Friday, September 30, 2011

One Man's Difference

It is surprising, the students say after Anthony has left the room. “Surprising and inspring.”
A man. Homeless. Asked to come and tell ‘his story’, to a group of high school students on a tour of the DI, turns the tables.

“What you want to do with your life?” he asks one young boy in the room. A Grade 11 student, he is unsure.

“How can you be unsure?” Anthony responds. “You gotta have a plan. You gotta know what you’re passionate about and you gotta go for it. You gotta have a plan,” he adds, a big smile taking the bite out of his words.

“How did you end up homeless?” a student asks.

And Anthony tells the group about his promising football career. How he came west after moving from Tampa Florida where his father lived to go to college in Toronto where his mother lived. Moved west in the hopes of playing professional ball. Everything was going according to plan. And then, an injury.

He shrugs when he tells the students about his messed up leg. “I didn’t have a back-up plan.”
“I was working two jobs, one of them under the table. That’s where I hurt myself. Because the job was under the table, I couldn’t claim WCB. I had no savings. No backup.” He shrugs. “I ended up here.” Big smile. “And I’m glad I did.”

The students are surprised by his attitude. His candor and his questions.

“What you passionate about?” he asks one young girl. “And don’t forget to say your name. You gotta introduce yourself.”

She looks down. Quietly says her name.

Anthony interrupts.

“Hey! Can anyone hear her?”

“Not really,” the group responds.

“What you got to be shy about?” he asks her. “Who’s that serving? Be proud. Be bold. Be courageous.”

She looks up. Tries again. Says her name. Out loud.

“What’re you passionate about?” Anthony asks.

“History,” she replies in a loud, clear voice.

“What about history excites you?” Anthony queries.

And she shines. She speaks of her passion for the Medieval period. For the middle centuries.

“Wow!” says Anthony. And he turns to the group. “You see that passion? You hear it. See how her eyes shine? You go girl!”

And she smiles. Big.

“What you want to do with your passion?” he asks.

And she has an answer. She has a plan. And a backup too.

Anthony turns to four young men he’d spoken to at the beginning of the session. They all played football. They had all waffled on their responses when he’d asked them about their prowess in the game. “You not going to make it if you don’t have the passion,” he tells them. “It’s gotta live here,” and he thumps his chest.

The group nod their heads in unison and Anthony continues going around the room, asking questions, making observations.

He’s funny. Intuitive. Bright. He has them enthralled. Engaged. He is masterful.

And when he leaves the room the group talk about how surprised they are, how impressed. “I’ve volunteered at lots of agencies,” says one young woman who’s dream is to become a psychologist. “And what I notice here is, it’s real. It’s not about helping people because we’re the helpers and you’re in need of help. It’s about being a community. There’s no ‘us and them’, it’s all of us together.”

The group nods. “Yeah,” says another young woman. “I came here really nervous, apprehensive and now, I realize, we’re all just human beings. People’s lives may be chaotic, but they’re the same as me. No one dreamt of being an addict. And everyone has a dream of a better life.”

And the truth enlightens the room and these young people, these ambassadors of tomorrow gather their belongings taking with them the knowledge they can make a difference. They can make their dreams come true.

“Life on the field of football goes past way faster than life out here, whether you’re homeless or not,” says Anthony. “You gotta play hard. Play for keeps. You gotta play like there’s no tomorrow.”

“What’s your dream?” one young girl asks Anthony.

“Well,” he replies. “I’ve got my dream and I’ve got reality. I dream of being a pro-football player but reality says, your knee won’t let you. So, I’ve adjusted my dream to fit my reality. On the days my knee doesn’t hurt too bad, I go work. I’m here today because my knee wasn’t up to the job. And one day, I know, as long as I keep focusing on doing what it takes to make my dream come true, I’ll have a hairdressing studio of my own. That’s my dream, and I’m going for it.”

And the students applaud and Anthony smiles back.

One man made a difference today. He made a difference by turning the tables on a group of students walked into the room believing the status quo and shifting their perspective. “Being homeless isn’t criminal,” Anthony said. “It’s hard. And without this place, I’d be lost. Just like everyone else. We need places like the DI,” he adds. “So that people like me can get back on their feet again, and so that those who can’t can still find a way to make their dreams come true.”

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Dakota 38

It is my vision, as both artist and priest, that only good things will emerge as we do this work of reconciliation together. The Rev. Canon Robert Two Bulls (Oglala Lakota Oyate)
As sometimes happens, the best laid plans go awry when a better idea is encountered. I had a different post formulating for today. It has been awhile since I managed to meet up with my Wednesday night meditation group. June was chocker-block full with -- I can't remember! -- there were no gatherings during the summer and then, I was away, had guests and hadn't made the first two gatherings of the fall.

I made it last night. I am grateful.

I had intended to write about that experience. Profound. Enlightening. Startling.

And then, I read Maureen Doallas' post at Writing Without Paper. "New Documentary Remembers the Dakota 38."

Like me, you may not know about the Dakato 38; 38 warriors from the Sioux and Ojibway nations who have the distinction of being hanged in the largest mass hanging in American history on December 26, 1862 by order of President Abraham Lincoln -- a man who worked to end slavery yet could not see his way clear to save 'the savages'.

Not a distinction anyone would want.

Not a distinction history should contain.

But we cannot change the past.

In the trailer, Jim Miller, the Sioux spiritual leader whose dream lead to the creation of a 330 mile healing ride to Mankato, Minnesota where the 38 were hanged says in the documentary trailer of Dakota 38:
"We don't have to blame the - and he uses the Sioux word for white people -- anymore. We're doing it to ourselves. We're selling drugs. We're killing our own people. That's what this ride is about. It's healing."
Healing. Only healing will create a better tomorrow. Only forgiveness. Acceptance. Love have the power to heal.

Please, take a few minutes in your day to read and watch the trailer for the documentary over at Maureen's as well as all the other links Maureen provides.

Please, be a part of the healing. Pass the link along. Keep Jim Miller's ride to Mankato, Minnesota alive.

His ride to Mankato has been completed. The journey of healing continues on. For all our ancestors. For all our people. We must join the healing circle.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I carry the magic with me

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. Victor Hugo

When I was a little girl, I watched the skies for God's angels shining bright. I'd ooh and ahhh at beams of light breaking through clouds, shimmering streaks dancing in dark rumbling clouds. I never tired of these glimpses of the Divine. I never gave up watching for them.

I still don't. Stop looking for them. Waiting. Holding my breath to see if angels from on high will shine through dark clouds, piercing the sky with divinely inspired light.

Living here where the prairies stretch into yesterday passing away into the Eastern horizon and the Rockies thrust up into the sky on the west, I am seldom disappointed.

Last night, as Ellie and I walked along the ridge of the reservoir, the eastern sky stretched out in clear blue infinity, beckoning us into the calm before the storm brewing in western skies behind us. Golden leaves rustled as we walked, a cool autumn breeze whispered through the trees, tempting recalcitrant leaves to let go and fall.

We passed a woman, camera hanging from around her neck.

We passed a couple, arms laden with fishing equipment. No luck. Too late in the year, they replied to my question about their fishing success. Ellie, ever hopeful for attention, wiggled and squirmed and made whining noises. "Pet me. Pet me," she implored and they obliged. The man dropped his gear, knelt down and rubbed her flanks. He laughed and smiled and lapped up Ellie's adoration as she wiggled beneath his hands stroking her fur. Joy descended. The man stood up and we parted ways, richer for our encounter.

As we walked, the wind tugged at my hair. The sounds of autumn rustled underfoot. I breathed in the pure exhilaration of the moment.

We walked east and then turned back west. Back towards the darkening skies where clouds rolled across the horizon, pummeling the distant mountains into oblivion. Streaks of light pierced the darkness, streaming like heavenly angels from on high.

Ahhh, I whispered to Ellie, stopping to soak up their brilliance. A God moment.

Ellie tugged at the leash. Don't stop, she pleaded. There's so much to smell. To do. To sniff out.

But I stopped. And breathed again. Deeply. And the clouds kept rolling. The light kept shining and the angels kept dancing from on high.

And then, above the birds cawing, the leaves whispering, I heard it. Music. Plaintive. Expressive. Out of place. Out of context. The sounds of a violin rose above nature's song.

I started walking back from where I came. Westward.

And there he stood. A man on the ridge. Bike leaning up against a park bench. Body clad in black lycra. Bright yellow wind jacket. Backpack open. Music stand before him. Pages pinned to its spine, corners rippling in the wind. Violin tucked beneath his chin. Giant headset bulging out from his ears like flies eyes under a microscope. Eyes closed, his body swayed to and fro as the provocative notes of his violin rose up into the air to be whipped away by the wind to dance on the breeze.

Ellie had no interest in the man, or his violin.

