Spirit of 60 Road Trip: Conclusions

So fellow travelers, I can think of no better way to end a road trip than a day of visits with friends. My trip concluded with two days of such joys and I headed homeward filled with gratitude and a haiku in my heart

20170716_221645croppedHugs lunch and laughter

Tales of music grandkids dogs

Blessings of friendship

I arrived home in time to take my dog for a sunset walk.  It was good to be home, carrying a journal of notes and a portfolio of photos to sort through. Fodder waiting to form what became this series.

 

Writing and discovering the feelings embedded in the images I take helps me process my experiences. It is extremely difficult for me to weave together the narrative which creates the essence of the experience without sounding pretentious or full of hollow platitudes and trite banalities.

Take for example my experience with the Buddha at Chuang Yen Monastery.  When the experience began to crystalize into thoughts I could communicate I struggled with finding the words to do so.  I write often about seeking peace, finding joy, embracing hope and the Zen moments when I feel Light within me responding when I find them.  Honestly those moments are as fleeting and transient as the Light which inspires my photography.

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Most of the time I stumble through the commonplace pitfalls of getting through a day. Often I get stuck simply trying to get out of my own way.  Oh there have been periods of serenity and balance, times of joy and deep contentment;  I am blessed that they are becoming more frequent and inspiration is less elusive. Still a profound moment of near transcendence as I lived in the hall of the Great Buddha at Chuang Yen Temple is an exceedingly rare gift, something genuinely beyond description. I hope I did it justice.

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On the last morning of my road trip, which was a Sunday, I attended morning worship at Rupert United Methodist Church where my friend Tom Atkins is minister. It is a beautiful church with a small congregation of kind hearted people who are even more beautiful. Tom’s sermons are more spiritual encouragement and thoughtful discourse than exhortations for repentance.  If you have read any of his blog posts* which I have shared here, you have a sense of his honesty,  deep reasoning and lively sense of humor. He brings all that and more to his services at Rupert UMC.

By grace and good fortune, his talk that Sunday focused on the parable of seeds, a fitting reflection on the many kernels of insights I had gathered on my road trip.  The biblical narrative tells of seeds, scattered on different ground,  some landing on rocks, others on dry soil, others sprout but are choked by weeds and some land in just the right conditions to sprout, grow and bear fruit. Tom spoke about applying these analogies to our own spiritual environment. I saw rocks as hard and unrelenting anger, weeds as the habits which crowd out our potential and dry ground as fear which kills before inspiration can take root.  Tend to the condition of your spiritual dirt, Tom said, and you will find the seeds scattered your way will bring a plentiful harvest.  He had a flat of bright red salvia plants, end of the season “discards” from a local garden shop which he encouraged us to take home to plant as symbols of our committment to attending to our inner gardens.

Now I have several plants tucked in special spots around my pond and in my little herb garden, reminders of the gifts of friendship and the simple wisdom in the parable of the seeds. I sense there are many seeds gathered into my inner garden which will bear harvest throughout the coming year. There will I hope be much to share. Thanks for reading.

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

*Editors note: You can follow Tom’s blog on wordpress here.

 

 

 

The Gift

So fellow travelers, this graceful image greeted me this morning when I opened my WordPress reader feed.

The sketch is by a friend I first met in our online creative group.  Her post credits the original artwork as drawn from the photography of another creative tribemate.*

The image invoked one word

JOY

A simple yet deeply liberating key to to a question I’ve been working through for a few weeks.

And then a comment I started writing on my friend’s post turned into a haiku.

Ribbons of summer

Petals dancing joyfully

Gift of gratitude

Ripples of creativity flowing across the miles, connecting spirits, expanding joy. A reminder too, we need more joy in this off balance world.

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

Editor’s note: color sketch by Kathy Cary from an original photo by Jeanette Randall. You can follow Kathy’s work on Instagram


Being the Buddha That Is

“When you suffer you should suffer. When you feel good you should feel good. Sometimes you should be a crying Buddha. And sometimes you should be a very happy Buddha.”
~ Shunryu Suzuki

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Buddhas in the garden at 金閣寺  Kinkakuji Zen temple Kyoto Japan 2014

So fellow travelers, a creative tribemate recently posted this quote.

Shunryu Suzuki was required reading in a comparative religions class I took in college. Zen Buddhism’s emphasis on acceptance of what is has always been both it’s most compelling and most challenging dynamic for me.

Accepting what is when one is happy or at peace comes far easier than accepting what is when one is suffering or sad.

Yet I know it is resistance to pain or sadness, the struggle to be other than what is which intensifies and prolongs suffering.

During the years I endured migraine headaches, I learned a meditation technique which allowed me to find an empty, pain free “space” within the headache. I was never able to maintain it for more than a few minutes at a time, but those few minutes often provided essential relief when I most needed it. To get there I had to sit with the pain.

As the school year is drawing (thankfully) to a close I am begining to reflect on it’s chaos and realized I needed to “sit with the pain” so I gave myself a day of being with the full range of feelings embedded in the past eight months. In essence I stopped struggling to be anything other than frustrated, angry, disappointed, confused, sad and tired. This allowed awareness to shine through the darkness.

