The Eye Of The Storm

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Rain is on the way. The calm smooth water and early morning birdsong have been replaced by strong ripples on the water and trees swaying this way and that way. The wind is singing a different kind of tune, one that feels urgent and forceful. The low grey clouds are moving in fast, darkening the sky with their arrival, while raptors high in sky are circling on strong currents. They are so far up, it is not possible for me to tell anymore if they are eagles or vultures. As I watch their effortless flight I wonder what they can see…

Sitting inside with a freshly brewed cup of nettle, oat straw and lady’s mantle tea I listen to the fire crackle in the wood stove and the wind’s changing song. I feel the exhaustion in my body, telling me it’s need for rest and nurturing. I am so glad I took time to carefully choose the herbs for the tea. The response to the warm liquid is a big “Yes” and “Thank you” from my body.

Ah, here it is! The drops of rain are rapidly falling on the roof and skylights, adding their own rhythm to the day. Frodo, my dear old deaf dog, is lying quietly by my side not hearing any of it. I miss our long walks in all kinds of weather. DW-Elke&Frodo P1120504We had so many adventures together: climbing hills, discovering new paths in the forests and valleys, checking out stormy seas while walking on beaches with the wind almost knocking us over. There was always this sense of being connected, even though we were exploring our world in different ways. I often wondered what Frodo was discovering when he sniffed something that had called to him from some distance. He would give it all his attention for a long period of time while I was gazing at the beautiful vista before me or taking a closer look at something I found on the path. I often joked that he must be reading a whole book before he finally moved on to the next smell. Now we only venture out together so he can do his business before he turns immediately back to the safety of home. Food and comfort are now his greatest joy.

Thunder unexpectedly adds it’s bass voice as the wind increases noticeably, bringing the chimes to life. Their higher pitch is startling and really stands out as the storm’s hum increases and decreases in unpredictable patterns.

Life has been rather unpredictable lately. While writing this I recognize that life is ever changing like this storm, even though there have been many periods in my life P1080769that have felt more steady with a certain pattern. Perhaps I have forgotten the challenges each day presented then. Looking into the eye of the storm I see that my exhaustion stems from trying to control what is going on in my life and work, and having expectations of myself that I cannot possibly meet in this endless sea of change.

Gratitude for the wind arises in me as it is making me pay close attention. It’s loud voice cannot be ignored. Listening I once again remember the key is to “trust life”, whatever it brings and that I will never figure it all out or get it all done.

For now the idea of rest sounds lovely indeed. I will give myself this gift of comforting tea and warm fire as I watch the beauty of the storm unfold without me having to do anything. My books and journal like faithful friends lying by my side just like Frodo and the joy of writing filling my heart once again.

 

 

Even though

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Even though it is raining here day after day or so it seems, spring is here and awakens me to fully be and participate in the great unfolding of life. I want to share with you on this grey morning a beautiful blessing by John O’Donohue.

Let us bless the imagination of the Earth.

That knew early the patience to harness the mind of time,

Waited for the seas to warm, ready to welcome the emergence

Of things dreaming of voyaging among the stillness of land…

Let us thank the Earth that offers ground for home

And holds our feet firm to walk in space open to infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence and certainty of mountains:

Their sublime stillness, their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden trusting the first warmth of spring…

The humility of the Earth that transfigures all that has fallen of outlived growth.

The kindness of the Earth, opening to receive

our worn forms into the final stillness.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth

For all our sins against her:

for our violence and poisonings of her beauty.

Let us remember within us the ancient clay, holding the memory of seasons,

The passion of the wind, the fluency of water, the warmth of fire,

The quiver-touch of the sun and shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken to live to the full the dream of the Earth

Who chose us to emerge and incarnate its hidden night in mind, spirit and light.

Mysterious Connections

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A Great Blue Heron is sitting perfectly still on the walkway to our little dock. It has been there for a few hours now. The possibility of capturing this rare sight made me rush outside in my nightdress early this morning, only to find that my camera has stopped working. As I stood there shivering in the breeze, I noticed my resistance to accepting the reality of my camera having died without warning. It had served me so well. Then I remembered my commitment to trust life. Making my way back to the warmth of Elkenwolf cottage I considered the joys and possibilities a new or slightly used camera could bring.