I was entranced.

The man played. Oblivious to anyone walking by -- though on this breezy evening there were few passers-by.

He played and his music created a perfect bubble of delight shimmering like the light streaming from the skies.

Heaven on earth.

Divine inspiration rising up to embrace me in notes of pure delight.

The man never opened his eyes. I never intruded.

I walked past. His notes caressed my skin. My mind. My body.

I walked past and let his notes drift away on the breeze.

I carried the magic of the moment with me.

Like angels streaming through the cloud, gracing the world with beauty and wonder, his notes embraced me with their joy and I was richer for their song piercing my soul.

I carry the magic with me.


PS. On another musical note, my friend Lewis has created a beautiful and enchanting CD of chants. Based on the ancient practice of Kirtan, Lewis' CD lifts me up into that 'happy place' where troubles fall away and joy ascends. Please visit his site to find out more about Kirtan and to experience samplings of Shakti Deva's music. (I found the quote at the beginning of this post on Lewis' site.) May you be inspired to quiet your mind and embrace the Oneness that transcends our human condition.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Avoidance -- it's no way to live

Dusk settles in.
Under stress I slide into avoidance, spinning plates where hitting home runs cannot happen because I am too busy running around the bases.

It is a thoughtless, mindless movement I consciously think about not doing -- and then catch myself doing, again and again as I run faster to catch the ball, falling ever faster behind... the 8 ball of life.

Avoidance strengthens fear.

I am learning.

To avoid fear I must do the things I fear doing.

Otherwise, I'm thinking about what I fear more than what I'm doing -- and living without being conscious of my doing is unhealthy for me.

Like most of us, I fear change. Yet, as a boss of mine long ago used to say, "Change is here to stay."

I'm in this game of life for the long run. May as well embrace change and give up fearing it.

Avoidance builds resistance.

Or at least acknowledge my fear of change creates ripples of unease in my world when I let my fear push me out of courage into avoidance.

Last week I took care of a personal finance issue that I needed to do for quite sometime. Score one for me.

Today, I'm having lunch with someone I've avoided as I had bad news for them on a project they hoped to direct and didn't get. Score one for me.

These are 'small things' that have appeared large on my horizon, muddying up clear thinking, clouding my vision of possibility and creating a world of excuses I keep breathing into as I avoid taking care of business.

Avoidance weakens my integrity.

Clearing them up makes room for possibility to arise, for my forecast to be sunny. Clearing them up makes room for the universe to move in and support me in the big things I want to do to create more of what I want in my life.

Because, in my avoidance of clearing up small things (as they appear on my horizon - not after I've let them grow into mountains of resistance) I give the small things more mindspace. And in that mindspace, I have little time or energy to breathe life into my dreams.

Avoidance undermines my dreams.

To live a dreamers life come true I must keep my vision clear, my thinking sharp and my perspective open.

Here's to living today free of avoidance rising into fear.

Here's to living my best life yet today!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dreams and dreamers

Sunset from the patio (it's okay to use a cellphone to take photos)
We had dinner last night, C.C. and I at the golf club with two friends -- I knew the woman year's ago, lost contact and have recently reconnected. I did not know her husband.

Dinner began with one of those miscommunications -- 'how about the Glencoe golf club, on the patio, watching the leaves and the sunset' she asked.

"Fabulous idea," I replied. "We'll meet you at the country club."

The Glencoe has two locations, a downtown club and a country club. I thought my reference to 'the country club' was relevant, except, when she heard, 'the country club', she thought I meant the Country Club which is an inner city golf club, not the golf club twenty minutes out of the city.

C.C. and I arrived on time, found a table on patio and sat and chatted. By the half hour, when they hadn't arrived, we were becoming concerned something had gone awry.

I didn't have their number with me, and cell phones are not allowed at the club. (Mine was tucked inside my purse, on silent.)

C.C. went inside to check with the membership desk, phoned and left a message at their house.

He returned to the table and I snuck a peak at my cellphone. Sure enough, there's a message.

I call.

She's laughing as she answers the phone.

They'd gone to the Country Club, had a drink, realized they'd left my cell no. at home and after waiting half an hour, decided they'd best go home.

Except, they're not members of that particular Country Club.

Neither are we.

Amidst great laughter and skulduggery they managed to exit. (They ran into a friend who is a member and put their bill on his tab.)

Eventually, we met up on the patio of the country club where we are members and had a delightful evening watching the leaves fall and the sun set.

This woman has a dream. It is big. It's altruistic. It's important.

On Saturday, C.C. and I spent several hours at a brainstorming session exploring ideas on how to make her dream a reality.

Not that she hasn't already put lots of concrete elements into place. She has.

For seven years she has nurtured an idea into a significant possibility of success.

But, she's come up against obstacles, bureaucratic tape, altruistic fatigue.

She's looking for external support, help, ideas to give her dream new growth, to give it fresh breath.

She's smart.

After seven years, she recognizes where she's stuck and is stepping out of her comfort zone to get new energy.

And still, she holds onto the dream. Still she continues to believe in its possibility.

It was a wonderful evening of exploring new ideas, getting to know each other and to drilling into possibility for the future.

C.C. has a background, a skillset, a history of making dreams like hers become reality.

As I sat and listened, watching the interplay between the man I love and a woman whom I greatly admire I was convinced.

Nothing happens by accident. Everything happens for a reason.

And sometimes, the only reason is for us to take hold of a dream so we too can live as dreamers do, amongst the stars, breathing life into the impossible.

This morning I am off to an early morning meeting to talk about another dream. This one touches me deeply. It's part of a dream I've had for a long time -- and one that gained momentum last night as well because in our conversation the realization was sparked that -- my dream has value. Has legs to stand and grow. My dream has great possibility -- as long as I continue to dream and continue to reach out beyond my comfort zone. As long as I continue to take action, to put in place the framework for success so that my dream can become my reality.

I know it can.

May your day be filled with dreams and dreamers. May you give fresh life to your dreams today.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

On hard ground (a poem)

On hard ground
I sit
hand outstretched
to your largesse
reaching back

On hard ground
I rest
body still
to your eyes
looking down

On hard ground
I huddle
back hunched
to your feet
walking by

On hard ground
I wait
dreams arrested
my soul
curling up

On hard ground
I lay down.

End of story.

There's this new pub in cyberland -- dVerse Poets. It's a place where poets, lovers of poetry, and anyone just wanting to experience it meet up and share -- wonder, words and wisdom. This poem is submitted using the Poetics prompt of “Play It Again, Sam: Repetititon in Poetry”. Do pop on over, visit awhile, read, wonder and be inpsired. Let the muse take you! dVerse Poets.

And... PS. A note on this poem.

I am always in awe of how the muse stirs and creates. This morning, I read Glynn Young of Faith. Fiction. Friends submission for dVerse Poets and thought -- love this! His poem, At Work Each Day captures the essence of much of my work too -- except, I do my work in a homeless shelter.

I didn't think about writing a poem though. That didn't happen until I wandered on over to Nance Marie's, A Little Something, and looking back through her blog from past week (I was a little busy and tired and engaged with my guests I didn't have a lot of time for online pleasures) and saw Nance Marie's Friday post which included the work of photographer, Michael O'Brien. He has a book, Hard Ground.

and then, it happened, the muse awoke, I remembered Glynn's comment on the Poetics prompt, hopped on over to dVerse Poets, read the wisdom there on repetition in poetry and voila! On Hard Ground appeared.

Have a marvelous Sunday.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Gotta run

I slept in this morning. On purpose.

I've had early morning presentations almost every day this week -- including one this morning.

And, I've wanted to treasure every moment of visiting time with Don and Alyssa, so, I've had three late nights in a row.

Which all adds up to... not even sleeptime.

Which means... when I awoke naturally at my normal 5:30, I told myself, 'You will go back to sleep' and, for once, I listened to myself.

Gotta run.

Have to be ready to give a presentation at 8.

I'll come back later to tell you all about the concert Don and Alyssa played last night on behalf of the United Way. They shone! Even in a noisy bar with borrowed sound equipment and faulty wires. They were brilliant!

Hope you have a brilliant day.

I know I will. It's my intention.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

In awe of the world

Last night was a first. I've never cooked and been accompanied by live music before. But, as I prepared dinner last night, Don sat in the living room playing his guitar. First music only (and I can't for the life of me remember the word I'm trying to think of), and then, he sang a piece he wrote, and then Alyssa joined in and they sang a few more songs.

By the time dinner was ready I'd prepared a couple of extra vegetable dishes because I just didn't want the music to stop.

And after dinner, we sat around the dining room table, watching the video of our group song from our course together on Gabriola Island.

