An Avalanche of Memories

So fellow travelers, a wintry mix of sleet and heavy snow shut down my weekend plans for a reunion with some of my creative tribemates. Little did I know the weekend storm had an avalanche in the works as well.

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As a veteran resident of Upstate New York winters, I have a high tolerance for driving in winter weather. Listen, earlier this morning, Mike Seidel of the Weather Channel informed viewers that Syracuse is the snowiest city in the continental US. He is in town today (those Weather Channel guys are frequent visitors to our area through the winter months) as he covers the latest Lake Effect storm whiting out our town.

Saturday’s storm threw icy roads in the mix and that’s one winter beast I have enough experience to know not to mess around with. In fact on this same weekend, one year ago, some of the same friends and I staged an impromptu skating adventure in the parking lot of a lovely restaurant in Saratoga Springs. We had gathered that weekend to attend the Battenkill Chorus Winter Concert, which one friend was performing in. While we laugh about it now, it is not an adventure we are eager to replicate. So as this year’s lunch date approached, we monitored the forecasts closely. Friday evening, still harboring hope for the trip, I packed a small weekend bag and sent out a “Let’s see what the morning brings,” message. I had the longest drive to our meeting point, so I would be able to make a decision well before anyone else had to head out.

The early morning forecast clearly indicated I would be driving east out of heavy rain into deteriorating conditions which would last through the afternoon when our group would have to navigate the winding, hilly backroads of the NewYork-Vermont border.  Shortly after I posted my decision to remain home other members indicated they woke to icy driveways, slushy roads and echoed the choice to reschedule.

Ah well, so now a long weekend stretched before me and I needed a good distraction from the mundane list of “to do’s” on my list. Ok, I did sort through a stack of paperwork, stash the last holiday decorations (you know the ones which elude detection until the boxes have been packed away) and clear out the mystery items from the extra freezer downstairs. Satisfied with those achievements I turned my attention a long postponed project perfect for a long stretch of snow bound days:

Sorting through the digital photographs stored in my computer files.

That would be ten years of photographs.

It was a project I had started to tackle before, but never got further than one or two sections. With three full days (Monday being a school holiday) and nothing else on the calendar it was the perfect opportunity to take this on. I sat down with a warm cup of tea, my dog snuggled next to me on the couch and got to work.

The process was simple. Pick a file and click through the photos, eliminate the ones not worth keeping: duplicates, poor quality shots and any experimental projects no longer needed. Simple enough, right?

I was completely unprepared for the waves of emotion ten years of visual memories would unleash. My heart was still tender from last week’s airport sendoff and recent conversations with both my daughters, one resuming her college studies in Tokyo, the other starting a search with her husband for their first house in Portland Oregon. So images of summer camping trips, music recitals, former foster dogs and furry companions who now run free in the Spirit Fields, family celebrations all sent memories flying faster than the snow flurries which kept me home.

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Favorite Youngest Daughter age 8.  A decade later she’s still discovering life with that same joy and energy.

Determined to complete the project, I paused to regroup and rethink the process. I do some of my best planning when I go walking, so I took our dog out. As we tracked new trails in the snow, I realized if I went back to the oldest files and worked my way forward I would land in the present moment, a place of awareness I am always striving to be in. Here in the present, while I do miss my daughters I am also creating new focal points for myself. Clearing out unnecessary clutter is an important part of freeing my consciousness to be in the here and now.

Refreshed from our brisk walk, I reset my resolve and got to work. I put on some background music to keep me going (Jake Shimabukuro’s masterful ukulele work, guaranteed to keep the happy close to the surface) and for several hours I clicked my way through a decade of images.  I began to see how my photographic eye had been developing even before I joined the creative group.  Several forgotten gems tucked in between the usual assortment of posed family snapshots and slightly out of focused candids encouraged me to keep going as I plowed through an avalanche of memories and emotions.

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Winter sun reflected in a creek. Four Mills Nature Reserve Ambler, PA

The longer I worked, the easier the process became. To my surprise, even with breaks for meals and another walk during an extended break in the weather I was done by the end of the evening. All the processing of images and memories and emotions also generated some young sprouts of poems, blog posts and future photo essays.

I woke up this morning once again to a world of swirling whiteness. I chose to see it as a blank canvas of possibility. Right on cue a little doughnut of blue sky broke through the storm clouds as Delilah raced around the yard tracking the squirrel trails between the feeders. Within minutes, Lake Ontario quickly reminded us she was not quite done making a statement and we dashed back inside for a hearty breakfast and a fresh start to creativity.

No turning back now

the past a blazing sunset

new horizons call

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(an almost “toss out” shot from a recent road trip found its voice in the haiku above.)

