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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

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




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

Featured

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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Same planet, Different world

 

This is written like a journal entry, it is the only way I can think to come close to expressing my impressions of India.

I had often heard the expression “assault on your senses” I realize now that I had never really experienced anything close to what India is capable of doing to the senses of a first time North American visitor.

Landing in Delhi is probably a rough way to start but the group of twenty coming from all over the world assembled there just over a week ago. We are a rather strange and eclectic group and after sharing a week with them in Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur and now Agra it is starting to feel a bit like a travelling Agatha Christie novel. The cast of characters complete with a flamboyant Swedish actress with tales of many lovers, a scholar and Mystic and various other bit players and guest roles.

In some ways just allowing yourself to look and take in what is presented you by the mass of humanity that passes by each day is almost too much to comprehend. There is a post apocalyptic feel to what you are seeing and experiencing. The air is unbreathable, the water undrinkable but there is a fullness of life that is unmistakeable as cows, dogs and people coexist in ancient streets and deplorable conditions.

As we slowly make our way from airport to train station to luxury hotels i see and feel my white privilege and need to understand what that really means. I feel more gratitude for what I have and the people in my life than I ever have.

India is not just a place on the map, it feels like an entity that is ripping open my heart and allowing me to see things that would have been impossible to see any other way.

This morning as the sun was rising I stood in front of the Taj Mahal with tears streaming down my face. I have never been so moved by seeing a structure in my life.

……

 

 

 

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Travel in the year of Corona

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This afternoon I am heading out on the adventure of a lifetime, the weeks leading up to it have been an adventure in themselves. The Corona virus and numerous other unexpected roadblocks led me to comment to the organizer of the trip:

I knew India had things to teach me, I just thought she might let me arrive before the learning began” 

I will be visiting North India on a tour of Sacred Places, a Pilgrimage of sorts. I’ve always wanted to expose myself to what India promised to open in anyone who followed the call to travel there. I have readied myself for the fact that in certain areas the air would be hard to breath, the water undrinkable and the food a little dicey for my stomach.  The people, the culture and the mass of humanity that is India will test my limits.

Not expected for anyone travelling the world right now or just staying put, is the Corona Virus.  I refuse to live my life in fear so I am setting out on what is starting to feel a bit like an Indiana Jones adventure complete with “Nago sadhus” (snake-worshipping ascetics) who live in mud huts dug out in the banks of a river.
The bizarre part comes on the next line of the itinerary :
“Overnight at the Double Tree Hilton”
Snake charmers……to the Hilton I expect I will learn much more than just the history of sacred sights on this journey.

There are 23 of us signed up, a tour leader named Andrew Harvey who is a Scholar, author and a Mystic born in India and spent large swaths of his life there.

So, for the next two weeks when time allows I will be sending little missives, reflections on what I am seeing, feeling and hopefully some words will start to follow me and show up in poetry.

Namaste my friends. Next stop Dehli.

 

Featured

Mating in Captivity

Haida Gwaii
photo westcoastwoman 2014

“Humans are liminal creatures. We exist on the margins of the wild. The idea that we might exist in perfect bliss entirely within the wild is rich, romantic fiction. The idea that we might ever exist entirely outside the wild is equally fatuous. It is a witch tale rather than a fairy tale: a dystopia disguised as an ideal.”

                                                                                                                          Robert Bringhurst 

 

Mating in Captivity

Our containment born of
song, film, illusion
we mate in captivity.

Caged on the edge of  a civilization
lost, on its way to where?.
a question or answer.

This destination with no map,
hovers above liminal space
feet dangling, legs pumping.

 Swinging

a pendulum of humanity
drawing in, releasing
breath, body, spirit,

Eyes searching, meeting,
knowing, it’s All or Nothing
one final sweep and we are

“All In”

Hoping for the perfect River card.

©westcoastwoman 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreamtime

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©westcoastwoman 2020

“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our       purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love…and then we return home”

Australian Aboriginal Proverb

Dreamtime


Moon

Light  crosses  pillows

Wake from your dreams

Rise to capture

Ice crystals and moonset,

Creep into darkness

Still the moment.

