Featured

Treading Water

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photo credit © westcoastwoman

If each day falls
inside each night,
there exists a well
where clarity is imprisoned.

We need to sit on the rim
of the well of darkness
and fish for fallen light
with patience.

Pablo Neruda
***

Treading Water

The tide is coming in. A long, hot summer day is coming to an end when I hear my neighbours voice.  “Come on girl, get out here”.  She stands waist deep in the cool water of the incoming tide and I lose no time in joining her.  We take the plunge together, the one I usually resist until the last moment– letting go and going completely under.

Swimming out over our heads we start treading water and talking, a talk that soon turns to a version of one that is reverberating all over the planet.  We speak of the human condition, the planetary condition, the white privilege that has allowed us to live and tread water under a rising moon on a beautiful island off the West Coast of North America.  We speak of this and more as we slowly drift from shore.

I am facing out to sea and by the time I look back, the shore appears to be distant and I am starting to lose strength.  The conversation continues as I change the movement of my arms and we both slowly move back towards a place where we will ‘touch ground’ again.  I reach intermittently with my toe, longing to feel the safety of the sea bed. There are two conversations going on, one with my companion the other within myself.

I am a strong swimmer and could have easily floated on my back if I felt too tired to swim or tread but each time my foot reaches for security and doesn’t find it there is a slight feeling of panic and then palpable relief when my toe finally does find bottom.  I am surprised by the intensity of both feelings.

Sitting on the deck later that night I realized how long I’ve had the feeling I was treading water–we have been treading water as a world community.  There is a collective need for our toes to touch the sea bed and feel the familiar security and comfort of solid ground.

As we head back towards shore perhaps we are being called to dive;  dive deep within ourselves and return with our particular part of the puzzle.  No one gets to sit this one out.  There is no ‘us and them’. There is only us.

A Call to Arms.  Arms to reach out, arms to hold, arms raised with clenched fists in resistance and arms spread in surrender.

We are over our heads.
We are treading water.
The call is out.

© westcoastwoman

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photo credit Marc Riboud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

“the Parade of our Mutual Life”

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It was a year ago today that I set up this site (as I was reminded by a Congratulatory! email) a year since my finger hovered over the pink ‘publish’ button and I somehow got the courage to touch it.

A year that started by reading the words of Others ….. that being the great gift.  Stumbling upon writer after writer whose words spoke so deeply and honestly I felt ‘broken open’ and that opening allowing more of my inner world to be exposed.

One site led to another, it felt like climbing on a large web of linked consciousness, each writer working in their own corners writing words that only they could release .
I started to hear this as the ‘collective human howl’.

Joy, pain, darkness and light all being expressed individually and in perfect unison. A virtual worldwide Salon of sorts where the doors are always open and swinging both ways, all ways. Everyone welcome….so grateful I stepped through the threshold.

” it is important that awake people be awake” William Stafford

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©westcoast woman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Release

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©westcoastwoman

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”     Anais Nin

Release

We tend gardens in Spring under the illusion that we somehow affect the outcome, that our careful placement of seed or plant has anything to do with the eventual opening of the buds of May.

No credit given to the artist and unknown creator of the fragile petals that unfold, we proudly display our garden, rarely acknowledging that we are just the temporary curators of an impermanent living  gallery.

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© westcoastwoman

Our heart and spirit are also part of this life gallery, we too are meant to unfold and flower in this fleeting moment we occupy space on the planet.

Not born to stay “tight in the bud” we struggle in darkness until most of us break open, this second opening no less courageous than our journey from the womb.

Conscious of our consciousness and knowing that venturing forward will involve both great pain along with pleasure, we willingly submit and release ourselves again and again to the unknown.