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

 

 

 

Stargazing Sisters

So fellow travelers, as far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the night sky. As a young girl I was that odd kid who asked for a telescope the year all the other girls wanted a Barbie Dream House for Christmas.  The first poster I bought when we moved to a house where I had my own room was a map of the moon.

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I remember the first time I saw the night sky free from the haze of city lights. It blew my nine year old mind wide open. I had no idea there were so many stars to discover.  In college I selected Intro to Astronomy to fill my required science elective. I don’t remember all the math I learned but I still have my “Guide to the Night Sky,” cassette tapes I used to listen to on my Sony Walkman (Hey! Don’t laugh that was cutting edge technology at the time!)  I carry around the current edition of  Stardate’s Sky Almanac, one of the few print magazines I still subscribe to.

Certain stars and constellations have become signature companions during the seasons. There is the annual cycle of Jupiter and Venus changing roles as the morning and evening stars, the Summer Triangle and of course Orion the Hunter, the glowing heart of Winter’s cold dark nights.

When a good friend of mine posted a poem she wrote about Orion I felt a burst of joy run through my soul.  Orion’s arrow could not have found a truer target than the bond of two soul sisters gazing up at the night sky. Like minds, shared spirits, woven hearts, we are indeed all connected.  The thoughts created their own little poem.

Orion’s Arrows

Even should my eyes play tricks on the mind

I trust my heart speaks true

Those stars of Orion,

stalwart guide through Winter’s long nights,

indeed glow brighter now

knowing you too gaze up

from where you are.

Editor’s note : Do  give yourselves the gift of visiting Kate’s blog Life with Horace  your life will be greatly enriched by her wordcraft and insights.

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

Snow Day

So fellow travelers, our first heavy snowfall of the season closed schools this morning.

Whenever I have the gift of a snowday I try to resist the inclination to do ordinary tasks. All that cleaning, sorting, paperwork and mundane “to do’s” can wait until the weekend as usual. An unexpected day off is a chance to read a book, watch a movie, write, or edit photos and yes, after a round or two of shoveling, take a nap.

My snowday movie watching buddy is back at college so I opted to edit photos and blog notes between rounds of shoveling. After lunch and a quick patrol of the yard to check for feeder raiding squirrels, Delilah snuggled up with me as I sat down to finish a book I started a few weeks ago. We both soon slipped gracefully into sleep mode.

We rested until a warm glow of light woke me. Brilliant sunlight filled the room. I grabbed my phone and captured the moment. I’m pushing myself to take better images with my phone camera because light effects are terribly short lived. By the time I retrieved my DSLR camera this burst of light would have been gone as a new band of snow clouds blew in.

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I am grateful for the inspiration I get everyday from my fellow creative tribe-mates.  It encourages me to stop and focus on these moments. I see things differently and feel deeply because my heart and mind are open to new perspectives. It’s like waking up in a brilliant burst of Creative Light from a dark Winter’s nap.

Sudden light wakes you
Roused from a winter storm’s nap
Come alive! dig out!

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

The Tale of Princess Delilah

So fellow travelers, today we shall have a  little story in honor of Charles Perrault (he is Google Doodle subject of the day):

Once upon a time there was a beautiful Princess named Delilah. Her powers to charm were legendary. So much so, the evil King of Trolls feared she would unseat him from his throne. So he sent a band of wicked forest fairies to do away with her.

They hunted her down, chasing her deep into the dark forest of Ten-a-sei.  At what she thought would be her last moments of life, she gazed deep into the eyes of the most powerful of the evil fairies.  Compassion flooded into his heart and instead of ending her life, he cast a spell which turned her into a little black dog. It was said the Evil Fairy was so transformed by this encounter that he fled the dark forest, relinquished his dark powers and became a master gardener.

Dazed and confused she wandered the forest for several days, aided by the kindness of little woodland creatures. Frightened, but determined to survive, she found her way to the fields at the edge of a village. She sought shelter in a small woodshed, where she was found by a little girl who took her home, gave her a warm bath, good food and a soft bed to sleep in.

At first the Princess thought she might seek a way to reverse the spell cast on her. As time passed she realized how deeply this little girl and her family loved her and how much she had come to love them in return. They cared for her every need, fed her well, in fact they treated her like a princess. In winters she slept by the warm kitchen fire, in summers she laid under the shade of a big elm tree.  The little girl often took her for long walks, seeking the secret places of the wilds around them. Together they listened to the sacred music of songbirds, gathered magical stones from the river and collected beautiful wildflowers to plant in the garden back home. Life as a little black dog was good, Princess Delilah realized. She went on adventures, she had a good home and most of all she was loved.

What better happy ending could a Princess ask for?

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Photo of Princess Delilah by Emma Mariko Rahalski 12/2015 

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

Clouds on the Horizon

So fellow travelers, looks like Old Man Winter may put in an appearance over the next few days.

