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.
My father taught me how to bake bread. I was 17, in my final year of high school. We were living in Germany at the time and I was busy trying to make a plan for the rest of my life. It wasn’t going well.
“Here, I’ll teach you how to bake bread,” my father said one day in his usual gruff voice that left no room for argument.
From the first knead I fell in love.
It’s a love affair that has never ended, though there have been times when the challenges of baking sourdough during Covid’s lockdown almost soured me on my passion!
But I digress.
Baking bread from scratch is one part science, one part alchemy and one part Love with a hearty dollop of magic thrown in for good measure.
Along with its capacity to lighten any burden I may be carrying and calm my fears or tears, baking bread also deepens my connection to the ‘now’. It brings me full circle back to life’s mysteries, beauties, and sometimes inexplicable inconsistencies.
On Monday, while snow fell and the temperature began its steady climb down into the sub-zero zones of Arctic climes where it currently rests in defiance of my demands it rise up again, I heated a cup of water to just the right temperature (110F), poured 3 teaspons yeast onto the water in a large bowl, threw in a pinch of salt, gave it a stir, and let it rest for five minutes.
The water, salt and yeast responded well to each other’s presence and frothed joyfully in the bowl.
A cup of flowr. A cup of grated cheddar. A good healthy whisking, a second five minute rest and the ooey gooey mess was ready to receieve its final ministrations.
It is the simplicity of bread-making I love the most. Three ingredients (plus whatever extras, like cheddar, parsley and herbs, you want to throw in). A bit of attention to measurements, the water to flour combination does not require accuracy, just a good feeling in the dough’s bounce back response prior to its first rise.
Of course, it’s important to pay attention to the details – the water can’t be too hot or it will kill the yeast. Too cold, the yeast won’t awaken. The biggest demand on the breadmaker is our willingness to let the magic happen without poking and prodding it along.
Bread-making, if you’re doing it from scratch and by hand, requires patience, time and muscle. After the second five minute rest, when you start adding flour to the mixture to create the doughball, arm-strength is vital. Not only are you thickening up the gooey mess, you’re moving it around to make sure the flour, water and salt are combined and the gluten is stretched and coerced into activation.
And that’s where the ‘stress-relief’ comes in.You get to punch and roll, punch and roll as you apply your full arm power to the process, ’cause it’s the kneading that puts the gluten to work. Plopping the dough onto the counter and giving it a couple of tepid roll-overs just doesn’t make it work!
You gotta knead that baby doughball into an elastic-like consistency where the gluten knows, with great certainty, that its only job in life is to stretch in all directions beyond the confines of its small-spongle like birth-form to become what it is destined to be – a baked to perfection, crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside, delectable concoction whose only calling in life is to inveigle you into smearing a copious serving of butter and jam onto its fresh out of the oven goodness and devour it with moans of delight.
Kneading is the stress relief. Consuming is the delight.
On Monday, in anticipation of our family dinner of ten that evening, I baked a cheese-braid loaf of bread in honour of my eldest daughter who would not be joining us at the table. It is her favourite and I have never created a family dinner without one loaf gracing the center of the table(or two if she’s present as, as along with C.C., she tends to nibble away at the loaf until the product that appears on the table looks like a horde of gophers had free-reign with its preparation).
It is an act of Love. A reflection of the strength and stretchy nature of our family circle that has spanned decades and generations, been stretched at times to its maximum capacity to hold pain and grief, sorrow and sadness and still bounce back to hold us all together.
I baked a loaf of bread on Monday. The family circle remains strong, reminding me that no matter the times, or weather outside, we are all connected through Love’s enduring embrace.
Thanks dad for the life lesson! You taught me well.
For Valentine’s Day, my beloved and I went to a movie. My Sailor. My Love.
Set along the rugged shores of Ireland’s stunning coastline, it follows the tale of widower, Howard Grimes, falling in love with, Annie, the woman his daughter hires to keep house for him.
