Featured

A Lion in the Moonlight

5734302421_9e8deb4b94
unknown photographer

A 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 is briefly lifted.

Darkness defines the 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.

rBVaJFlvGciABl1PAARJ1BP0UqQ653
unknown photographer

westcoastwoman 2020

Featured

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Human Error, Tides and the MAGA hat

f09159dd5b6006c28a44675dd8494075
‘Alice’ and ‘Dorothy’ compare notes

Human Error, Tides and the MAGA hat

I arrived a little late to the party and it took some time to realize that this gathering could go on for longer than any of us expected.  These ‘guests’ were going to be delayed even after they had donned their coats, entered their vehicles and were ready to depart. Patience, something most of us have in short supply would rule the day.

Living on an Island necessitates ferry travel back and forth to the Mainland.  This particular morning while checking in for the sailing, I had been advised there would be a delay.  Once parked in my assigned lane, snippets of conversations could be heard through the open window.  One woman saying that she had been waiting since 5:30 a.m.  That meant that the first ferry had not yet sailed.   I was booked on the second sailing, so realizing this would not be a short delay I grabbed my camera and headed down to the dock to discover what the holdup was.

DSC_1233
©westcoastwoman 2016

Making my way to the dock I heard in passing that a truck was stuck on the ramp.  “How bad could that be?” I mused.  A monster tow truck was already in place and it looked like a quick and easy tow.  The tow truck driver on his phone and the ferry personnel with hands on hips did give me pause, but…..

“What could possibly go wrong?”  Quite a bit, as it turned out.

The wild card that shows up when you least expect it was in play.  Humans and in this case human error had collided with Mother Nature.  We would have to wait and watch as this perfect storm of man versus nature played out.

Walking to a different vantage point the situation with the stuck truck became so bizarre it was difficult to understand exactly what was unfolding.  It was obvious that whatever was happening was beyond the ability or the control of the people in
charge to fix it.

Houston, we have a problem.

DSC_1238
©westcoastwoman 2016

“How could this happen?”, was the only question that came to mind.

Later it was revealed that extreme tides had changed the angle of the loading ramp.  The crew believed the truck had enough room to clear the upper deck and load onto the lower one. 

Turns out they were wrong.  In the end the only solution was to wait (on Mother Nature) 12 hours, when high tide changed the angle of the ramp sufficiently to have the truck towed back off the ramp.

Meanwhile hundreds of passengers where backing up hour after hour waiting for sailings that didn’t materialize.  Those of us closest to the dock were treated to intermittent screeching sounds as parts of the truck were slowly crushed by the effect of the receding tide.

truck
unknown photographer

The excitement of the ‘truck incident’ mixed in with the impatience of the human cargo waiting to board produced a kind of party atmosphere.  Once we realized that no amount of complaining was going to change the situation, most people made the best of where we found ourselves and the social barriers that are usually up, broke down in the face of  a lengthy delay.

This incident happened in June 2016, hopefully you remember early 2016? ‘the good old days’ when we lived in a world where ‘weird shit’ and human error could be encapsulated in stories such as the one above.

This brings me to my one and only interaction with a MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat.  Tides turned, emergency ferries were brought in and many hours later I found myself in the coffee shop of the ferry finally heading home.  The air on the boat was electric with relief and the afterglow of having been part of something out of the ordinary.  Most people were cheerful and lively conversations between strangers  were continuing.

I sat down with my coffee and looked around, seated next to me were two young men and on the table in full view was a MAGA hat.  Even mid 2016 in Canada, the hat with all it’s connotations was very familiar.  They looked like a friendly pair, I said “You’ve got to be kidding… can I take a photo?”  They happily agreed.

DSC_1256©westcoastwoman 2016

A short conversation ensued and I learned they were cousins, students and both recent immigrants to the United States.  One was a citizen and the other about to become one in  Fall of 2016.  Travelling around Canada and the U.S. for a month, they confessed to using the hat as bait to start conversations to get honest opinions from people.  Mostly, they were hoping to understand the rationale of people who supported the man and the belief system that the red ball cap had come to symbolize.

As we spoke, laughed and got deeper into conversation, others were drawn in to our circle by the subject matter and the blazing red symbol propped on the table between us. By the time we neared our destination our small group had grown substantially and the discussion had become thoughtful, critical and as always politely Canadian.  We parted with hugs all around wishing our new American friends good luck.  One of them put on the hat and they headed off the boat towards the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  I’ve thought about those two young men often since that day and how things have changed in the three years since that meeting.  The man who distributed the MAGA hats won the election against all odds.  I do not have to describe to anyone the rough seas that have been endured since that day.

Human error, tides and the MAGA hat. Looking back on that day, the three things  that seemed random at the time have fused together in my mind.  Human error and the hats are events and objects that come and go depending on the situation.  The tides however are constant although sometimes fluctuating between very high and very low.

It feels like our collective ‘truck’ has been stuck for a while waiting for the rising tide, but there is no doubt that the tide is rising.  I hear it in the voices of the people who are standing up and speaking ‘truth to power’.  I see it in the young people who are standing up and speaking for a planet that has no voice.  There is a feeling of
inequality that is hard to shake, but there is truth both economically and spiritually in the statement …

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

ships on the horizon
© westcoastwoman 2009

©westcoastwoman 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Waking Up’ in Istanbul

 

IMG_0616
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.

