Monday, May 23, 2016

Spring Magic

Each year seems fuller and busier. My thoughts are all jumbled up with schedules and lists and summer plans ... so each day I try to spend some time being quiet, noticing and giving thanks for all the abundance that is Life.

look carefully ... she is on top of her babies, nursing ...

It's not even summer yet, but we are easing into the summertime pace!  My new "to-do" list reads: books, paint, horses, play. repeat.  Back to it! I promise to return with stories to share, tales to tell. xo

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

to turn again ...

As I sit sipping my morning coffee, the sun is attempting to shove aside the dark clouds that repeatedly wander back into the day.  Welcome to Spring in the Midwest: blue skies and gentle breezes unexpectedly can give way to stiff winds, swirling clouds and sudden downpours. Our little corner has been spared the more intense "weather events" and I savor each clearing day after a storm. There is a sense of a fresh start to these mornings -- a reminder to begin again.  

And also the benefit of a burst of cleansing and clearing energy. I've just tended to the coffee maker (ah, the smell of warm vinegar!) after tossing yet another load of laundry into the washer. With luck, there will be enough sun to line dry the clothes. I've looked around my space and decided it was time to give new life to some paintings that were satisfying exercises but uninspired finished pieces. It is funny how something that has been insignificant most of its existence becomes endearing the moment I decide to let it go. It takes a surge of optimism mixed with some ruthlessness to push forward; but once that first slash of gesso goes down, there is an exhale of release in covering over to start fresh.

  All around me are reminders of this process of letting go in order to spiral around anew. I have been watching a friend make her goodbyes to one dream in order to turn towards a new one.  To embrace life is to know how to say goodbye, to know how to allow endings to happen. Because new beginnings are seeded in endings, in death, in release. 

I keep pulling that damned Death card in the Tarot. Except it is not damned, but blessed. To push death away is to damn myself to stagnant living: lining my walls with paintings that do not breath; gardening with no challenge from hail or rabbits: living without the bittersweet of love ripened by separation and goodbye.

My girl and I witnessed the final hours of one of the therapy horses, her time being sudden and unexpected. It blew me apart in that her passing carried the energy of so many recent passings. 

Life is a series of journeys, and every lesson that it offers to us comes around again, in the same form or a different form, until we learn it. Each time around, there is more to be lost - but each time around, there is also more to be gained.
- Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted

Around and around ... as my girl enters the boggy terrain that is preteendom I shudder from the memory of my experience stumbling through that shadowy landscape. I had been thinking that to be a parent is to relive those experiences from the uncomfortable and helpless position of watching my child find her way forward. And indeed I cannot make that trek for her. I also cannot and should not project onto her my experiences. What I can do is recognize all that is stirred up within me  - the fear, the uncertainty, the confusion - is mine and this circling back around is my chance to do some deep healing work for myself.

Before I can support her, I have to take time to honor my own internal state and to offer myself understanding and compassionate care. Then I am in a better position to hold space for her own explorations and to support her finding, trusting and utilizing her powers to transform and heal. It isn't easy and I am not always so skilled at coaxing out my hurt feelings, but each time I remember is a gift that keeps on giving.

I am grateful for the lessons and insights offered in Annapurna Living's Mother Course. I highly recommend it not just for mothers, but for anyone wishing to strengthen and nurture compassionate, healthy, empowered relationships. 


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

poems with wings

Perhaps I conjure up what I want to avoid? Each April I cannot help but hear echoing throughout the gradually warming days:

"April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain." 
- T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Spring rains accompanied ceremonies of grieving and celebration. The month began with a fire ceremony marking the passing of one friend ...

and ended at our city's botanical center with a memorial for our neighbors whose unexpected deaths while on vacation has me stumbling pass their house in continual confusion and disbelief.  Witnessing the rawness of grief in their daughter's eyes has stirred up emotions that had settled to the bottom of my own heart. Each new drop of sorrow and loss is added to a swelling pool: my mother, my aunt, my friend, my neighbors ... the list swells backwards and forwards.

