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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Fully Loaded

“We drag expensive ghosts through memory’s unmade bed”    Paul Hoover

Fully Loaded

Coming, ‘fully loaded’
sporting this years options,
last years designs
illusions, gimmicks, tricks….
all previous short cuts
now eviscerated, overhauled, upgraded.

New thoughts, emotions,
technologies implanted and borne
on hands and knees moving
forward in darkness,
trusting, begging, opening,
blessing, praying for release.

Duality blends into
hope of wholeness,
Reuniting shards of
repressed memories,
rolling out the newest model
of one’s unlived lives.

No cherry picking of
options that appeal.
Movement forward to
one truth, this roll out
is all or nothing
large deposit, no refunds

or prerequisites.
Operation best suited
to those experienced
with similar models.
Not for beginners,
a ride you will never forget.

westcoastwoman 2019

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.

“Ridin’ on a Freeway…..”

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©photo credit westcoastwoman

I am a gardener. A number of years ago while studying Garden Design I was asked to do a project on garden ornamentation.

I started by scouring the better parts of the city looking for aesthetically pleasing displays, they were easily found but something was lacking. I wandered collecting the photographs but as I walked I felt like I needed something more. Yes, the gardens were lovely but that was it, they were ‘just’ lovely. All trimmed and ornamented  everything in it’s place….. this would not do, I needed some meat, something interesting.

That is when I stumbled upon the Adam and Eve of Cadillacs, pink and blue, male and female, here in a rather dishevelled display I could almost see the yin and yang of life. I was so taken with the partially interred Pink Cadillac I almost completely missed her blue mate in the background.

Standing in awe of this rather strange spectacle I was joined by one of the neighbours who shared with me that the brake lights on Eve were lit up every night. I assume in a show of ‘Respect’ and a reflection that there was life in the old girl yet.

Obviously there was great affection for the ‘deceased’ vehicle (although she could have used a bit of a wash). I like to think that perhaps parts of Eve had been used to keep Adam up and running and that he paid her homage each time he backed out of the driveway.

Now this was garden ornamentation! perhaps gone wrong, but certainly never forgotten. My completed project consisted only of what I considered wacky garden art, gardens on the edge and they were easier to find than one would imagine. The Garden Designers, the ‘people’ on the edge of the garden, now there is a story waiting to be told.

I think there are a couple of Aretha Franklin songs in here somewhere.

“We’re going ridin’ on a freeway of love in a Pink Cadillac”  Aretha Franklin”

©westcoastwoman 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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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©westcoastwoman 2016

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

https://womenofacertainagedotca.com/home

 

 

 

“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”