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Ain’t gonna make war no more

When my father ran off to the war, he was a teenager. Idealistic. Full of adventure. A poet boy.

When he came back from the war, he was a man. Broken. Angry. Hardened.

He was not alone.

War is not pretty. It is not easy. It is not an adventure. Yet, when I see photos of my father and the other young men who journeyed far from home eager to quell the Nazi advance and bring peace to a troubled world, I do not see fear in their eyes. I do not see ‘the ugly’.

I see the belief they were going off to fight for freedom, or as a commentator on the radio called it, “the good war”. For many of those young men who headed off with their heads held high and their beliefs strong, it was a fight to the death.

For men like my father, it was a war that left them troubled and angry, isolated and silent. It was a war that left them fighting for peace from the memories of the battles they could not leave behind, just like they could not leave their brothers lying lost on the battlefields of foreign soils.

Today, as I do every Remembrance Day, I shall stand with hundreds of others and honour the boys and men who never came home and those who did after sacrificing so much. I shall lay my poppy at the feet of the unknown soldier who graces Memorial Park in the downtown core and as I lay it down, I shall raise my eyes up to the sky and pledge to my father that I will not ‘make war no more’.  Not in my heart. Not in my life. Not in my world.

My father left this world many years ago carrying with him the poet boy who never came back from war. The boy who sometimes, in the silence that the man who became my father held onto to forget all that he had witnessed, appeared in letters he wrote, or poems he sent when we lived an ocean apart. It was in those notes I felt the loss of the poet boy my father kept hidden behind his anger and his silence.

To honour the sacrifice of his youth and the man he might have become had war not stolen the boy, and the sacrifices of so many young boys who fought so that we could have our freedom today, I must pledge to ‘make war no more’. And in that pledge, commit to the peaceful path; the path of Love. It is the only way I know to honour the many who lost their lives to war.

If we could all put down our arms of war and open our arms to embrace one another in Love, then perhaps this troubled world will find the peace and harmony for which they fought so hard.

In letting the guns fall silent, we must let nothing separate us from taking a step towards one another so that we can stand, arm in arm, and make peace amongst all humankind.

Namaste.

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When my daughters were young, we listened to this song over and over as we drove to the coast. It is a powerful anthem for peace.

I See You. I Hear You. I Am Not Afraid.

The story of life is a never-ending river flowing toward a distant sea. Every moment filled with endless Love flowing free.

When I sank into meditation yesterday, I gave myself the opportunity for my inner knowing deep within my belly to rise up in response to the question, “What are you afraid of?”

The answer surprised me.

It wasn’t death. Success. Failure. Speaking in public. Or even growing old and losing all my faculties, or not. Sometimes it feels like growing old is scary with all my faculties!

No. The answer that rose up was one near and dear and very familiar to me. You fear Letting Go and Being Present. Flow with it. Be the flow.

Playing in my studio yesterday afternoon, I breathed into my fear and painted the wind with all the colours of the rainbow.

I let go and let whatever was calling out to appear to become what was being created.

In the letting go, I discovered what the question was calling out to me to acknowledge: Writing a novel is a scary undertaking. I have written two in the past and done nothing with them even though their birthing was a painful process and advance readers really liked them.

‘Doing the work’ is not what I fear. It’s the ‘owning the work’, being responsible for its path after birthing that absolutely terrifies me. (More on this at a later date.)

For now, I need to get honest about the little bitty issue of how I become in the process that concerns me and gives me pause to procrastinate, dawdle and avoid.

See, I know what happens when I become immersed in ‘the story’. Time. Space. The world around me falls away and I turn into a ‘storyzilla!’  You know, an out of control bridezilla without the veil and white dress and all the wedding stuff going on, just the blank white page staring at me every morning.

In its presence, I swing between the polar opposites of every interruption becoming an imposition warranting sharp and nasty ‘get out of my space’ comments from me. Or, every interruption appearing like an invitation to step away from my laptop and have a coffee. Go for a walk or even, clean the toilet. Yup. When I’m writing (or more specifically, not writing) I have the cleanest toilets in town!

This is why the art journal spread that appeared is so fascinating and revealing to me.