One undeniable truth “No one gets out of here alive” and we who have experienced all that this life has to offer will finally stand in complete and exquisite exhaustion and wonder at our solitary arrival and departure on this mysterious journey ………
© westcoastwoman

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Sculpture   EXPANSION, THIRD LIFE
Paige Bradley

This was written in response to Girlieonthedge  Six Sentence Story Thursday
Prompt word: Release

 

 

 

Featured

Afterglow

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photo credit westcoastwoman ©

“Everyday a new picture is painted and framed, held up for half an hour, in such lights as the Great Artist chooses, and then withdrawn, and the curtain falls. And then the sun goes down, and long the afterglow gives light.”

Henry David Thoreau

Afterglow

Every night they come, the watchers of the sun-set, drawn down by the need to see the light extinguish behind the islands and the sea.

I want to share with them as they slowly rise and disperse that the setting of the sun is only a prelude to the experience they had been called to witness, but I stay silent.

It is this time between the setting sun and rising moon, this short extension of the day, this in-between-time when my heart and mind settle for just a moment.

I watch as the sky paints itself with each night’s original palette, wanting only to share with those who can look out from the same place and feel the colours as they appear, understand the need for silence.

In these moments when I am neither here nor there, anything is possible, magic is afoot and I am caught in the afterglow of another original creation as it slowly fades from sight.

The darkness takes the light, the starlings swoop once more in perfect unison over the water, I share with all who stand watching… being neither here nor there, a silent good night.

westcoastwoman 2019 ©

Written in response to GirlieontheEdge’s  Six Sentence Story Word Prompt
Prompt word : Extension 

 

 

Featured

Naked in Yalova (or don’t get caught with your pants down in a Turkish Bath)

Photo of woman’s Hamam in Gokcedere, Yalova, Turkey

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I must be a Mermaid, I have no fear of depths, and a great fear of shallow living”
Anais Nin

“You must have a Turkish Bath in Istanbul!” my well travelled friend advised me before I set out on my latest adventure. Upon arrival in Turkey I continued to hear about   Hamam ( Turkish Bath) as something one must experience and I resolved to book an appointment on my return to Istanbul from the small village where I would spend the next week.

My destination was the Turkish village of Gokcedere, Yalova where I was to attend a workshop.   One afternoon following a bus excursion my seat mate Caroline mentioned she was going to the local Hamam before dinner. I expressed interest and when we reached the hotel headed down together into the older area of town. As we walked and talked it was revealed that neither of us actually knew what was involved in Hammam but both naively agreed that this would no doubt be an ‘authentic’ experience.

Our first project was to actually locate the women Hammam, signage was minimal and even when located it was in Turkish. Once inside there was no doubt that this indeed was going to be an ‘authentic’ experience. No pampering North American  mood music or lush white robes offered here. We were confronted with two no nonsense local women.  Hanging behind them on the wall were numerous signs all written in Turkish that I had to assume explained everything we needed to know.

Caroline took charge, held up her bathing suit and through sign language we deciphered that we should put them on and head into the marble catacombs below. It was at this juncture I realized that perhaps I should have done a little research as to what exactly was involved with Hamam. Caroline somehow deduced that we had not paid for a ‘full treatment’ so after more lira was exchanged, down we went to the pool area.

The building was ancient and the marble stained by years of running water and bathing bodies. There were two circular rooms attached by an archway, marble sinks located every six feet that contained bright plastic coloured bowls. The only other participant, a large voluptuous naked Turkish woman had filled her sink and was pouring water on herself as she sat on the floor.

Caroline and I sized up the situation and decided to take our cue from the only other customer and by the time one of the attendants had made her way down to check on us Caroline had her suit off and was filling her sink and I had mine down around my knees getting ready to fill mine.

Standing naked except for a tangled bathing suit at my knees we were now confronted by a loud angry attendant attempting to communicate to us in Turkish something that was not obvious to either of us. Frustrated by our lack of comprehension she then grabbed a Turkish sign off the wall, held it in front of her and continued to berate us.

Desperate to translate what was being said I searched the signs on the wall behind her looking for anything in English. The only English sign in the entire building said “No Photos or Videos”. Even in the heat of the moment I found it amusing that anyone would think it appropriate to take photos or videos in the baths and at the same time it crossed my mind what a priceless video this would make.

