spring

DSC_4333

Sometimes it starts to feel like Spring is springing when there are giant puddles everywhere and you can hear the metronomic drip of things melting and softening.  And sometimes it’s the sound of the first few flocks of geese, high above head, their honking announcing almost-spring, giant wings appearing after you hear the call.

Or rubber boots, or the sound of happy kid laughter, the feeling that the air is full of potential, or the bravest buds bursting first.

For me, it’s spring when the mysteries of nature start to stir and move with curiosity of a new time, thawed out, forgetting last this happened; everything new again in a giant rebirth.

Who knows what is possible.

This usually happens with a fox.
Always the fox looks like an apparition.
Usually he does something peculiar like follow you around a golf course and lie down on various patches of grass, watching with sharp, attentive eyes to see what you’re up to.
Consistently every one of his movements look like it’s fuelled by curiosity.
This guy showed up the other day and then again.  And again.
He let us get pretty close and we didn’t bug each other at all.
He wasn’t molting yet; he was still in his warm winter coat, but i’m sure that’s coming next.  I’ll keep you posted.

Happy springtime!

Winter, still

photo 3

Thank you, longest, coldest winter in the history of the world for the reminder.
There’s no forcing nature.
Things will boil down or come up or work out, settle down exactly how they’re meant to.
There’s no stopping or starting the nature.
It’s a wild thing.

Oh, and it also is a giant practice patience.

We’ll get there someday.  (Won’t we?)  At some point, the crunchy, uneven ground of old and new snow mixed up underfoot will be replaced by (elusive) pavement, or (from wildest imaginings;) grass, even.  The jagged-edged noise of winter will fade out; replaced by the soft-curved sound of warmer times.  The cramped cocoon of winter clothes will loosen, ice will yield, arms will open and faces will lift and sunshine will shine.  (Won’t it?)

(Maybe the longest winter on earth is also a practice of faith.)

Always things will melt and soften and grow and live and shrivel and die and harden and soften and bloom and expand and then more freezing, dying, closing, and then again, after the longest winter you’ve lived and when you see it coming the very least, and when you’re not sure if it’s going to come; more awakening.

But it’s not really any of our business when nature will relinquish the old or when any of this will go down.
This is a bit of a relief.

Seize the good winter-spring day.

 

this guy

DSC_4286

keeps showing up everywhere.
The pileated woodpecker.
I get it.  You’re a big deal.  Endangered and scarlet-headed.  I can’t look away.

In the spirit of research, i’ve explored the woodpecker a bit/lot.  Aboriginal spirituality says he’s the strong, instinctive, unstoppable rhythm of the earth; the deep animal knowing of things.  The rhythm of the universe that happens despite whatever we do.  There is a pattern that we are part of that is woven not by us.  This guy is a reminder of that pattern, the rhythmic tapping, and the beating of life’s heart which our heart is part of.

This is a salve.

Also Tom Robbins likes woodpeckers and i like this, on magic and love and the woven pattern that we are part of but don’t make and our work within the pattern:

“When two people meet and fall in love, there’s a sudden rush of magic. Magic is just naturally present then. We tend to feed on that gratuitous magic without striving to make any more. One day we wake up and find that the magic is gone. We hustle to get it back, but by then it’s usually too late, we’ve used it up. What we have to do is work like hell at making additional magic right from the start. It’s hard work, but if we can remember to do it, we greatly improve our chances of making love stay.”
― Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

 

on a day you could barely see | crystal clarity

DSC_4269

hi guys!

I’ve been gone fishin’, figuratively speaking, but thought i would stop in so things don’t become stagnant and so you don’t think i fell into a well, (which i did, but i’m ok!)

Here’s a picture from my new other favourite river, on a day when at times you could barely see.