It has been what I've enjoyed most about having Don and Alyssa here -- aside from the fact they are wonderful and beautiful people and being around them brings me joy. One of the many joys is, I feel connected to that special time, to that week at the Haven. I feel as though I'm still part of it, still experiencing it, still immersed in the wonder and beauty. Still surrounded by wonder and magic.

It is difficult to come back to a concrete, traffic jammed world where busy is the order of the day. It is challenging to stay attuned to serenity and bliss. To stay aligned within heartspace and mindfulness when all around people zip and cars zag and phones ring and rush hour brings commerce abounding with little time for soul digging.

I am a soul digger lost in space.

In the busy of the city I lose my soul digger attitude as I race to catch up to the pace of the world around me.

And yet, I know it's possible. I know that that lyrical tempo of Gabriola is still here. Still part of me, still within. I know it is here. I just need to find ways to touch it, to keep it alive, to be mindful of its presence.

And that is the challenge in a busy world. Being present to my inner world, to my mystical essence gets lost beneath the demands of what's going on outside me.

Unless I stay mindful. Stay conscious of my need to be aligned within and without me.

This morning I awoke and found an email from my eldest daughter who now lives in Vancouver. You have to promise not to share this with anyone, she insists.

I will keep my promise. But... I will tell you. I am in awe of her beauty and her spirit.

What she sent me is a recording of a song she's written.

I know she's my daughter and I could be a little biased but.... WOW!

It's a jazzy, bluesy, soulful piece that makes my soul sing because in its creation, Alexis is giving voice to her beauty, her spirit, her gifts.

And what can be better than that?

It is what we must all strive to do. Release our inner songwriter and let our voices rise above the din of traffic humming all around.

I am so grateful she shared. So grateful she created. So grateful.

and to inspire you, I'm pasting in a video I took sitting on the beach at Gabriola. I knew I'd need a touchstone, a visual and audible reminder of the place and so, one day I sat on the beach and recorded the ocean. I play it at least once a day, sometimes more, to remind myself that as I sit here, the ocean still ebbs and flows, the water still laps at the shore.

And as the waves lap at the shoreline I am reminded, magic is all around. In the din of the traffic. The busy of the day, there is always magic. Always mystery. Always the wonder and awe of life in all its complexities. In all its simplicity.

There is always my awe of life.


May your day be filled with awe of the world around you.

Song of the Sea -- turn up your audio. Take a deep, deep breath. Let it out. And another. In. Out. Slowly. In. Out. Let your body relax. Let yourself sink into stillness. Feel your muscles ease, the tension evaporate. In. Out. In. Out. Slowly. Resist the tempation to stop, to get on with your day. Let yourself fall into reverie. Let yourself be calmed by the lapping waves. The song of the sea. In. Out. In. Out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A night of song

I sang my song last night.

Don and Alyssa arrived at dinner time. Don and Alyssa are the couple I met at The Haven on Gabriola two weeks ago who sing together as, The Brights. They'd planned to arrive by dinnertime, and along with five others, we were ready to eat by seven.

The conversation flowed, as did the wine, the Salad Nicoise turned out beautifully -- even with Halibut instead of Tuna -- that's the thing about the prairies. Go figure. Fresh fish of the specific variety you're searching for is not always available.

And then, replete, satisfied, sated on great conversation, Don said, "So, you going to sing your song Louise."

"If you sing yours first," I replied. With a smile I might add, and my fingers crossed behind my back.

He laughed. The rest of the guests joined in. "I told the group I'd sing mine only if you sang yours, first."

"Oh it's best you sing yours first," I insisted.

But all my insisting came to nothing. He might have figured out my fingers were crossed, I'm thinking.

And so, Alyssa got her big binder where she keeps all her music, pulled out the page with the chords noted on each line. Don hauled out her cello, his guitar and we listened to them talk musically about the piece as they tuned up. It kinda sounded like Greek with a really nice Latin accent.

"What key?" (alpha, beta, delta, phi)...

"I think Eric was using a capo when he played it," Alyssa replied. (omni vincit amore)

Don looked at me. "Do you remember the key?" (ceteris paribus)

I laughed. "Nooooo. I'm not even sure I remember the tune." (a priori)

Alyssa hummed a few notes. She plucked a couple of chords on her cello.

My memory stirred.

Don started to play.

I started to sing.

And when I was done, I was happy. I'd sung this song, a song I wrote about those years when Conrad rode through my life in his red Ferrari, rampaging and pillaging with abandon and I had stood in silence as my life fell apart all around me.

In the room was my youngest daughter, Lisanne, who had lived through those years, along with my friends Nan and Jane and her husband Al who had all played pivotal roles in saving my life.

I had come full circle.

Later, Liseanne said, "Oh well, mum. He may have been a jerk (okay she used something stronger) but think about it. You've got a book, a documentary, and now a song!"

She right.

And, I've got the wonderful friends, old and new, to sing with.

Don did play and sing his song he'd written on Gabriola and Alyssa hers. She also played her song Jezzabel which I'm hoping she repeats at the concert tomorrow night.

And Nan shared an amazing piece she's written -- who knew -- as part of a one act comedy she's created called, You're Fired! I'm working on convincing her to move it along in its creative process. It is brilliant!

It was an evening of brilliance all around.

And now, I'm off. An 8am presentation to give -- did I mention the wine was flowing?

Gotta run.

But, before I go....

here are the lyrics to my ballad. Did I mention it's long? (and if I missed any of the ups and downs written into the lyrics -- my apologies -- they're my cheat notes on when to sing up or down -- very technical you know!)

Fear Lived In Her Belly

Fear lived in her belly
strangling her soul
an ancient writhing monster
fighting for control

He drove up in his Ferrari
its coat all shiny red
he flashed his gold Phillipe patek
and this is what he said

My love it is forever
I promise to be true
no harm will ever happen-
to those you love or you.

She climbed into his fast car
losing sight of land
as they drove into the sunset
of a hell she’d never planned.

Fear lived in her belly
crackling in her veins
holding onto nothing
she gave herself in vain.

She lost all sense of direction
on that ride into his hell
where love hurt more than living
and happiness could not dwell.

His eyes were dark and piercing
his words they all rang true
with slight of hand h hid the truth
of his lies beating her black to blue

Fear lived in her belly
consuming every breath
She fell into the darkness
and swam beyond her depth.

Evil men pursue me
he whispered late one night
they threaten to take you from me
no one can make this right

She cried herself to sleep at night
abandoned all her dreams
she knew that even angels
could not hear her screams.

She jettisoned her spirit
Cast off all the ropes
that held her to the ones she loved
as she gave up on all hope.

Fear lived in her belly
screaming in the dark
forcing her on bended knee
he branded her with his mark

Trust me he commanded her
as he held her by the throat
trust me there is only this
I am running out of rope

She could not see another way
The past too far behind
the one she’d been was long ago
in her sorrow she was blind.

Her life was fading into black
his web it held her fast
she gave up on believing
love could him outlast.

She waited in the dark of day
for death to find her there
but even death was busy
taking those for whom it cared.

fear lived in her belly
tearing out her heart
peeling back her battered skin
he ripped her life apart.

and then a miracle drove up
red lights flashing bright
and took away the one she loved
leaving her to make things right.

Still fear lived in her belly
burning oh so bright
calling her into the darkness
stealing all the light.

She feared she’d never find it.
that place from another day
where she had lived and loved her life
before his evil had spirited her away.

But love lives in the dark of night
beating on its drum
calling us to awaken
to the beauty of the sun.

Fear has left her belly
the prince has paid his debt
he did his time where only time
was all that he could get.

He is still a captive
to the evil of his ways
but she is free to journey
in the beauty of each day.

There is no magic bullet
for a woman or a man
no pill to make us happy
nor ironclad foolproof plan

there’s only love she tells me
no matter the story we’re told
by prince’s who would come and go
there is only love to unfold.

Fear lived in her belly
Love lives in her soul
within his lies she found her truth
her courage makes it so.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My quilt of friends

I was twelve the second time we moved from Canada to France. It was a big move. I didn't really want to go but had no choice. At that age who really has choice?

I remember the day we flew into Marville, a Canadian Air Force base in central France. I had a window seat. Don't ask me how. I think maybe I cried enough on Canadian soil they thought if they put me by the window, I'd be quiet.

It worked. Not because I was grateful for the window seat. I mean. Seriously. I was the youngest why shouldn't I get it! But it was a bit disappointing. There really wasn't all that much to see travelling across the Atlantic in the dark of night.

It was what was inside the cabin, inside my head, right in front of me that really entranced me. I had penpals back then. Paper friendships that spanned the globe. There was a girl in South Africa. Another in Mexico and a boy in Argentina. My favourite, whose name I can't remember, lived in Australia. I couldn't hear her accent in her writing, but I could hear it in the words she wrote, the expressions she used to describe her life, down under.

