Old Friends

So fellow travelers, once in a while I get text alerts from NASA letting me know the International Space Station will be visible as it passes over my location.

ISS in skyPhoto credit:  Society for Popular Astronomy

Ever since my first sighting a few years ago, I get a thrill from spotting this brilliant white speck as it zooms across the sky. Part of this is the challenge of navigating the directions to pinpoint the ISS location, part of it is sheer amazement at the accomplishment of sending and keeping something so substantial in orbit and a good measure of it is realizing as I look up there are fellow humans zooming along in that white beacon so far away.  How lucky they are gazing down at our home planet below as they do all sorts of fascinating scientific stuff. For a few minutes, I feel like I am part of the grand adventure.

This sense of wonder is so uplifting I have been known to rise hours earlier than my usual wake-up time for the chance to see the ISS. Of course, living near Syracuse, NY, which ranks in the top three on the list of cloudiest cities, there is never a guarantee of clear skies, so any sighting truly is a gift.

Earlier this week, luck graced my choice to rise early. A star studded crystal clear sky greeted me when I stepped out on to our deck. Steam rose from my coffee mug as I scanned the familiar icons.

The vshaped “head” of  Taurus, seven glittering sister stars of the Pleides cluster riding on his back, Sirius and Procyon the dog stars resting at the feet of their Master Orion. The atmosphere was so clear, I caught a rare (at least for me) sight of  Orion’s sword, a string of tiny stars dangling from the line of brighter more easily sighted stars in his belt.

These are constellations which reign the night skies in Winter. The reminder sent a chill through me but I smiled warmed by the thought that Orion connects me to some good people I once described* as  “old friends who’ve just met.”

I’ll be seeing some of those friends soon. True friendships unaltered by a futile battle of words intended to create division by doubt, forged like steel by trust which shines as constant as the stars.

Then zooming over the tree line to the west, the bright white dot of the ISS shot into view. I tracked it’s long graceful arc through the stars already beginning to fade in the predawn light.  It left me these words

orion

 

Orion rises

I’ll catch his stars with my heart

Friendship’s beacon calls

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  gatewaytotheuniverse.org

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

*Postscript:  “Old friends who’ve just met” are words from a post written just three years ago; that it feels more like three decades speaks to the level of upheaval wrought as a friends struggled to separate from toxic leadership within a creative collective. A significant number of the original members split off into a separate community. It has been nearly two years since the first fractures formed, yet periodically the shock waves of those events still reverberate through both communities, fueled largely by anyone still harboring anger and resentment. Fear and doubt can be powerful challenges to communal ties if left unaddressed. The admins of the newer community are reasonably adept at fostering an open dialogue to address issues when they come up. Not everyone can tolerate the intensity of emotional discussion; some friendships have disintegrated. I am grateful the ones that matter most to me have weathered the storms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At a Crossroad, Again

So fellow travelers, thanks to freezing rain,  I have been given the rare gift of a few extra hours this morning before I have to slide into work.  Since the call from our district office came just as I was headed to the garage to pull out my car, obviously I’m a cup of coffee or two past going back to bed.

So my dog and I are taking advantage of the chance to watch the sunrise create a beautiful painting framed perfectly by the large picture window in our living room.

Angels watching the sun rise

Since the first day of this year, any time I have been graced with a clear view of sunrise or sunset, I’ve felt a deep sorrow in my heart. I’ve felt strong emotion at day’s beginnings and endings before, as the significance of each passing day rises to my  awareness.

This is a different experience, broader in range, stretching further into the future, reaching deeper into my soul. This time, the effects of impending change impact a much wider circle than me and my immediate family.

 I am not one to take a “things are ok in my life, so no need to worry” stance. Nor am I prone to give in to the alarmist doom and gloom headlines that have become increasingly pervasive. I am made of stronger stuff or so I thought until the plot twists of history shook my faith in my fellow citizens, some of whom I consider friends or call family.

This morning, given the grace of a few extra hours to process those feelings which rose with the sun, I confronted the sense of foreboding head on.  Words heard last night echoed in my memory and it finally hit me, 

Eight years ago, we did “change the world.” We changed it enough to create the angry push back we see now. Bully tactics are cruel but lack the lasting power of true community; such systems eventually collapse under their own weight. 

