Is there anything so merciful as a simple ending?

A natural, (by which i mean simple, by which i mean unjarring, unresisted, supported, painless, held and timely) death is a thing of beauty.

My grandmother, Bill Coe’s mother, has just passed away.

I don’t normally use that term, passed away, because that’s not usually how people go.
But she, a century old and in good health, did.
She was a hundred and I respected her for her longevity and her consistency.  She had, years ago, resolved to live longer than her aunt who had lived til she was ninety-nine.
Her stubbornness courses through my veins.

She was so good at correspondence and Scrabble and being oversensitive and predictable.  On Sundays she went to church.  I used to think she mostly liked the community there, but now I see it was the sturdiness of it.  Crisp, wool clothing.  I like to think it was partly the ritual that took her there.
When she was only in her eighties, she used to go on frequent adventures alone.   Big trips even.  These haven’t happened since her nineties began so i’ve forgotten all about them until now, and it’s a nice remembering.  There was always ivory soap at her house.  She was very sensitive, in skin and in sentiment and this sensitivity often caught me off my guard.
She would go to the gardens at the legislative grounds when she didn’t have a garden of her own and would do the weeding there.  I think they gave her some honorary award for her work even.  She was only ninety-three then.

If you know the rest of my family and their complete and utter disregard for stability, you would see that these are hefty compliments that i am throwing around: stable, predictable, consistent are a pretty big deal.

I didn’t realize she was that tough, but you don’t go around living for a century without some pretty powerful heartiness.  I am thankful that this kind of woman was the root system set down in my family because I sense that that is where the feeling of sturdiness despite other malfunctions in a bloodline comes from, at least in part.

The roots remain.

What i’ve been especially feeling about lately, is that if we just do our work, like really take the opportunity to do the work we’re offered this life, have some fun, be steady in ourselves, take some rest, let our guts guide us, feel the sunshine on our faces, be in winter when it’s winter, summer, spring, be in fall, hold onto nothing, but be fully in the thick of it, observe nature, be quiet and still and solitary, be among people, listen, that is to say: be,

that we fall into our place among things.

We die when we’re meant to die and we live when we’re meant to live.

I like not having to question this.

The other morning, a Canada goose, very freshly returned from his winter trip, sat up on top of that billboard at the forks that towers humongously over the wooden foot bridge, the one that lets you walk across the Assiniboine River and feels so good underfoot.
He honked his heart out, was looking for someone.  My heart breaks for lone geese, lone anything.  I don’t even like to leave one fork in the cutlery tray.  I know.

From the billboard mural, a hand reaches up out of the paint to touch him, assuring him of his place in things.
Seeing the beauty of that moment, his loud lonesomeness; the sound of longing, and this big picture of his belonging whelmed me.
Instinct brought him here.  Instinct would carry him back to his companions.  Or it would find him a new tribe.  He would find his place in the family of things.

I don’t know what this has to do with my grandmother’s passing, but it has something to do with it.  Maybe that sometimes nature feels actually natural and painless at the same time.  Maybe that there is a family of things that we all belong to in our different, weird way.  And maybe that things will shake out just right (whatever that means), painlessly, effortlessly, when we listen to the tiny but substantial echoes that call to us from that low, hollow place in our guts.

For the words below, recorded long ago, the context forgotten, and for the cycle of life that is so unshakeably evident and huge and holding, and for a strong woman who lived and died well…

For these things and all of the others in the family of things, my heart is humble and thankful today.

“If we listen to the world, and let it act on us without either-or judgements and ideas,
then we can learn to comprehend each flash of pleasure as a tone in the infinite harmony.
The orchestra of the world plays the familiar melodies again and again,
and the old folks stand around and tap their feet while the young ones dance.”

-Thaddeus Golas


little triumphs

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(This isn’t my home, but it looks cute and I think it would definitely do, in a pinch.)

You gotta
Sit down funny face
Oh, let your laughter fill the room

Light up your golden smile
Take away all your misery and gloom
Oh, let your laughter fill the room
Oh, let your laughter fill the room

-Van Morrison, of course

There’s this new moon happening.  

Have you noticed?  The sky is a little extra dark and maybe your feet feel a little more deeply fixed onto (into, even) the earth, without that vexatious lunar pull tugging on your coat about something, and things might feel a little extra introspective.  (Even more than usual?!  Is that possible?)

The astrologers say that this time around, we’re meant to pause and honour ourselves for our triumphs, no matter how big or little.
McPhee says to be proud of your success.
I’ve never been quite sure about astrology, though I don’t claim to be much of a skeptic about any kind of magic either.  (Sorry for calling astrology magic.)  And McPhee is usually onto something.

Besides which, the human urge to do more, get more, be better, bigger, smarter, kinder, and otherwise all around more evolved is so exhausting after awhile, not to mention kind of sending the message of not-enoughness if the urge is constant, I would imagine.

Enough is enough.
Enough now.

As you stand there, under the giant dark sky of this empty moon, with your feet and legs like roots anchoring you into yourself, a self that is complete and fully developed and enough, look at your triumph square in the heart, and tell me that you remember that you are great.