Watching the sun illuminate the tidal water, the vibrant spring greens and the Heron’s feathers in the most magical way, I gratefully witness this morning’s offering. As I find a picture on the computer that I took last summer (see above) the Heron starts walking up to the land, talking softly with each careful and graceful step. Spreading it’s wings for a moment, calling now loudly, he then turns around and goes back to the same spot in the middle of the walkway hovering over the glistening water. There he begins his preening ritual, calling every now and again. I can’t help but wonder if he is calling for a mate on this unpredictable Spring day. Silently watching and writing, I feel a deep sense of connection and being a part of what is here.

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Last week I began walking to my car which I park over two kilometres from our home near where the pavement ends, rather than driving our old pickup truck on the off-road section. On one of these walks I noticed myself being caught again in the torrent of thoughts about work and the busy-ness of my mind, almost missing what was actually there for me in that moment. So I looked a little closer at a ditch filled with rainwater and a leaf beneath the surface beckoned my attention, as did a robin on a storm-topped tree. We gazed at each other curiously in the stillness of the morning.

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However it was the bubbles in a little creek further along that were the most unexpected gift and reminded me of a favourite childhood delight and the mystery of blowing bubbles out into the world. As I entered fully the here and now, the discoveries were numerous and some astonishing like the face that stared out from the rushing little stream. If you look closely perhaps you will see it too. P1160149 A sense  of wonder spread through me and I became aware of another strong memory, one I’ve been getting glimpses of on these walks.

It is a fluent memory of a walk last May to the Panau-nui Pu’u Loa petroglyphs on Hawai’i. Pu’u Loa, means the “long hill” or “Hill-(of)-long-(life)”. It is a sacred place with over 23,000 petroglyphs carved into the hard lava stone. The hike to the petroglyphs had a very special quality to it. It was something I knew I needed to do on my own. As I hiked to the site I met a few tourists on the path, but soon found myself completely alone. It felt like each step took me further into timelessness and something so ancient and yet so vibrantly present. I remembered reading about the old custom of the Hawaiin people that were connected to this sacred land whose families brought the umbilical cords of their newborn babies to this ancient site, leaving each in a carved hole covered with a rock and special symbols praying for a long life for the child.P1100165 I couldn’t help but wonder how many had walked this path in reverence and had prayed here asking for their child or grandchild to be blessed with a long, well-lived life. I felt myself being called here and there, standing before each carving and just being completely present in the mystery and the story that each one contained. One of these carvings stood out in particular and spoke to me in a very deep way. I heard myself speaking words of prayer and gratitude with tears filling my eyes. It was hard to leave, but when I finally turned to go, I heard people arriving filling the stillness with their voices. To this day I have no idea why this particular carving spoke to me in such a way. But on these walks to and from my car, as I put one foot in front of the other, the memory of that particular hike on the black lava stone and the mysterious connection I felt there, comes alive in me, leaving me in the great wonder of how it is all connected.

The Heron is still here, gazing now quietly out over the bay while standing on one leg. It’s complete calmness and balance calls me into the centre of my own being. May the wonder of these mysterious connections stay alive in all of us, open and guide us on our individual and collective journeys.

And once again a poem wants to be shared. This one is called “Stone” written by David Whyte.

 Stone

 The face in the stone is a mirror looking into you.
 You have gazed into the moving waters,
 you have seen the slow light, in the sky
 above Lough Inagh, beneath you, streams have flowed,
 and rivers of earth have moved beneath your feet,
 but you have never looked into the immovability
 of stone like this, the way it holds you, gives you
 not a way forward but a doorway in, staunches
 your need to leave, becomes faithful by going nowhere,
 something that wants you to stay here and look back,
 be weathered by what comes to you, like the way you too
 have travelled from so far away to be here, once reluctant
 and now as solid and as here and as willing
 to be touched as everything you have found.
  
 ~David Whyte

 

 

Kinship

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Gratitude fills me on this quiet morning here at Elkenwolf as I look outside at the familiar yet ever-changing scenery. I feel deeply held by the community of trees surrounding our cottage, like sacred guardians standing silent and strong. A pair of eagles sitting high on their perch across our little cove are bearing witness to the delicate unfolding of this moment.

The sun is breaking through the dense greyness that seems to be holding everything, even this day, in suspense not knowing which way it’s going to go. The unexpected light illuminating for a moment both the outer and inner landscape I find myself in as I give my attention to what is showing itself to me.