In the meantime, anyone who is resolved to create a community of equality and freedom for all who seek will need to stand firm in the face of injustice and misinformation. Already, there are signs the push back to authoritarian rule may not have as much support as feared. As a true leader just quoted his wise mother  Reality has a way of catching up with you.”

So, while the colors of sunrise melded with the grey winter sky, I sat down to write. I did not make any New Years resolutions this year, yet I see clearly my ability to focus was clouded by fear.  Now I see, I feel and I know the task before me.

As we cycle back through this spiral, I am resolved to deepen my practice of compassion. I will seek out every opportunity to make a difference, to bring hope to those in need. And when reality hits hard, I will  extend a hand in kindness, reaching out across dividing lines with compassion. I know I cannot address every issue that will raise it’s ugly head, but I can find my points of focus and begin there.

A year ago I stood at a crossroad and made a choice to walk away from a path which wandered too often into personal  darkness. Today I stand a week away from another turning point. As a member of a spirited community of honest creators of Light I feel empowered to yet again choose the path of hope.

Anger may have taken the wheel for a few years, but it won’t be my driver . 

Walk gently on the path my friends and 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.

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.

 forgivenessEdit

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.

Choosing Light

So fellow travelers, I have been at a specific crossroad on my path for a while. I knew which direction I both needed and wanted to go, yet unsure of the timing, I hesitated to take the next necessary step.

This morning on my way to mail a VIP (Very Important Package) I was waiting at the end of a road to make a turn (the symbolism of that just hit me) when movement in the sky caught my attention. A line of migrating birds flew directly overhead and then out across the field.

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Soon one line was joined by another, then more and more.  I rolled down my window, thankful no one had pulled up behind me, and started snapping photos with my phone. One large group flew low enough for me to see this was a flock of migrating snow geese. I watched in awe as wave after wave of magnificent white birds with signature black rimmed wings flew across the sky, over the fields and away towards the horizon.

I could hear them calling to another in encouragement and support. I felt my spirit reach out and suddenly my doubts lifted skywards soaring away into the distance.

I knew, I finally knew it was time.

Time to choose hope

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and the magic of joy.

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Time to choose the path where Light leads the way even when challenged by times of darkness.

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

 

The Gift of True Friendship

So fellow travelers, I arrived home from our holiday road trip to find a beautiful hand-cut snowflake from one of my friends. Never have I been so happy to come home to snow.

bethsSnowflake

Look closely…..

bethsSnowflakename

My dear friend Beth has cut not only my name, but also the Japanese character for “friend”

!friends

into the pattern.

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This wondrous work of art came dusted in glitter, carefully tucked in an equally sparkly card

 

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which showered my desk with the glittering magic of true friendship. As a bonus, I now have a great reason to never dust my desk again (not that dusting my desk was ever a frequent occurrence in my routine.)

Beth’s gift of friendship is a rare gem, one of those where the trust I feel has been there from the start, something I have experienced only a handful of times in my life.  Beth and I met first as members of an online Creative Group I have often mentioned. It is a rare thing to meet people in person and find them to genuinely be as they present themselves online, whether that “persona” is reserved and introspective or boisterously funny. The friends I have made in the Creative Group are each and every one of them people with caring hearts, people willing to encourage each other in creative growth and personal healing.

We are also a community which stands together when boundaries are crossed. True friends may not always agree, they may have misunderstandings and even be angry with one another. Yet even in the heat of sorting out differences true friends treat each other with respect. When lines are crossed true friends listen to each other, support one another and when necessary sustain boundaries to allow for healing. True friends acknowledge pain but do not perpetuate darkness when others are suffering. True friends hold fast to hope and joy so others may feel them again. True friends are a rare kind of magic, for they have the ability to create Light. It is magic I soundly believe in for I have seen that Light shine on the path to help others find their way back to the hearth where home fires glow in peace and love.

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

Haiku for Candy and Tess

So fellow travelers, Miss Delilah (who recently reminded me I really must write about her more often) was most excited to receive mail from her pawpal Tess.
The joyous photo is accompanied by a delightful poem written by Tess’ human-in-training Candy Cuthbert.

This little haiku is for them; they make quite a team.

Love transcends species
Paw to paw and heart to heart
It knows no distance.