Out of the corner of my eye I observed our large naked companion had risen to her feet and it was revealed that she was not completely naked, she had some form of bikini bottom on.  It became clear this was our problem and we quickly remedied the situation.

Now half-naked we attempted to soak in the too hot pool, lie on the burning hot marble that resisted cooling even when doused with buckets of cold water and breath in a sauna that was just this side of suffocating.

The large local woman was led away to have done to her whatever we had each paid an extra 30 Turkish lira to have done to us. It was decided I would go first and when the attendant (the same one who had scolded us) came to collect me, I followed dutifully  behind.

We travelled a narrow cave like opening to a small room and into a rather awkward situation. There were two marble sinks, our fellow bather was still in the room pouring water on herself. I was motioned to hoist myself on to what looked like a picnic table draped with a red plastic tablecloth. My look must have said “you got to be kidding me”  because she then threw a bucket of water over the plastic thinking I’m sure that should appease me.

I am not sure what words were exchanged between the two women but eventually the attendant and I were left alone in the room. What happened next would best be described as having your whole body scraped with sandpaper, totally, front, back and face. Unable to communicate with her verbally I mostly endured and sometimes used sign language as we navigated the procedure.  Grateful when it was over I positioned myself at the side of the table about to hop off when without warning a bucket of water was poured over my head leaving me gasping for air. I made my way back to the baths, gave Caroline a little smile and warning and off she went.

We were planning on a bit of shopping afterwards but Caroline’s comment as we left was “I would like to get back to the security of the hotel” which had us both chuckling.

Authentic it certainly was, fodder for a great story and I must say my skin had never felt so soft. So my well travelled friend, I did Hamam and survived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Wanderlust, Dance and Blogging


©photo credit westcoastwoman

 

” I had known almost every pleasure and discomfort, all the happiness and all the suffering that can befall man as a social animal. Useless to give you the details: the repertory of possible events in human destinies is rather limited, and they are nearly always the same stories. I will tell you that one day I found myself alone, all alone, fully convinced that I had completed one cycle of existence. I had travelled widely, studied the most esoteric sciences, learned more than ten trades. Life treated me a little the way an organism treats a foreign body: it was obviously trying either to enclose me or expel me, and I myself thirsted for ‘something else.’

Quote from Mount Analogue by Rene Daumal

Reading this rather quirky and inspiring allegory for the journey of life before setting off on my own journey/adventure in a few days.

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Stable

 

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©photo credit westcoastwoman

 

Morning light streamed through the shutters, she awoke finding herself hovering somewhere between content and completely unhinged.

Thoughts flitted from place to place never sure where to settle these days, the cocoon of certainty and safety broken open long ago.

The garden provided refuge but even insects only stayed temporarily taking what was offered in the moment as blooms and nectars ebb and flow.

Relationship offered comfort as long as undeniable incremental changes were factored in, together and apart nothing ever as it seems.

Illusion of control was obvious, nothing to hang on to, thoughts, garden, relationships all morphing into their next incarnation with no action required but Witness.

The New Normal beckoned her with a smile, her thought finally settled:
“Precarious is the New Stable”

©westcoastwoman 2019

 

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©photo credit westcoastwoman

Written in response to Girlie on the Edge  Six Sentence Stories
Word prompt: STABLE

Featured

YOUR CHANGES CAN STILL BE SAVED

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credit Lordess Foudre

 

“All Compost Rots, but not all Rot is Compost”

Lower  to the ground.
Kneel and assume, ‘the position’
Reverence: earth, seed, soil
Spring’s sacred cathedral.

Born of winter’s promise
composed, decomposed, Composted
last year fades, surrenders, spirals
More becomes Less

Less formed in darkness,
turned and (re)turned to soil,
Seeds break open to
gamble on new life.

