Featured

The Descent

rapture or rupture statue Denman Island photo westcoastwoman

A discussion on how ‘breaking down‘ is often a portal to ‘breaking through‘ prompted a friend to forward the attached poem to me.

We had been using the metaphor of snorkeling to describe the approach many of us take towards the bigger questions of life. If not forced by circumstance to confront something, we snorkel, safe on the surface just looking into the depths.

We toyed with the image of putting on tanks, diving down to interact with and perhaps touch what we find, or a diving suit, a submersible that allows a walk on the bottom of our unconscious. A few days later I had the image of “free diving” unencumbered by any sort of attachment to the surface except the air you captured in your lungs…. doing a deep dive…

Surrender……. not the ‘giving in to‘ but the ‘living in to‘ the “promiscuous” present moment.

wcw

surrender. photographer unknown

The descent by Gina Puorro

There are things you can only learn
on your knees
or in a storm
or when the cracks in the foundation
of this modern world
open a chasm of uncertainty
beneath your feet.
Your discontent
with what has been named normal
is both grief and longing
for what your mind has forgotten
but your body remembers.

You can feel it
in the way a child’s laughter
disrupts your commitment
to what is appropriate
and makes space
for foolishness and magic.
You can feel it
broken open
at the altar of all you’ve lost
and how much you’ve loved.
Can we fall apart together?
Make a commitment to search for the truth
but promise
to never find it.
Let myths and stories
be the cartograph
for what is both
primordial and brand new
because the present moment
is promiscuous like that.
Compost ourselves down
into the dirt beneath the dirt
and tend the chthonic embers
that light the ancient fires in our bellies.

When the fault lines open
and your mind is grasping
and you don’t know
in the way that water
has taught you
how to be a vessel
and how to spill.
Can you trace your lineage
all the way back to salt?
the same that now stains your face
with both sadness and laughter
excites your tongue
and protects your prayers.
You are diasporic. Ecological. Holon.
A vast territory
of many wild bodies
melting into each other
dressed up as human.
Simultaneously living and dying
shaping and dismantling
filling up and boiling over.

Ashes to ashes
stardust to bone.
What language do you grieve in?
What is the mother tongue for that
which twists and contorts your body
wringing oceans from your skin?
The gravity that pulls you
down to your knees
forehead to ground
where to go from here;
prostrate
trade rapture for rupture
let yourself spill
and descend.

-Gina Puorro


Featured

Forced Landing

Forced Landing. photographer unknown (to me)

“Life has a way of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen at once.” Paulo Coelho

FORCED LANDING

Departure uneventful
Arrival anything but,
long past the
Point of no Return
we spiral.

Flight diverted
holding pattern unsustainable
hoping only for
safe descent,
arrival intact,
grounding.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have been cleared for landing”

Fuel low, patience short,
They are not coming to save us,
We are They,
We always were,
Courage found in
Fear with prayer.

We are not out of the woods yet.

We hope you enjoyed your flight with us today, this leg of the journey ends here. All possessions should be left onboard. Those of you travelling onwards will find ‘signs’ as you exit…..safe travels

wcw 2021



Featured

THE ONLY TWO DIRECTIONS

Wandering on the ‘misty isle‘ I happened upon reflections in a dark pond, the message of the photograph became the two directions, up and down, towards and away, only revealed when the image was turned sideways.

Yesterday a friend introduced me to this poem by Quinn Bailey.

When our internal or external worlds are turned sideways, that can sometimes be
when the boulder in front of the cave begins to shift”

THE ONLY TWO DIRECTIONS BY QUINN BAILEY

This world has only two true directions:
Towards and away.

The big fear, in the end, is to awake and find that
You chose away.

That the hand
Which held you down
Was none other
Than your own.

Remember

The pursuit
Of that which is not truly us
Renders even the most
Powerful vision useless

Recognize

When the boulder in front of the cave begins to shift

When that first illuminating shaft
Pierces the dark

Do not hesitate long

Do not waste time
Anticipating the griefs
Yet to come

They cannot be helped and perhaps are necessary

On that long
And awkward walk
Towards yourself.

Quinn Bailey
The Currents of the World
2020 Homebound Publications

photos westcoastwoman

Featured

The Essential Conversation


” Elevator talk.
Let’s get this thing stuck,
see what we really have to say.

Give those occupants a new reply
when asked,
Up or down?
Just say,
Down
in a free fall
pressing DOOR OPEN.”

(excerpt from Elevator Talk by Melissa Sawatsky)

THE ESSENTIAL CONVERSATION

Stonewall(ed)
hand hewn verbal protection
carefully laid, piece by piece,
a lifetime in the making,
no escape clause.

Words withheld, unspoken,
undeliverable,
the contents of a goodbye
discarded at the roadside,
no recipient, no return address.

The Essential Conversation,
clear instruction, open
the dam of heartache,
attempts to top the wall, first
diving then begging for release.

Blow up the wall, the dam,
limitations choking our lives,
open the run of the river,
drown in your longing
for freedom denied.

