Bridging the Gap

Everyday on my walk I have three special moments…when I come to a long bridge that leads out to the sea, when I am presented with a set of stairs beckoning me to walk on, and when I arrive at a clearly marked sandy path that urges me to follow the footprints of whomever was there before me. Bridges and paths offer me such hope…they beckon me forward when perhaps on any given day I feel stuck; they urge me to stay on the path or cross over to the other side where life is still unknown but could be exciting; they give me hope that by venturing forward I will find answers and more importantly see the myriad choices the traveller has if only she sets out. As John O’Donohue says: “The pilgrim travels differently knowing that on every walk there will be a change of mind and heart so that the outside becomes a metaphor for our unknown inner landscapes.”

Have a good walk in nature today and see how many “bridges” you can cross.

In My Face

I’ve just cleaned my office with the hope that it will tidy up my life. What remains on my desk are those reminders—practical and otherwise—that keep me honest.

Directly in front of me is a lithograph from the Metropolitan Museum of Art of a woman sitting on the porch of her summer cottage, naked to the waist, typing something.  I presume she is barring her soul and that her truth will set her and others who read her work, free.

There is a sepia photograph of my mother as a child looking very impish and sure of herself.

Under my computer screen is  a card given to me by a fellow Iona pilgrim which is nothing more than a bench upon which is carved: Sit here and feel the peace of Iona.

Several angels, one painted tin, another made of medal, and a third carved from wood dangle from a nearby window keep me company.

On the windowsill is a small candle holder which has carved into it the words: I am enough.

And a vase of a woman’s naked torso that fell off my desk and broke into many pieces. My husband glued it back together and I place dry flowers or leaves in it according to the season.

These are, but a few of my momentoes. They remind me to:

Bare my soul and seek truth; to be certain about self as I was as an unspoiled child; to find a place to go each day and just sit; that there are angels to lean on; that I am enough; and that, although broken I can piece myself back together again and again.

What do you surround yourself with?

Wild Turkeys

The other day I was tearing around buying birthday gifts for a grandchild whose birthday comes too soon after Christmas. I am almost always late shipping off his gifts and this year I was determined to succeed. In order to make my UPS deadline, I planned so well as to have wrapping paper and scotch tape with me in the car so I could head straight for UPS with packages ready to go.

But alas, I slowed the car down when I noticed some creatures on the side of the road. Once on top of the pack it was obvious that they were a family of wild turkeys. The father was already making his way across the street and the others were nibbling on brush with no interest in crossing. I was fascinated, especially when two of the birds opened their amazing fantails. To be in nature with nature is a gift I always treasure. And it can’t be programmed, can it?  “I find, I do not seek,” said Picasso, and so I found! It took another 5 minutes for the entire family to cross over and be on their way into the woods. Of course, I missed my UPS deadline (the truck was pulling out as I was pulling into their parking lot) but never mind. Serendipity is better than planned fun. My grandson will also have a treat—a second celebration two days after his birthday. We all win!

The Solstice Scenario

My fisherman friend, Hillary, stopped by the other day with a Xmas gift.

“I was touched that you remembered my party for the winter solstice,” he said, “and what you learned from me, of all people.”

We chuckled. “Well you are a spiritual man,” I informed him. “A cowboy of the sea. No different from a cowboy out west or a farmer. I see you all as seriously in tune with nature. I guess you have to be or, in your case, you wouldn’t catch any fish.”

His gift was a fisherman’s calendar. “Well, I just wanted you to see that since December 21st when the sun set at 4:14, today it sets 4:30. We’ve gained 16 minutes of sunlight. Isn’t that uplifting! You better start thinking of how you are going to use all the extra daylight as the winter turns into spring. This has got to be the best time of the year. Everything is growing, including us!”

And with that, he was off leaving me with a sense of the “lightness” of being.

Meandering Month

Instead of making sweeping  resolutions that I almost never abide by, I decided this year to unchain myself from achievements, per se, a recognize what I call “the littles” that so often go unnoticed in our hurried, fractured, and driven endeavors. The idea began when asked what I wanted for Christmas and I could think of nothing—that is nothing material. What I wanted was a more calm existence and individual time with special friends and particularly family.

The first gift came on Christmas Eve when our 14 year old grandson chose to sit next to his grampy on the couch and for the next hour I basked in the joy of watching the two just BE together, my husband’s arm wrapped gently over his shoulder. My first gift came sooner than expected. But I was filled with such delight that I “felt” and therefore possessed warmth, truth, and history at that moment.

A similar experience was had 16 years before when during the same hectic season I found myself knitting in front of the hearth with my mother and my new daughter in law. The gift remains with me—a heartfelt memory which can not be repeated. So, this new year I shall revolutionize my resolutions and meander so as to develop a rhythm that allows for me to be gifted by those moments which are meant to be.

Slow Down You Move Too Fast

Oh my, this re-entry from Iona has taken its toll. The outside world seems to be moving faster than is good for anyone. Speed allows us to arrive at our desired destination in quick time but I wonder how much we miss along the way. Having spent the last several weeks living at a snail’s pace it is a shock to reeve up my engines to keep time with the fast-paced technological world.