I tried it.  It felt weird.  And simple.  And my goodness, it was a relief to pause in that still point for awhile.

My triumph, my friend:
I made a home.
After years of feeling sort of self-imposedly homeless.  Or at least just not at-home.
I shared a home.
And then I made myself another one.

And it doesn’t matter about any of the homes before that one, and it doesn’t matter if the barn burnt down, and it doesn’t matter if everyone left the home yelling their heads off at each other, and it doesn’t matter if the furniture gets sold or disintegrates into the ground, or i have it or you have it and or if some guy picked it up off the boulevard.
I made a home and I let myself feel at home there.  The feeling of home was had and now I’ll never forget it again.

First aside:
Remember that part in Garden State when Zach Braff says: “Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.”  I like that.  I don’t think he’s right though.

The last time I had a home which had a soul that started to look like us, one of us disappeared, and it was so hard to look at the place that reflected back the soul that was no longer here, so I emptied the place out into a giant BFI, regretfully, admittedly; it would have been nice to have a little something to remember things by.

It’s important to distinguish:
This isn’t a place of sequestering.
That is some kind of prison.  I’ve lived there too.

Home is a different business altogether.
It is made of tradition, and love, and breakfast, sitting at a table in your comfiests, and it lives and breathes and it’s got hope in it, i think.
It’s a place to come to at the end of the day and set your bag down, and your day down, and sigh, and be yourself and be yourself, sometimes exhausted, sometimes empty, and often happy if you’re lucky.  (And you are.  Lucky.)

And it’s a place where you let go of your edges and your laughter fills the room, or tears do, (really livin!), and the laughter and the tears mix in with some memories held in the walls and your breath which happens while you sleep or while you fold some laundry or cook applesauce from your very own apples if you are lucky enough to have some, and the place itself starts to have a soul that looks like yours.  This is magic.

I think home is the feeling of letting your heart feel safe.  (Family might be the people that hold this space for you.  Family is another post.) My success is that I let my heart feel safe enough to build a home.

I don’t know what it is actually, but I know it when I feel it, and i’m so incredibly thankful that I had one, and I wish it well, no hard feelings, home is where your heart is anyway, and my heart’s right here.

As another aside, my other triumph is listening to the Buddha (or whoever really said it) and letting go of things that are no longer meant for me.
A triumph in progress.
I love this place,

Biggest love to you, triumphant human.

ps.  Last aside.  This great (!) Van Morrison song used to be the song with which i christened (or smudged or puja’d?) spaces (and road trips and mix tapes and the drive to the grocery store and friendships.)  I hadn’t listened to it lately, until now, under this cold, dark moon, with friends and laughter that fills the room.
Give it a listen.  Do it.  You won’t be sorry.

Wait, now in case you don’t go over there and listen to van morrison belt it out,

here’s my favourite part:
(It’s all of them.)

Virgo Clowns
by Van Morrison

Let us free you from the pain
Let us see you smile again
Let us unlock all the chains
You’re broken-hearted

Let us help you to forget
Let us help you unlock it
It’s not nearly time to quit
You’ve only started

You gotta
Sit down funny face
Oh, let your laughter fill the room

Light up your golden smile
Take away all your misery and gloom
Oh, let your laughter fill the room
Oh, let your laughter fill the room

Let us shake you by the hand
Let us help you understand
Take your head out of the sand
And shake it free now

Let us help you to go on
We are here to lean upon
Now you know exactly just who
You want to be now

Come on
Sit down funny face
Oh. let your laughter (yeah)
Let your laughter fill the room

Light up your golden smile
Take away all your misery and gloom
Oh, let your laughter fill the room
Oh, let your laughter fill the room

(Instrumental, mandolin & bass clarinet)

Let us lift you up on high
See the twinkle in your eye
Raise you up into the sky
And say it’s easy

Hey let the trumpets ring it
Oh, let the angels sing it
Let your pretty feet go dancing
Let your worn out mind go prancing

And sit down, oh funny face
Oh, let your laughter fill the room

Light up your golden smile
Take away all your misery and gloom
Oh, let your laughter fill the room, come on
Let your laughter fill the room

Let your laughter fill the room
Let your laughter fill the room
Let it fill the room



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I’m partial to black and white.
It’s tidy, for one, which i love.
I can think straight with black and white.
But my favourite thing about it is that it makes other things come to life.
Colours, of course, but also thoughts, ideas, faces light up within a black and white landscape.  You notice things when the stuff around them settles down.

It’s been very colourless around here lately, which is nice and polite of the weather, as it has given other things the chance to shine.

I’m thinking about honour lately.
:Living from the heart in the spirit of honouring ourselves, each other.
Stepping out of fear, reactivity.  Heart-living instead.
I’ve also been thinking about crows.  Their everywhere-ness, their genius, their memory.  How good they look against snowy backgrounds:)

What are you thinking about?

January, Winnipeg.

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It’s minus 37 C with the windchill, arctic-like urban living, and determined and die-hard in this city, people are still walking and even smiling through the cold.

Also it’s too cold to have naked hands for more than two point five seconds, so photos are scarce.