Just last week I heard myself talking to a few different friends about my difficulty in returning to an unfinished blog. Yet as I heard myself speak these words, I wondered if this is actually true or if it is a belief that stops me from entering the essence of the unfinished piece. Perhaps some of them are not meant to be finished and were just fleeting ideas. Yet as I look at these unfinished beginnings I know some of them need to be written and this is one of them.

Last June I began with the idea of a blog about a woman I had heard about but never met. Her  name was Gilean Douglas. The title and pictures came easily, but I didn’t get very far with my writing. Now nine months later this post is ready to be born, urging it’s way through the birth canal.

Last night after listening to the wind and chimes creating beautiful music together, I went to bed wondering why writing sometimes is so easy and effortless and at other times almost painful like being in labour. I fell asleep with the question in my head what my highest excitement is in regards to writing.

This morning I turned on the computer with the intention to begin the day with writing. While closing tabs on my computer I stumbled across the announcement of a radio program about Gilean Douglas, I had exactly one minute before showtime. Immediately I was spell bound hearing about Gilean’s life from people that knew her. The same deep feeling of kinship arose in me that I had felt last May when I first heard about her…

A few days before leaving on a vacation a friend of mine had asked me out of the blue if I had heard of Gilean Douglas. I had not. My friend began telling me about this fascinating free spirited woman, nature writer, poet, feminist and journalist who had lived here on Cortes Island for forty years until her death at age ninety-three. We walked over to the bookstore where my friend showed me one of Gilean’s books “The Protected Place“. I opened up a page and immediately was drawn into the world of Gilean Douglas, which felt strangely familiar.

Two days later I found myself with four books in my suitcase on my way to Hawaii:  Silence is My Homeland (a book Gilean wrote about her life in the mountains of British Columbia), The Protected Place (a book written by Gilean about her life on Cortes Island), Seascape With Figures (a collection of Gilean’s poems) and Writing Nature Finding Home (a biography and collection of her works by Andrea Lebowitz and Gillian Milton). On the beaches in Hawaii I got to know more about Gilean and her life and I loved what we had in common besides the love for writing.

Gilean first found this sense of home in Nature while living in her mountain cabin in the interior of BC and then again on Cortes Island after losing her beloved cabin in the mountains to a fire. I also had experienced that immense feeling of being truly home for the first time while living in a cabin on a mountain top for nearly thirteen years in southern BC. In 2005 I left our mountain home with my two sons following a deep inner calling to live by the ocean and go to counselling school. It was one of the hardest thing I ever had to do. Just like Gilean I grieved the loss of my home on the mountain very intensely for many years. It was like losing a best friend. Finally ten years later Cortes Island called me.. . and here I am, finally home in Nature again!

Within a few days of my return from Hawaii I met by chance (if there is such a thing) one of the authors of the Writing Nature Finding Home. Once again I found myself being connected to Gilean, learning more about her from Jill Milton who had been a friend of hers for many years. Within a month of my return my friend who first introduced me to Gilean Douglas took me to the Protected Place, Channel Rock, where Gilean had lived till her death in 1993. We spend a beautiful afternoon there, picnicking on the rocks in front of Gilean’s oceanfront cabin, walking the immense grounds and her beloved garden. It was easy to imagine Gilean sitting on these rocks writing, immersed in the beauty and wildness of this place.

While I was listening to the radio show Gilean’s writing was described as “singing songs of praise” for Nature and as soon as I heard this, I knew that it was the answer to my question from the night before. This love I have for Nature, for Spirit, for Home so wants to be expressed and writing is one way for me to do this. I am grateful for the sense of kinship, not just with Gilean, but the women who introduced her to me and all who love nature. For it is this kinship with Nature that gives me my greatest sense of belonging. I want to end this post with a beautiful heart-opening blessing written by John O’Donohue from his book Anam Cara, that I send out to all of you:

A Friendship Blessing

May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where
there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
may they bring you all the blessing, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam ċara. 

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Drinking life’s nectar – taken in the garden at Channel Rock

 

 

 

Go Deep In This Fire

 

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My gaze is drawn to the compass lying on my desk. It’s needle pointing unwaveringly due north. It is lying in the midst of other objects thrown carelessly on the wooden surface.

It stops me in the tracks of my mind, just like a young eagle did the other day while driving home from work. I saw him sitting there on a rather unusual perch: a utility pole right on the side of the road. I kept driving, till I finally answered the inner call to turn around. I knew he would still be there.

