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The Empty Handed Offering

“The Empty Handed Offering” photo credit Rose Kilmer

“You are being called, we are all being called. We stumbled upon the Hero’s Journey and now there is no turning back. We know too much, overcame too many trials and received initiation into the Great Mystery, the river will not release us without a struggle.
We asked to be conscious, we cannot become unconscious…it is too late for that.
We are reluctant heroes.

Linda Jonke

The Empty Handed Offering

What does an Empty Handed Offering consist of?

I am not sure, but my gut tells me it looks something like the walking forward of this photograph. No idea what it actually is, or if it even exists.
I hope to attempt an answer over the next eight months. A series of synchronicities has allowed me access to a small loft over the winter that is located on a remote island a few ferry rides away.

I have taken to calling it “A Room of One’s Own”. Full disclosure, I have not read in its entirety “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf but now have a copy in hand and will finish it before the first departure of my solo journey. Books, art supplies, camera and hopes for inspiration will travel with me as I move back and forth every few weeks from ‘home’ to ‘room’ with the question of the “Empty Handed Offering”.

I was born on the Winter Solstice, each year there is comfort in knowing that the days become longer, the light returns slowly from that day forward. This year I enter another decade of life, more decades are now behind than in front.

This opportunity is the perfect gift, a room of one’s own and a question that can only be answered walking forward with hands and heart open… into the ‘Great Mystery’

Strength grows with Grace (morning dew). photo westcoastwoman2020

A Day in a Life 2020

The masks we wear. photo credit Melissa

” In a world where everything is ridiculous nothing can be ridiculed. You cannot unmask a mask.”
G.K. Chesterton

A DAY IN A LIFE

And then there is this……travelling back from town my eye caught the blur of a motorcycle coming up on the left. I asked my passenger to attempt to catch the image as it passed, here is the result. Clown? Skeleton?

He was social distancing and wearing a mask, following all the guidelines. Nothing to see here. The reaction of the three occupants of the car ranged from laughter to horror and affected us individually as a piece of impromptu performance art.

Later, walking in the wind and rain on a deserted beach my thoughts strayed to the masks we all wear. Recently I attended what was billed as a Public Information Meeting for a controversial development project. It was hardly ‘public’, tickets obtained online, twelve people to a sitting, masks mandatory and cut off for tickets five days before the ‘event’. Covid used as a mask to prevent an actual public event. The ‘public’ attendees were masked the presenters were not, but we were all masked in one way or another.

Speaking during the question period, my words muffled through the mask, I felt a strange comfort with only my eyes revealed and facial expressions hidden. The anonymity and calmness that it provided was in stark contrast to the verbal attacks that came my way. I realized that even if we had not been physically masked our daily mask(s) would have been our armor.

You cannot unmask a mask

We live in strange, tragic and interesting times, clowns on motorcycles, clowns in power…….
where the majority of us put on our physical masks and wait for the opportunity to be able to remove them and breathe deeply again. Finding it harder to ‘breathe’ to find our personal authenticity to find that place where we can see ourselves and others naked, maskless and all vulnerably human clinging to the illusion of Control.

westcoastwoman 2020

The Sweeper. Banksy

If you want to say something and have people listen you have to wear a mask. If you want to be honest you have to live a lie.

Banksy

Featured

Brides of the Sea

Street statue Victoria B.C. photo westcoast woman 2020

A life that is truly lived is constantly burning away the veils of illusion, gradually revealing the essence of the individual.” Marion Woodman

Wandering almost always takes me to the edge of the ocean, especially if I wander alone. These days that seems to be my preference. The last wander brought me to a beach that was deserted except for two young girls who appeared to be about ten years old. Close to the shore they had fashioned a structure out of driftwood and returned to the water’s edge to find something to use as siding.

Seaweed, thick, wide and long proved to be the perfect material. I watch as one of the girls held two strands, one on each shoulder. It gave the impression of a veil from my vantage point. Her companion followed her lead and they both squealed in delight as they headed back to their ‘house’ trailing their gifts from the sea unaware of anyone watching in the distance…..I was the congregation, they were Brides of the Sea.

Brides of the Sea

Partially formed Mermaids
Oceanic without curves
trailing seaweed veils
skin of the sea, from
small bare shoulders
unable yet to carry
the weight of the world.

My heart calls out…
Be Brides of the Sea
ride the swells
surrender to the crest
the trough,
the holy trinity
Earth, Moon, Sea

No paper hearts
No man-made veils,
love, honor, obey
all that
isn’t spoken,
one deep dive
Body, Heart, Soul.

westcoastwoman 2020

gift from the sea westcoastwoman 2020




Two words that say it all

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photo credit play it again. westcoastwoman 2019

 

these days when words fail us and so many need to be heard, I offer these “two words” in a quote from Richard Wagamese……..

 

“Sometimes people just need to talk.  They need to be heard.  They need the validation of my time, my silence, my unspoken compassion. They don’t need advice, sympathy or counselling.  They need to hear the sound of their own voices speaking their own truths, articulating their own feelings, as those may be at a particular moment.
Then, when finished, they simply need a nod of the head, a pat on the shoulder or a hug.
I am learning that sometimes silence really is golden, and that sometimes “Fuck, eh?” is as spiritual a thing as needs to be said.

 

Richard Wagamese.   Embers  One Ojibway’s Meditations (2013)

 

Featured

“I want to unfold”

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photo westcoastwoman 2020

“I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere
because where I am folded,
there I am a lie.”

  Rainer Maria Rilke

“I want to unfold”

I have retreated to my garden.  ‘Social distancing’ in a garden introduces a whole new social order, a separate society carrying on totally oblivious to the chaos and trauma being lived out by the human  species.