It begins with an apology and ends with acceptance. And through it all, love shimmers in the beauty of the scenery, the sparse dialogue, the interactions between the three main characters, Howard, his daughter Grace and Annie, as well as everyone in the theatre and online watching. We all felt Love’s presence.
No matter if the actors were embodying the confusion, hurt, anger, fear, sadness, loss of their character, Love was there.
At the end, when I was wrapping up the event (I was the host. I’m a board member of THIRD ACTion Film Fest and we put on monthly screenings of films that illuminate issues and stories of aging and one of us always hosts) I told the audience that one of the things that really rang true for me in the film was that, Love Never Grows Old. Not physically. Not spiritually. Not intangible or tangibly. Love Never Grows Old.
There is always space, and time, for Love to play a role, hopefully, a leading one, in our lives.
Whether we are feeling happy, elated, joyful, or confused, hurt, angry, scared, sad, or lonely, Love is always there. To know it, we only have to accept it is there and forgive ourselves and others for the things we’ve done that were unloving.
As the final credits rolled last night, the movie of my life that likes to play in my mind when my soul is stirred and my heart beats wild and fierce, rewound itself to a point in time where my mother, sisters, my daughters and I were at my brother and his wife’s memorial service.
As I told my daughters, who at the time had just slipped over the cusp of their single-digit years and were confused by some of the family drama that enshrouded the passing of their uncle and aunt, “When someone leaves this world there is only one thing they can leave behind. Love. It is what brings each of us into this world and what carries us over the threshold to whatever lies beyond this life.Love is eternal.”
My Sailor. My Love. reminded me to keep diving deep into LOVE. It never grows old. It is, from the beginning to the end of life, always present.
No matter our accumulation of money, possessions, degrees, homes, cars, accolades, no matter how high up the career ladder we climb, how many times we’ve fallen, felt broken, discouraged or lost, it is always Love, in its many wondrous facets and manifestations, that carries us through.
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.“
Alive in Love
By Louise Gallagher
These are the faces of love
the song that never ends
in the key of life
with the joy
in this moment where
touch my tender heart
These are the glorious moments
that fill my world
with the exquisite nature
of one tiny raindrop
plump with an entire world
reflected in its perfect
in this moment
where the only place to be
is alive in Love.
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.
Over at Gratitude Mojo today, doyen, Joyce Whycoff, shares a series of questions to promote introspection and writing.
I almost felt my mind getting lost in the pure glee of skipping amidst the questions, flinging its metaphoric arms wide-open to the possibilities each question represents.
Some of the questions are posed by authors such as John O’Donoghue, Byron Katie, James Cleer, others by Joyce herself.
All of them spark the light of wonder and awe of our human condition.
My skipping mind wants to answer every question right now.
And then, I remember Rilke’s advice to ‘live the questions.’
So, to safeguard myself from diving headfirst into mayhem, I have decided to pose one question a day from Joyce’s list for me to explore – either here on my blog, or in my journal. To ‘live the question’ within by writing my heart out.
The question I’ve chosen today, which I will explore in my journal more completely, is from Gabrielle Roth. Her question immediately jumped out at me as I have held onto her book, “Dance of Ecstasy” for many, many years. Gabrielle Roth’s ‘5Rhythms‘ movement/meditation practice was part of my practice for many, many years. In the 90s I took a facilitators course and lead workshops, attended a weekly session with others and lost myself in ‘the dance of life’ finding me where ever I was on the floor, in the room, within and without. Occasionally, I still engage with it.
And that’s where my exploration of her question begins with the first sentence in her quote from Joyce’s list.
When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?” — Gabrielle Roth
As I am off early tomorrow morning to spend blissful time with my daughter and her family (and a whole lot of dancing with my grandchildren!), I shall mostly be writing in my journal.
But, my intent is to live that question deeply. To explore what stands in front of me, and behind me, holding me back from dancing with the thrum of heart calling me to let go and just BE. Wild. Free. Untethered. Unfettered. WILD at HEART. ME.
I do hope you go explore Joyce’s question list. Perhaps I’ll see you on the page sharing your thoughts too! That would be so sublime.
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!
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