I got out of the car after fumbling with my phone hoping for a picture only to find that the battery was dead. The young eagle watched me carefully.  His gaze was as unwavering as the needle in the compass. I held his gaze, wondering…

Then I suddenly remembered that for some strange reason I actually had put my camera in my backpack that morning, which I never usually do. The eagle watched me patiently return to the car and get my camera out. I snapped a few pictures, but something didn’t feel right.
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A bunch of cars drove by and I was sure the eagle would fly off with all this commotion. He turned his head looking this way and that way, but mostly his eyes were on me. I finally lowered the camera sensing the importance to be fully present. The camera had in some way shielded me from experiencing the power of the gaze of this eagle. As I allowed myself to be fully seen, I felt strangely naked standing there before him as if he could see every part of me, even the parts still hidden even from myself.

Suddenly he lifted off gliding gracefully over the quiet lake. I stood there long after he was gone, feeling a different kind of fullness and aliveness and wonder.

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I had several different encounters with young eagles since then and none of them surprised me, yet each of them made me pay attention, listen, be fully present, learning to let go of what I want, and instead opening to what life is offering me.

Then yesterday morning, as I was reading and writing in bed, something else stopped me in my tracks. This time it was a poem. I was looking at my 2017 We’Moon calendar curious about the next full moon, when I came across the poem called “Cracked” by Nell Aurelia. It spoke to me in such a deep way, putting into words what I experience night after night. Most nights I feel like I am in a cauldron over a hot fire, resisting, surrendering, resisting, surrendering…What I am slowly learning as the fire is burning away my resistance and what this poem made so beautifully clear to me that this journey is about me fully committing to life and this human experience, even in this very intense time both in my own little world and the greater world.

I knew immediately that I wanted to share this poem with you here on my blog and contacted Nell. She has graciously allowed me to share her poem with you.

Cracked 

by Nell Aurelia

I’m cracked. Completely.

I fell into the furnace long enough

To decide to find my own fire and light,

And when I went all to pieces

Some surrendered to the heat

And those that were left were me

But purer: there is something of a diamond

Rushing through my core,

A full madness of restructuring.

There is no ruin here.

Unless that is your fearful name for transformation,

Which I can understand,

But when you fall flying into your own,

You’ll understand:

Falling apart is full of its own reward,

However much it feels like dying, like failure

Full of the unbearable sensitivity

Of committing to this human experience.

Go deep in this fire.

There’s a point where all explodes and converges,

And you find you are yourself,

Only stronger, clearer, finer.

The messiest refinement of all: Choosing to live well.

Well? Fully.

Alive to pain, to suffering, to inequality,

To joy, to birth, to creation, to love – To all,

Because when you get right down in it

Acknowledging pain only opens you more to joy.

The brilliant imperfections of love, of loving,

Can only make the world shine brighter;

It’s fear that will give you half a life and convince you

You never wanted the other half anyway.

 

I highly recommend checking out Nell’s blog for more of her powerful poetic offerings:

https://thesingingdark.wordpress.com

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Image by Dancing Wolf

 

St-ill-ness

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It’s been quite a while since my last blog post. A cold or flu virus had me flat on my back for ten days and it has taken me a while to recover and not just physically. This is my fourth attempt to write a new blog post and it feels like I lost the thread that connects me to not just my writing and creativity, but to the love I have for life. It is hard to describe the disconnection I feel. I wonder if the experience I had during my illness has something to do with this. Perhaps by retracing my steps and telling the story I will gain some clarity or perhaps even find the thread again.

p1140366So here it goes: On the day I got sick, my elderly dog Frodo also showed signs of not feeling well. This didn’t surprise me. We have been sick at the same time before and I wonder sometimes about the strong link between us. Frodo stopped eating that day and did not drink or eat for two days. He was getting weaker and weaker and we had to help him get up and take him outside to do his business. The snow did not help matters, making it even more difficult for him to walk. As I was lying on the couch watching him decline, I began to accept that his time here with us might be coming to an end. The power and phone line went out for a few days as well and when it came back on, I decided it was time to let my sons know about Frodo. Soon after I sent out the message the power went out for the second time and Frodo surprised us by suddenly showing interest again in food and water. As soon as he was getting better, I was getting worse.