I suppose that is how it is in middle age. The longer my tenure here, the more I will have to say goodbye. It is the balance to so many hellos. What has become apparent to me with the loss of my neighbors is the urgency to making each hello count. At their memorial service I was made aware that I really hardly knew them. I mean, we would often meet while walking our dogs and talk of neighborly things: the dogs, the weather, our gardens. A little residents gossip and updating on local events. We each had busy and full lives and our worlds intersected in a narrow margin at sidewalks and driveways. 

Hearing their children, grandchildren, lifelong friends and colleagues share their memories was a privilege. For it gave me pause to consider: What will my legacy be? What do I hope to create with this, my "one wild and precious life?" (Mary Oliver) For my neighbors certainly lived full, attentive, loving and passionately engaged lives.

By opening myself up to the vulnerability of deep grieving, I discover within that dark pool immense inspiration. Listening to person after person talk about my neighbors what slowly emerged was a picture of life anchored in love and purpose. That purpose was to nurture within each individual their unique passions, interests and gifts. 

Assisting me in uncovering purpose and meaning are my art journals and words. My own words, yes (scribbled in more notebooks) but also the bountiful collection of words, insights and meaning found in poetry. As David Whyte so astutely noted, all poets eventually become philosophers.  So I gather close by those books, those writers like Oliver and Whyte who offer so many thresholds into deeper meaning and living.

"One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting 
their bad advice--"
- Mary Oliver, The Journey

I lay in my bathtub listening to David Whyte recite the above poem along with other favorites (like Wild Geese) ... the water and the words soothing aches of the body and of the heart.  (I believe what I've found is an excerpted segment from a longer recording of  The Poetry of Self Compassion.) 

Still feeling raw and tender, I am easing myself back into everyday routines. I don't want to lose these gifts of insight. Considering what would be the most loving action I could offer myself, I headed out for a long walk.  Inspiring me is the work of Sharon Blackie and these words which I had read the night before from her new and immensely powerful book If Women Rose Rooted:

"We spend out lives searching for meaning in ourselves ... trained to be ever-mindful of what is going on inside us -- our breath, and our thoughts and emotions -- when so much of the meaning we need is beneath our feet, in the plants and animals around us, in the air we breathe. We swaddle ourselves so tightly in the centrality of our own self-referential humanness that we forget that we are creatives of the Earth, and need also to connect with the land. We need to get out of the confines of our own heads. We need -- we badly need -- grounding; we need to find our anchor in place, wherever it is that we live. Once we find that anchor, so many of our problems fade away. And once we find that anchor, so often we uncover the nature of our true work, the nature of the gift we can offer up to the world."

On this day many winged ones greeted me. To truly grasp I share the same space with these powerful and magical creatures is to crack open some secret chamber of hope and possibility within. The fullness of life - life with stunning and unexpected hellos and life with heart-wrenching good-byes - flew up before me. And it slipped quietly below me. All around me ... and within me. 



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

circles of support

Like a jar you housed infinite tenderness
And the infinite tenderness shattered you like a jar
- Pablo Neruda

You would think given my silence here, I have little to say.


It seems my words (along with images and miscellanea of my days) are filling a growing assortment of notebooks and journals. It actually has become a bit of a job keeping things in some semblance of order ...

It strikes me that my many notebooks are like jars housing the various collections that comprise my ever-increasing curiosity which is the strength and the vulnerability of a multi-passionate creative.  

Or the makings of a looney bird. But I've always admired the eccentric, the independent minded, the cackling and colorful crone making her own damned way thank-you-very-much!

My little neighborhood has been rocked by devastating news. Neighbors on an exotic vacation were in a terrible accident. They won't be coming home. I look out my front window and I see their dog being walked by their adult children and my knees buckle.

They won't be coming home. 

It's not like we need any reminders that life is incredibly short and unpredictable. But we do ... I know I fall into the trance ... that I will have second chances, that I will continue to have options, that I will skirt accidents and disasters along with illness and traffic jams. When the veil drops and life comes crashing in I realize how grateful I am for the many circles of support I've gathered about me. My spiritual practice. My family. My friends. My notebooks filled with reminders of why I choose to live life with an open heart, even though doing so leaves me vulnerable to the pain of loss and grief.