Life moves in phases

‘sets’ morph to ‘rises’,

Dreamtime

inbetweentime  

wake and sleep

time marked not

by day and night

but new, full,

waning,

secrets revealed

so many moons ago…..

 

©westcoastwoman 2020

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Old Maps

Clothing optional Hollyhock, Cortes Island, B.C.
 

“It is a strange and wonderful fact to be here, walking around in a body, to have a whole world within you and at your fingertips outside you. It is an immense privilege, and it is incredible that humans manage to forget the miracle of being here.
Rilke said, ‘Being here is so much,’ and it is uncanny how social reality can deaden and numb us so that the mystical wonder of our lives goes totally unnoticed.
We are here. We are wildly and dangerously free.”

John O’Donohue   quote from Anam Cara

 

 Old Maps

Just over a year ago I posted one of my favorite Joyce Rupp poems   “Old Maps No Longer Work” on this site.

For reasons that are still a mystery to me, the link ended up at the top of the search list on Google for that poem. Every day since,  at least one person somewhere in the world read it on the site. The constant attention given to the piece prompted me to reread it many times over the last year.  Each reading took me deeper into understanding what it meant to be ‘off map’ or ‘mapless’.

As the decade comes to a close I feel compelled to let go of some of my “well travelled paths” with gratitude to where the twists and turns of life have led me but
now “It is time for the pilgrim in me to travel in the dark” and “wait for the stars.”

For the next year when I find myself at the inevitable crossroads we all have to face in life, I will repeat the following lines:

The Map is not the Territory. When Map and Terrain differ, follow the Terrain.”

Wishes for a New Year of Peace and Understanding.

 

 “We are here. We are wildly and dangerously free

©westcoastwoman 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shields

 

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photo © westcoastwoman

Something inside me has reached to the place where the world is breathing” 
   Kabir

Shields

Crisis,
birthing canal
to our Deep heart,
no stopping
the slippery movement
forward that demands
splitting open

Barriers of Reality,
Illusions of Safety,
clinging with tentacles
mired so deep that
Shields became prisons,
Seek wholeness
Not Perfection.

You are too much.
You have never been enough.
Pain liberating Truth
Reject, Embrace
Don’t waste your suffering,
A faint beat is detected
Light and Dark start their Dance.

westcoastwoman ©2019

 

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photo©westcoastwoman

 

Head to Toe

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photo credits ©westcoastwoman

Head to Toe

Living Dolls
Mannequins – partially animated,
Walking Shoes
Footwear – highly elevated,
Terrain between Head and Toe
Uncharted

Holograms
of Hollow Humans
Hover Helplessly
To Have and Hold
Hot  Hashtags

We post images
of life unlived,
capture forever
the second life…..
“doing it for the gram

Sun rises
Earth stretches
“the-more-than-human-world”*
Awakes
A New Day Begins.

©westcoast woman 2019
Intelligencephoto©westcoastwoman

*phrase coined by David Abram

 

Heart In Hand

This poem by May Sarton always leaves me standing in awe at the power found in words and with my “heart in hand”.

 

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heart in hand © westcoastwoman

 

Now I Become Myself

by May Sarton

Now I become myself. It’s taken

Time, many years and places;

I have been dissolved and shaken,

Worn other people’s faces,

Run madly, as if Time were there,

Terribly old, crying a warning,

“Hurry, you will be dead before – ”

(What? Before you reach morning?

Or the end of the poem is clear?

Or love safe in the walled city?)

Now to stand still, to be here,

Feel my own weight and density!

The black shadow on the paper

Is my hand; the shadow of a word

As thought shapes the shaper

Falls heavy on the page, is heard.

All fuses now, falls into place

From wish to action, word to silence,

My work, my love, my time, my face

Gathered into one intense

Gesture of growing like a plant.