We wrote as often as we could, even when my siblings made fun of me for stitching together what I liked to call, 'my friendship quilt'. Teasing, belittling, none of it could affect me when I wrapped myself up in my quilt. I was indestructible. Invincible. Their slings and arrows of mockery could not pierce my skin. With my friendship quilt to protect me, no one could harm me with their words.

"One day I'll meet all of them," I would insist when their egging on got too loud. And I would bury my head back into my letter writing, pouring out my heart to my unseen friends far away.

I'd long run out of things to write by the time our plane began its descent onto French soil. I'd written about my fears of leaving Canada. My trepidation about entering a new school two weeks after classes had started. I'd written about my brother who kept poking me in the back and tapping me on the head from the seat behind me, and my sister who sat quietly beside me reading her book.

And then, the earth appeared beneath our plane. I looked out the tiny window and saw the patchwork quilt of farmlands, green and brown and golden. Tiny villages dotted the landscape like bingo dots in a square. I remember that view so well. It was so different than the vast expanses of the prairies from which we'd started our journey. It was so foreign.

A man picked us up at the airport, drove us along plane tree lined roads where cars whizzed by in the middle suicide lane and horns honked and drivers played dare. We drove through ancient villages where horse drawn wagons laden with 'honey' moved laboriously out to the fields and women in black stood in doorways sweeping the stoops of homes that edged right up against the road.

And through it all the driver and my father talked. About the uprisings. The killings. The Algerians.

They were speaking quietly. As if we weren't supposed to hear them in the back seat. As if they thought we'd all be sleeping during the hour long drive to Metz. Everyone else slept. But I couldn't. For the same reason they always put me in the front seat with my father on long road trips. Curious. Inquisitive. I couldn't sleep when the world was passing by outside the window and no driver could ever fall asleep at the wheel with me by their side.

The driver and my father kept talking and I listened. Wide-eyed. "They walked into a cafe and opened fired," The driver said. "They killed three people. For no reason."

"Fools!" the voice of my father exploded into the warm September air. "All of them. Fools."

I didn't know if he was speaking of the Algerians or the French.

He disliked Frenchmen. Intensely. France would be a great country without Frenchmen, he said often.

And my mother would cringe and say, "Louis. Be quiet."

It was their game.

He was Irish.

She was French. Her family lived in France. We had returned to the country of her kin so she could be closer.

He may have agreed to the move. He didn't have to like it, he often said.

And then we arrived at our hotel in downtown Metz. Le Cecil. It smelled of Gitanes and stale wine. Smoky mirrors and a rickety elevator that only four of us could squeeze into at a time.

There was a bidet in the bathroom of our room. I asked my mother what it was and knew she wasn't giving me the real purpose of the shiny porcelain bowl that didn't quit look like a toilet but definitely didn't look like the footbath she said it was. But, I'd wanted to believe her so I stuck my feet into the bowl and turned on the water and it gushed straight up into my face. I leapt back, water spraying everywhere. My siblings laughed at me. Called me 'such a baby.

I knew it wasn't for washing feet, I insisted. I only asked because I wanted to hear mum stumble over the truth, I hissed at them.

Anything related to sex -- (it was always said in a whisper) caused my mother to stumble on her words and at twelve, I already knew I knew more than her. About everything. And I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

The driver had helped carry up our bags and offered to take us to a cafe.

No! No! Not a cafe, I cried. And I began to sob. To plead with them not to go.

Then don't come, they said. Stay here. Alone.

I convinced my sister to stay with me and together, we hid under the blankets until they returned. I made up stories, as I always did, to soothe her fears, but really, it was my fears I was trying to quieten.

No one understood my terror.

But I'd been listening, even when they hadn't. People died in cafes in France. The driver had told my father so.

I had a nightmare that night. Of men with swarthy skin and black moustaches and blacker eyes. They held machine guns with the ease of Lothario holding a lover. They smiled and laughed and bullets whizzed past my head. I ducked and dove and hid out of sight. I didn't know why they were shooting. I didn't know what they wanted.

I wanted to go home. Back to Canada. Back to a land where men in dark clothing and darker intentions didn't burst into cafes and shoot guns and cry for freedom.

I pounded on the door of my parents room and cried out for solace. Take me home. Take me home. I want to go back to Canada I cried.

Be quiet, my father ordered in the night. And I was quiet. But the fear wouldn't lie quietly in the dark.

My patchwork quilt of friends came to my rescue, as they did for many years to come. I wrote and told them of the men who swept into cafes and shot people dead. I told them of my fear. Of my desire to return home, across the seas to the land of my birth.

And they reminded me of the beauty of the world. Of the adventures waiting to unfold if I would simply stand up to my fears and move into the spirit of the land.

I fell in love with France after that. Fell in love with foreign soils that called to me with their mystery and wonder. Their stories of knights and ladies and castle moats and princess brides and wizards filled with lore.

Wrapped up in my quilt of friends, I was no longer afraid to venture out into the wonders of the world around me. With my quilt to hold onto, I was no longer a stranger in foreign lands.


It's another One Word Blog Carnival Tuesday! Hosted by Peter Pollock, it's your chance to participate, or simply read, stories and poetry and prose from all over the globe based on this week's word prompt -- QUILTS

To read more posts or submit your post, please visit Peter’s site.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My life. My way.

There are only two words that will always lead you to success. Those words are yes and no. Undoubtedly, you've mastered saying yes. So start practicing saying no. Your goals depend on it! Jack Canfield
When I was a little girl, growing up in the 50s and 60s, 'No' was not an acceptable response.

Don't be difficult.

Be nice.

Quit making trouble.

These were the responses to 'no'.

So I learned to say yes. Yes I'm okay. Yes I'll do that. Yes. I'll be there. Even when I meant no.

Believing I always had to say yes taught me to be accommodating. It taught me to accept the unacceptable. It taught me to lie and manipulate. To undermine myself and others. Not believing I had the right to say no taught me to disregard my needs and always put other's needs first.

Not saying no taught me to disregard my dreams, my voice, myself.

Now, I'm not saying it's not important to consider others needs or to say yes when appropriate. As a mother, being able to say yes was invaluable. Yes meant my daughters and I wandered under clear blue skies, examining every petal of a flower, picking up worms and moving them from the sidewalk to the grass so they wouldn't get squished. Yes meant leaving the dirty dishes on the table to go outside and explore the rain. It meant dancing around fires and singing about witches in the backyard, and hurling eggs at the firepit to work anger out.

Yes lead to lots of adventure.

But, saying yes when I wanted to say no caused confusion.

My daughters would ask for something. I'd say yes, think about it and come back with a no. "But you said we could!" was a running theme in our house. And my response, "I've changed my mind," only added confusion.

Where the yes that was meant to be a no had the most damage though was within myself. I'd commit to doing something for someone when really, I didn't have the time, nor the interest to do it, and then, rather than actually confess to my misguided direction, I'd stall, hide, not do, and even lie about why I hadn't got it done.

Yes has not been my friend when it comes to managing my own time, and my dreams.

But I still don't like -- NO! And I don't want to do things I don't like to do anymore.

Which is why, I'm moving into YES! in a whole new way.

I'm moving out of yes I'll do it because you asked into Yes! I will take the time to consider your invitation and tell you the truth about what I want to do. And, no, I don't mind that you have to wait for my answer. I'm okay with thinking long and hard about what I'm doing, why I'm doing it and whether or not I want to do it in the first place!

I'm moving into yes I am willing to do what it takes to live the life of my dreams, and getting out of saying yes to all the flotsam floating by enticing me out of my no, I don't have time or interest or desire for that.

What I've learned in life is that my yes has put a no on so many things I want to do I've run out of ways to say yes when I mean no!

Saying yes because I thought it was required has meant I haven't turned up for me and my dreams.

And I'm not prepared to do that anymore. I'm not prepared to waste my time saying yes to all the things I don't want in my life, and don't really want to do when my No is waiting for me get into action and be present in my life so that I can say YES to living this one wild and precious life in the rapture of now.

I may have been born in the 50s, but I'm living in the new millennium right now. And right now is all I've got to live.

I may as well live it in the know of what I know to be true -- no one can keep me from living the life of my dreams, except me.

And no one else can live my life for me!

It's up to me to let go of saying yes to what others want of me, or for me to start saying yes to what I want for me! It's time to stop saying yes because I want to be nice and start saying no because I am a woman of integrity. A woman who believes in herself and knows, sometimes no is the only way to get the yes she wants.

My life. My way.

May your day be filled with a thousand yeses to living the life of your dreams as you say no to the things that would pull you from your path of beauty and light.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rollin' on by (A poem)

Rolling on by

I am outside
looking in
windows blurred
faces streaking past

You are inside
looking out
I see you

Do you see me
rollin' on by?