I am grateful to be part of many circles of women choosing to come together to hold space for each other. My own local circle met this past weekend and in the spirit of Spring we each shared what the circle has been for us in the past and what seeds we want to plant for our future. 

what remains after circle ... tea leaves and heart wisdom

I look at my girl and I want for her to know how it feels to sit in circle and to have her experiences witnessed and valued. To be seen in such a manner is powerful beyond words. When I was waiting for our adoption referral, I attended a prenatal yoga training program. At the end of our weekend the instructor invited all of the pregnant women to move to the center of our circle for a blessing. Not being pregnant in the traditional sense of the word, I stayed on the outside of the circle. Afterwards, I shared with another in the training my hurt over being excluded. That I could have gotten up and moved to the center, only occurred to me after the fact. My reaction was fueled by my own exclusion, my own lack of imagination to claim what I wanted.

Thankfully, that woman spoke to the instructor and it turned out a group of us traveled to the airport together. There I was invited to the tiny meditation chapel where this intimate group circled around me and blessed me and my future child with chants of love and blessing. 

I am looking at this book as a possible starting point for a mother/daughter circle.  It is a seedling of an idea ... And until it happens, I make sure when my circle meets at my home to invite my daughter over to say hi. These women - who are my dear friends -  are like her aunties. That she knows she is seen and welcomed and love by each of these women is such good medicine. For my heart and hers.

So I circle back to what supports and sustains me. My creative practice.

My spiritual practice. Family time. Nature.

And circles created by loving hearts and arms. 

I am finding deep support and inspiration through Fierce Grace Collective and Painted Pages Workshop. If you want a good hour or so of inspiration, if you want to be stirred by the question "How can I stretch myself to live fully with purpose, with heart?" then watch this and be ready to link arms.  

Friday, April 1, 2016

void-of-course (moon lessons)

~At the edge of my awareness, I am alert to all that is around me. Eagle has made a home here and every day I hope to catch a glimpse of his wide wings embracing the sky. 

~Running in the park, I come upon a herd of deer. I quickly pause as they pause. We regard each other ... "Hello sisters" I like to say. One seems to nod before bounding off to join the others. I linger, watching for her to take a final glance back at me. Yes, I am here, just as you are.

~Rainy weather means I will find my favorite "Old Man" horse inside at the stables. At 28 he is the senior of the herd. I stand by his stall, one hand on his shoulder, the other held palm facing up towards his muzzle. I send him reiki but really he sends it to me. I watch his eyes soften, his breath deepen, feeling the warmth on my hand, feeling his dreams wash through my body. Green pastures, sunshine, rolling with ease and freedom. I feel him slowly ceding his memories with grace and celebration. It is a gift, this time with him. I quietly sing to him "Old man take a look at my life, I'm a lot like you were ..."

~We head out on a Friday afternoon driving west, arriving in time to watch the Sandhill cranes returning to roost overnight at the Platte River. Every Spring they spend a month here fattening up for the journey northwards, heading to Canada, Alaska and even Siberia. Under the cover of a rapidly descending darkness they fly in. We can barely see them, but we can HEAR them. 

These are the many threads jumbled together in my heart and in my life. I am on a bit of a wild, internal ride - remember Mr. Toad and Wind in the Willows?

Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing ...  

Through a route too difficult to fully explain here (it requires a full pot of tea, an afternoon outside of time and a comfortable seat to relax into) I have been examining and considering my own rhythms and cycles through study of the Moon's. Cultivating a Moon Practice has been a source of immense insight, grounding, and inspiration for me. What has bubbled up as a result of charting my days and studying the energies involved in La Luna's monthly travels is a deeper understanding of my own relationship to these rhythms and energies. What hit me today was understanding how the moon moves through transitions - something I do not manage gracefully or with much ease. That I am wobbling through IMMENSE transitions had not really sunk in until I had it reflected back to me through La Luna's example.