As slowly as the ripening fruit

Fertile, detached, and always spent,

Falls but does not exhaust the root,

So all the poem is, can give,

Grows in me to become the song,

Made so and rooted by love.

Now there is time and Time is young.

O, in this single hour I live

All of myself and do not move.

I, the pursued, who madly ran,

Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Waking Up’ in Istanbul

 

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Waking up in Istanbul ©photo westcoastwoman

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 do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

-William Stafford, “THE WAY IT IS”

 

WAKING UP IN ISTANBUL

I am ‘Waking Up’ in Istanbul, the early morning call to prayer just ended. Mixed in with the usual haunting singing and chanting that echoes five times a day, this morning I  clearly heard in English, “Wake Up” as each round was sung.  Lying in bed in the Turkoman Hotel a four story walk up in the heart of the old city, the sounds of others also ‘waking up’ can be heard.

The Blue Mosque is visible from my window so there is little chance of  sleeping through the ‘Morning Call’ that is projected through microphones on strategically placed minarets.  My entire visit has been contained within the month of Ramadan.

This is my first time travelling in a Muslim majority country.  The warmth and respect I experienced from the men and women who practice the Muslim faith will follow me back home.  I personally claim no affiliation to any organized Religion, my beliefs are at this point ineffable, they probably embrace what is at the core of most religious philosophy but I  chafe at dogma or man made rules.

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Turkoman Hotel, Istanbul © photo westcoastwoman

This is the last day of my stay, a visit that started as a suggestion on the steps of a yurt on a remote island in British Columbia the previous summer.  I was attending a Dance workshop and as we sat on those steps, someone suggested we all continue our dance together the next year at an annual Spring gathering in a small Turkish town.  That was a  journey that seemed like a remote possibility at the time. It has been an interesting road both emotionally and physically from those steps to my arrival in this ancient city.

The Call to Prayer punctuated my days, both in Istanbul and in the smaller
village of Gokcedere.  The Calls are heard five times a day and are determined by the position of the sun, starting just before sunrise and ending after sunset.  In Istanbul the Mosques are scattered fairly closely throughout the city and when one prayer is being called the caller at another Mosque waits and it becomes a call and response.  It is mystical and reverent giving everyone no matter what your beliefs, time during the day to stop and really be present to the moment.

The group of thirty women from all over the world that had gathered were housed in a very luxurious hotel built on thermal springs in the valley village of Gokcedere.  I was awakened one night at 2:00 a.m by loud drumming and chanting, a sound that made its way from quite a distance up the hill to our residence. The whole village was no doubt roused from their sleep.  It continued, getting  louder and then the lone drummer and singer was joined by another.  They started playing to each other (and their captive audience), one would call, the other respond. The warm Spring night was filled with the sounds of  drumming and singing when I heard another call join in.  I was not sure at first what the sound was…..a child crying?  I slowly realized it was the howling of a dog.  He was joined by another, then another and we now had a symphony of drum and chant and howl that echoed up and down the valley.  Turkey has many wild dogs that live in the towns and cities and they are cared for by people in the area.  It was fitting that they also should give voice to this impromptu concert.

No one was getting any sleep tonight.  I lay in bed listening to this musical celebration and thought of the sleepy island town I call home.  At home, people would have contacted the police over this early morning wake up call.   I realized as I lay there that I liked having my peace disturbed in this way.  It was part of a moment in time that would never be repeated and as I drifted in and out of sleep the human/canine jam session continued on into the early morning light.  I was brought out of my sleepy trance by the 4:00 a.m. ‘Call to Prayer’ that followed this rare ‘opening act’.

So many stories to tell, the betrayed carpet salesman (that played out over days), the wild taxi ride through the narrow back streets of Istanbul, learning proper and respectful scarf etiquette, lost at night in the maze of cobbled streets… but the one I tell most often besides the ‘Turkish Bath‘ is this one, because it was a constant…a constant reminder of whatever you want it to be.

The Call to Prayer.

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inside the Blue Mosque © photo westcoastwoman