Will I submit to this process
Circle back around
gather lost and shattered bits,
the organic matter of my life

Compost intimate details
brokenness, unshed tears,
turn towards the fragility
not beyond, take the gamble

roots of estrangement
embraced with compassion
Circle back around again
nothing left behind, unattended

no longer in pieces I assume
‘the position’ (re)forming
this new life, this light
born in darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

You can’t get there from here……

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unknown photographer

          “Sometimes we plan a trip to one place, but something takes us to another”
                                                                         Rumi

No one would have mistaken her for a leader, or perhaps she was a leader without any followers.  Her hair hung to her waist, the last foot of which was a tangled mass of dread locks and beads. The beads appeared to have been threaded in so long ago that any hope of retrieval would have had to involve scissors. Every inch of what remained from head to bead was dyed various shades of neon red, green and purple.

Her body was covered in exquisitely drawn and coloured tattoos enhanced by piercings that appeared on various exposed body parts. The finished effect resembled a moveable human art piece. If she had been a bird, she would have been a Macaw.

Our paths intersected when we both chose to attend a two-hour Labyrinth workshop that was offered as part of a weekend yoga symposium. I smile every time I think about the unlikely bond we forged when it all went ‘terribly wrong’.

For the uninitiated there is a difference between a Labyrinth and a Maze.  A Maze is designed as a problem to solve and a Labyrinth can be walked to solve a problem. Previous experiences walking a Labyrinth had revealed that there are points as you move forward where you have a sense you may have ‘taken a wrong turn’ or ‘lost your way’.  Trust the path even though you may feel lost and eventually you will spiral your way to the center  and out again with new insight.

Our group of ten was led to a large gym where a canvas Labyrinth had been assembled.  Encouraged to start walking it when we felt ‘called’ there was initial awkward glances and shuffling.  Sudden movement and a blur of color swept past; the Macaw had been ‘called’ she would be our leader.

I followed behind, gave her space and stepped forward…

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unknown photographer

Having previously walked a Labyrinth alone or with one other person I was unprepared for the delicate dance of meeting and passing others on such narrow pathways.  This interaction became not just a metaphor for life but an enjoyable physical exchange. Approaching another person on an adjacent pathway would compel you to turn completely to the side, arms out, sometimes face to face other times turned away.  When three of us would intersect on parallel paths we all moved and turned in unison.

I was enjoying this immensely until I noticed a short distance ahead our ‘Leader’ had stopped unexpectedly and appeared confused. Coming up behind her I could see the dilemma, there did not appear to be ‘a clear path forward’.

With military precision she sized up the problem, the canvas Labyrinth was comprised of three pieces that were held together with velcro. The larger outer paths matched up but the center did not, it had been put together incorrectly.

She looked at me urgently  “We have to tear it apart, turn it around and start from the beginning.”  The Facilitator standing on the sidelines started to mumble things like “we don’t have time to fix it….. it takes a long time to assemble…..it is not my fault”….. the Macaw would have none of it. Taking orders from no one, she was now in charge and failure was not an option!

Without further instruction I followed her to the edge of the canvas where we found the points where the two seams met. The sound of ripping velcro filled the gym. The other participants moved in to help and within minutes we ripped it apart turned the center piece and reattached the seams.

The Macaw was now back in her rightful position at the entrance to the properly assembled Labyrinth. The dance this time as we turned and moved forward was that  much more joyful now that we knew we would be taken both in and out and to the all important center.

She and I parted that afternoon with a nod of mutual respect.  I caught a glimpse of her the following day as she flitted across the campus en route to another workshop.  Silently I bid her ‘safe travels’ it will be difficult for her to fly under the radar with such bright plumage.

Human error and the inability at some points to see and take action appears to be a frailty that may well be our undoing.  The planet we depend on for our survival is starting to wither with our demands that she give more and more with little given in return.
We appear to have lost our center.

There comes a point both personally and on a planetary scale that things appear ‘FUBAR’, to steal a military term my feathered friend would approve of…. when that point is reached the only solution to an obviously wrong course or path seems to be:

“Tear it apart, turn it around and start again from the beginning.”

And from there we will again find our Center.

