For those who would fly

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I am no angel 

so you say

yet there is gentleness in your touch

kindness in your actions

and actions speak louder than words

even angry ones 

and one act of goodness

overcomes evil seventy time seven

believe me

even as you lift up others

your own broken heart will heal

The Lay of the Land Part II: What lies beyond

So blessed readers (and blessed you will be indeed should you opt to explore the link I will post here shortly) having a few days off to catch up on projects, both domestic and creative is shaking many words and images from the rafters of my artistic attic.  Several posts on the Bedlam Farm Creative Group feed have inspired me and one by my favorite poet really got me thinking. Here is where you can find the poem: quarryhouse.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/poem-reaching

Tom Atkins is an extraordinary poet. Having met him in person at a gathering last September I know he would describe himself as anything but extraordinary. Indeed the power of his writing is an uncanny ability to infuse the ordinary with profound insight. He is also a visual artist whose paintings and photographs give life to his powerful inner vision.  Often the combination of his words and images speak right to the core of my being.  People who know me would attest that is no easy task. Someone recently inquired about my religious persuasion to which I replied “Skepticism.”  I wanted very much to reply as HH Dalai Lama says “Kindness is my religion. ” Well, at least when my actions speak for me, that is true.

So Tom’s poem has me reflecting on where my first impulses are inclined to go.  It did not take me long to recognize I am the one looking through a telescope.  This accounts for my ability to see right past the countertop crumbs, cobwebbed door frames and impending garden weed invasion. I am focused on what’s out there, not what is underfoot. Sometimes that is an excellent coping mechanism, particularly during mandatory staff meetings and dental work.  When I can translate the vision into teenspeak, it can get my daughter through a nasty bout of angst. At the very least, broader vision gives me a hopeful perspective which overcomes my self-prescribed skepticism.

Don’t get me wrong. I know how to use that magnifying glass.  If I have learned anything in over a half a century it is how to make lists.  They are a necessary focal point for a mind that wanders far afield. Its just that my lists don’t have to be completed for me to start on the path towards an objective. They are a fluid part of the process, evolving as the journey unfolds. Every trip has more than one map because you just never know when an unexpected detour might call you off course for a new adventure.

I admit there are times when the details of life threaten to overwhelm me.  Its my cue to reach for the telescope and scan the horizon for “whats not quite seen.”

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Toms blog can be found at  slicesofmysoul.com . His poems and artwork post at quarryhouse.wordpress.com/quarry-house-on-the-web.  I am profoundly grateful for the inspiration his work gives me  and for  the encouragement of my fellow Bedlam Farm Creative Group members.

Walk gently on the path and may adventure find you ready.

Marshmallow Fluff

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The field marshmallows

have melted covering all

with winter sugar

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The Lay of the Land part I: What lies beneath

So blessed readers, there is no doubt this winter has been hard on much of the country.  Even the huge avalanche that cut off the city of Valdez Alaska last month was considered extraordinary in an area not easily impressed by snowfall or for that matter avalanches.  Ironically the Valdez avalanche was caused by the extreme cold in the lower 48 states shifting unusually warm air up into Alaska. We freeze and it sets off record avalanches in Alaska.  Go figure.

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The Bedlam Farm Creative Group page has been full of spectacular winter photos (photo above by Anne Wilson Sweeney) and blog posts of hardy souls surviving sub zero temperatures as they go about their daily lives.  There are signs our resolve is beginning to crack. A call for “random flower of the day” images filled the page with color and wistful poems about spring.  One post featured a photo of a member’s pond in all its snow covered glory.  It prompted me to comment about how often I had to clear the snow around my own pond “percolator” this winter.

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The “percolator” goes in the pond early in November, when plummeting temperatures dictate shutting off the waterfall pump. As the surface begins to freeze, the floating disc holds the air exchange tube upright and prevents the ice from crushing the tube.  The pump draws up a small amount of water, past a heat element which keeps the water from freezing as it drips back down the tube bringing life sustaining oxygen to the water below.  Without this “percolating” water pump, the decomposition of organic material along with the slow respiration of the hibernating fish would gradually consume all the oxygen.  It seems to work fine, the pond is going into its sixth season with minimal loss of fish.