This shy fellow and I have been playing hide and seek for the last few days. I would disturb his sunbathing and he would retreat into the log he calls home. Today I caught him sleeping and ‘folded.’

I feel my folded parts unfolding day by day. This moment in time has given us all much to consider. How we treat and care for our fellow human beings and the more-than-human-beings will determine how our shared future unfolds. 

because where I am folded, there I am a lie.”

©westcoastwoman 2020

Split Screen

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Holland House Library  London September 1940 morning after an Air Raid

Split Screen

Order in the midst of Disorder, Outside but also Inside”

This photograph, taken the day after an Air Raid on London in the Fall of 1940 has lived as an icon on my desktop for a few years.

I click on it intermittently to remind myself how resilient we are as human beings.  Story-telling animals who in the midst of chaos and uncertainty keep moving forward. Reading, writing and telling our story as part of our survival.

Split screen, calm and chaos,  our story being written day by day.

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

 

 

 

 

Featured

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

Featured

Hotel on the Edge of the World further travels in the Year of Corona

 

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photo westcoastwoman 2020.     street scene Varanasi

Hotel on the Edge of the World

 

A mother has set up a tightrope for her young daughter to walk and balance upon.  There is no net…..not for the daughter or the mother.  We are all walking a tightrope here, no net.  I find it difficult to look or to look away at this point, some things I have seen I find it hard to find context for.

Illusion of safety no longer exists on any level, unsure of when I surrendered to that fact. One by one we all surrendered in our own time and in our own individual ways.  The travelling road show we have been a part of for the last two weeks has arrived at our last place of shelter ‘The Ganges View’ in Varanasi. The Hotel on the Edge of the World is how it feels to me.  In reality it is a converted palace full of treasures and art and secrets from the past.

We have heard stories along the way of Varanasi (our final destination) they have ranged anywhere from descriptions that portrayed either ‘Pearly gates, Mordor or Oz’ others described it as an LSD trip.  It is all of those things and none of them.  Varanasi will change you forever but only from the place you are when you arrive.  We were warned it could shatter you, I was suitably shattered by the time we arrived ……in some indescribable way this would bring it together.

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photo westcoastwoman 2020  one side of the river ‘everything’ the other ‘nothing’

Those who know Varanasi need no explanation, those like myself who knew little of the city before this voyage will need some introduction. Kashi/Benares/Varanasi is India’s holiest city.  The Mecca of the Hindu world , the city where every Hindu wants to come to die.  Hindu scriptures state that dying here and being cremated along the banks of the Holy Ganges (Ganga) river allows you to break the cycle of rebirth and attain salvation.  Up to 150 bodies are publicly cremated every day, 24 hours a day on the banks of the Ganges. The remains are offered into the river.

Every morning and throughout the day there is the life, people bathing, washing clothing and living their life on the banks of Mother Ganga.  Everything playing out all at once.

On our last evening we headed out as a group for dinner.  Our walking route took us past one of the cremation ghats on the river………four bodies were burning, in attendance were family members, passing public and various other onlookers. Bodies are burned in a wooden pyre and all four were at various stages of disintegration.   I saw a foot hanging out of the fire, I looked at my walking companion and she had also seen it. We walked on in silence for a while, finally she said “only in India would you see such a sight on your way to dinner and it would just be part of a day in a life”.  She was right.

My experience of death in North America has been hidden or  more usually “celebrated” without the celebrant.  Life and death in India is just business as usual no safety net or  illusion of safety.  Raw in your face life and death playing out second by second.

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photo westcoastwoman 2020    train station Jaipur our luggage being portaged

I have been changed in ways I have not begun to process and as difficult as some of it has been there has been great strength and love I have felt and assimilated from the people I met. I have been taught about religion by Swamis and scholars and shown a way of life I did not know existed. Visited Tantric Temples,  Buddhist Temples, Hindu Temples and the Temple of the ‘Street’.

Someone told me before I left that “When it is your time to go to India, you go to India”
It was my time and I went. It is with much gratitude that I put my hands together in prayer position bend forward and with more understanding and from a deeper place in my heart say to both the country and the people “Namaste”.

Afterword

A note about the Corona Virus, in order for the group of us to get through this journey we had all personally assessed the risk we were taking from the news reports at the time and decided to go forward. We had access to WiFi off and on during the journey and sometimes we would get the ‘Corona report’ as I came to call it.  Carnivale in Venice cancelled, outbreak in Italy, bits and pieces of the outside world getting through. We criss crossed paths with others …Germans….Brits in planes, hotels and temples along the way. It seems we were all wanting minimal information, nothing we could do about it anyway.  Turns out we were a week ahead of the Italian travel group that tested positive 16 out of 22 members that are now quarantined somewhere north of Delhi. ( a truly terrifying thought) Timing, decisions, being in the right or wrong place at any moment in time…….illusion of safety, no net.

I am not sure given the current situation I would be choosing to head out on a tour of India today but I am grateful I did when the time seemed right.  The wild and sometimes eccentric group of merry travellers I shared the experience with will always be close to my heart.

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photo westcoastwoman 2020      early morning at the Temple

 

 

 

 

Featured

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.

 

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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

Featured

THE GUEST HOUSE by Rumi

“sometimes you reread a teaching and hear it differently, this….today”

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©westcoastwoman 2017

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows
Who violently sweep your house empty of it’s furniture.

Still, treat each guest honourably,
He may be cleaning you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.

Rumi

Human Error, Tides and the MAGA hat

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‘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.

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©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.

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©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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!