© westcoastwoman 2019

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unknown photographer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

3 a.m. sentence(s)

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©photo credit westcoastwoman

3 a.m. Sentence(s)

Dusk til Dawn
Shadow and Light
the veil is thin

The call goes out
spiritual refugees
seeking a conscious oasis-
awaken to
torrents of words
whispering past as
we linger between
the threshold of
one world and another

in

out

Truth drifting on
shattered hearts
hover just beyond
the collective reach,
pluck what is close
as mist envelops
the pain the loss the love
the ephemeral words
the 3 a.m. sentence(s)
the puzzle being solved
piece by piece
Together, Apart

We wait for Dawn.

© westcoastwoman 2019

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©photo credit westcoastwoman

 

 

 

Featured

Who let the dogs out?

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photo Charles MacKinnon

This is where I humbly confess that I have been ‘sheep dogging’ for longer than I care to admit.  Not that I did it consciously mind you, I would have been surprised and likely offended if anyone suggested I attempted to “force or nudge someone off their intended path”.

I stand here, hand raised, yes I am guilty.

This revelation came to me at a retreat I attended recently where one of the facilitators Dan Hines described part of his upbringing. His childhood included time spent on his grandfather’s sheep ranch observing sheep dogs doing their job by forcing and nudging reluctant sheep  to their intended destination. Dan then described the perfect metaphor of how as humans we also tend to want to ‘sheep dog’ others in the direction that we see as right for them.

We are all probably guilty of ‘sheep dogging’ on some level or another, especially if we have raised children. Young children are easy to ‘nudge’ without them being aware of what is being done.  Teenagers will see you crouched to the ground in herding position, call you on it, bolt off and break away before you have a chance to rise to your feet.

I am very aware of my need to be ‘right’ and the great difficulty I have in changing even the smallest imperfections in myself.  Why would I want to take on the impossible job of trying to convince someone else to change direction?

This Hindu proverb states it perfectly:

There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everybody that his or her path is wrong.

And so, it is with great relief I will attempt to give up ‘sheep dogging’ completely, both in written and spoken word.

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There, done, everyone on their own………:)

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She let go……

unknown photographer

Searching for the right words to describe a ‘moment in time’ and you discover someone already found and assembled them for you…..

She Let Go
by Safire Rose

She let go.

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.

She let go of judgements.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around in her head.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask for advice.

She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the Prayer Line.

She didn’t utter one word.

She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort.

There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good, and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her.

And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…..

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Featured

A HOME WHICH MAYBE NEVER WAS

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Hiraeth is a Welsh word that perfectly describes my yearning for the emotions I experienced around Christmases long past. I am not alone in my ‘hiraeth’, without prompting I hear the same yearning in the voices of people I meet on the street this time of year.

It is an ambiguous loss for a season that arrives each year without fail, earlier and earlier with less and less of what my heart is longing for.

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I was decorating the tree last night when I came across  ‘Eagle with Santa hat’ and as I placed him on the tree it brought to mind an incident last summer that involved two mismatched birds. Their uneasy coexistence had caught my attention days earlier and I photographed them as they perched side by side in the pond in front of the house.

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The Eagle is one of a pair whose nest can be seen from the house. Over the last ten years, I watched them raise their young, watched when despite all their careful tending, guarding and feeding they occasionally ‘lost’ one of the young eaglets before it could fledge. One year both eaglets were killed in the nest by a Golden Eagle and one of the pair was badly injured in the attempt to fend off the attack.

Enter the Crow……. the Scavenger and the Predator, these two are not ‘birds of a feather’ but with wonder and curiosity I  watched them ‘flock together’.  The Crow mercilessly dive bombs the Eagle from above when he is perched in the nesting tree but other than the occasional glance upward the Eagle seems unaffected by this constant annoyance.

Other than that, Eagle and Crow coexist peacefully enough, although the Eagle could easily do away with him with one movement of his powerful beak, he does not. The Crow always ensures he is above the talons that could make short work of him. There is a form of mutual respect between the two.