Menopause, the death of my mother, my daughter's transition into puberty - hello?! Transition overload!  Making this all the more intense has been my own impatience with myself. Why can't I figure out what it is I want to be doing with myself? Why can't I settle upon one course of action? Why am I so distractible? How is it months go by and I cannot account for myself, my actions? I realize I am judging my life through the lens of a mindset that is useful when the energy of the season supports growth and development. But in the flux of transition - the letting go in order to open to receive - this kind of thinking (productivity, accountability, results, action) only makes matters more intense given the vulnerability inherent in change or transformation. 

Our culture is seriously lacking when it comes to celebrating change and transitions. And especially so when it comes to women's lives.  To talk about menopause publicly elicits uncomfortable laughter and a quick changing of the subject. I am grateful to the woman I met years ago who shared with me her experience of "hot flashes" as power surges. She described what felt like an umbilical cord of vibrant, alive energy reconnecting her to the Universe. The intensity of the internal heat an indicator of energy awakening her to a new potential in her life. 

Give me a dose of that please. 

The period of time when the moon is void-of-course is when she is shifting from the energies of one planet to another. There is - as this site shares - "a pause in the end of the story." How do I manage endings? I tend to linger, to hold on. As much as I love new beginnings, shifting gears is not a fluid habit for me. I am learning. But it requires mindfulness, patience and care. As I release what was - my life as a daughter, as a in-theory-fertile woman and mother - I am rewiring myself to my world. Creating and laying down new relationships and understanding myself as a daughter of earth and moon. Previously my understanding could be labeled as "solar" - me at the center of my life. But now it is understanding the whole within me and my place within the Whole. Relationship, partnership, community ... it is a lot to digest and I need to allow it - and myself - all the space and time it needs. 


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

holding on to earth

I like to think I am a glass half full kind of person. Most of the time, it is easy to perceive the bounty of goodness, love, hope and possibility in the world.

But other times? Yes, darkness seems to pull hard and my heart wobbles, my thoughts scatter and emotions surge.  Yesterday I read in the morning paper about the antarctic ice sheet melting due to warming waters. The accompanying photograph is of the penguins and my mind envisions them - along with the polar bears in the arctic - sinking under rising seas. So too my heart sinks and the tears flow. Too much water, too much destruction and too much to comprehend.


This morning I learned of more bombings in Belgium. I don't know if my heart can dip lower? Overwhelm threatens to paralyze me. Yet I know burying my head is not a answer nor is it a solution. The ripples of violence, the pall of despair, the numbing of fear and frustration strike at us all. Indeed these emotions are at the heart of what drives the insanity and our reactions to it.

What can I do? I turn to what I believe is both the source of the imbalance and the means of transformation. I look within myself and I consider my relationship with Mother Earth and her fellow inhabitants. I consider the health of my relationships - with myself, with my community, with my home soil, and I ask where is healing needed? What is within my power to effect change? Can I identify my imbalances so that I might lovingly and compassionately begin to correct them? 

I have identified for myself the need to establish a new relationship with earth. To understand in a way that is more than merely intellectual, how I am a part of the whole. How do I dishonor earth when I dishonor my own being? And how might bringing awareness to self care be a means of shifting the balance away from abusive patterns of acting/thinking/reacting and towards healing, supportive action, and an environment of mutual respect and consideration?

I step outside and bring my feet to the emerging green grass. I feel the prickles of dried blades give way to the softness of new growth. I close my eyes and listen to the birds speak across the lawn. I smell damp earth and perceive the slow but certain waking up of life that is Spring's arrival. Here is where I begin. This is what I trust. This is what I hold onto and here is where I pour my hopes and my fears for the future. This lap of Mother Earth. May she guide us. May she remind us we are all one. May we understand the need to pause and listen - really listen -  and hear. May we come to honor her love in more than just words. 

May we find the courage to continue to hope and to see what we do matters and each day there is opportunity to be an agent of positive change. It begins right now in this conversation with mama earth. I promise ... I promise ...