I follow the light
of your face
carried away
carried away

into the distance
train tracks lined up

side by side
side by side

parallel worlds
rolling along
parallel worlds
rolling along.

Where do you go?
Where do you go?

Rollin' on by
on parallel tracks
leading you
into the distance

taking you
taking you

from here
where I stand
in the pitch dark
of night
light falling
from a window
where you sit
looking out
at me
looking in
at you
rollin' on by.

This is my second time participating at the dVerse Poets Pub. Today's challenge is to write a poem based on the theme of a train. Do take the time to come over and visit this wonderful poetry community called dVerse Poets Pub. Today's host is the amazing Claudia Schoenfeld of jaywalking the moon.

This World

I cried this morning.

I cried for a mother whose son stepped onto a bus, the flag on his sleeve the only colour on his khaki uniform. He is off to fight a war far away. Off to defend the freedom he is willing to give up his live for.

I cried for those for whom the earth shook in Northern India sending buildings crumbling to the ground and bodies to the morgue.

I cried for a man who poured gasoline on himself in a city in northern Greece because his debt cannot be repaid.

I cried and my heart felt sick and the sunshine cast mottled patterns of filigree shadow on the window.

I cried and a squirrel skittered along a branch of the apple tree, down the trunk and onto the grass where he gathered seeds from the feeder into his mouth before returning up the tree to a nest hidden somewhere in its depths.

I cried and a tiny chickadee sat on the edge of the fountain, ducking his tiny body in and out of the water. Drinking his fill.

I cried and Rubinstein played Chopin and Ellie lay on the bed beside me and sighed in her sleep, her paws twitching as she dreamt of chasing bunny rabbits through meadows of wildflowers fluttering in the wind.

I cried and the world kept turning. And wars kept raging and debts kept rising and lives kept ending.

I cried and flowers kept growing and ideas flourished and peace reigned and sun shone and water flowed and people laughed and tiny new borns were swaddled in love and disease ended and hunger stopped.

I cried this morning. I cried for this world, this beautiful heart sick world where death and sorrow and famine and sickness live side by side with beauty and joy and wonder and awe.

This world where mountains touch the sky and streams tumble all the way to the sea and rivers flow and gardens grow and deserts span the distance to the horizon.

This world, where people die and children are born and ideas take flight and people, people like you and me live our lives every day without ever knowing war or hardships so heavy we want to burn ourselves up.

This world, where every day wonder rises with the sun and the moon and the stars.

This world, so beautiful. So ugly. So real. So amazing.

I cried this morning and I knew my tears were a release, a letting go to free my heart to move with grace into that place where I can live this day in the one place I know I make a difference, in Love.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Some Saturday Morning Wonder

Years ago, while working in the Hi-tech sector, I helped organize product launches where we attempted to 'out-do' the awe factor to move people into wow! Money, in those days, was never an issue. Product launches were seen as the time and place to grab market attention and run with it.

Working in the homeless sector, I sometimes forget that there is still lots of glitz and glitter out there. Still lots of shiny toys and sparkly effects to splatter against the public mindspace to create ripples of ooohs and awes and wow, isn't that amazing.

I can always count on my friend BA to send me something amazing. This video from a product launch in Berlin by Life is Good (LG) is one of those WOW! That's amazing!

I can't find the youtube link to embed so, I'm posting the link here.

This really is amazing! Thanks BA for inspiring my imagination. WOW!

Friday, September 16, 2011

One fine morning...

I am content. I am sitting in bed, laptop on lap, Ellie, the wonder pooch, lying beside me (sorry C.C., But what am I supposed to do? She just jumps up and takes your spot when you're not here!)

Coffee steaming in my favourite mug. Sun streaming in through the windows. Birds chirping at the feeder.

Marley, the Great Cat, is playing with one of his stuffed mice in the hallway. I hear him pounding along the hardwood floor. Batting into walls. He races into the bedroom. Ducks behind the door. Grabs his toy and whips back out to the hallway.

At least. I think it's his toy.

Somewhere in the back quarter of my mind, a thought drifts slowly into view.

"Sure doesn't sound like his normal play with a stuffed toy."

I keep working on my laptop.

"He sure seems to be kinda active with this toy."

I read some more. Take a sip of coffee.

"Remember the last time he played with one of his toys like that?"

Another sip of coffee. A moment to contemplate the garden.

"It was a..."

STOP! Don't think that.

Ellie sighs in her sleep. Rolls to one side, curls her body up.

"But... last time it was..."

"I know. I know. But we haven't had any incidences in two years. Not since the arrival of The Great One."

Slurp of coffee. I peer towards the door. Listen some more to Marley's antics in the hall.

"Better go look."

I sigh. Uncurl myself from the bed. Walk towards the door. I peer down the hallway. Spy Marley, on the floor, inches from the bedroom door.

What I don't see is a red or green or bright yellow stuffed mouse between his paws.

What I do see is a black furry ball.

It moves.

Marley pounces.

I scream.

Marley looks up at me. "What? Isn't this what you hired me for?"

"Yes! But not when I'm home and in bed. Couldn't you at least wait until I was out?"

The furry black ball which is not a toy but a real live mouse sees his opportunity to escape. He runs towards me. Skitters between my feet and into the bedroom. Dashes behind the dresser.

Marley races into bedroom. Runs from one end to the other of the dresser.

I high tail it back to the bed.

I am not getting out until the vile little creature is caught, I yell at Marley.

Marley paces along the dresser. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Ellie sleeps.

I am not getting off this bed, I repeat, until you remove that thing.

He ignores me. Keeps pacing.

I look for weapons. The bedroom is particularly devoid of mice killing implements. I curl up beneath the blankets.

Ellie keeps sleeping.

Marley keeps pacing.

I am not getting off this bed until the vile little creature is caught.

I'm still here.


Ellie sleeps.

And Marley...

Tired of the cat and mouse game has retired to the love seat for a nap. This protecting hearth and home from vile little creatures is tiring business.

Ellie rolls over. Looks at me through one half-opened eye. "Could you keep the noise down please? I'm trying to sleep."

I think of pushing her off the bed. I think of replacing the word 'curl' throughout this post.

I think of the mouse under the dresser.

I am not getting off this bed until that vile little creature, even if he is one of God's children, is caught!

Marley stretches his body. Yawns. I think of throwing a shoe at him, or maybe my coffee.

He keeps sleeping.

Good thing he's so cute. Otherwise I'd fire him on the spot!

Anyone know of any good mouse catchers?

I am not getting off this bed until the vile little creature is caught!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Magic is all around

The racoons come to say good-bye on my last night.

Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love. Mother Teresa
The city was enshrouded in mist as Alexis and I headed out across the Lions Gate Bridge. Giant sea-going tankers lumbered at anchor in the bay below the bridge as a lone sailboat scuttled amidst them, heading across the bay towards the shelter of its dock. Traffic flowed steadily, streaming into the downtown core, carrying people in an endless stream to work, to play, to bed, to places they needed to be.

After dropping my daughter off at her destination, I head eastward, back towards Calgary.

I like the feeling of going against the flow. Of pushing off in my own direction as others drive in theirs.

By the time I hit the high plains the sun has burnt through the cloud to reveal clear blue sky above. Around me, the Nicola Valley spreads out in a wide swathe of golden fall colour.

I open my sunroof. Light pours in. Wisps of wind play with my hair. I keep driving.

The words of C.C.s text to me as I left flutter through my mind.

Sing loud
Smile lots
Stop often.

Those are great words to live by, always, Alexis tells me when I tell her C.C.s driving instructions.

Good point! I smile. To myself as I drive. Who cares? No one's watching but me!

This road is rich in history for me. Memories stored in a long ribbon of highway, they sprawl across the terrain, unwinding as I travel along the road in either direction. They are memories that unfurl like the yellow line colours the asphalt, a continuous stream of sunny thoughts that keep me company as I drive.

I remember the car laden with belongings, my daughters in the backseat. On holiday. Travelling westward to the far edge of Vancouver Island for our annual trip to Tofino. Singing out loud. Laughing, full voice. Girls sleeping. Girls reading. Me driving. Sharing stories. Playing games. I Spy. Name that place. Alphabet soup. Tell a story. Quick. 30 seconds. End to beginning.

Today, I drive alone. Memory my companion. I smile in memory of my week.

It was a fabulous trip. Rich with people and learning and growing and stretching. Rich with incredible weather, special places and rich with song.

Eric Bibb carries me into the Nicola Valley.

Don Bray moves me down off the high plains into the interior. I speed along the lakeshore, sunlight glittering on the water. Fairy dancers laugh in the sun as Ahmad Baabahar's blues sweep me into the dark green forest. Light dances through towering firs, streaming onto my head.

Alyssa Wright's soulful cello and sultry voice serenade me as I climb into the Rockies.