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

The Poetry Challenge and the Pirate Dog

So fellow travelers, I work as a special education assistant at a local high school (“local” being a small town in Upstate, NY) This year I provide support in an 11th grade English class and one of the extra credit assignments was a poetry challenge.  Students were given the opportunity to write a poem in the style of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven.”  The requirements were as follows:

*Three or more stanzas of six lines

*Use a consistent rhyme scheme of ABCBBB

*Extra points for the use of internal rhyme

*Extra points for the repeating refrain

*Use of horror theme is encouraged but not required

For reference, here is a stanza from Poe’s original poem:

“Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,

But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door–

Perched upon a bust of Pallas, just above my chamber door–

Perched, and sat, and nothing more.”

Being one to lead by example, I always make an attempt to take on the extra credit writing assignments.  It’s been a long time since I had homework, but this was a project I wanted to take on because I knew it would push me outside my comfortable haiku writing box.

Poe’s mastery of poetry wordcraft becomes evident when you actually try to write a poem in this format. After a few false starts with horror themed poems, I pulled out notes on a poem I had started about an experience at the Bedlam Farm Open House weekend and got to work. I posted an early draft on the Creative Group’s Feedback “room,” a forum focused on providing constructive feedback about work we choose to post there.  The comments helped me work out a few kinks in the rhythm and rhyme schemes. The revised version has been sitting for a month in my draft folder, waiting for me to find and edit the photo I wanted to post with it.

Life has a way of nudging creative time towards the “to be completed” pile. Family is my first and foremost priority. I have paid too dearly for the times in my life when I lost sight of that; my heart is and always will be happiest when I am attending to the needs of those I love. It’s a priority which becomes essential when the ravages of advanced aging and illness rob the ones we love of the ability to care for themselves. Yes, I do know taking care of myself empowers me to be a stronger caregiver and my creative time is one source of fuel which keeps me going. There simply are times when I have to choose a quicker way to recharge like walking a favorite path at sunset with my dog.  Suddenly the all too early hour of dusk’s arrival becomes an advantage rather than a seasonal bane.

The year however, is coming to a close and with it many changes on the horizon.  Time to clean out closets and draft folders alike. Time to address unresolved concerns and attend to work left to languish too long.

This was a piece I wanted to post as a thank you to Jon and Maria for opening their home to all of us over the years. The Bedlam Farm open house events have become an informal gathering for Creative Group “farmies” who are able to attend, as well as a public showcase for local artists and of course the farm itself.

No surprise Red and Fate are a main attraction both on and off the herding pasture. I got to share some time with Red during the workshops held at Pompanuck Farm the day before October’s open house started. Sitting front and center with writer Nancy Gallimore during Jon’s workshop on writing granted me the opportunity to witness a soul dog moment she wrote about in her blog.

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(A phone camera shot of Red wrapped in Nancy’s scarf laying between us on the Round House meeting room floor)

But it was really Fate who stole my heart that weekend.  Dashing around with impish delight, stealing bread from the Round House bakery, sneaking off to eat sheep poop, grabbing as many water bottles and as much attention as she could before getting reigned in. During the poetry readings I felt someone poking my back; it was Fate who had quickly identified the treat pocket on the outside of my backpack. I’ll never tell if she earned one or not. Watching her follow Red’s lead during the herding demos was thrilling and seeing her out smart Jon’s every effort to keep an eye on her off the field was delightful. No wonder he calls her the Pirate Dog.
At the end of the day on Sunday, Jon was most gracious when Fate nearly followed me to my car as I was heading home. When he called her back she stopped and looked at me just for an instant. For one crazy moment, Fate and I locked eyes, two pirate girls with thoughts of heading for the open seas, a lifetime of crazy adventure on the run lived in the fraction of a second before she raced back to Jon. Not that I’d ever take off with someone else’s dog, let alone one of Bedlam Farm fame.

The poem I wrote for the poetry challenge was born in that moment and offered now in gratitude for the opportunity to sail, if every so briefly, the seven seas with a Pirate Dog.

Fate

Pirate dog in black and white, colors of true day and night.

Through meadowed fields she goes racing

Scatter creatures far and wide, navigating when she rides

With her master, Light they’re chasing.

Patience, focus, lessons facing.

 

Learning still to give the eye, with Red mentor at her side.

Sibling bond pure, soulful, deep

Beautiful the dance they run, moving through the field as one.

Through gates lightning quick they leap

Circling, crouching, herding sheep.

 

Pirate dog come home with me. Master calls. His love is key.

