
A world where, just across the nation, mothers, like Sharon and Marg, sit together and knit away the dark hours of winter to the soothing hum of knit one, pearl one.
A world where knitting needles click and two mothers create a gift that will shelter the hands of those who have been left out in the cold.
With each knit one, pearl one, Sharon and Marg stitch together the possibility of hope arising in the hearts of those who receive their gifts — no matter the state of their lives or their position at the shelter — because each stitch has been cast with a pearl one of gratitude, a knit one of hope.
In opening the box of multi-coloured mittens, I was reminded that when we knit one in hope, pearl one in gratitude, we stitch into the tapestry of this world all the love a mother’s heart can hold. A love that, no matter the distance between us, can never be torn apart, can never come unstitched. Is never lost, no matter how lost we may feel.
May we all be blessed with pearls of hope stitching our lives into a tapestry full of the possibility to our returning home where ever that may be.
When I worked in an adult emergency homeless shelter, amidst the joy and laughter, the lights and decorations that adorn this time of year in the rosy glow of family gatherings and festive delights, the air was also filled with the sadness of loneliness and the heavy despair of homelessness.
For those without a place to call home, finding joy always came shrouded in the memories of joy lost, connections broken, family circles torn apart by poverty, addiction, violence and loss.
One year, we invited clients to share holiday messages to post on our website. I was always in awe of how excited those who participated were to have a chance to reach out to family and friends and let them know they were thinking of them and wishing them well.
One of those individuals was Zahir. His nickname was ‘Happy’ because he could always be counted on to lighten even the darkest moments with his laughter.
Zahir was diagnosed with a mental illness when his daughter was three. He was exiled from the family home and his community and began a long journey through homelessness.
He was in his 50s when we did a video story with Zahir one Christmas. We wanted to show the human side of homelessness. To help those who had never experienced it or judged the shelter and those experiencing homelessness, find compassion and understanding for those who used the shelter as their respite.
This video had an even more important purpose which would only be revealed several months later when I received a letter from a woman who had never given up searching for the father she’d lost when she was 3 years old.
As a child, she’d been forbidden from seeing or searching for, her father. As an adult, she made it her mission to find him. One of the things she did constantly, was search the websites of emergency shelters across Canada in the hopes of finding him. In her letter, she told me it was a miracle she stumbled across our video. She had started to give up hope of ever finding her father.
Zahir and his by-then 30-something daughter were reunited. At that reunion, Zahir got to meet his 2-year-old granddaughter and learned that he would be a grandfather again later that same year.
Zahir, despite his daughter’s requests he come live with them in another city, would not leave the shelter. It was the world he knew. And, though he never met his second grandchild, when Zahir passed away later that year, he was a very happy man. He had met the daughter he’d never lost hope of one day seeing again.
In the darkness of homelessness, Zahir held onto hope and loving-kindness.
May we all do the same.
This is the video that sparked the miracle of Zahir and his daughter’s reunion.
The forecast is Cold. More cold. And cold some more.
The ground lies frozen beneath its snowy blanket. Squirrels huddle in their winter nests. Geese hunker down on frost covered riverbanks. Birds still their raucous song.
The river keeps flowing.
Trees stand silent, naked branches extended into the air like varicose veins creeping across thin, aged skin.
Time keeps passing, its relentless movement oblivious to winter’s harsh winds.
A stranger emails me from Montreal. She’s read my OpEd which was reprinted in the Montreal Gazette. She wants to quote me. “… the knowledge and experience I’ve accrued over 40 years of building my career have provided me with a lifetime of wisdom to draw on that informs and enriches all my interactions.”
I love that line, she writes.
I reply, “I would be honoured.”
A connection made between two strangers, through words poured out onto a screen, imprinted on paper far away.
Two lives intersect, their words carried on invisible strands of ethernet spinning through time and space.
Lives continue to unfold, moments woven through with possibilities unseen, unknown, untouched.
Chance encounters. Lives connected through sometimes momentary, sometimes extended moments.
Lives keep unfolding as winter descends.
Everything remains constant in its changing states.
Winter has arrived.
Seeds of possibility quietly dream, cozy and warm within an Arctic embrace.
This too shall pass, the wind whispers. This too shall pass
And the river flows, sluggish now, as temperatures drop and winter takes hold.
I watch a crow sitting on our backyard fence. He looks at me sitting at my desk, secure behind the window.
Our home is a walkout. I’m one floor up. Not close enough.
I open the upper deck door, step out, all while doing my best not to take my eyes off the crow. I’ve got a nest full of eggs below to protect.
The crow eyes me. I eye him back.
He caws (interesting. I always call these predators ‘he’). Hops down from the fence onto the ground. Casually, he hops along the fence line bringing him closer to the nest.
I yell, not to loudly. My neighbours are sleeping. “Go away.”
He does nothing.
I yell louder, disregarding the fact it’s 6:30 am. “Go away!”
He caws again. Takes another hop or two along the grass, flaps his glossy black wings and lifts off. A few swoops of his wings and he lands on a branch of a tree on the other side of the fence.
I sigh. Where is the mommy robin?
I go downstairs to check the nest.
I open the patio door. Peek out, looking up to the beam where she’s built her nest.
She’s there. Sitting on her eggs.
I breathe a sigh of relief.
All is well.
But man. This Crow Patrol gig is tiring!
Perhaps, I need to trust in Mother Nature’s grand design and let her have her way. Because, let’s face it, ‘Mothers Know Best”.
At least, that’s what a taxicab driver told me in January after flying home from a visit to The LIttles in Vancouver. We were driving through a freak snowstorm at 1am. No traffic but the roads were slick. Windshield wipers beating a steady tattoo that did little to improve the visibility, he told me the story of returning to his native Sudan to tell his parents he was getting married to a woman in Canada only to discover, they already had his wedding planned, just not to the woman he intended.
“I was angry at my mother when she told me I was getting married in four days to a woman she’d chosen,” he said while using one hand to clear his windshield of condensation. “That was 10 years ago and I couldn’t be happier. My wife is the perfect woman for me.”
My eyes were peeled straight ahead at the road that was barely visible through the windscreen as if my looking so intently would make his driving more… safe.
Oblivious to my focus on the road, he laughed, gave another swipe at the condensation on the window.,”Just goes to show, Mothers know best!” 🙂
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