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How well I remember that first anxious winter.  Helplessly I watched the pond freeze over, searching for flashes of orange under the ice.  Soon even those reassuring signs of life were buried beneath several feet of snow.  All I could do was carefully keep snow cleared from the top of the tube, checking to be sure the life giving trickle of water continued to flow. When spring temperatures finally brought a thaw, first one then another of the larger koi floated to the surface.  On the third morning I went out expecting a new floater and was greeted by several small flashes of white and orange.  Some of the fish had survived.  I literally did cartwheels across the grass, something my knees quickly reminded me I had not done in over 30 years for good reason!

In time I learned the best mix of flora and fauna to stock the pond with and a natural equilibrium was established. Each summer a new batch of little fry hatch and enough survive the deep freeze of CNY winter to maintain a healthy balance.  Still, each year as the surface  disappears beneath a blanket of white there is a brief flash of panic. It can take as long as 15 long weeks before the snow recedes to reveal a thick slab of ice.  As  this gradually lightens from opaque to translucent,  I will watch anxiously for signs of life below.  Often the first spot of color is just a random leaf , sometimes it is a dreaded “floater” which must quickly be removed to avoid contaminating what remains. Always there comes a day when a slow moving flash of white and orange signals we have a survivor. A wave of joyous gratitude washes over me, some how once again I have managed to safeguard a few precious lives through a deep, dark, frigid sleep.

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Hope is like that. We all have goals buried deep beneath the opaque layer of daily, mundane busy-ness,  lost dreams driven to hibernation by years of frigid neglect and disappointment. Hope is the percolator filtering a life sustaining trickle of belief to keep our dreams alive until a flash of inspiration awakens them once again.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

When the music stops

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The thunderous sound of silence

truly rattles the soul

the ever fainter echo of retreating footsteps

white noise of laughter now gone

emptiness so deafening

all you hear is the beat of a breaking heart.

The Eye of the Tiger

So blessed readers,  my topic is anger.  A recent post from a Creative Group member got me riled up. Without sharing personal details, I will simply say this writer recounts with sometimes brutal honesty of the struggles to rebuild a life out of addiction and self destruction. The amazing humor embedded in each post draws me through the pain, leaving me in awe of the writer’s strength and resiliency.  “Wow!”  I often find myself commenting. There is frequently a dialogue involving the writer’s dark persona and this is where a recent post hit me.  I wanted to smack the alter ego into oblivion. Instead I remembered I had this post simmering in my “drafts” section.  I took my reaction as a  prompt to finish this entry.

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As anyone in my family can tell you,  I have a temper.  While my Mom insists I was a nearly perfect little girl and  “only” emotional as a teenager, I have a very clear memory of believing anger was taboo.  I love my parents and I consider my childhood as a happy one. Yet, l0oking back it is clear to me the feelings I stuffed down were the source for chronic ear infections, bronchitis, strep throat and a sensitive digestive system.  In high school, drama club was a helpful outlet. Moving away to college turned my awareness and my health around. I started studying t’ai chi, yoga and meditation. It was during a meditation retreat that I had a profound encounter with my anger.

In this meditation we were guided to invite an animal to come into our awareness. I immediately saw a tiger walking towards me.  I could feel waves of fear and anxiety rising through my body, even as the guide’s voice reminded me “This is only an image, you are safe here in this sanctuary.”  I steadied my nerves by breathing deeply.  The tiger circled me as I sat on the mat. “Let this animal speak to you,welcome it’s presence in your mind,” we were guided.

I spoke, “Welcome.”

Tiger replied “I am your anger.”

I felt a searing flash of fear, but  I said again “Welcome, I am glad you are here. ”

We were guided to speak what came to mind . I asked “What do you want of me?”

The Tiger stood, walked once all the way around me and sat again, before replying, ” I want to be heard.”

I replied, ” I am listening.”

I expected a terrifying roar. Instead, as I gazed into the Tiger’s golden eyes, I felt waves of energy pouring through me, drawing me deeply into a fire striped with black and orange flames. The flames consumed every atom of fear in my being and then I was riding on the back of my magnificent friend, running silently and effortlessly through a wild, dark storm.  Flashes of lighting showed a path perilously close to a  precipice and I, I was laughing and urging my friend to race onwards. We came to a cliff.I sang out “Jump! Go! I will hold on.”  We soared through blackness, I had never felt such total freedom. We landed back on the mat in the quiet yoga room.  I climbed down, looked deep in my friend’s eyes, reflecting the soft glow of candlelight. “Thank you,  I will not fear you anymore.  I will listen when you come and hear what you have to say.”