Through my sunroof at Roger's Pass. My friend's from Gabriola carry me as I travel along the road. I am in heaven. Surrounded by snowcapped peaks, towering fir trees marching endlessly along their sides until the air becomes too thin for them to breathe, the soil to rocky for roots to settle in.

I sing outloud with Andrea Boccelli in Italian I cannot speak. My soul soars to Keith Jarrett's wild piano virtuoso accompanying me through Roger's Pass.

I am coming home. Coming back to this city sprawled out along the foothills of the Rockies. Far from ocean views and sweeping vistas that call me into the horizon. "I Blame the Horizon" Don Bray sang on Gabriola.

I blame the sea.

It's depths awash within me. It's silky waters washing through me.

I blame the sea for pulling me ever westward, for calling me away from home.

At the ocean floor I am inspired, transformed, transported.

Here on wide-open prairie I search for a way to hold onto that feeling of effortless joy that cascades through and in and around me while playing by the sea. I struggle to keep the magic visible.

I know it is there. Always. I know it is not created by 'the place', but rather, is a place within me. Like a kayaker on the river, I need only become part of the flow to find it, feel it, know it.

I tap into the reservoir of joy within. Sun filters through the trees in the back yard, apples turning red, leaves turning golden. A squirrel bounces along the garage roof, leaps to a tree branch, scurryings down the trunk to join his friend busily eating birdseed that has fallen from the feeder.

There is beauty everywhere.

I only need to open my eyes and heart to see it.

There is beauty everywhere.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I carry you in my heart

Reflecting on Downtown Vancouver.
There was a time, not so long ago, when broken-hearted, I closed myself off to love. There was a time when I feared love. Feared breathing. Feared living.

I feared.

And then, a miracle drove up in a blue and white police car, and I got my life back.

And fear subsided. Fear abated. Fear hit the road and I spread my wings and learned to fly.

Free of fear. Free of broken hearts and worn out dreams.

A broken heart is an open heart and an open heart is a loving heart.

And my heart is loving.

Some days, my heart loves so much it hurts.

Some days, the air is so thick with love and beauty and wonder and joy, I feel myself vibrating to a new song, a new world, a new way of being in this world.

That's how I awoke this morning. Feeling like I couldn't get enough of this beautiful morning. Feeling like my skin was too confining.

I smile.

Silly me.

How does that saying go? God never gives you more than you can carry.

The Universe never gives me too much joy and wonder to contain.

I am a radiant woman igniting joy in a world of wonder.

Last night, my daughter Alexis and I walked down Lonsdale Avenue to a tiny, hole-hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant where we sat on a rooftop deck, the only patrons courageous enough to eat outside.

"It's very cold out," the waiter told us.

"That's ok," we both chimed in together. "We've brought our shawls."

We at on the deck, and shared and laughed and sipped a glass of wine each, and watched the sunset over the Coastal Range, the evening light sparkle on the waters stretched out across the bay leading out to the sea, out into the distant ocean.

Earlier, we'd left C.C. at the "Canada Line" terminus to catch the metro to the airport where he was grabbing a 6pm flight. We'd had a late lunch on the patio of Scoozis', where proprietor Michael, greeted me like a long lost friend -- as he greets everyone -- and treated us to a dessert of apple filled phyllo pastry with a to die for sauce and fruit. One of the secrets of Michael's success is his charm and sincerity -- and the food too! It was a relaxed and fun filled afternoon. We three were joined by BA my lovely and beautiful friend here in Vancouver and Tim, a friend from Calgary and his friend Kelly. Tim's eldest daughter Vicky and Alexis have been best-friends since they were 2 and a half. When Tim sat down he immediately turned to Kelly and said, "Alexis was with her dad when Vicky made her famous comment, 'my daddy doesn't say that when drivers cut him off. He always yells and says, 'you f*&#ing azzhole!''

Which is a true story. It did happen. Just like that. Out of the mouths of babes...

C.C. and Alexis and I wandered around Canada Place. We oohed and aahhed at the Olympic Torch statuary -- which is beautiful in the daylight and according to Alexis, even more beautiful in the evening.

I snapped photos on my iPhone (because I hadn't brought the camera) and we people watched and played tourist in this city by the sea.

It was one of those days where the sun could not shine brighter, the air could not feel warmer, the breeze could not caress your skin more tenderly.

It was one of those days.

Today, Alexis and I are going for a tour of Covenant House and then, we'll wander along Main Street and meet up with my new friends, Don Bray and Alyssa Wright who together make up the incomparable musical duo -- The Brights. We'll come back to my sister and brother-in-law's home, pack up the car, have dinner and then head to bed. (FYI -- staying here is bliss. My brother-in-law actually brings me my coffee in bed so I don't have to interrupt my typing! How sweet is that? Sweet. Sweet. Sweet!)

Tomorrow, I drive east. To home. To my youngest daughter who wishes I'd come home early - to feed me -- she said. But I know she misses me as I miss her. And Ellie, the wonder pooch and Marley the Great Cat too!

Tomorrow I will drive home (I won't be blogging as I will be heading out early) and with me, I will carry my heart. And in my heart I will carry the most precious gift of all, Love.

I feel it within me. Carry it with me. always. For no matter which direction I go, no matter where I turn, I carry my heart with me and you are in my heart. Now and always. (Thank you e.e. cummings)

i carry your heart with me
by e. e. cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)


Monday, September 12, 2011

Fearing the blues

Go ahead and play the blues if it'll make you happy. Dan Castellaneta
I do not remember a time in my life when my mother was not sad. When 'the blues' didn't reside within her delicate frame colouring my childhood world with fear and hesitation.

It is perhaps where my sunny disposition found its roots. I always worried if I was ever sad, I would be sad forever.

I don't regret my disposition. I do, sometimes, wish my mother had been other than who she was - and I know. I know. All the wishes in the world will not change another. Will not change the past.

And still, the blues scare me.

I feel powerless, useless, incapable of changing someone else's mood -- especially because I am not powerful enough to change someone else's mood, or disposition, or life.

When I became a mother, I wanted to change the world. I wanted to end war and famine, strife and hunger. Cruelty and abuse. I wanted the world to be safe for my daughters. I wanted the world to stop turning in on itself and start turning up for eachother, for us, we human beings who inhabit this planet along with thousands of species of insects and birds and fish and mammals and other creatures.

And I could not change the world.

All I could do was my best. All I could do, can do, is change the way I move in the world. The way I am within myself and those around me.

And somedays, my best is to simply hold a space, to open a place where those I love can be exactly who they are, exactly the way they are, freely.

I struggle with that as a mother. I struggle with letting be, so that I do not become someone other than who I am, who I want to be in this world. And I struggle with it because I want to 'make the world right' for those I love. I want to ease their burdens, share their load, shift their perspectives, open up their dispositions.

And I am not that powerful.

Recently, in a conversation with a woman who is almost nine months pregnant, I told her that 'becoming a mother is the best thing I ever did in my life'.

Becoming a mother has made me a better person. It has opened me up to all the wonder of the world -- and the sorrow and sadness too.

And in that opening, I have discovered the depth of my heart, the capacity of my love to grow and grow and widen out to encompass all living beings, all things, all aspects of life on this magnificent ball spinning through space, turning around and around the sun.

And in that opening, my heart feels. Deeply. My heart knows. Deeply. And my heart hurts. Deeply.

I want to make the world a perfect place for my children, for everyone's children.

And all I can do is make it a perfect place for me to be who I am, and make room for those around me to be who they are, perfect imperfect humans being together in all our human perfection running freely through and amidst all the colours of the rainbow.

Within those colours are, the blues. They are as perfect as sunshiney yellow, autumn gold and red red rose. They add colour where sunny dispositions fear to go lest they get caught in the deep blue wonder of the soul.

I need not fear the blues.

I need only to learn to move through my fear of not being able to change them into sunlight tones so that even the blues have room to blossom into the beauty of the soul carrying them so carefully through the night. So that even the blues can let their colours show, however they may appear.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never Love

Like billions of people around the world, I didn't know, ten years ago on this day what the skies held. I didn't know what sorrow and heartache was unfolding on the other side of the continent.

My day began like any other.

I awoke. Fed the dog. Took her for a walk. I readied myself for work, woke my daughters. Like every other school morning, I had to coerce and cajole them into getting up for school. My worries were of the normal kind. Would they eat the lunches I had made? Did they have their homework done. Did they brush their teeth? Did I lock the door when we left? Turn off the iron before going out? Normal threads of a normal life. Little worries that didn't add up to much more than a blip on the radar of my life unfolding before me.

I dropped the girls at their schools, drove into my parking spot at work, got into the elevator, pressed the button for the eighth floor. A co-worker got on at the first floor. He was vibrating with the news. "Isn't it awful," he said.