But anyway, who the shit cares about clarity when the ambiguity and obscurity are so beautiful and totally uncomfortable as you try to firm your gaze, but you can’t because of the snowy blur, so you close your eyes instead to enjoy the crystal clear feeling of the snow falling softly on your face?

thanks, tolstoy and more navel-gazing

photo 3

Dear Tolstoy,
Your instructions for happiness on this journal i got for christmas are getting on my nerves.  You forgot the other side of the coin, didn’t you?
I’m writing in it anyway, but it’s hard because your words are under so much pressure.
There are times when I agree with you, but there are times when our job isn’t to be happy i don’t think, but to be skillful, to survive, or to sit at the bottom of the wave and trust, to put one foot in front of the other purposefully and intentionally, or to do other things that are challenging.
Nobody around here believes you except for the fetal-positioned dog who doesn’t even have a prefrontal cortex to mess with her happiness.

And anyway, aren’t you being a bit optimistic for a Russian classic-writer?

And also, i looked you up, and it appears you suffered from major clinical depressions on several occasions, considered suicide and proclaimed art to be detrimental.  To be happy be wouldn’t have likely worked as well as riding it out or writing War and Peace or probably some medication (which i don’t think is the only answer, but is a good tool when things get too low for too long, Tolstoy.)

Anyway, i think much better advice is to be with the wholeness of this human experience; the wretchedness and the joy.  And I think that becomes about riding the wave of what is and it’s about survival, integrity, a bit of grace if we’re lucky and skillful.

I think Stevie Nicks has better advice: to belt it out from your wild heart.
(There is nothing about this that I don’t love.)

Or how about instead,
if you want to survive:

Don’t forget you’re an animal.  The rules of this civilized world don’t support your resurrection.
Sometimes animals happily and furryly lie around basking in the sun, but this usually happens after they’ve fought for their life.

Be wild a bit.  Move or sing or create or tell a story or be with abandon,
or withdraw ferociously.  Sometimes lie in bed until it passes.
Or don’t even make your bed for a few days, even if you have never done this in your life.  (My wildness is relative.)
But also don’t dwell.  That’s holding on.  Open palms.
let go when it’s time to.  the empty, sorrowful places are where the most excruciatingly, curingly beautiful light is.

Cracked open is not broken.

Wail and yell and moan and scream and laugh.
You are not just letting go of the thing at hand.
There is more than meets the eye.

Don’t forget to be astonished by your healing.
You and it are a miracle!
I don’t think we were made to just be happy (be), but all my bets are on the healing.
And of course on the really living:  the biggest, fattest elephant tears mixed in with sparkling laughter in a messy concoction and everything in between.

Let the waves of everything come and wash over you.  One will take you somewhere else, and it will be magic.  Many will just hurt like hell.  You’ve gotta take your chances.  Life is wretched and life is beautiful.  Too bad.  And then a wave of happiness will come and things will be nice.  And then, if you want to be happy, be.

You’ll cook.  With love again.  Cutting up vegetables will not feel like climbing a mountain.
There will be crackers made from flax that are homemade again, but maybe not today.
All of this work of survival will pay off and things will feel easy.
You’ll eat a meal happily and smile at a friend and think:  this is nice.

If you feel it all, you will be effortlessly enchanted again.
You will have amnesia about the pain because you’ve really healed.
You’ll ache for the smell of a clean spring day, and you will be soothed to the bone when it comes.
You might feel the heaviness of holding onto your unmet hopes.  Hold them, but not tightly.  Somewhere your wildest dreams are alive.  

Don’t forget your spirit.  

I don’t get this part yet, but as an act of devotion, i’ll do it:  Don’t forget to look in the mirror and at yourself deeply into the eyes and say: I love you.  And do it until you remember it and it becomes easy.  You’re doing great.  You’ve done your best.

And then, one day, in a little or big fleeting or lasting (who knows?), beautiful, simple moment, you’ll feel the sun on your face, and if you want to be happy, you’ll be.

ps.
And lastly, my book club that I’m not going to on account of working, but that I read the books for, is reading this book.  I’ve read it, but thought i’d read it again in the spirit of learning more and also reclaiming my attention span.