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“Surely it is a privilege to reach the end still believing in something.”
-Louise Gluck

Privilege?  How about an outright miracle?  Whatever it is, i raise my cup of tea this bright, slow morning of a new year, scented still with yesterday’s smudging sage-to faith.  To a good old-fashioned reset.  And to laying to rest all that has been, with gratitude for the challenges have sculpted you into this very moment.

And to the year of all of our wildest imaginings.  Let’s fill this year up not with old business, but with the wilderness of our hearts’ wills.

(The heart knows what’s next.  A privilege and a miracle, too.)


photo (9)


I set the end-of-some-exams-and-finally-a-tiny-bit-more-space-in-my-day- intention to explore a little more, open up to some space for noticing, and to all-around enjoy things.  (And also to give this space a little life support.  And also to read a novel, finally.)
This heart-shaped deer print on a plain old residential street was my first official treat in said exploration.
How did it get there?  How would deer have been wandering up the sidewalk deep in the bowels of st. b?   And aren’t we lucky for the magic of the questions?



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The in-betweens are so weird.

I love that just when the mind starts to wrap its little self around the present moment, a belated flock of geese that missed the memo about winter glides in and settles onto the mostly frozen river.  I love that you can’t be too sure; that there might be still one more bright orange fall leaf sitting on top of the deep snow when everything else is winter black and white, or one weirdo wearing shorts in already-almost december, or one leftover flock that, for whatever reason, has not yet gone.

Just that.  And warm wishes, friend.

Diwali days of autumn


In the soft aftermath of diwali, the festival of light and celebration of triumph light over darkness (a pretty good holiday!), I can’t believe the good fortune that this part of the sun’s rising has been coinciding with morning walking.  I watched a seagull fly overhead, its belly lit up from the light and wondered why this city isn’t called golden instead of great.



I must confess that I have a weakness of empty places.

– Tony Hillerman

At the moment I’m busier than i like to be, but my mind is being challenged and turned over and over and rustled and woken.  In addition to my normal teaching schedule, i’m taking a couple of science classes which has become my free time, which is weird.  I’m longing for free time spent settling onto the ground, spaces in my days, and I miss photographs.
Luckily a luxurious afternoon at Beaudry Park trumped everything else for the day on Sunday and the stars aligned and the Autumn weather was perfect and the sky was spacious and bright and air got breathed and feet touched the earth more properly than they have been.

I’m happy to report that a little space on the perfectly golden prairie in Fall is still all it takes.

Another fall

photo 1


Do you feel kind of like something big is happening?
In that cold and broken but hallelujah kind of a way?
Me too.

The consistent sound of it is a light whisper and a deep moan that sighs and bellows, ‘hallelujah.’  More than once.  But not quite constantly.

The girl at the health food store yesterday told me that everyone is undergoing a hard process of transformation to move into a higher consciousness.  That sounds crazy.  And not so far off, somehow.

I love the Equinox.  Last year on this day, I was practicing 108 sun salutations in a glowing roomful of a bunch of yogis.  That is all that i remember, and an awake heart.  Fall does that.

The year before on this very day, I was at a scotch tasting and my soul had opened widely up; must have been a particularly surprising autumn breeze, and the crunching of the leaves underfoot was crispier than normal, and the baby formerly known as Mowgli was on his way to getting ready to be born, and there was a scotch tasting and the most beautiful company I have kept and I felt home, and the littlest bit of Talisker warmed me deeply like a candle-lit room, and it felt like anything was possible.

Like a layer of skin was about to be removed, or something in me was about to be switched on, whether i was ready or not.  Pure potential.
Is this the feeling of the end of a season?  A new one beginning?  Do you ever have that feeling?  Like a wind is ready to gently or not-gently nudge you if you let it?
That not letting it is an option, but that it’s a dumber option even than the scariness of letting it?

Yeah, me too.

Bring it on, Fall.

self, autumn

self 3

These days.

This photo was taken in the midst of a giant torrential downpour in which i got caught an hour-walk from home with my rain-hating dog, on a path that was a funny choice that day, along the river, and far from any road, structure or potential shelter from a storm.

It was obvious it would rain, but I ignored it.  I wanted that river walk and anyway, a little rain never hurt.
When the sky spilled open, we were near some thin bushes along the river and though half of the leaves have blown off and there was a pretty open sky above, p and i refuged desperately into the bushes and hid out in the semi-shelter of empty autumn trees for a good while.  It was quiet and beautiful and damp.  It sounded only like rain.
It barely helped, but this too shall pass, as always, and patience is a good mantra.  So we waited and waited and got soaked and shivered and got more soaked and felt alone and felt alive and felt cleansed against our will, but necessarily I guess, by the rain, until I gave up on things passing, and forged ahead.

The surrender back into the downpour was immaculate and it felt funny to walk in that, as if i had a choice, and to watch people drenched, riding by on bikes, laughing at the sky.

We got home and dried off and I felt like i’d had a deep cry.

Leonard Cohen (happy birthday, l. cohen!) says you look good when you’re tired; you look like you could go on forever.
Thank god.
I am tired, but still alive.