Monday, March 14, 2016


Wow. It's been awhile.

I suppose I am a victim of the season ... this betwixt  and between time ... not yet Spring yet clearly no longer Winter. It has me all tangled up inside. I awake to hear the raucous sounds of randy robins mingled with the clatter of shovels, spades and boomboxes as armies of landscapers descend upon my neighbor's yard to ready it for a new season. (My neighbor owns his own landscaping company, so there is a continual stream of his employees prepping and primping his yard. This is not the case in our wild landscape.) I sip my morning coffee and plan my day which is quickly sabotaged by my spring fever. There is just too much productivity happening around me and I must escape.

I've been hitting the trails of the neighboring park. For eight years I have lived near this recreation center and managed to overlook it. Way back in the early days, Cowgirl and I would pack a backpack with sketch books and snacks and walk a half mile or so to a bench to sit and draw. I admit a snobbery and insensitivity to the landscape of my home. Dried grasses,milkweed, and scraggly mulberry trees did not capture my imagination. Wildlife appeared to be limited to Canada Geese, seagulls and wooly caterpillars.  

Of course it was not the landscape that suffered from lack of imagination, but this viewer.  Thankfully Nature has been patiently going about her business, unbothered by my lack of enthusiasm. (Seems like a good model for me to follow as Cowgirl enters into the preteen Eye Rolling and Deep-Sighing-from annoyance and/or boredom stage of development.) And thankfully, the writing and influence of this teacher has inspired me to take a longer and more studied look into the spaces and places I now embrace as home. 

It is only recently that I've made the conscious attempt to consider and refer to this place as home

"Later I would look back at my time with the cedar trees and say I was visited by the mythical crone - the old woman of the crossroads who allows travelers to ask her one question, which she is bound by the laws of nature to answer in truth. My question might well have been: where do I belong? And her answer, with a gesture to the wild forests, sprawling meadows and dark waters of the earth, would have been: here." 

I feel the pull to venture out. I pack my backpack with camera, binoculars, and bird guide.  I tuck inside my journal, pencils and pens. Fill my water bottle and strike out. Each ramble I discover more and more. I hold in my hand the map of the Arboretum tour with the hope of familiarizing myself with the over 90 different tree and shrubs lining the trails. I have found a tuft of a fox's tail, the shedding coat of some deer, feathers, seeds - signs of life vaster than I had realized. 

Porcupine have been feasting on the tender flesh of young shrubs. A corridor of trees hosts Downy Woodpeckers late in the day while the  Black Capped Chickadees have an earlier commute. I have been seeing a Bald Eagle and now know it has a nest safety tucked away in one of the park's larger sycamore trees. 

"Maureen Murdock, author of The Heroine's Journey, says that women find their way back to themselves differently than men do. Men move up and out into the lights of the world, but women's challenge is to move down into the depths of their own ground of being."
-Eila Carrico, The Other Side of the River 

I am drawn to exploring this patch of world around me because I believe it holds a key to understanding myself. For too long I have felt unrooted, out of place, free-floating through my life like a dandelion seed blasted by the wind across my lawn. To understand myself, I believe I must discover my relationship to this place. Or more accurately, uncover where and how I belong in the web of being. What is my place among the Ponderosa Pines, the Mulberries, the Geese, the rabbits and the coyotes? 

I want to understand how the rhythms of Nature move through me. I am taking part in a new and exciting offering: The Lunar Womb. I am following the moon's rhythms and charting my own. I am examining the dance between the Moon, Sun and Earth and learning how those energies play out within and around me.  

It is immersion into my self and my days which takes me out of modern time. I come here and it seems as if lifetimes have been lived out in 24 hours. I cannot operate within the rhythms of social media and am accepting that now is a period when I orbit far away from connections that once were regular and daily. I know things will shift and so I surrender myself to this new way of being ... I want to see where it takes me. Deeper within, I hope.  


I have every intention of regularly reporting back here. But just in case, I am trying to leave a breadcrumb trail.