Spirit guide for quilted art,

Here’s the place where you belong, keep words of hope flowing strong.

Playful, loving, wicked smart,

Joy dog’s gift: an open heart.

 

RedandFateEdit

Editor’s note. My students did point out my poem only has five lines per stanza. No A+ for me I told them, but because I used different rhymes in each of my stanzas I could not employ a repeating refrain as Poe did (“nothing more/nevermore” ) in his original poem.

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

Finding the Spirit of Christmas

So fellow travelers, this is that time of year when people either embrace or lament the season.  The CGBF page has been scrolling posts from both points of view.  One of my favorite has been a series by writer Kathy Dewez about her determination to “Un Grinch” herself and feel the true spirit of the season.  Another heart felt story came from Jackie Campbell’s memories of her dog Greta, a spunky senior dog our group has come to love through her many stories. It was Grandma Greta’s farewell post written so sweetly it transcends the sorrow of her passing.

Losses suffered are a theme for those struggling to find enough joy to celebrate the season. I admit I was actually blindsided by my own sense of emptiness as Thanksgiving approached and I realized for the first time in a quarter century, neither of my daughters would be joining us at any of the family tables.  Somehow in the anticipation of having Favorite Youngest Daughter return home for Christmas I lost track of the reality that we’d be on our own for Thanksgiving.

Well, not entirely on our own since we host Thanksgiving dinner for my husband’s side of the family. In fact if we don’t (as happened last year when we traveled to New York City to see our daughter march in the Macy’s Day parade) his family goes out to dinner. It’s all good; after all someone has to patronize the restaurants that are open right? So with a full traditional meal to prepare, I soon found my aching heart wrapped in a blanket of comforting aromas and familiar routines.

One of those routines is watching the Macy’s Day parade, which as I mentioned has taken on new significance since our high school Marching Band participated last year.  The arrival of Santa cruising into Herald Square on a spectacular sleigh at the end of the parade sets in motion another tradition. Yes, yes I know the moment has obvious commercial undertones, but my secret to living the spirit of Christmas is I ignore all the garish commercialism and loud banter about political correctness. I choose to focus on things that instill peace and joy.  It’s a secret I discovered years ago when facing a holiday season with a grief laden soul.  Yes something as simple as a tree filled with only red ornaments and white lights created feelings of hope to begin healing a grieving mother’s heart.

So the arrival of Santa at the end of the Macy’s Parade is my reminder to turn on the timer for the outdoor lights. Every year, when our Thanksgiving guests leave, they are blessed by the magical glow of  many twinkling Christmas lights. There is something magical in the lights of Christmas. Not so much the big flashing displays but the little chance encounters I have with simple strands that stand out.  They evoke a childhood memory of the moment when we would finish decorating the tree, turn out all the lights and just gaze in wonder at the glistening ornaments illuminated as if the memories of all Christmas past present and future glowed within each one.

To me Christmas spirit is about finding hope and peace and looking for ways to create them for others. It is for this kind of magic, for this way of finding Christmas Spirit in the little things that I wrote this poem.  I wrote it in my usual form of a haiku, but it ended up with two final five syllable lines, both of which I knew belonged in the piece, so the haiku became a tiny poem.

Haiku plus one for Finding Christmas Spirit

Whispers of hope grow
Christmas spirit is calling
Speaking words of Love
Singing songs of joy.

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

Thanksgiving Haiku

So fellow travelers, walking the dog after an early Thanksgiving dinner, I caught the gorgeous colors of today’s sunset. While it’s early onset (we went out at 4:30pm) reminds me we will soon be walking in the darkness and cold of winter,  today we walked in 60 degree sunshine, a gentle breeze carrying the sound of songbirds thought to have migrated weeks ago.  It was a wondrous sweet walk, bringing peace to soothe the heartache of too many empty chairs around our table this year.

I have so much to be thankful for. A rewarding job, a safe home, the time and resources to help others in need and most of all the love of family both near and far. I speak of family both by blood and by bond for my creative friends have become as precious to me as those I have known for a lifetime. It is a gift to find acceptance and encouragement and uplifting to be inspired by creative authenticity. I strive to pass it forward.

So a haiku of Thanksgiving dedicated to everyone seeking Light and Joy.

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Our collective hearts

Light up the sky with colors

Of hope, joy and peace.

 

 

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