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Perhaps that is what I’m feeling as I experience this homesickness for ephemeral memories of Christmas past. It is the slow erosion of mutual respect that is starting to permeate many parts of our human society. As a species, we appear to be on the verge of entering uncharted waters on many levels.

I have experienced a few ‘Christmas moments’ this year and as I look at the photograph below I realize that is probably what I am longing for. It is the fleeting moments of moving side by side with other human beings.  It is the bravery it takes to spread our wings without knowing what the future will bring, and the trust that it will hold us.

Mostly I feel it is sharing and respecting this exquisite little blue planet that we find ourselves on at this moment in time.  Instead of feeling sadness for a “home that maybe never was” I will go forward this year with gratitude for ‘what is’ and for this beautiful home that we all share.

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Featured

Ripple in Still Waters

Walking and watching the River yesterday, the power of nature, constant movement, wearing away, giving in. Photographs and words hardly touch it, “there is the trying though”….

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River
Shapes stone, cuts stone,
Banks and bottoms
Nothing escapes the reach,
the filing down, the silky caress
water seeking touch, truth,
the constant Reveal
what is hidden, Exposed.

Three a.m.
thoughts, inspirations,
no escaping the raw Reveal,
comfort knowing others
are Awake
giving in
to the flow, tumbling,
releasing, realizing,
You Can’t Push the River

There is the trying though,
interior ache
screams it’s message
mouth and arms stretch open
breast exposed
All exposed
shape, cut, touch , caress
reveal, Allow

The Run of the River.

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Welcome

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photo of painting westcoastwoman.  artist unknown

“Ring the bell that still can ring
  forget your perfect offering
  there is a crack in everything
  that how the light gets in.”
  Leonard Cohen


Welcome

Broken open, breaking light
stripped of illusion
naked, alone
Strength arrives
dressed not in resistance
but surrender
give in, not up.

Welcome.

Open wide,
this dying to be born
burning to be forged
watch with new eyes
the Light
move towards the
“crack in everything”.

©westcoastwoman

 

The Threshold

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Photo Linda McDaniel

“Time is an Ocean, present and eternal. We are adrift on that ocean of possibility, you and I , and the miracle is that we find each other at all. Maybe it’s age that keeps me scanning the horizon, looking for you, waving, bobbing in that sustaining current, because I want to hold eternal moments closer now. We move through time and space separately, and the mystery of our meeting is time’s gift to us. Swim with me now. We have no other chance.”

Richard Wagamese  “Embers   One Ojibway’s Meditations”

                                                  ___________________________________________________________

 

THRESHOLDS

Gateways, doorways and thresholds all inviting an entrance or an exit, their silent message  ‘the only way out (or in) is through.’

We arrive at our personal thresholds through a naturally arranged opening, the decision to step forward or not, totally in our hands.

Fingers on the latch speak of transition and escape but mostly possibilities that lie beyond fear.

Push the latch and set the barrier free, disengage, turn sideways into the light and it will both dissolve and expose you.

We stand on the shoreline, toes in the water not wanting to leave safe harbour despite knowing instinctively how to navigate rough seas, rising with the swells and resting in the trough.

The surrender that brings you again to the surface the vulnerability of the letting go and the trust needed for both, all released with a push of a latch .

©westcoastwoman

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©westcoastwoman

written in response to Denise’s “Six Sentence Stories” Prompt word: Escape

 

 

 

 

Without Despair

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photo credit westcoastwoman “Rock formations Newcastle Island”

Write a little everyday, without hope, without despair“* Isak Dinesen

Without Despair

Rough, yet ever so gently
Water on Stone
washes in, out
softening edges of
Body and Breath
Slow inhale
Surrender
Audible sigh
Release

Water on Stone
Stone to Surrender
Surrender to Release,
Sweet longing, caressing
our lives carved open as
“without hope, without despair”*
we float, we whirl,
a single leaf riding
a wandering stream.

©westcoastwoman 2019

 

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unknown photographer
Sculpture “Break through from your Mold” Zenos Frudakis
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania