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The Empty Handed Offering

“The Empty Handed Offering” photo credit Rose Kilmer

“You are being called, we are all being called. We stumbled upon the Hero’s Journey and now there is no turning back. We know too much, overcame too many trials and received initiation into the Great Mystery, the river will not release us without a struggle.
We asked to be conscious, we cannot become unconscious…it is too late for that.
We are reluctant heroes.

Linda Jonke

The Empty Handed Offering

What does an Empty Handed Offering consist of?

I am not sure, but my gut tells me it looks something like the walking forward of this photograph. No idea what it actually is, or if it even exists.
I hope to attempt an answer over the next eight months. A series of synchronicities has allowed me access to a small loft over the winter that is located on a remote island a few ferry rides away.

I have taken to calling it “A Room of One’s Own”. Full disclosure, I have not read in its entirety “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf but now have a copy in hand and will finish it before the first departure of my solo journey. Books, art supplies, camera and hopes for inspiration will travel with me as I move back and forth every few weeks from ‘home’ to ‘room’ with the question of the “Empty Handed Offering”.

I was born on the Winter Solstice, each year there is comfort in knowing that the days become longer, the light returns slowly from that day forward. This year I enter another decade of life, more decades are now behind than in front.

This opportunity is the perfect gift, a room of one’s own and a question that can only be answered walking forward with hands and heart open… into the ‘Great Mystery’

Strength grows with Grace (morning dew). photo westcoastwoman2020

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The Summer Day

“who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-“ unknown photographer

The summer is slipping away, you feel it in the cool of the dawn before the dew evaporates.

It is in the darkness arriving minutes sooner as each day comes to a close.

These times have been at once, strange, tragic and transformative. We are lurching towards a Fall that is unpredictable and unknown at best.

The poem below has been appearing for me in partial and complete form many times in the last few days and I want to share it before “The Summer Day” has passed.

The last two lines are ones I will be repeating to myself daily as we edge slowly forward.

The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver


Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

westcoastwoman 2020


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One Last Look

It is a negligence of the mind not to notice how at dusk Heron comes to the pond and stands there in his death robes, perfect servant of the system, hungry, his eyes full of attention, his wings pure light.

Mary Oliver

A photographic series….

This beautiful creature allowed me to sit very close and still while it ‘fished’ I witnessed the catch, the positioning as it prepared to eat and most disturbing to me the final look of the fish as it peeked over it’s bill and prepared to enter the gullet of the Heron.

The cruelty and beauty of nature on a late summer evening.

Patience.
Success.
Dinner.
Positioning
One Last Look

photos westcoastwoman

A Day in a Life 2020

The masks we wear. photo credit Melissa

” In a world where everything is ridiculous nothing can be ridiculed. You cannot unmask a mask.”
G.K. Chesterton

A DAY IN A LIFE

And then there is this……travelling back from town my eye caught the blur of a motorcycle coming up on the left. I asked my passenger to attempt to catch the image as it passed, here is the result. Clown? Skeleton?

He was social distancing and wearing a mask, following all the guidelines. Nothing to see here. The reaction of the three occupants of the car ranged from laughter to horror and affected us individually as a piece of impromptu performance art.

Later, walking in the wind and rain on a deserted beach my thoughts strayed to the masks we all wear. Recently I attended what was billed as a Public Information Meeting for a controversial development project. It was hardly ‘public’, tickets obtained online, twelve people to a sitting, masks mandatory and cut off for tickets five days before the ‘event’. Covid used as a mask to prevent an actual public event. The ‘public’ attendees were masked the presenters were not, but we were all masked in one way or another.

Speaking during the question period, my words muffled through the mask, I felt a strange comfort with only my eyes revealed and facial expressions hidden. The anonymity and calmness that it provided was in stark contrast to the verbal attacks that came my way. I realized that even if we had not been physically masked our daily mask(s) would have been our armor.

You cannot unmask a mask

We live in strange, tragic and interesting times, clowns on motorcycles, clowns in power…….
where the majority of us put on our physical masks and wait for the opportunity to be able to remove them and breathe deeply again. Finding it harder to ‘breathe’ to find our personal authenticity to find that place where we can see ourselves and others naked, maskless and all vulnerably human clinging to the illusion of Control.

westcoastwoman 2020

The Sweeper. Banksy

If you want to say something and have people listen you have to wear a mask. If you want to be honest you have to live a lie.

Banksy

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Brides of the Sea

Street statue Victoria B.C. photo westcoast woman 2020

A life that is truly lived is constantly burning away the veils of illusion, gradually revealing the essence of the individual.” Marion Woodman

Wandering almost always takes me to the edge of the ocean, especially if I wander alone. These days that seems to be my preference. The last wander brought me to a beach that was deserted except for two young girls who appeared to be about ten years old. Close to the shore they had fashioned a structure out of driftwood and returned to the water’s edge to find something to use as siding.

Seaweed, thick, wide and long proved to be the perfect material. I watch as one of the girls held two strands, one on each shoulder. It gave the impression of a veil from my vantage point. Her companion followed her lead and they both squealed in delight as they headed back to their ‘house’ trailing their gifts from the sea unaware of anyone watching in the distance…..I was the congregation, they were Brides of the Sea.

Brides of the Sea

Partially formed Mermaids
Oceanic without curves
trailing seaweed veils
skin of the sea, from
small bare shoulders
unable yet to carry
the weight of the world.

My heart calls out…
Be Brides of the Sea
ride the swells
surrender to the crest
the trough,
the holy trinity
Earth, Moon, Sea

No paper hearts
No man-made veils,
love, honor, obey
all that
isn’t spoken,
one deep dive
Body, Heart, Soul.

westcoastwoman 2020

gift from the sea westcoastwoman 2020




Learning to Fly

Photo credit westcoastwoman

……a poem by Manju Kapur.
I cannot find a title anywhere so I present it with my photograph and the emotion it evoked. Learning to Fly.

In my dream
women flew
larger than any
birds I have seen

They flew high
they flew together
over trees
and dry dusty land.

They came back,
some after years,
with water
careful in their beaks
for those who had
forgotten how to fly.

Manju Kapur

Prayers in the Dark

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breaking through

Sweet Darkness
a poem by David Whyte

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and
the sweet confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

David Whyte

as above so below

Off Map – Follow the Terrain

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westcoastwoman 2016

 “There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.”    Adrienne Rich

OFF MAP -FOLLOW THE TERRAIN

“Sit down and weep”, not something I have considered during this period of containment. I own but have not read a book titled “By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept”. I like the title so well I am not sure I will ever read what is inside. Weeping appears to be a more enlightened form of crying. Do we weep for humanity and cry for ourselves?

I want to learn how to ‘weep’ and then search out ‘those among’ us who could acknowledge my strength as a warrior. My hope is they are waiting somewhere ‘off map’, beyond the beyond.

This poem by Joyce Rupp, OLD MAPS NO LONGER WORK speaks to that part that yearns to go ‘off map’ and discover new terrain… perhaps that decision has already been made for us.

westcoastwoman 2020

Featured

The Lion in the Moonlight

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unknown photographer

The Lion in the Moonlight

We wait,
like the lion in the moonlight,
not in expectation but
Surrender, Grace,
longing for the gifts that hover
just beyond our grasp
hoping for an invitation,
the magic hour begins
the veil briefly lifted.

Darkness defines Light,
dew, the momentary threshold
releases our trembling fragility
the shimmering of the web
this alchemy of dawn,
dimensions where words wait
just beyond
the moment being witnessed.

remove the shoes of the past
the door was always open

Enter.

unknown photographer

westcoastwoman 2020

Two words that say it all

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photo credit play it again. westcoastwoman 2019

 

these days when words fail us and so many need to be heard, I offer these “two words” in a quote from Richard Wagamese……..

 

“Sometimes people just need to talk.  They need to be heard.  They need the validation of my time, my silence, my unspoken compassion. They don’t need advice, sympathy or counselling.  They need to hear the sound of their own voices speaking their own truths, articulating their own feelings, as those may be at a particular moment.
Then, when finished, they simply need a nod of the head, a pat on the shoulder or a hug.
I am learning that sometimes silence really is golden, and that sometimes “Fuck, eh?” is as spiritual a thing as needs to be said.

 

Richard Wagamese.   Embers  One Ojibway’s Meditations (2013)

 

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“I want to unfold”

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photo westcoastwoman 2020

“I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere
because where I am folded,
there I am a lie.”

  Rainer Maria Rilke

“I want to unfold”

I have retreated to my garden.  ‘Social distancing’ in a garden introduces a whole new social order, a separate society carrying on totally oblivious to the chaos and trauma being lived out by the human  species.

This shy fellow and I have been playing hide and seek for the last few days. I would disturb his sunbathing and he would retreat into the log he calls home. Today I caught him sleeping and ‘folded.’

I feel my folded parts unfolding day by day. This moment in time has given us all much to consider. How we treat and care for our fellow human beings and the more-than-human-beings will determine how our shared future unfolds. 

because where I am folded, there I am a lie.”

©westcoastwoman 2020

Split Screen

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Holland House Library  London September 1940 morning after an Air Raid

Split Screen

Order in the midst of Disorder, Outside but also Inside”

This photograph, taken the day after an Air Raid on London in the Fall of 1940 has lived as an icon on my desktop for a few years.

I click on it intermittently to remind myself how resilient we are as human beings.  Story-telling animals who in the midst of chaos and uncertainty keep moving forward. Reading, writing and telling our story as part of our survival.

Split screen, calm and chaos,  our story being written day by day.

westcoastwoman 2020

 

 

 

 

 

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Settling

 

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photos westcoastwoman 2020

Know then that the body is merely a garment. Go seek the wearer not the cloak“.  Rumi
   

Settling

Eyes that can navigate
the tears of others
back to their headwaters,
spoke to mine.

Settle”

Her hands cupped, filter
words, pain, bewilderment,
spilling from mouths
unable to contain the flow.

You need to settle

Those hands deliver
to the waiting current,
grief, loss, prayers,
power, control.

Settle. You need to settle

Palms open, eyes open,
reach upwards, release,
lower with grace, reverence,
touch and comfort the earth.

Settle

westcoastwoman 2020

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photo westcoastwoman 2020

 

 

 

 

In Between Storms

This is only the second time I have reblogged something on my site.
It is the perfect sailing metaphor for the times we find ourselves in.
“We were professionally worried, and determined, and in it now; there was no going back.”

The Out And Abouter

corey-arnold-sea-wall Photo Credit: Corey Arnold

In between the gales – the one to the north of Bermuda that we’d been expecting, and the second, to the south, that we had not – I made breakfast for us in the galley. The boat pitched and rolled in the flung waves, and everything in the small cooking space gleamed and shone in the clean, crisp light that follows an Atlantic storm.

We were professionally worried, and determined, and in it now; and there was no going back. Behind us lay hard-earned, howling miles. Ahead, between us and the safety of a harbour, another gale swirled. And off the coast of Africa a hurricane had begun twisting towards our orderly isolation – a wicked ferociousness we would have to worry a good deal more about before we once again trod dry land.

There were five of us, bringing an 84-foot sailboat of proven hull…

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VARANASI

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photo westcoastwoman 2020.    the ghats at sunrise Varanasi

“Last night, on the banks of the Ganges, I finally learned how to pray.”   Michael Allen

VARANASI          by Mary Oliver

Early in the morning we crossed the ghat,

where fires were still smoldering,

and gazed, with our Western minds, into the Ganges.

A woman was standing in the river up to her waist;

she was lifting handfuls of water and spilling it

over her body, slowly and many times,

as if until there came some moment

of inner satisfaction between her own life and the river’s.

Then she dipped a vessel she had brought with her

and carried it filled with water back across the ghat,

no doubt to refresh some shrine near where she lives,

for this is the holy city of Shiva, maker

of the world, and this is his river.

I can’t say much more, except that it all happened

in silence and peaceful simplicity, and something that felt

like that bliss of a certainty and a life lived

in accordance with that certainty.

I must remember this, I thought, as we fly back

to America.

Pray God I remember this.

Mary Oliver
A Thousand Mornings
(Penguin, 2012)

Acknowledgment to Ken Chawkin of The Uncarved Blog for bringing this poem to my attention after reading my last piece “Hotel on the Edge of the World” I am a huge admirer of Mary Oliver but had never before come across this poem.

https://womenofacertainagedotca.com

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Hotel on the Edge of the World further travels in the Year of Corona

 

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photo westcoastwoman 2020.     street scene Varanasi

Hotel on the Edge of the World

 

A mother has set up a tightrope for her young daughter to walk and balance upon.  There is no net…..not for the daughter or the mother.  We are all walking a tightrope here, no net.  I find it difficult to look or to look away at this point, some things I have seen I find it hard to find context for.

Illusion of safety no longer exists on any level, unsure of when I surrendered to that fact. One by one we all surrendered in our own time and in our own individual ways.  The travelling road show we have been a part of for the last two weeks has arrived at our last place of shelter ‘The Ganges View’ in Varanasi. The Hotel on the Edge of the World is how it feels to me.  In reality it is a converted palace full of treasures and art and secrets from the past.

We have heard stories along the way of Varanasi (our final destination) they have ranged anywhere from descriptions that portrayed either ‘Pearly gates, Mordor or Oz’ others described it as an LSD trip.  It is all of those things and none of them.  Varanasi will change you forever but only from the place you are when you arrive.  We were warned it could shatter you, I was suitably shattered by the time we arrived ……in some indescribable way this would bring it together.

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photo westcoastwoman 2020  one side of the river ‘everything’ the other ‘nothing’

Those who know Varanasi need no explanation, those like myself who knew little of the city before this voyage will need some introduction. Kashi/Benares/Varanasi is India’s holiest city.  The Mecca of the Hindu world , the city where every Hindu wants to come to die.  Hindu scriptures state that dying here and being cremated along the banks of the Holy Ganges (Ganga) river allows you to break the cycle of rebirth and attain salvation.  Up to 150 bodies are publicly cremated every day, 24 hours a day on the banks of the Ganges. The remains are offered into the river.

Every morning and throughout the day there is the life, people bathing, washing clothing and living their life on the banks of Mother Ganga.  Everything playing out all at once.

On our last evening we headed out as a group for dinner.  Our walking route took us past one of the cremation ghats on the river………four bodies were burning, in attendance were family members, passing public and various other onlookers. Bodies are burned in a wooden pyre and all four were at various stages of disintegration.   I saw a foot hanging out of the fire, I looked at my walking companion and she had also seen it. We walked on in silence for a while, finally she said “only in India would you see such a sight on your way to dinner and it would just be part of a day in a life”.  She was right.

My experience of death in North America has been hidden or  more usually “celebrated” without the celebrant.  Life and death in India is just business as usual no safety net or  illusion of safety.  Raw in your face life and death playing out second by second.

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photo westcoastwoman 2020    train station Jaipur our luggage being portaged

I have been changed in ways I have not begun to process and as difficult as some of it has been there has been great strength and love I have felt and assimilated from the people I met. I have been taught about religion by Swamis and scholars and shown a way of life I did not know existed. Visited Tantric Temples,  Buddhist Temples, Hindu Temples and the Temple of the ‘Street’.

Someone told me before I left that “When it is your time to go to India, you go to India”
It was my time and I went. It is with much gratitude that I put my hands together in prayer position bend forward and with more understanding and from a deeper place in my heart say to both the country and the people “Namaste”.

Afterword

A note about the Corona Virus, in order for the group of us to get through this journey we had all personally assessed the risk we were taking from the news reports at the time and decided to go forward. We had access to WiFi off and on during the journey and sometimes we would get the ‘Corona report’ as I came to call it.  Carnivale in Venice cancelled, outbreak in Italy, bits and pieces of the outside world getting through. We criss crossed paths with others …Germans….Brits in planes, hotels and temples along the way. It seems we were all wanting minimal information, nothing we could do about it anyway.  Turns out we were a week ahead of the Italian travel group that tested positive 16 out of 22 members that are now quarantined somewhere north of Delhi. ( a truly terrifying thought) Timing, decisions, being in the right or wrong place at any moment in time…….illusion of safety, no net.

I am not sure given the current situation I would be choosing to head out on a tour of India today but I am grateful I did when the time seemed right.  The wild and sometimes eccentric group of merry travellers I shared the experience with will always be close to my heart.

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photo westcoastwoman 2020      early morning at the Temple