Surrender illusion, control
you never had, shaken, stirred and
spewed onto the riverbank
searching for the eyes of an other

…to start the Essential Conversation.

westcoastwoman 2021
photos westcoastwoman. (2013) Marine Building Vancouver Canada





Featured

The Substance of Shadow (Hiraeth)

Substance of Shadow. photo wcw

“Longing is the deepest and most ancient voice in the human soul”
John O’Donohue

THE SUBSTANCE OF SHADOW

HIRAETH: longing for a home that no longer exists or maybe never was

There are words that speak from another place. A word can have no english equivalent when it is speaking the language of soul, a language seldom spoken in the west.

The lure of Hiraeth comes from a place where “home” is ephemeral, not a house or a return address. It is an internal longing that can appear external when recognized in another. Its call is strongest in times of transition, when the veil is thin…dawn, twilight, full moon and those times when life calls us to ride out unpredicted storms.

This longing aches for a shared fantasy, one that will provide temporary relief from these times. The shelter provided reveals itself to be a portal into deep, often painful insights … a threshold that when crossed leads to an untapped vein of love and life waiting to be mined for its wisdom and nourishment before being brought once again to the surface.

We chase this shadow as if it is the substance of the shadow, irrationally bound to the belief that this ‘home that never was’ is just as real as the house our bodies currently occupy.

westcoastwoman 2021

‘bushtit nest’ exquisite temporary shelter photo wcw

Featured

The Way It Is

Tangled threads. photo wcw

This poem by William Stafford speaks of a thread, I feel it also speaks to the times.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

THE WAY IT IS by William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you can do to stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

Featured

Reflections on the Sound of Silence

Hello darkness my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
because a vision softly creeping
left its seeds while I was sleeping
and the vision that was planted
in my brain, still remains
within the sound
of silence.

Sound of Silence Simon and Garfunkel

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

In this year of a thousand months a silence has settled, palpable, like silk against bare skin.

One by one freedoms slip away in an unintentional game of musical chairs until we find ourselves alone, gazing into the Great Mystery.

Fooled into thinking this was unexpected we see plans for this journey seeded long ago with every “yes” carelessly spoken.

Each moment becomes a new invitation, moving deeper like a lover searching for that place on your lip meant only for others.

Eyes closed, surrender drifts like wafting smoke to linger over new terrain, unsure of where to settle.

Shadows that once held fear dissipate with every wind gust, free now to ride this undulating movement…

We are danced into the unknown.


photo westcoastwoman

Featured

“Wintering” at the Crossroads

Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were behind you, like the winter that has just gone by. For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter that only by wintering through it will your heart survive.

Rainer Maria Rilke

We arrived at the crossroads while wandering in the woods, it was so perfectly aligned, so quietly asking for a decision…..right or left, no easy answer, no promise that one direction would lead towards a place less difficult to traverse.

The direction chosen did not matter and the timing of the arrival of no consequence. There was no invitation to linger, just a gentle request to lift one foot and hope the ground held as you lifted the other to propel yourself forward.

The ‘winter’ we are inhabiting promises to be ‘endlessly winter’ and those whose hearts survive will have shed something that cannot be named, leaving it behind like a snake’s skin. Whatever path we choose, most will lead to the base of the mountain.

The mountain is the true ‘wintering’, from it’s base all paths call you to that place “ahead of all parting” and ask that you arrive alone, trailing the substance of life in your wake “as though it already were behind you.”

wcw

photos westcoastwoman 2020

Featured

“swimming in clues”

breath of the ocean. westcoastwoman

All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop. Kabir

“swimming in clues”

Our lives in pieces
reflect through
mirrors, shattered,
barely held
in fragile frames.

Lungs gasp, groan,
sighs release,
inhale once more
sweet ocean air
breath of the ancestors.

Hearts reassemble,
vital organs
beat in unison
feel the labour,
Life rebirthing.

Wooden carcass
our wreckage decomposed
greed, power, blindness,
floats the surface
walks the pavement.

only having learned the backstroke…
“we are swimming in clues.”

westcoastwoman 2020

conquering the sea westcoastwoman







Featured

Shedding

“arriving at your own door” photo westcoastwoman

Love after Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give Bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

– Derek Walcott

Shedding

…..As I put the key into the lock and opened the door to ‘the loft’ on this distant island that feels so very far from home, this poem came to mind. It is a piece that has haunted me for a few years perhaps because I don’t want the message to be true.

There is no ‘magical other’ waiting to save us from ourselves or from the circling storm of uncertainty that surrounds us.

There is a welcome shedding of expectation that comes from the words, a sigh of relief that the only goal is to “give back your heart to itself” and “peel your own image from the mirror.”
Those things in themselves appear to be insurmountable right now but when compared with continuing this exhausting upstream swim, the image of simply floating with the current back to my “own door” is indeed a feeling of “elation.”

The latch is well worn, many have opened it and returned …..

Sit. Eat. Feast on your life.

westcoastwoman 2020

Featured

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

Featured

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


Featured

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

Featured

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