Winter storm alerts are popping up on local media.  Right on cue, banks of Lake Effect clouds are building  over Lake Ontario. Sunrise cast a glorious light on the massive blocks of grey.

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Naturally an image so striking began to weave it’s own haiku

Sunrise brightens big
storm clouds on the horizon
A promise of peace

A different ending came to mind at first. It read Dig in get ready. Yet that line did not fit the feeling I got from the image I had captured on my phone camera.

I realized it came from the mind set of the storm alerts. So I immersed myself in the image of brilliant clouds and found the ending I used in the final edit.

Life lessons from a simple creative exercise. Tapping into the energy of fear changes the results of our creative output. Shifting focus from darkness to Light changes everything.

True, creativity is not always neat or pretty. Being a mirror of life, it can be dark, raw and in-your-face. I can accept that kind of creativity because I have the freedom to choose whether or not to participate and whether that participation is as an observer or as part of the creative process.

Dark, raw leadership is another matter. It may have its place in some systems, but I could not accept it as the primary voice guiding a group with a stated purpose of creative growth and encouragement. There are too many angry voices trying to claim power in this world. I choose not to follow them.

Now I have migrated to a new creative group, with a team of administrators who share the responsibilities of leadership. It is a style of leadership I feel comfortable with; their diversity of experience and personalities will bring balance and depth to the group as it grows. I have no doubt our voices will be heard.

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

Sunrise Comes So Sudden

Everyone has been made for some particular work and the desire for that work has been put in every heart”.  Rumi

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So fellow travelers, this quote came at a moment when I realized just how hard it was for me to wrap my mind around Favorite Youngest Daughter’s return to Tokyo where she is completing her freshman year at TUJ. She left very early this morning and just texted me from O’Hare airport in Chicago  “On the plane to Narita!”  It will be at least twelve hours before I hear from her in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Knowing she is headed back to her own little apartment in a new neighborhood she says reminds her of home eased maternal concerns for her comfort. Knowing she is looking forward to this semester of classes armed with a new-to-her Canon DSLR camera and a go get ’em atttitude helped me smile through the departure tears. Seeing how much she has grown into independence, asking about budgets and taking time to talk through some decisions about her plans for the summer and next year made the last long hugs (we had to do two rounds) made it just a little easier to watch her walk out of sight towards her gate.

A few years ago I wrote about those emotions of letting go as as I prepared to face a year of big changes. Then it was sunsets which triggered my emotions.  This season it has been sunrise which brought that sensation of time’s relentless forward motion. Since New Year’s Day I have watched daylight spread gradually across the sky every morning and thought “No. Wait. Please let us hold onto the star filled dreams of these long winter’s nights.”  The yin-yang of sunset-sunrise symbolizes my two daughters so well. One of the great joys of this past year has been watching them grow closer. Favorite Oldest Daughter is thrilled her little sister is taking a photography class from her favorite professor at the Tokyo campus.

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Takara on a photo shoot during her 2010 semester in Japan

My younger daughter soaked up every bit of holiday tradition she could fit in during the month she was home.  From baking cookies and watching the Muppet Christmas Carol while we wrapped presents, to singing carols at a local Dickens Christmas Festival and the annual family quest for the perfect tree at our favorite Christmas Tree farm. The only thing missing was the Dad-Daughter snowball fight, since there was no snow for ammunition.  Oh well, maybe next year.

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Dad and Daughter search for the Christmas Pickle hidden each year in the tree by Santa.

And there’s comfort in that thought of “next year” because while our family has moved to a stage of life where we spend more time apart than we do together, it has made the together times all the more treasured.  And as I wrote when “the kids” made their big move out West, my heart is happy to see my daughters pursuing their dreams. I would no sooner hold my daughter back from her great adventure across the ocean than I would, even if I could, stop the sun from rising. As I said in the earlier post “If we remain in the past, we have no future. Yesterday is gone and when tomorrow arrives it becomes today. To hold back gains nothing. Love does not clip wings.  Love is the wind that carries others to their dreams.”

The sun rose, today arrived. If it means a few heart strings must give then so be it. God speed Emma, may the sun rise and shine brightly on your dreams.

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Emma shooting video at Asakusa Temple

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

 

 

 

 

 

Waning Crescent Moon

So fellow travelers, sometimes we just need to remember to look up.

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Sometimes we forget
God’s always smiling on us
Even through sorrow

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

Listening for Truth

So fellow travelers, sometimes we learn a lot about people by their reactions when the consequences of their choices begin to set in.

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I try to listen for the voices of healing for those are the companions I wish to walk with on my journey through this life. I strive not to judge others for their reactions when they are angry or afraid. I have been in both places; it hurts.  All the more reason I am quite clear anger and pain are not justification for hurting others.