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Fountain in Nikko, Japan 2014

Suddenly it was clear so many changes had happened in such rapid succession I never had time to recenter before the next onslaught.  In essence I have been in “survival mode” for eight long months. Even the reset function of both winter and spring breaks had been offset by situations which blindsided our whole team within days of returning from each school break.

Maintaining confidentiality protocol I’ll refrain from specifics. From a mindfulness perspective the details themselves are irrelevant. Response is more relevant than details. The difference between mindful response and mindless reaction is crucial to establishing Inner Equilibrium. Becoming aware of how difficult it has been to stay in response rather than reaction mode it is clear I have some adjustments to make going forward. 

Just the thought of going forward makes me a happier Buddha.

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Rest then go forward

Step out on the mindful path

Buddha heart within

 

 

 

 

 

Jizo, Buddha of lost souls.  Japanese Gardens, Portland Oregon 2014

Walk gently on the path my friends and may peace bless your journey.

 

 

 

Random Bliss

So fellow travelers, work has been whackadoodle (shout out to fellow blogger Tom Atkins for finding the perfect descriptive terminology.)

Going into week three of this chaotic spin it’s starting to take a toll on me.  When incidents I’d normally consider as “outliers” keep happening,  I find myself starting to question my perception and grasp on reality.  Tom’s blog piece brought me back to center with his reminder we have to keep seeking peace.

So on my way to work yesterday morning when I caught a glimpse of the waning crescent moon, in the velvet pre-dawn sky, I stopped to take it in. Diamond bright in the crystal clear frost bitten air it sat cradled perfectly in the arms of the giant sycamore that stands as our front yard Guardian Spirit.

I did not go back inside to get my camera, but I did take the time to fully absorb this moment of bliss and then, mindful there was a poem stirring in all that joy, I snapped a shot with my phone.

Bliss

random

fleeting

yearning

listen

calling

hear me

find me

see me

 be me

heart lit

holding

mem’ry

soul filled

 Thank you

 

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

 

 


 

 

 

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.

Tending the Fire

The world is violent and mercurial–it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love–love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.”–Tennessee Williams

So fellow travelers, I rose at dawn in anticipation of catching the first sunrise of the year. First light revealed a sky obscured by heavy gray clouds.

Undeterred, I waited as our dog deciphered last night’s news from around the yard. Judging from the criss cross pattern of tracks left behind in new fallen snow our resident critters had quite the New Years Eve revelry. Suddenly a flock* of crows rose nosily from a stand of trees, drawing my attention to an intense burst of red light visible through a small gap in the clouds, just above the horizon. I found myself thinking of the saying

Red sky  at night, sailor’s delight.  Red  sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.

As suddenly as the racuous chorus of crows had  broken the sacred silence of this first morning of a new year, a thousand doubts shattered my peaceful solitude.

Had this first sunrise arrived with a warning? Is our world, as Tennessee Williams claims, a house on fire?  If we have lost sight of how to live with our differences how can the love we have for each other, for our work, for our art be enough? Is who we are, who I am enough?

Fear and anger may have shaken my resolve enough to give doubt a temporary foothold in the final months of 2016’s crushing conclusion. This morning the crows shocked my sense into awareness.  I will not be paralyzed by doubt if the world burns around me.  I do not know how to “save love” as Tennesee Williams directs. I do know how to be love by making kindness the foundation of my choices. And I know compassion will not direct my actions if I am driven by anger and fear.

So if there is to be a fire burning, let it be a fire of hope, a fire I can tend in turn with others who create from the love which ignites their spirit. There’s a lot of us out here. Join in,  I’ll save a spot by the fire for you.

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

Editor’s note: *I contemplated using the descriptive term “a murder of crows” until, in keeping with my resolution to fully vet what I disseminate, I discovered the phrase is more venery (ie: a “delightful quirk of the English language“, as described in this article on audubon.org which I know to be a reliable, clickbait free source) so a flock it is.

On Excellent Adventures* and Human Foosball

So fellow travelers,  a somewhat lengthy dissertation looking back at the year that was.

Being the champion of underdogs that I am, I have begun to feel sorry for 2016. Yes, I do realize 2016 is more a conceptual frame of time than a sentient being with feelings. However I happen to be (at least when I last checked) a sentient being with feelings and those feelings have become attuned to seeking healing and grace amidst chaos.

It’s a given that 2016 was a challenging year on almost every level possible for a whole lot of people. I know many of them, indeed, I am one of them. This year was deep into major challenge mode well before the November election and the long sequence of departing iconic figures seems determined to keep the sorrow of personal losses in the spotlight of our consciousness.

Writer Jennifer Bowman penned an accurate blog piece earlier this year on the connections between personal and public loss. I was grateful she reposted it when the news of Carrie Fisher’s death hit my media feed. Her perspective on what it means to lose a creative force (yes, of course that’s an intentional reference) is a welcome reminder my grief for someone I knew through their artistic work is as valid as the feelings their work creates within me.