I remember wondering what he meant. It was a gorgeous fall morning. Not a cloud in the sky. Clear skies for as far as you could see.

"What's that?" I asked.

"New York." he replied.

I hadn't listened to the news yet. The girls were abuzz with first week back at school news as we drove. I hadn't listened to the news.

And then he told me.

I thought he was joking.

Another woman got on the elevator.

"It's true," she whispered. "It's true."

How could such a thing be true, I wondered.

I got to my office. No one was working. Everyone was gathered in the boardroom watching the TV. They were showing the footage of the first jet hitting the Tower.

It felt so surreal. So unreal. So unbelievable.

Everyone was scared. Worried. Unsure of what to do. What would ensue from such devastation.

Several people left. They wanted to reassure themselves their families were okay.

I asked my boss if I could leave too. I wanted to get my daughters at school and hold them close.

"Go," he said. "Go. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?"

My youngest daughters Junior High was just across the street from the office building where I worked. I walked out into the bright morning sun. Felt its welcoming warmth and still I was chilled.

I got to the school. Other mothers and fathers were already there to see their children.

Liseanne came to the office and I asked if she wanted to come out with me for the day. Eager for any opportunity to miss religion class she quickly said, "Yes!"

We walked over to Alexis' high school down the street and spoke with her. She wanted to stay in class. "We're talking about it here," she said. "I'm okay."

The three of us hugged and Liseanne and I left.

A girlfriend called me on my cell. "Have you heard?"

"Yes," I replied. "I've just picked Liseanne up from school We're going to spend the day together."

"I can't leave work," my friend replied. "Would you be willing to pick up my son at school? I'd rather he was with you."

And so the three of us set out to spend the day together. Another young friend, the son of my girlfriend's son, joined us as well. I don't remember where we went for lunch. We did go to the zoo for awhile. We wandered amidst the animals and flowers and trees, the sun streaming down, the birds cawing and snakes slithering and for awhile the world felt normal. Sane. And then, in the afternoon, we went to a movie.

A silly choice on my part. Some Jackie Chen, the world is ending if we don't stop the evil perpetrators, kind of film. Cars exploding. Gunshots firing. It didn't seem appropriate on such a day. But the kids loved it. Thought it was funny and cool. And it was a good diversion from the news coming out of New York and Pittsburgh and Washington. It was an escape from reality.

And when we got home, I turned on the TV and quickly turned it off. I couldn't stop watching. I had to stop watching. I didn't want to embed the images of the Twin Towers crumbling, of the Pentagon smoking or the giant pit in a cornfield smouldering in my daughters minds. Or mine.

I turned off the TV and still the images, the thoughts, the fears remained.

They are still there. Somewhere on the periphery of reality. Still there silently smouldering.

This is a fragile world we live in. A place of great beauty. Great joy. Great possibility. And great devastation too. A place where love walks hand in hand with hate. Where possibility slides up against the impossible and explodes in front of our eyes reminding us that war and hatred do exist and have the power to destroy buildings and lives.

But never love.

We went to a play last night, C.C., Alexis, myself and a friend of Alexis'. Part of the Vancouver Fringe Festival, the particular show we went to was in celebration of 50 years of Amnesty International. In the last act, a play about intolerance, and bullying, and discrimination, a priest says after the brutal death of a young girl at the hands of a school friend spurred on by parents fears of her 'difference', "It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to kill a child too."

It takes a handful of men to raise up a building of steel and concrete.

It takes a handful of men to destroy it. To drop bombs. To kill eachother.

It takes a world of love to create peace.

Let us share love today. Let us commit to creating peace.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Nothing to hold onto

Spend time every day listening to what your muse is trying to tell you. Saint Bartholomew
Early morning slips into late. I cling to sleep. The day beckons. I arise.

Two ferry rides, a missed connection a stalled drive off the ferry because of a car that wouldn't start (not mine but the one car that needed to move for my car to move along too) and I am back on the mainland.

Beside me, C.C. sleeps. He flew in yesterday to join me for the weekend in Vancouver. Upstairs, on the main level of their home, my sister and her husband putter through their morning ablutions. Alexis made a brief appearance from where she was sleeping and has wandered back to bed after declaring, "Im never hanging out with C.C. again!" I had left the both of them at a bar around ten pm, after sharing a wonderful dinner at the Water Street Cafe. I stirred only slightly when they rolled in at 2:30 am.

Outside, a hear the grating of gears as a truck drives by. I hear the distant hum of 'city'.

It is hard. This immersion into 'real world' mode. I want to hold back the data stream. I want to stup up 'island life' and carry it within me like a vile of magic elixir into which I can dip when 'life as it is' streams into the soul-full living I experienced at The Haven all week.

When I'd taken the ferry from Gabriola Island to Vancouver Island yesterday I dreamt of going west again, across the Island's back to the far western shore to my favourite place on earth -- Tofino.

But love awaited in the city. And love's call is greater than any place I've ever known.

And still, this morning, I feel it. Thepull of the tide, the lap of the waves calling me, like the voice in the song we wrote -- Come on home.

It was an intention of the course, Eric said on Sunday evening when we first convened. "I'd like for all of us to write a song. Together. Are you open to is?" he asked.

We all said yes, and so, interpsersed with discussions of music and musicians, of lyrics remembered, and the ones that got away, we 'noodled' at the song.

"Let's start with the chorus," Eric said. "It will lead us to the song."

And the chorus began to appear.

I feared I'd have little to offer. But no one had heard of mindmapping and I lead them into the lure of calling words and thoughts and ideas into a web of inspiration.

I did have something to offer!

And the chorus began to appear.

hesitantly at first, but gaining confidence, the collective muse appeared on the whiteboard. There was no idea too small. No thought unworthy. Eric, a master at inclusivity, insured every voice was heard, every word noted. Every thought captured and measured on the whiteboard as it sought its place in our song.

By the end of the first morning, the lyrics and the notes of the chorus took voice.

Come on home. Come on home.
The air is clear. Door's wide open.
Whatever path your spirit's chosen.
You're not alone. Come on home.

It was pure magic. Undistilled wonder to sit amidst a group of strangers and feel the muse weaving in and out of our presence, wrapping us in the delicate weave of her beautiful voice connecting us through a song none of us knew we held within and in which we now all share.

Pure magic.

It is that feeling of connectivity, of being part of something very, very special that I cling to.

That moment in time when spirits met and flowed in and around and together, drawing out the voice of a song that must be sung. that must be shared.

I have been blessed. With a song. A voice. A place. A name. A connection.

I have been blessed with five days by the sea floating in the waters of beautiful souls singing together.

After the concert Wednesday night, Eric told us he was 'beyond words', afraid that to put something so beautiful down on paper would distill it to a mere idea.

It is beyond an idea.

Beyond the moon and the sea, the waves lapping, the stars glittering all above.

It is beyond all of this.

And yet it is within me. Of me.

It is me.

And you.

And you.

And you.

It is not us and them.

It is all of us. Connected.

I do not struggle to hold onto it. There is nothing to hold on to. And everything to hold when I let go and surrender to fall, in Love.

Always, in Love.

Where ever I am.

Where ever I go.

Whatever I do.

In Love.



Thursday, September 8, 2011

Come on Home

It's life. We bite off more than we can chew. And then we learn how to chew it. Eric Bibb. Sept. 7,2011. Spirit in the Song, The Haven

The Haven (a little slice of heaven by the sea)
After the last chord was strung. After the last note sung. After the writing and rehearsals. The laughter and the tears. After the voice of fear was quieted. The voice of doubt relieved. There was the song.

There was the song and a night and a knot in the tapestry of the lives of the eight people who on Sunday had come together as strangers and were now knotted fast as friends.

Nothing can undo the knot of kinship woven in the weave of magic that was spun throughout these days. Nothing can take the knots back. Nothing can unplay the notes. Nothing can take the song undone.

And after it was over. After the applause and the smiles and the ‘job well done’, I stood at the waters edge in the stillness of the dark, looked up into the stars and let the silence fall all around me.

Grace descended.

She climbed down upon a moonlit path and stood upon the shore beside me. She opened her arms and I stepped gratefully into her embrace.

Joy is measured in the breaths of my heart beating in time. In time to our song. This song we have created.

Far beyond the words we strung together in melodic verse. High above the Bflats and Fsharps, the major chords and minors, far, far beyond their gentle strum beats the rhythm of my heart. Of our hearts holding time together.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who believed in magic. She believed in wonder and mystery, of dreams calling in the night and happiness riding in on the light of day. She believed the world truly was her oyster. That only goodness would rise with the sun.