Iona, particularly, offers the visitor a special magic that moves the soul, inspires emotions, and allows one to both feel and experience her day. With only 100 residents, few cars, tiny one-lane roads, a small country inn, few shops and a pub, it is Iona which clarifies things like decision making. For example, when you walk into the tiny grocery store to pick up something for dinner, you decide on your menu according to what arrived on the ferry that day. And as you meander back to your abode, instead of horns honking and fast paced walkers talking into their cell phones you listen to turning tides, spirited winds, the ferry whistle and the occasional piper or two.

I was recently introduced to a poem entitled: Once You’ve Slept On An Island. It ends with the thought that “once you’ve slept on an island, you will never be quite the same.”

It has been said that our central nervous systems weren’t designed to handle the frantic pace of life, yet this is what we’re asking it to do more often than not.

Re-entry is a shock but I can choose to stay off the merry go round or at least slow down and move slower. For as the song goes…I want to make the moments last. Life at home can be almost as simple as Iona. It’s simply a choice.

The Hallowedness of Halloween

It is Halloween…a favorite holiday because I was always able to hide, not only behind a mask, but in a costume where I could become another character altogether. It is one of the gifts of childhood…trying on different roles, believing we can be anything we want to be. For a chubby little girl such as I was, I frequently chose to dress up as a princess, Snow White, a ballerina, and one year, even a sleek black witch. Pretending was always easier than trying to BECOME the person I was meant to be.

But that has all changed with age. Being in the sixth decade, I have arrived at a time to simply be ME and remarkably, it doesn’t feel all that bad. The mask has been replaced and I am finally getting to know and accept myself, warts and all.

These Halloween thoughts stem from my recent retreat to Iona, Scotland…a Celtic island where the people herald Old Hallows Eve as the most significant festival of the year. Hundreds of years ago, Halloween (or All Saints Day) was a three day affair where bonfires were lit, rules were abandoned, and the revelers would call on their ancestors for new instructions.  What wishes would those who had passed on want to be reborn within us? It was a time of acceptance of our roots…our mothers and fathers, grandparents and great grandparents.

Instead of ignoring their ancestral attributes the Celtic peoples learned to embrace that from which they came and manifest those things their relatives did not have a chance to fulfill.

I asked my husband this morning which ancestor he revered. “My grandmother and grandfather,” he answered quickly, momentarily choked up at the vivid memory of both of them. “They were pioneers,” he continued, “a quality I should try harder to incur.”

I hold a service in an ancient chapel on Iona whereby each woman retreater lights a candle to an ancestor that she would like to emulate. More than half the women lit a candle to their grandmother and nearly every woman described their “nana” as loving unconditionally.

Old Hallows Eve or Old Saints Day has become a reminder for me to have gratitude for the miracle of knowing from whence I came and therefore what I am next meant to do or be.

Pick Myself Up and Start All Over Again

Lately there have been unexpected family crises—nothing that couldn’t be solved, mind you, but challenges for sure that involved money (or the lack thereof). As such, when problems arrive—some large and some small—I tend first to panic, then my heart sinks a little, sometimes I cry, and often I can feel myself plummet to a dark land in which I would prefer not to dwell.

Joan Erikson, my mentor, deplored such situations preferring as she would say to remain in the muck as little a time as possible.

Fortunately she left behind her now famous Life Cycle chart which is becoming a more than practical guide in times of trouble.  Based on the fact that we actually grow from adversity and conflict I glanced at the first four challenges to overcome on her list of eight.

So I tried to see if I could, on top of my impending doom, apply her principles:

How could I trust myself in this present situation?  The identify and cling to a small piece of my autonomy principle? If I did that, I would begin to use my innate initiative and become industrious in the process. Taking such action would give me hope, will, new purpose, and a sense of competence.

Voila! I crawled out of the fit and got my power back.  Of course I would have to go through the same process the next time panic hits but now at least it would not stop me in my tracks but propel me (and others) as well.

Thank you Joanie for a “cure” you and your husband designed for all of us years ago.

Dune Grass Wisdom

Sorry for not blogging for awhile…preparing another book, creating a new agenda for Iona (I leave Friday),  and general woman life issues have gotten in the way.

However, today on my beach walk I noticed as I was walking up the old weathered boardwalk that takes me through low lying dunes tufts of beach grass pushing through the cracks in the boards.

I smiled at their determination—to climb into being despite the barrier that had been laid on top of them.

I have always compared dune grass to women—it is hearty, strong, and it possesses determination (not to mention a root structure that goes on forever under the sand holding literally holding the beach in tact!).   Sound familiar?  Isn’t that what we women do with our families and communities, day after day?

Although tired because my walk was winding down I developed a kick in my step as I thought of all the women I have come to know who continue to push through issues,  crises, relationships and like the dune grass, offer hope, not only to themselves but others with whom they come in contact.  That would be you!

Such a surprise!

Sandwich Retreat

If we ever thought that unfinished women only came from the United States we have recently proved otherwise. Attending our retreat at the Omega Institute recently were women from Bermuda, Sweden, Israel, as well as several from Canada.

The same surprise occurred at our day long workshop here on the Cape in Sandwich. We were expecting only “locals” when to our surprise in walked women from Colorado, Ithaca, NY, Washington DC and Ohio!

Lunch at the Sandwich Workshop

Omega Retreat

Walking the Labyrinth at Omega

Weaving at Omega

Quiet Meditation Time on the Sandwich Beach