So, this:

“The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you’re supposed to go up and down when you’re supposed to go down. When you’re supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you’re supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there’s no flow, stay still. If you resist the flow, everything dries up. If everything dries up, the world is darkness.”
―Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

sky/winter

DSC_4241

You know that guy, Shane Koyczan, who wrote and spoke that anti-bullying thing awhile ago?  That one that was beautiful and breathtaking and made you cry giant tears at the vulnerability and overcoming?

He made this too.  Isn’t it a beautiful warrior monologue and doesn’t it reach into the tenderest part of your soul and doesn’t it feel like a witness to your amazing human experience?  Even though the music feels too loud and distracting for me, his voice made of earth and sorrow and strength and honesty and hope is big and sounds like everything will be ok.

I like this part the best:

Be forthright. Despite your instinct to say “it’s alright, I’m okay” – be honest. Say how you feel without fear or guilt, without remorse or complexity. Be lucid in your explanation, be sterling in your oppose. If you think for one second no one knows what you’ve been going through; be accepting of the fact that you are wrong, that the long drawn and heavy breaths of despair have at times been felt by everyone – that pain is part of the human condition and that alone makes you a legion.

And this too.

Admit to the bad days, the impossible nights. Listen to the insights of those who have been there, but come back. They will tell you; you can stack misery, you can pack despair, you can even wear your sorrow – but come tomorrow you must change your clothes. Everyone knows pain. We are not meant to carry it forever. We were never meant to hold it so closely, so be certain in the belief that what pain belongs to now will belong soon to then. That when someone asks you how was your day, realize that for some of us – it’s the only way we know how to say, be calm. Loosen your grip, opening each palm, slowly now – let go.

Sometimes the words how was your day? called down to a dark well, (to be dramatic) are the only things simple enough to make their way down there.  (Not that i would know.)  And sometimes, they carry with them the smell of the world that isn’t in the dark well, which is synonymous to the scent of hope because it tells you there’s a world still that isn’t the dark well, which saves your life even if you don’t fully buy in.  On a bad day.  You know.

My hands are too cold for pictures, and the batteries freeze in seconds.  The camera being picked up is the success, and I guess for that matter, so is the walking.  Up there is the one picture before hands fell off from frostbite today.  It is of things reaching for the sky in the deepest part of the Winter.  I also saw a bright yellow house.  Both smelled of hope, which i trust a little bit.

How was your day?

remembering

photo (9)

My attention span disappeared for awhile.
You know like when you quit smoking or heroin and every cell of your being is focused on that?
Like that, but without the focus on something.

A lot of things came to a head all at once and that was disorienting.  It was a crisis of sorts.  Midlife?  Existential?  I don’t know.  It was hard to feel where i was standing when the shit was hitting the fan in every direction.  The shit has stopped hitting the fan in some directions, and it’s getting possible to imagine that I’m in one piece.  My attention span is creeping back in, in tiny doses.  I can even watch a show if i want to, read an article if it’s short, and have conversations if they’re simple.  Things are looking up.

Even i’m looking up.

When i looked up the other morning, this glorious sunrise was happening.  I haven’t seen something beautiful that I believed in for awhile.  Not because i stopped believing.  And not because no beautiful things happened.  Just because really seeing something beautiful takes at least a little attention span.   The sunrise took my breath away and it was hard to not pay attention to that, at least at that particular moment.
Now that I’m inching my way back to somewhat attentive, my mind has become willing to explore the act of making lists.  Paragraphs are too much.  Lists are good.

Since lists are good and, definitely, believing in things is good, I spent a whole walk thinking about things i believed in.  It felt almost good.  The wolseley river sunrise confirmed the goodness.

