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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………:)

Question Everything (and then recalculate)

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I read signs, official metal and wood signs, signs that randomly litter public places, anywhere they pop up in my field of vision.  These words, no matter how they are presented  inevitably consist of an agenda, something one of our fellow humans feels the rest of us needs to do or not do and often they make me smile. There are others that make me think. The messages that usually have me smiling are the “official” ones, those that have you questioning what consistent public actions could have led to the round table discussion that produced the sign.

I recently came across the sign below as I entered a trailhead near my house.
It was placed among a number of signs many of  which appeared to have been produced for those among us that have not been blessed with a lot of common sense.
But this one got my mind turning…….

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Full disclosure, I have in a past working life been a ‘authorized landscaper’ and currently tend a fairly large piece of property.   I can tell you that landscaping  is not something that happens on a whim.

The immediate question that came to mind was what could  possibly have happened on this ‘town controlled land’ that prompted this sign to appear? I had an image of guerrilla gardeners armed with shovels. rakes and a secretly produced site plan arriving as night fell, to do their dirty work. A green rebellion of sorts, but to what end?

How much of this ‘landscaping’ had been installed without ‘authority’ before complaints were filed, meetings called and finally a very official looking metal sign produced and erected?  If someone followed through after witnessing some suspicious activity and the culprits were caught, what would be the charge? What is the penalty for ‘unauthorized landscaping’? The question I would most like answered is could someone send them over to my property.  I am sure that we could work out some sort of non monetary exchange that would  satisfy us all.

Given the state of play on the planet at the moment I think the sign below might sum up how a lot of us may be feeling. This is a time of great transition and we are travelling forward into a global future that appears to be unstable bordering on chaotic.

Recently I found myself in an unexpected situation, the first word that came to mind was “Recalculating”  the echoing of this word in my brain sounded familiar, like that vaguely mocking voice that eminates from your GPS when you veer off your planned route.

Recalculate:   verb  to calculate again; typically using different data

In the world today “different data” is available to anyone who cares to take a look. Question is are you willing to examine it and then alter all or parts of the route you programmed into your internal GPS so long ago.

The ‘signs’ are out there……

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Featured

Exposed

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As if in reply
to an unformed question
illusion of secure
grounded, stable
is revealed
perhaps reformed

Life nursing life
Foundations on shifting sand
surrenders, exposes
no safe haven
no inland retreat
life recalculating

Trickster emerges
Coyote, Raven
New vision. New rules.
No limits…
Co-operators are standing by,
“Woof, Woof, wanna play?”

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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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OLD MAPS NO LONGER WORK

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Just this tonight, while I wait for the stars ………

a poem by Joyce Rupp

Old Maps No Longer Work  

I keep pulling it out –
the old map of my inner path
I squint closely at it,
trying to see some hidden road
that maybe I’ve missed,
but there’s nothing there now
except some well travelled paths.
they have seen my footsteps often,
held my laughter, caught my tears.

I keep going over the old map
but now the roads lead nowhere,
a meaningless wilderness
where life is dull and futile.

“toss away the old map,” she says
“you must be kidding!” I reply.
she looks at me with Sarah eyes
and repeats “toss it away.
It’s of no use where you’re going.”

“I have to have a map!” I cry,
“even if it takes me nowhere.
I can’t be without direction,”
“but you are without direction,”
she says, “so why not let go, be free?”

so there I am – tossing away the old map,
sadly fearfully, putting it behind me.
“whatever will I do?” wails my security
“trust me” says my midlife soul.

no map, no specific directions,
no “this way ahead” or “take a left”.
how will l know where to go?
how will I find my way? no map!
but then my midlife soul whispers
“there was a time before maps
when pilgrims travelled by the stars.”

It is time for the pilgrim in me
to travel in the dark,
to learn to read the stars
that shine in my soul.
I will walk deeper

into the dark of my night.
I will wait for the stars.
trust their guidance.
and let their light be enough for me.

by Joyce Rupp

“Don’t Frack With Me”

Sometimes our interactions with people don’t have to be long or emotional to have an impact on our lives. I love taking photographs, at this point in my life mainly of people,  candid not posed, quick shots, captured as they happen.

