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The Descent

rapture or rupture statue Denman Island photo westcoastwoman

A discussion on how ‘breaking down‘ is often a portal to ‘breaking through‘ prompted a friend to forward the attached poem to me.

We had been using the metaphor of snorkeling to describe the approach many of us take towards the bigger questions of life. If not forced by circumstance to confront something, we snorkel, safe on the surface just looking into the depths.

We toyed with the image of putting on tanks, diving down to interact with and perhaps touch what we find, or a diving suit, a submersible that allows a walk on the bottom of our unconscious. A few days later I had the image of “free diving” unencumbered by any sort of attachment to the surface except the air you captured in your lungs…. doing a deep dive…

Surrender……. not the ‘giving in to‘ but the ‘living in to‘ the “promiscuous” present moment.

wcw

surrender. photographer unknown

The descent by Gina Puorro

There are things you can only learn
on your knees
or in a storm
or when the cracks in the foundation
of this modern world
open a chasm of uncertainty
beneath your feet.
Your discontent
with what has been named normal
is both grief and longing
for what your mind has forgotten
but your body remembers.

You can feel it
in the way a child’s laughter
disrupts your commitment
to what is appropriate
and makes space
for foolishness and magic.
You can feel it
broken open
at the altar of all you’ve lost
and how much you’ve loved.
Can we fall apart together?
Make a commitment to search for the truth
but promise
to never find it.
Let myths and stories
be the cartograph
for what is both
primordial and brand new
because the present moment
is promiscuous like that.
Compost ourselves down
into the dirt beneath the dirt
and tend the chthonic embers
that light the ancient fires in our bellies.

When the fault lines open
and your mind is grasping
and you don’t know
in the way that water
has taught you
how to be a vessel
and how to spill.
Can you trace your lineage
all the way back to salt?
the same that now stains your face
with both sadness and laughter
excites your tongue
and protects your prayers.
You are diasporic. Ecological. Holon.
A vast territory
of many wild bodies
melting into each other
dressed up as human.
Simultaneously living and dying
shaping and dismantling
filling up and boiling over.

Ashes to ashes
stardust to bone.
What language do you grieve in?
What is the mother tongue for that
which twists and contorts your body
wringing oceans from your skin?
The gravity that pulls you
down to your knees
forehead to ground
where to go from here;
prostrate
trade rapture for rupture
let yourself spill
and descend.

-Gina Puorro


Featured

THE ONLY TWO DIRECTIONS

Wandering on the ‘misty isle‘ I happened upon reflections in a dark pond, the message of the photograph became the two directions, up and down, towards and away, only revealed when the image was turned sideways.

Yesterday a friend introduced me to this poem by Quinn Bailey.

When our internal or external worlds are turned sideways, that can sometimes be
when the boulder in front of the cave begins to shift”

THE ONLY TWO DIRECTIONS BY QUINN BAILEY

This world has only two true directions:
Towards and away.

The big fear, in the end, is to awake and find that
You chose away.

That the hand
Which held you down
Was none other
Than your own.

Remember

The pursuit
Of that which is not truly us
Renders even the most
Powerful vision useless

Recognize

When the boulder in front of the cave begins to shift

When that first illuminating shaft
Pierces the dark

Do not hesitate long

Do not waste time
Anticipating the griefs
Yet to come

They cannot be helped and perhaps are necessary

On that long
And awkward walk
Towards yourself.

Quinn Bailey
The Currents of the World
2020 Homebound Publications

photos westcoastwoman

Featured

The Essential Conversation


” Elevator talk.
Let’s get this thing stuck,
see what we really have to say.

Give those occupants a new reply
when asked,
Up or down?
Just say,
Down
in a free fall
pressing DOOR OPEN.”

(excerpt from Elevator Talk by Melissa Sawatsky)

THE ESSENTIAL CONVERSATION

Stonewall(ed)
hand hewn verbal protection
carefully laid, piece by piece,
a lifetime in the making,
no escape clause.

Words withheld, unspoken,
undeliverable,
the contents of a goodbye
discarded at the roadside,
no recipient, no return address.

The Essential Conversation,
clear instruction, open
the dam of heartache,
attempts to top the wall, first
diving then begging for release.

Blow up the wall, the dam,
limitations choking our lives,
open the run of the river,
drown in your longing
for freedom denied.

Surrender illusion, control
you never had, shaken, stirred and
spewed onto the riverbank
searching for the eyes of an other

…to start the Essential Conversation.

westcoastwoman 2021
photos westcoastwoman. (2013) Marine Building Vancouver Canada





Featured

The Way It Is

Tangled threads. photo wcw

This poem by William Stafford speaks of a thread, I feel it also speaks to the times.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

THE WAY IT IS by William Stafford

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

Featured

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

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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