A young girl is walking into a monstrous wind. Unafraid, undaunted she stands her ground and keeps staring the storm down. Of course, she’s got her best friend in tow to keep her company but he is walking behind her, using her as his shield. She is the warrior. The priestess. The one who will not be silenced.

Which, based on the storyline of my novel, is incredibly prescient.

But wait! There’s more.

Here’s how the subconscious really kicks in. In one scene in my story, a young five-year-old girl is playing in the woods with her mother. Her boots and winter coat are loden green, the colour her mother dyed the wool. The little girl really wanted her mother to dye the wool red.

Without consciously connecting working on my art journal page to the story I’m writing (or avoiding writing – you pick), I painted the little girl in the painting’s coat and boots red. Hmmm…. colour me blown away.

And….. the little girl also likes to pick yellow flowers and give them to her mother.

WHAT??? I painted yellow flowers and yes, their pop of colour is an important design element, but I hadn’t connected them to the story I’m writing until I awoke this morning and the answer awoke with me.

Being responsible for the birthing and caring of a story is scary. Fear is not a reason to not do it.

So, slowly, quickly, whatever speed I go, this is me facing my fears, letting go and getting busy writing it out (while being present to however I appear in the world around me with love (and a whole lot of compassion) because believe me, I ain’t funny when I’m focused.

Perhaps it’s best I do an advance apology session with my beloved so he is not surprised when storyzilla roars!

However it goes, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

Namaste

Colour Me Excited

Last Saturday I christened my “Wild at Heart Studio” with six lovely women who came to explore, create, play and shine.

It was wonderful!

On November 19th, I am leading my first workshop @KensingtonArtSupply – a huge step for me – to offer an art workshop outside my own safe space! In this case, it is an art journalling workshop — Art Your Heart Out!  Colour me excited!

There was a time when I said I couldn’t paint. I had no artistic ability.

And then, I discovered how wrong I’d been about something I’d told myself all my life. (I was in my mid-forties when this revelation came to me!)

Hmmm…. I wondered. If I’m wrong about that, what other limiting beliefs am I holding that might be keeping me in place, stopping me from doing things outside my comfort zone?

Delving into artistic expression has been a life-giver. It has created space for me to explore my world in all its many colours, textures, shades and shadows. And, it’s enriched my life by giving me the inspiration to create opportunities for others to find their own creative expressions.

Years ago, when I first started working in the homeless-serving sector at a large adult homeless shelter, I started an art program. A church had donated funds for art-making that had sat unused for two years. I went out, bought some supplies and then invited clients of the shelter to join me on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons for creative play.

That program connected us in ways we could not imagine. It shone a spotlight on our humanity, our shared human condition and our capacity to create even in the face of abject poverty, sadness, loss. Providing space for others to delve into their creative core in the otherwise stark and soul-crushing world of homelessness was healing, affirming, possibility-filled.

That space was an opportunity for everyone to reconnect to that which homelessness crushes down — our humanity. Rather than being identified as the label “homeless”, both participants and those who volunteered in the studio, who came to our art shows and other productions were connected through the creative process to that which makes our world more caring, kind and beautiful — the creative expression of our human condition.

That program gave me a creative outlet and an opportunity to invite people to engage with individuals experiencing homelessness in more positive and supportive ways. It also taught me about my own human condition; its frailties, blind-spots, glory.

Just as back then when I started that art program I did not know where it would lead, (it resulted in some amazing other projects and creative expressions I could not have imagined if I hadn’t simply stayed present to the possibilities), I do not know where my creativity workshops will lead me. I do know, I’ll go nowhere different if I do nothing.

Yesterday, as I reorganized my studio and then spent time playing, I felt myself coming home to myself with all my being present to the beauty and wonder of the moment.

This morning, as I sit at my desk in my studio, looking out at the snow-covered grass, the bare branches of the trees lining the river, the sun shining on the waters flowing past, I feel myself connected to the amazing ordinary grace of this moment.

I breathe deeply into the wonder and awe, revel in the ordinary and extraordinary life that flows through me and say a prayer of gratitude.

Ah yes. This is life.

Beautiful. Joyful. Filled with awe and wonder, inexplicable moments of sadness and sorrow, breath-taking moments of radiance and light.

This is life.

How blessed I am to feel it flowing through me, connecting me to this world of limitless possibility.

Namaste

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Thank you JT, JD, JR, SC, WC and BB for creating such glorious magic in this space.

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As part of the workshop I created mini art journals for each participant and then demonstrated how they could create their own. As well, eveyone painted salt dough hearts I’d prepared and spent time just playing with ink, paint, water, paper and medium. What fun!

 

 

What I Can Do

I cannot know what it feels like to walk in your skin, different than mine, walking on the same streets where I pass freely
To feel the shame of having your body slammed by words of condemnation or sexual connotations fit for no one. Words that fall on you like acid rain as you pass by
Or experience the barb of the slurs you’ve heard slung at you like daggers to your soul screaming at you to go back to where you belong, that place where death stalked your every breath and fear was your constant companion

I cannot know your journey.

I cannot know the terror of gun-toting wild-eyed men invading your village and burning your home and stealing your children and raping you as an act of war
Or the hunger that gnaws at your bones as your children cling to your sides begging for food when your hands, and your belly, are empty
Or the deep all-consuming grief of burying your sons and daughters beneath the blood-red soils that claimed their lives because others coveted the land you love

I cannot know your story.

I cannot see the courage it took to trust strangers with what little money you had as you and your children huddled in a boat to take a perilous journey across seas you could not know for sure any of you would survive
Or feel the faith you had no choice but to hold onto as you lay beneath the mud that covered your home as you waited for rescue or death, whichever came first, to embrace you

I cannot know your tragedies.

I can stop minimizing the shame of those who sling words that make your walk a hellish passage where dignity lies struggling for breath beneath every step you take
I can stop judging you for our differences, shaming you for your lack of means, blaming you for your situation
I can stop condemning you for leaving your war-torn lands or storm-ravaged towns far away to seek refuge here to become my neighbours on this land where I live but do not own. This land that is not our land but everyone’s land, for no one can completely own something that is part of everything that is this planet upon which we walk.

I can acknowledge your journey is different than mine. That I do not know what you know but can learn from you how to be courageous, brave, kind, even in the face of fear.

I can start believing you without insisting you repeat your story again and again.

I can start listening to your story and honouring it as your truth so that all our truth has room to breathe in freedom.

And I can let go of my judgements so that together we can find a more peaceful path to living side by side on this planet spinning through space where each of us is searching for our place to belong. This planet all 7 billion of us call our home.

I can do this. I know I can because I am learning from you what it means to be human.

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There are mornings, like this one, where the muse awakens and writes her way into being heard, seen, known.

I am grateful on these mornings when I let go of my agenda, my ‘knowing’ of what I will write and give her full reign.

Separate from Love (Day 9 – 30 Day Art Project)

It is not Love that separates from us, but us who build the walls that keep our hearts separate.

We go through life, experiencing all it has to offer, without always knowing how to cope or deal with what is on our plate. In our journey, the things that happen can create feelings we sometimes don’t know what to do with. And so, we dam them up, block them in, hoping that by ignoring or denything their presence, we will not feel the hurts and pains of life and will come out unscathed.

Life is an experiential journey and we are emotional beings.

Letting emotions flow does not come naturally to us. We want to hold on. To pretend the emotions don’t exist. In our struggle to deal with what we do not understand, or the things that hurt us, we forget (or don’t know how) to release what we do not need from the gentle confines of the heart so we can breathe freely.

The heart holds on to many things; Love, laughter, joy. Memories. Hopes. Dreams.

The heart also holds things that make it heavy. Sorrows. Regrets. Pain. Loss. Grief. Dreams unlived. Hopes forgotten. Memories that have dried into seeds of bitterness.

The heavier the heart becomes, the more we separate ourselves from Love.

We each have the power to choose to break free of that which holds us separate.

It is a moment by moment, day by day choice to begin again, every single day, to choose Love. To choose to let go of the bitterness that separates us from Love.

It is a choice.

Just for this moment, take a deep breath. In. Out. In. Out.

Imagine… Forgiveness is a river supporting you. You float freely on its gentle surface. It flows freely all around you. You feel safe.

Now invite Love. Joy. Contentment. Happiness. Freedom… to join you.

Breathe in….

Breathe out…

Savour each moment of swimming in the beautiful, warm waters of forgiveness.

Again,

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Your are safe in the river of forgiveness. Your body is buoyed up by your conscious decision to choose, Love….

Don’t think. Just choose.

Let it be.

Begin again.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Begin again.

And as you breathe. So it is.

 

 

Reflecting Light (Day 4 – 30 Day Art Project)

We are each beautifully flawed mirrors of Love’s perfection, reflecting and refracting our heart’s light.

Yesterday, my beloved presented me with a box of cards he’d had printed, just for me. “Made with Love by C.C.” contains 50 beautiful 4″ x 4″ square cards, each printed with a lovely message from him.

I cried.

“Words of Affirmation” is my love language. It is not his. Yet, there he was, speaking my language, giving me a gift that sang to my heart’s desire to be seen, heard, known, connected.

“I didn’t write all of the messages,” he told me. “I wrote some myself and used their suggestions for others.” The company he used to order them provides suggestions and you get to pick and adapt.

He adapted well.

What was uncanny, and beautiful, about his gift is that one of the cards speaks to my tendency to enter into the ‘tough’ conversations.

The timing was perfect.

I am about to go off on a weekend with my youngest daughter to a remote mountain lodge. There is no cellphone, no internet, no way to connect with the outside world except through the Satellite phone at the Lodge — and that’s just for emergencies. (And yes, I am super excited to spend this time in the backcountry with my daughter).

Before leaving, I wanted to have a conversation with my beloved about something I needed to share. To share it, I needed to create safe and courageous space for both of us to hear one another without triggering our individual narratives around why having these conversations is not fun — and sometimes best to be avoided (They’re never best to be avoided but the critter will attempt to convince us they are!).

When these conversations go off the rails, it’s generally because I get into my “I’m Right” position (which immediately makes him wrong — and that doesn’t go over well!). Riding roughshod on my high horse of Rightness, I forget everything I know about loving conversation and go on the attack, or the defensive, or simply shut up and sulk.

Reading this card reminded me of the power of vulnerability and the need to always come from the heart.

“I’d like to have a conversation with you and want to ensure you know this comes from a place of Love, of wanting our relationship to be stronger. It’s not an attack. It’s an invitation,” I began…

And we talked.

The heart only knows “I” language. As in, “I’m feeling…”, “I notice myself going into a place of [confusion/anger/rejection…] when I…”, “I need to tell you what happens when I….,”

The heart does not speak in the “You” As in, “You need to….,” “You always…,”  “You make me …..”. “You’re so wrong to…”

The heart does not blame, condemn, criticize or complain. The heart does not compare.

The heart speaks its truth, lovingly, respectfully, compassionately.

The heart does not speak about the other’s wrong-doings or misdeeds.

The heart knows only Love.

And we are its imperfect emissaries. Flawed in all our multi-faceted transmission of its messages, we sometimes try to bend the light to fit the picture we’d prefer to have as our truth. And in our efforts to make ‘the truth’ fit our perceptions, we miss the power of Love to create space for all truth to be heard.

My beloved and I had a heartfelt conversation last night. It was joyful. Beautiful. Connecting.

My heart is happy. Content. Peaceful.

We don’t always get these deep conversations right, (we are oh so human in our beautiful flaws and multi-faceted imperfections) but when we are willing to risk our imperfect expression of Love in the liminal space of our desire to be closer, more initimate, connected, magic happens.

My beloved gave me a gift yesterday. It opened my heart up to the power of Love to transcend my human flaws and imperfections to create space for what I want most in my life to grow stronger. Loving Connection with those I love.

Namaste.

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I used a Gelli print pad for this project and inserted the words at the bottom in PhotoShop (the insertion of words took me beyond the half hour, but I wanted to see what they looked like on the painting versus not there).

here’s the same painting without the words at the bottom.