IMG_0026
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.

IMG_0039
inside the Blue Mosque © photo westcoastwoman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Treading Water

DSC_1943
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

747cc3f83c8e5c9d121603a679363626
photo credit Marc Riboud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Threshold

  DSC_2170
Photo Linda McDaniel

“Time is an Ocean, present and eternal. We are adrift on that ocean of possibility, you and I , and the miracle is that we find each other at all. Maybe it’s age that keeps me scanning the horizon, looking for you, waving, bobbing in that sustaining current, because I want to hold eternal moments closer now. We move through time and space separately, and the mystery of our meeting is time’s gift to us. Swim with me now. We have no other chance.”

Richard Wagamese  “Embers   One Ojibway’s Meditations”

                                                  ___________________________________________________________

 

THRESHOLDS

Gateways, doorways and thresholds all inviting an entrance or an exit, their silent message  ‘the only way out (or in) is through.’

We arrive at our personal thresholds through a naturally arranged opening, the decision to step forward or not, totally in our hands.

Fingers on the latch speak of transition and escape but mostly possibilities that lie beyond fear.

Push the latch and set the barrier free, disengage, turn sideways into the light and it will both dissolve and expose you.

We stand on the shoreline, toes in the water not wanting to leave safe harbour despite knowing instinctively how to navigate rough seas, rising with the swells and resting in the trough.

The surrender that brings you again to the surface the vulnerability of the letting go and the trust needed for both, all released with a push of a latch .

©westcoastwoman

DSC_2181
©westcoastwoman

written in response to Denise’s “Six Sentence Stories” Prompt word: Escape

 

 

 

 

Featured

“the Parade of our Mutual Life”

IMG_0459

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

DSC_2328 2
©westcoast woman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Release

     Water barrels 001               3
©westcoastwoman

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”     Anais Nin

Release

We tend gardens in Spring under the illusion that we somehow affect the outcome, that our careful placement of seed or plant has anything to do with the eventual opening of the buds of May.

No credit given to the artist and unknown creator of the fragile petals that unfold, we proudly display our garden, rarely acknowledging that we are just the temporary curators of an impermanent living  gallery.

DSC_1406
© westcoastwoman

Our heart and spirit are also part of this life gallery, we too are meant to unfold and flower in this fleeting moment we occupy space on the planet.

Not born to stay “tight in the bud” we struggle in darkness until most of us break open, this second opening no less courageous than our journey from the womb.

Conscious of our consciousness and knowing that venturing forward will involve both great pain along with pleasure, we willingly submit and release ourselves again and again to the unknown.

One undeniable truth “No one gets out of here alive” and we who have experienced all that this life has to offer will finally stand in complete and exquisite exhaustion and wonder at our solitary arrival and departure on this mysterious journey ………
© westcoastwoman

8Vj18VmBHg0yGKRmp9W7_ExpansionJoshuaTree
Sculpture   EXPANSION, THIRD LIFE
Paige Bradley

This was written in response to Girlieonthedge  Six Sentence Story Thursday
Prompt word: Release

 

 

 

Featured

Afterglow

DSC_2188
photo credit westcoastwoman ©

“Everyday a new picture is painted and framed, held up for half an hour, in such lights as the Great Artist chooses, and then withdrawn, and the curtain falls. And then the sun goes down, and long the afterglow gives light.”

Henry David Thoreau

Afterglow

Every night they come, the watchers of the sun-set, drawn down by the need to see the light extinguish behind the islands and the sea.

I want to share with them as they slowly rise and disperse that the setting of the sun is only a prelude to the experience they had been called to witness, but I stay silent.

It is this time between the setting sun and rising moon, this short extension of the day, this in-between-time when my heart and mind settle for just a moment.

I watch as the sky paints itself with each night’s original palette, wanting only to share with those who can look out from the same place and feel the colours as they appear, understand the need for silence.

In these moments when I am neither here nor there, anything is possible, magic is afoot and I am caught in the afterglow of another original creation as it slowly fades from sight.

The darkness takes the light, the starlings swoop once more in perfect unison over the water, I share with all who stand watching… being neither here nor there, a silent good night.

westcoastwoman 2019 ©

Written in response to GirlieontheEdge’s  Six Sentence Story Word Prompt
Prompt word : Extension 

 

 

Featured

You can’t get there from here……

10947192_10203571631795126_5665883751700948775_n-750x425
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…

Lauren_on_canvas
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

Scarlet-Macaw-by-Adam-Riley-1
unknown photographer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Towards the Light

DSC_2244 (1)
photo credit westcoastwoman

 

A place exists somewhere between the edge of campfire light and the surrounding forest that cannot be named.  Distant enough from the laughter and storytelling that the draw into the surrounding darkness is tangible.

She awoke to find herself rooted in this unnamed space and unable to remember how long she had lingered there.  Her feet moved towards the familiar light of the fire until she stood close behind the gathered circle.  There was no notice of her presence and it appeared the circle was unbroken, she would not be missed.

A turn and movement into the utter darkness of the path ahead, the inability to see her foot as it moved forward made it clear that for some time this journey would be without light or destination.

 

 

written in response to a word prompt, the word “clear”, limited to six sentences.