This photo captured just such a moment that occurred a few years ago and I loved everything about it. His message, determination and energy spoke to me every time it revolved up on to my computer screen.  I did not know him but as the months passed and his cheerful photographic presence reemerged intermittently, I felt he and I formed a bond of sorts. His message and my capturing of it.

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Months later I was in town and I came across him, deep in conversation. He did indeed appear to be someone you would not want to “frack” with, at least not verbally. When the conversation ended I approached, told him about the fabulous photo I had of him and asked for his contact information . He complied, I forwarded and that was the last contact we had except the occasional rotating of the picture on my computer screen.

These last few months have been a time of deep reflection for me, I have been introduced to the word liminal as in liminal space or liminality. Interesting how a word can elude you for a whole lifetime until it is needed to describe the place you find yourself. Suddenly the word seems to emerge all around in books, readings and quotes .  The quote below is from Jean Shinoda Bolen from her book Crossing to Avalon that came across my desk again recently.

“This is a time of liminality for me, of passage from one part of my life to another when I am venturing psychologically out beyond my known world; heeding a call to live my life more authentically even as it puts me in conflict and uncertainty.”

I lay in bed one morning recently wondering about this passage and what I felt called to do as this “part of my life” plays out. The message came through very clearly, write, write and take photographs, not just photos but portraits that really capture the essence of people.

Rising that morning I started to clean the bottom of the cage of my forty-eight year old parrot (another blog piece) I placed pieces of our local paper on the bottom of the cage and as I went to put the third and final piece in place a photograph caught my eye, it was in colour and very familiar, it was the photo I had forwarded at least a year previously and it was in an obituary for a John Lawrence Olsen.

I contacted his granddaughter for permission to write this piece and she told me that the family loved the photograph. He had lived for 87 years and from the content of his obituary he lived a life that more than likely had put him into much “conflict and uncertainty.” I am honoured that of all the photographs that had been taken of him over his lifetime this one was chosen by the family to commemorate who he was at his core. The first line of the obituary reads:

“This photo pretty much captures John Olsen – his positive, let’s move forward approach, his political involvement, and his sense of humour.”

So thank you John, even though our only contact was this photograph. I needed that inspiration on that morning to see my way forward.

I have a number of portraits I have taken in the last few years of people unknown to me  that speak very clearly about who they are at their core. The photo below was taken on a trip to New Orleans earlier this year, the occasion was the Easter Sunday Parade in the French Quarter. The picture tells the story and I am sure that story will be different for each person that sees it……

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for me she is living her life with a very clear message…… “Don’t Frack With Me”

Don’t Go Back To Sleep

“For years, copying other people, I tried to know myself.

From within, I couldn’t decide what to do.

Unable to see I heard my name being called.

Then I walked outside.

 

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the door sill

where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.”

Rumi

 

One year ago today I had little sleep and was up early preparing the house for a “gathering”. This was to be no ordinary gathering although there would be arrivals and departures and a champagne toast.

This clear, crisp October morning was the day our mutual friend Georgia had decided to take her step across the door sill where the “two worlds touch” and we would be there to see her to the door. It was a day that will stay with me forever and allowed me  to understand on a deep level what it really means to stay awake in my life.

It also brought me to a place of wondering about Courage, and just what that is in our lives. It sometimes takes Courage just to get through the day when faced with big changes or obstacles in our lives. Many people when asked about their acts of Courage reply that they just did what had to be done. Is it that simple and that complicated? Seeing what needs to be done in the moment and stepping forward and doing it.

Georgia saw what she felt needed to be done and despite a body that was failing and various levels of support for her decision she made her way with Courage and determination towards that place where the “two worlds touch”. She invited me on that journey months earlier and with a Courage that she saw in me and I did not know I was capable of, she and I walked forward together and made arrangements for the “gathering”.

Words were spoken, glasses raised and four people held Georgia’s hands as she stepped across the door sill aided by a doctor who was more of a ministering angel, on to her “next great adventure”. In the Grace of her departure she taught me about Courage in a way I had never experienced before and thank her to this day for the honour of her companionship and for teaching me the true meaning of the word.

Don’t Go Back to Sleep…….

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unknown photographer