A List of Things I Believe in and Don’t Want to Forget

  • The sun keeps rising, and on the worst day of your life, this rising might be so beautiful that it takes your breath away and the slate will be clear.  Just like that.  It could happen anytime.  Other times it will be so beautiful and it won’t matter.  Have some faith.  One of them will get you.
  • Hanging around with people before they get their protective egos brings you back to life.  So, like, cuddling babies is smart and fun and so is hanging around with orange dogs and other colour dogs too, but orange ones especially.
  • Hanging around with people who put their egos down even though it’s scary to is healing too.   And it’s beautiful.
  • Inside the deep emotional wound there is the key to the deep emotional healing.
  • The universe is unfolding as it should.  I about-sixty-eight percent believe this right now, but saying it increases the rate of belief.  Now it’s seventy.
  • Yoga teaching has saved my life a lot of times.
  • I believe in love.  I believe in the mad kind, the kind that makes no logical sense, the kind that transcends this life and pushes souls together.  The kind that makes people you shouldn’t recognize be someone you’ve known all along.  The kind that is life-giving, soul-crushing, body-aching, mirror-lifting up to you and seeing everything excruciatingly clearly.  I’m a sucker, i know.  I don’t care.  I believe in it.
  • I didn’t mean the romantic kind.  But i believe in that too.
  • The universe is a magical place.  Really it is.  The world is sending you these little sparkly love notes all the time.  I just spent three months ignoring them by accident.  Today i opened up to them again and lo and behold:  still magic!
    Messages that I don’t quite understand because they’re too magical, from the gods:  Thank you.
  • All the beautiful things are also kind of or very painful.   Deal with it.  It’s worth it.
  • Even when you tell yourself that it’s not useful, yoga is medicine.
  • Endorphins help with everything, even if it’s short-lived.
  • Everything is temporary.
  • Solitude is often the condition needed for healing.
  • But so is fun, if you can hack it.
  • You are a soul, not a body, and not a anything else.  A soul.  A soul.
  • Making plans that are fun = hope.
  • Resurrection.  I believe in this more than i believe in anything.  
  • When you commit to anything, the universe conspires to support the commitment.  Everything changes.
  • All of these things are hard to remember when the shit is hitting the fan.  That’s why it’s good to write them down in a moment when you remember.  Tomorrow i’ll only believe in avocados.

shuffling feet

 

photo (7)
Head down, literally, figuratively, air cold and hard and aggressive, for so many days in a row, hands not quite ever warm in two layers of mittens, feet trudging through more snow than you’ve ever seen for sure even than the blizzard with the snow shoes in the eighties, a gigantic act of will to move, long days, trying to organize your cells around this way of being, graciously declining new input for now, integrating, assimilating several lifetimes of learnings that you haven’t fully consumed though you thought you had digested long ago.  It’s funny how a challenge wakes up the old ones and is always more than meets the eye.

and a little reprieve comes in the form of a surprisingly  deep breath, finally, and a few minutes of steady focus; a drishti, a warm day where you can walk and look and see and feel a little more fully again like yourself, and you are goddamn alive and this is a giant relief, and relief feels a little foreign, and you love it.

And you see one of those patterns that you also love where the wind and the cold has changed the snow and the snow has let itself be beautified by the certainly painful cold, and your faith shuffles a bit so that you notice that it’s standing in the room, the beauty of the snow perhaps giving it permission to stir.

walk

DSC_4229

Walking forever, relentless boots undertake crumbly dim-morning ground,
before the sky stretches open with the gift of a glorious sunrise.
Thank you, this morning, for the pretty analogy.

***

Instead of sunrise photos.  Other inspiration.

The walking and train bridge over the assiniboine.

I didn’t know what these locks were all about until today. I think it’s pretty sweet and I put it on my life list to put a lock on there.
Because I’m a hopeless romantic and i love a romantic gesture, that’s why.

The Soul senses the world that awaits.

photo (5)

(Wild, orange-heart.  Found in the west end, on my way out into retreat.)

Dear winter solstice and your standing-still-sun which gave us a few really dark nights and let us look inside and see stuff like what’s a beginning and what isn’t (‘darkness isn’t so bad!’ -j.h.) or try and try, and dear doozy of a full moon and all of your giant, enormous light, when everything got illuminated and my gripping mind got exposed for all its grippery.