And then, one day something happened. To this day she cannot tell you what that something was. She cannot tell you what happened. She just knows something did. Many somethings to steal away her eyes of wonder. Her belief in dreams and dreaming. And in the harsh and grating container of those some things, she stopped up all her dreams. She put away her wonder. Because somewhere written in the lines of the songs she sung was the echoing refrain,

And the wonder died upon a dream. And the wonder died upon a dream.

Sometimes, in some dark alley, in a bar or high upon a mountain top, or deep in some stranger’s arms, she’d whisper into the night. “I wonder where my dreams went. I wonder where the magic’s gone?” But mostly, she left the song unsung. Mostly she didn’t dream.

And then, one beautiful summer’s day, a prince rode in and promised to sweep her away to happily ever after.

She’d been looking for her prince for a very long time so she didn’t think about it long. Who could refuse a shortcut to happiness driving up in a shiny red Ferrari?

“My mama always said someday my prince would come,” she said as she climbed into his steed with nary a backwards glance at the gods of caution warning her to take the next curve slow.

She did buckle up her seatbelt. He’d promised her it would be a hell of a ride.

Now, it would be easy to put all the blame for forgotten dreams and broken hearts upon the broad shoulders of her knight in shining armour. He did lie. And he did manipulate. And scheme and tear her world apart.

But, in truth, her falling out with magic happened long before he rode up promising her the world. He was not the destroyer of her dreams.

They had vanished long before he appeared on the horizon in his shiny red Ferrari rusting to black.

She’d only needed that particular ride to take her into that place she’d dared not go for all those years. That dark, forbidding landscape of her heart where she had locked away her dreams, shored up all her wonder behind a wall of stone and fallen into a sadness hidden behind the brilliance of the smile she held in place for all to believe, she was not unhappy. She was as carefree as she could be.

And the wonder died within a dream. And the wonder died within a dream.

Her falling out of wonder began long before the men she could not name, long before the running circles round the moon in search of a better view. Her falling out of wonder began in those childhood days when a little girl stood upon a stage and called out with wild abandon, “Watch me. Watch me.”

And she leapt and she ran and she drew a picture and she wrote a verse and she sang a song and turned a cartwheel and stood upside down. And no one watched back.
And with each frantic calling out for attention, her voice grew weaker, her song fell silent.

And then, she sat in a circle of seven strangers and said, “I am not a songwriter. I do not sing.”

And her journey into wonder began with the unfolding of that lie. For in truth, she is a songwriter, the writer of her very own song of life singing beautifully in tune to a world of wonder dancing all around.

I stood beneath the stars last night, the waves lapping gently at my feet, the air a soothing whisper against my skin. I stood beneath the stars and I breathed. Deeply. And then I heard it. A voice, a welcoming voice in the wind. And the voice grew stronger until I heard many voices rising up in song at the edges of the night, pushing back the darkness, gathering in the light.

I heard it. This song we have created. together. This song of wonder, of joy, and magic. Always the magic. For this is a song of gratitude and peace rising up from my toes, cascading all around me, in me, through me, pulling me out into the tide racing back into the sea. Carrying me beyond the shores of nothing standing in my way but the way itself unfolding in this place of wonder.

I stood beneath the stars last night and I heard our song.

Come on home, it beckoned me. Come on home.

And I did. Come on home.

Thank you, Ahmad, Alyssa, Cameron, Don, Eric, Sari and Sylvie. Our songs connected are a beautiful knot that hold me fast as I soar into my dreams.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It only matters that we sing.

Writing at MadRona's

Because I only have Internet access intermittently, it is not as easy to respond, or to post comments or to read. I have taken to writing my blog in Word when I arise, and then, on my way to The Haven, I stop at MadRona's and post it. Which is generally when I have a chance to read comments -- but time moves on and I am on my way to experience the magic of the day.

Thank you everyone for your comments, your love and your cheers. And thank you Bev for sharing what's on your heart. Blessings to you and Larry and all your family. Happy Birthday Terry. I know my dear friend that you are in a place of joy. Having found that peace, I'm sure you're smiling, and sharing your beautiful sense of humour about our human peccadilloes. Be well my friend. We will see you anon.


Sometimes, the only way not to think about it, is to think about it. Eric Bibb, September 6, 2011, Spirit in the Song, The Haven
It is odd to open up my computer each morning and not be able to read my friends online, to not visit my favourite places, like Glynn’s and Maureen’s and Diane’s and Susan’s and so many others whose words and thoughts and images start my day.
It has been odd. And at the same time enlightening. In the absence of these voices and photographers and artists I hold so dear, I have had to rely on ‘just me’ to find my morning inspiration for this page. And at the same time, I have had to let go of the idea of it’s ‘just me’ writing here.

We are all connected.

In the course this week, one man mentions to the other that his birth name was the same until his step-father adopted him. A few short minutes, and a few names linked and they discover – they are related. Through a great-grandfather of some renown whom they share.

I share a song I wrote yesterday – and yes, I wrote a song! – and someone says, “Hey! That’s my story.”

We are all connected.

Especially through song.

On Monday night, Eric gave us all an assignment. Bring a song you’re working on, or a new piece you’re looking for insight on and we’ll all give you feedback. You can take the feedback, or not, hold onto what you’ve got, or not, but bring something to share.

I didn’t have a song to share, so yesterday morning I awoke and wrote a song – or the essence of a song.

And then the morning unfolded.

Ahmad of beautiful soul and a rich tapestry of notes woven through his music infused journey, shared the makings of a song he is writing. I listened to his words, to his mellifluous voice flowing over the images his story told and I put aside the song I had written.

You are a story-teller, a voice whispered within me. Why are you preaching?

It was a good question. The song I had written earlier that morning was too preachy, too, here’s the lesson, now learn it.

I decided to start over.

We broke for lunch.

I drove back to the house (the wild turkeys were expecting me) and as I drove along the winding road, the sun filtering through the leaves of the uppermost branches that formed a cathedral dome above my open sunroof, two lines flit into view with the grace of a butterfly alighting on a petal.

Hope lived in her belly
Strangling her soul

I held onto them.

And when I got back to the house, I sat down and began to write.

An hour later, my song was complete. At least I thought it was, though it didn’t have a melody.

In the afternoon session, Eric asked those of us who had not yet shared to offer up our songs.

I read mine aloud.

There was silence.

Eric asked me to read it again.

It’s complete, he said, when I finished reading. Who hasn’t experienced such betrayal? Who hasn’t known the loss of love? Do you have a melody in mind? he asked.

I laughed. Other than a heartbeat, no, I replied.

And that is how I came to sit in the sun beside the great Eric Bibb and his guitar. Notes rolled off the strings as effortlessly as pearls resting against eachother in a priceless necklace. With each searching note, Eric zeroed in on the essence of the music to my song. He strummed the chords, pen held between his teeth, one foot beating time on the wooden deck upon which we sat in the late afternoon sun. He made notes on the page where he’d written my lyrics. He scribbled a chord. Strummed a phrase. Uh uh. He’d intone. Scratch out the note he’d made upon the page and start again.

A chord resonated. Ahhh. Oh yeah. His head nodded. Up and down. Yeah. He turned to me. How is that for you? he asked.

I smiled. Seriously? I laughed, deep inside, in my soul. Does it get any better than this?

It's great, I replied.

Can you sing it?

I hesitated. Sing it? I searched for some clever throw-away line with just the right amount of self-deprecating humour to be funny. No words came to my rescue. I sang the verse.

That’s good. That’s good, said Eric. Let’s do another verse.

And so, basking in the warmth of the afternoon sun, the water dancing in its brilliant light, the leaves whispering in the Madronna’s all around, Eric played and I sang. My voice was hesitant at first, searching for its beat until it found itself settling into the soulful callings of Eric’s guitar. And like a soul slipping with ease into grace, the melody began to flow as Eric lead my words home into their song.

Earlier, in the morning session, I had sat in humble silence as Don and then Cameron and Ahmad shared their songs. I had been awed.

“I love being amidst greatness,” I said. “It brings my soul peace.”

Greatness is our natural state of being. It flows all around. It only asks we listen to the rhythm of our hearts to feel its beat.

Sitting on that deck, feeling the warmth of Eric and his guitar, I touched it. Just like I touch it every day when I listen to my heart beat its song of love and joy and freedom. Just like I know it in every way when I breathe deeply and sink into that place where I am at peace.

I am at peace.

There is greatness all around me. There is greatness and generosity of spirit and the beauty of souls connecting through the songs of life we share.
It is a beautiful, messed up, jumbled up, turned around and upside down journey this life of ours. No matter where we’re at, it is a journey that grows richer when we sing our stories, of love found, and lost. Of hope rising and fear fading. When we sing our stories of life.

No matter the tune, when we share the songs of our heart we are all connected.
It doesn’t matter the song we sing. What matters most is that we do.

PS – and yes, I will share my song. Eric is setting it to music and has promised me a CD. Seriously. What could be better than that?