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This happened decades ago and I still dream about my Tiger.  Often all I see are those deep golden eyes. I believe what I learned is my anger is most dangerous when I deny it exists.  Its presence warns me I am giving my power away. If I react before listening, I know I will lose the struggle to use my power wisely. If I listen to what the anger is saying I have the energy and freedom to move forward.  It was when I welcomed and embraced my Tiger that fear no longer paralyzed me. I cannot conquer darkness by striking out against it.  Darkness can only be dissipated by Light.

This awareness is not always my first instinct. I am still raising a bright and willful teenage daughter, I have a perfectionist husband whose stubbornness is equaled only by mine, I do volunteer work with dog rescues where the effects I see of humanity’s capacity for cruelty sickens me and my favorite grocery store routinely “reorganizes” their layout thus creating havoc of my methodology for efficient shopping. My anger all too often gets the better of me.

But when the eye of the Tiger catches my attention and I listen, my reactions are transformed.

Walk gently on the path, blessed readers and may adventure find you ready.

Requiem

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Feathers in the snow

Beautiful even in death

Nourishment given

The Dead of Winter

So blessed readers (and I call you that with true intention as blessings you may need if you dare continue reading)

This is Jack.

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Jack, as you may have noticed is no ordinary snowman.  Jack is in fact a ZOMBIE snowman.  I owe his presence in my life to the muse of a fellow Bedlam Farm Creative group member.  Meet Zombie Pig

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ZP’s story can be found in Lisa Dingle’s highly entertaining blog ( justponderin.com/2014/01/14/on-the-tale-of-zombie-pig )  He’s a frequent flyer on the OGFBF wall.  Making the impossible, possible….pretty darn awesome.  So I thought I’d check out the creative source of his awesomeness  ( www.etsy.com/shop/mirandascritters ) and I found Jack. Serendipity because my current sentiments towards winter run something like this meme floating around on Facebook.

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Normally I am a fairly nonviolent person. Stories of my temper are, I can assure you, greatly embellished. I am a bossy big sister, the eldest  and after all someone had to keep order from spiraling into chaos. I would no more stab an innocent snowman with kitchen implements than I would kick over a cardboard box containing my hidden youngest brother or slam anyone’s fingers accidentally in a car door.  Besides, years of t’ai chi, yoga and meditation have mellowed my reactions.  I generally seek the path of least resistance these days.

Still, winter is beginning to get to me this year.  The dead snowman meme prompted a series of nightmares enhanced perhaps by my daughter’s The Walking Dead viewing marathon which began during our most recent snowday.  Key words here: most recent, because prior to January, our school district had not closed for snow or cold in over two years. Bear in mind, I live just outside Syracuse holder of the Golden Snowball Award for every year but one since it’s inception. Lake Effect is our cultural icon.  The running joke was that hell would have to freeze over before our district would call a snowday. So at least for believers in Central New York, yes, hell froze over on January 7th. ( It could have happened a few days earlier, but our school district was still on Christmas Break during the first round of closings the week before.)

So hell freezes over on January 7th, then again on January 22nd  and then AGAIN on February 5th.  Never mind that the first two closings were due to sub zero wind chills; closed is not an hour delay, closed is not a two hour delay, closed is CLOSED.  Three snow days in less than one month might just signify the beginning of Armageddon.  Hence the apocalyptic nightmares in which banks of snow covered even the second story windows, blocking all doorways and yes, neighborhood snowmen became zombies….and then I found Jack.

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There is something cathartic in discovering someone else’s creativity has given life to your own visions, as nightmarish as those visions might be. It is a reason I have always been drawn to certain poets, authors and musicians.  Their words give voice to things I felt which, when expressed so beautifully, became less painful.  Perhaps the pain is greatly dispersed when shared. Certainly it is eased when laughter is added.  Laughed right out loud I did when I found Jack.  He was the perfect embodiment of my fear this winter would swallow me whole, burying my spirit in a cold, joyless mound of depression.

Now he sits on my desk reminding me to look fear in the eye, laugh and say “bring it on,”  I haven’t gone under just yet.

And remember  “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Lawrence Peter Berra.