Thanks a lot.

I have a few things to say about that.
My work has been good and challenging work these past few days.
Maybe we’re not meant to live alone.
Sangha is cool.
People are good.  Really good.
They are also brave and fearless and aching to live fully.
And they are also fragile-seeming, though not really, and we are all made of resilient stuff.  

We are all in this together,
we should remember that when our hearts are longing,

and i get the feeling that good things will come from all of things yet, and in fact, that good things are happening right now, probably, from all the things that came before.  Best to try to feel one or two of them, too.  You know, in the heart.

Challenged.  Grateful.  Challenged.  Hopeful.  Grateful.  Challenged.

After all of this, i’ve found my way back into my little, wild, beating heart again.  (And again.)
And it’s good in here; feels a little breathless, a little wide open, a lot uneasy, a lot of the time.  There is mystery in there.

And furthermore,  it beats the brain.

And it’s where the way forward is, i’m sure.  Or the way into.
And i know, no shadow/doubt, with a few little reminders, that the heart has the answers in it.
We are claimed, we are nudged, we are bulldozed, we are pushed around, we are captivated, and lulled, and warned and never forsaken, if we stay there.

Here’s my favourite poem today which i could hardly read aloud without my voice getting a little crumbly, which is how things are when you’re in your heart, even though i tried by candlelight, and to friends in savasana after 108 prostrations, more than once, and also beneath the strange solstice tree, and now as I move into retreat with a perfect glass of scotch, along the river.

Happy day, wild heart.

For a New Beginning 

by John O’Donahue

In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

tree

photo (4)

Sometimes you feel lost.
I know that sounds instantly a little bit sad, but it’s not.

It’s the opportunity to find your footing again.  And again.  We’re all lost anyway because things are not permanent, but we’re always finding too.  It’s good.  You look down and definitely!  eu-gd-reka! there’s an anchor there.  Your feet are roots, for crying out loud.   You’re not even lost at all; you just sort of feel like it.

Sometimes when you feel lost,  you go for a walk, unanchored, and it’s beautiful.   In tiny glimpses, there is pure love and you know that things are ok right now.  Better than ok.  You feel like yourself a bit.  Your self starts to look around and your eyes stumble upon a bit of a tree.  Not like a little tree, but a piece of one.  Like a limb, missing.  It’s a remnant and for some reason this remnant makes you feel a bit more whole.

The tree’s not from around here.  There are no other ones like it on the whole river you are walking. It’s an apparition.  It’s lost probably, uprooted.  You love this tree instantly, because your eyes found it, which means you’re seeing, and it is so good to be seeing.   Because you are more of a gatherer than a tree-hunter, it’s weird, you know, but you carry it all the way home, even though it’s just a crooked branch really, but it makes you feel alive again and so you do.   It’s strange.   You do it anyway.

You get home, which is not really home, but home is where your heart is and if your heart says to bring the tree, you bring the tree.  You assume this means your heart is around here somewhere, knowing what’s going on and what to do next.  Bring the tree.

You don’t know what to do with the not-tree, but you want to do something, and you know you seem to love it, and you know your heart’s around here somewhere, and you remember the power of a good ritual.

You bring it into the house, you weirdo.  It’s clumsy and it’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen, the messy trail of snow you brought in with it, a spindly branch in your temporary living room, and you laugh hard again, in your fat winter jacket, wearing your boots in the house, laughing from your belly and out loud, again, and laughter even fills the room.  Thank god.

You put it out in your temporary front yard.  You even take the star from your temporary bedroom and adorn the tree.  And then you start to light candles beneath it and beneath a full moon and you decide to keep the candles going each day as we move through the solstice (the standing/the sitting still of the sun and the you) and you will light the candles into christmas even.

This is a vigil under the full moon, under strange circumstances, all-around disoriented, alive; a time to sit awake when normally you’d be asleep or sleepwalking, to pray, to watch, to listen.

There you are still.