When relationships unravel and I am in between those involved I have learned to watch for the truth in the midst of the emotional interactions. Years ago a wise teacher and healer told me in divisive situations it is not really about who said or did what. What happens as relationships fracture under conflict is actually about how people are feeling and if you are one of those caught in between that is what you must listen for. While there most likely are some truths on both sides, the untruths are the ones spoken most frequently and loudly.  It is those who Shakespeare describes as one who “dost protest too much”  who bears the most guilt. Notice I said guilt not blame.  We can judge others, laying blame as thick as mud; we cannot make someone feel guilty unless they accept that judgment.

We put out into the world what we hold inside.  Life has taught me blame is a clear hallmark of something we are unwilling to look at within ourselves, a wound we have not healed. Beyond the instant when an actual event happens, everything we feel after that moment is a product of our own thoughts and feelings. If something happens that wounds us, it is our thoughts that follow which determine if the wound heals or remains. Naturally when there is great trauma those thoughts are filled with fear, pain and anger. If the trauma is relived mentally without any shift in perspective, then fear, pain and anger remain. Over time if we do not accept the moments of hope and healing we are offered we become cynical and hard. We can be very skilled at shifting perspective to make it appear we are victims and others are at fault, so we do not have to take responsibility for holding onto pain.

We chose to perpetuate our wounds because the pain we know is safer than the unknown path of healing and forgiveness. It sounds like madness.  In a way it is. Those who hold onto pain and fear have not found forgiveness for themselves or for others. It took me a very long time to reach a place where I accepted this and even longer to live my life from this perspective.

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Forgiveness has opened my spirit and empowered me with the gift of compassion. Am I perfect and healed?  Far from it. I have plenty of work to do while walking many more miles on the path to wholeness. But there is clarity more often now than confusion.

I cannot walk any path but my own nor is it my place to know what choices others must make to heal and find forgiveness. Still there are times when friends are hurting and I know I have to make a stand. It is not my place to judge others; I also know there are times when I have to add my voice to the chorus of “Enough is enough.” Forgiveness does not mean tolerating darkness. Being human and making mistakes does not give us permission to willfully, intentionally hurt people who have placed their faith and trust in us. I know when my heart is prompting me to make a choice to walk away from anger which twists truth to serve vengeance. I gratefully choose to move towards Light.  The choice itself was not difficult, it was the timing of when to take action that was not as clear until a zen moment spoke to my heart.

Whenever I have made the choice for Light, I have found kindred souls to walk with me. I know they are there this time too, a community that shares genuine connections, some known, some new. I recognize them because their actions and words seeks to heal not wound, even when their words are shared in sorrow.  They are the ones who create Hope and Joy, and yes even Magic, especially when things are dark.  They do this regardless of whether it is acknowledged or even appreciated (often it is not) simply because Light is what is needed in our world.

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

Wrapping Memories

So fellow travelers,  as New Year’s weekend came to a close, the annual not-so-popular tradition of packing up Christmas tagged along.

Putting away the festive trinkets and wrappings of the season is always a little bittersweet, but this time with Favorite Youngest Daughter returning to Tokyo at the end of the week tugged a bit harder on my heart strings.

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We have a full week to get in a quick road trip and movies and photo expeditions with our DSLR cameras. How cool to have her say “Mom can we go out to shoot some pictures?  The new snow looks amazing.” I am looking forward to seeing Japan through her lens and I’m excited to have her explore photography. She’s taking a class this semester with her sister’s favorite professor at TUJ. Yes, true reasons to send her on her way with a good long hug.

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Braving single digits temperatures for some photo ops with new snow and Miss Delilah our dog.

As I tucked things into their carefully labeled boxes, words began to flow and this time they wove themselves into something a bit longer than my usual haiku.

Wrapping Memories

The calendar says the holidays are done

obediently you pack up the trimmings

gently wrapping each ornament

with precious memories of moments spent together

Oh the priceless gift of time

not found at any vendors stall

Each piece is tucked away

with a silent prayer to gather again in joy

as the celebration of life and love

goes on in your heart.

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

 

 

In The Beginning

So fellow travelers, some times when things fall apart they are really falling into place.

That just happened in a most wonderful way with an amazing group of people and I am blessed to be part of their magical, inspirational, adventurous world.  I cannot wait to start laughing and crying and dreaming and daring and creating great stuff with them.

So I wont wait.

I will start right now with this haiku to celebrate the beginning

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A house of cards fell

Yet chaos left sacred space

Finally I’m home

 

(Photo note: this festive New Year’s display features miniatures of traditional Japanese good luck altar pieces.  A good spirit mask (always invite the good spirits, they  scare away the evil ones)  mochi (rice cakes, one must always offer the ancestors food) and lucky bamboo (for prosperity and good health.)  The little princess is dressed in her very best kimono.  Behind the little display is a stone lantern with two rocks saying Peace and Joy. Perfect image for how my heart feels tonight)

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