Perception of time shifts when you are ill. I was lying there day in and day out watching the snowflakes come down in all their various sizes and forms and transform the world into winter wonderland. p1140900We had a surprising amount of snow, at least eighteen inches over a few days and much more on other parts of the island. Sometimes the snowflakes were as big as feathers. While watching them float gently to the earth I was reminded of one of my favourite childhood fairy tales “Frau Holle” or “Mother Hulda” in which a girl meets and lives with an old woman and when she shakes out her blanket it snows. I always loved the image of a Sky Goddess shaking out her huge feather blanket and somewhere in the world it would snow. In our world many branches and trees were cracking and breaking off under the white weight making our long driveway impassable. It felt like life had ground to a halt.

One morning after the worst night of coughing and headache, and the continues sounds of trees and branches breaking, I woke up and looked outside at the familiar view of the bay. p1140910I noticed right away that something was different: not what I saw but how I saw. The trees, ducks, water, the white landscape all looked the same, yet everything was so clear, like someone had cleaned a really dirty window or lens that I have been looking out of probably most of my life. I gazed at everything intently and suddenly knew what was so different: I was seeing the world before me without any resistance. It was so beautiful to see without any layer of judgement or preconceived notions. I was able to see that being without resistant to life lets love flow freely. It was remarkable to see the trickery of the mind, always wanting to change or improve reality or improve others or myself. It felt like a huge relief and joy to accept reality as it is. It wasn’t like being in the flow of life, but being the flow.

Many days have passed since this remarkable experience. I so wish I could have held onto experiencing life without resistance. But I wasn’t able to. I woke up this morning feeling as grey as the morning that greeted me. Now the rain is coming down heavily and Frodo is sleeping peacefully beside me. I don’t know what the next moment will bring, but in this one I am grateful to be alive and to be able to listen to the rain drumming on the roof. It is up to me to let life’s magic in and it is up to me to accept life on it’s terms not mine. It is in the stillness that I find my way back to the gift of life.

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Meeting Adjourned

dw-seagullI am sitting out on the bluff on this grey stormy day. The wind is impatiently turning my pages and at the same time cooling me as another hot flash spreads through my body to every cell, igniting something I have no name for.

Gentle raindrops awaken me to the need for creative expression and watering the dry spell of my inner landscape. All the while a seagull glides by and circles over me again and again, probably wondering what I am doing here on this wintery day.

My hot nettle tea is cooling in the thermos dotted with stars, that a dear sister gifted me on her visit in the summer. Where did the time go? It seemed not so long ago that we were lying here on this bluff in the hot sun after swimming in the cool waters sharing with each other those things that matter most in life. The raindrops remind me of her gentle nature and generous heart.

I felt called to the bluff today to write outside, letting Mother Earth speak while I listen carefully. Something new yet ancient is there on the edge of awareness. I can feel it in the movement of the wind and hear it in the waves that are crashing against the shoreline.

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The seagull has settled not far from me on the little island near the bluff. It feels like we are the only ones here on this stormy day and jdw-duckust as I put these words on paper a little duck appears out of nowhere between the island and the bluff swimming by and is joined by a mate that is paddling around the island from the other side. I didn’t see Raven coming. But he is loudly announcing his arrival or perhaps the beginning of our meeting. He has much to say.

And yes, we are all listening!

Perhaps he called on the seal who silently emerges from the depth of the ocean to join our gathering. I am starting to wonder what this is all about as the wind pushes and pulls on the pages. I seem to be the one taking notes for this meeting.

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I listen to the wind and watch the movement of the waves. I become aware of the ease of my breath coming in and going out. The inhaled air travels down deeply, spreading far and wide, just as the fire of the hot flash did before, creating more space inside of me. In this spaciousness I sense a deep surrendering to what is taking place here.

As the wind touches my face gently, I open to receive the love that is present in every raindrop, every wave, in the trees bending, gently giving movement to the wind’s urging. I sense the love in the nettle tea as I take a sip, offering it’s nourishment to my body and feel the rock’s solid support under me. dw-ravenRaven, duck, seagull and seal are all in agreement: Even though life is constantly shifting and changing, love is always present.

My hand glides over the page and words spread across each line in effortless motion, as I trust what will come, allowing myself to be the scribe.

Suddenly I look up from my page just in time to watch the ducks dive under and disappear in the moving sea while the seagull lifts effortlessly into the air. Seal is already gone and I wonder if the meeting is over. Raven answers: Yes, the meeting is adjourned!

I gather my things: the tea, pen, journal and the little pillow that saved me from getting wet while sitting on the rock and I make my way home to feed the fire and let Frodo (my dear old dog) know that all is well despite appearances.

~Photos by Dancing Wolf