So it is that 2016 has become the year most people cannot wait to bid farewell to with nary an Auld Lang Syne thank you very much. Hence the reason for my opening sentiment towards poor maligned 2016 which is simply fulfilling it’s mission of coming and going with daily, if deadly, precision.

On a creative forum called The Watershed which Jennifer facilitates (look for it on Facebook)  she posed a challenge to consider 2016 from a different perspective, asking members to think back on what were our best moments in this year coming to an end.

Immediately the little spinny arrow  (the one which indicates data is in the process of uploading) starts turning in my brain. Being visually oriented I started shifting through my collection of photos from the year.

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First owl sighting on the annual Mother-Daughter Birdathon expedition, a ten year search

 

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Our marathon guy becomes a tri-athelete just weeks after we said goodbye to his Mom.

 

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Hiking on Left Coast trails with my favorite people

 

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Finding the Pacific viewpoint on the Lewis and Clark Fort to Sea trail

In a year of difficult transitions, it was immeasurably uplifting to find the embers of discovery, healing, joy and adventure still simmering deep in my soul. Family is as always the gyroscope of my life. In a time when core differences are fracturing too many families, I am grateful my own remains steadfast and strong.

And then I found the one image which stood out as a unique high point of the year, a moment captured during a creative retreat I was blessed to be part of both instigating and organizing and then attending.

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There you have it~ a game of human foosball, a phenomenon I had no idea even existed until we arrived at the retreat center to find the mysterious big wooden pen outside our lodge. Once we found out it’s purpose there was no way our intrepid group of creative cohorts would pass on the opportunity to engage in some hilarious shenanigans.

The seed for this creative retreat began as an idea in a chance conversation at another event two years prior. Our gathering evolved after a few twists of fate, some scattering, regrouping and migration, a sequence which greatly aided in clarifying how my co-instigator and I might nurture that seed to bear the fruit we intended to create. Over Labor Day weekend, one much loved dog and a baker’s dozen of creative spirits from all walks of life and as far away as Utah gathered to write, paint, knit, draw, press flowers and get lost in the woods on photo shoots. We laughed as we shared stories, meals, ideas, techniques and most importantly a true spirit of commraderie.

My creative tribe has become my extended family. Everytime we gather, whether as a group or tête-à-tête I come away feeling stronger, lighter and exponentially more hopeful. In a world facing so much uncertainty, the priceless gifts of friendship, strength, hope and Light are precious commodities I am grateful to have .

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

*written and posted with heartfelt thanks to my co-instigator and partner in shenanigans Beth Heffern. Can’t wait to start plotting our  next most excellent adventure.

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the first present

So fellow travelers, on my annual holiday road trip to distribute gifts and hugs to my side of the family, we drove from windswept snowbound vistas through freezing drizzle in the Poconos arriving at last in not-quite-as-Sunny-as-the-show-claims-Philadelphia. Warm hugs, cheerful banter and hearty meals quickly dispelled the gloominess of grey skies. I woke this morning to find this post from my good friend Kate in my blog feed. This has been a holiday season with too many empty chairs at the table. It is good to have friends who keep the embers in our souls alive when the winds of change seem hell bent on extinguishing hope. As I read I could feel her rich tapestry of words wrap around me like a soft warm blanket. May peace and comfort bless us all.

Life With Horace

there are trees here too
grown out of deep soil pockets
heads above the hardy root dug
mountain friends of home
this gathered woody host a nest
to hold a house containing
every one I love
still sleeping as the light
creeps up all cloudy
through the rain
a christmas only minds eye white
with clear skied sunrise
catching tree tops
by surprise
red bronze briefly
glistened with strings of
love and memory
from those gone ahead
beams creak awake
almost the hour
for letting loose small bodies
counting moments since last night
behind me thumps and sighs
two sets of eyes meet mine
my patient dogs
the first gift of the day
belongs to them
and we are kitchen bound

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a small gift of words, a time filled with more love than things, christmas as it should be. my heart is very full.

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Living with Volcanoes

So fellow travelers,  many of us feel we are living on shaky ground these days.  It’s unnerving because even if we have not yet been directly affected,  I expect the majority of my readers know someone who already has been.

For the past five days I have been working my way through waves of confusion, sadness, fear and anger.  I have pushed myself not to react from those frames of reference, even as I go through the important phases of processing those feelings. Denial only ensures our  feelings weigh us down  and now more than ever we need to travel Light as we navigate the tricky path ahead of us.

As is my way, I have sought the quiet wisdom of my favorite walking trails.  My dog Delilah has been thrilled at the additional opportunites to roust little critters from the leaf beds lining our paths. No worries,please, she is properly leashed and supervised so no woodland nymphs are injured in the course of our wanderings.


This morning I found this excellent piece by artist and writer Rachel Barlow. Her insight has pulled together some important pieces for me. (More on that in future posts) I hope my readers will find seeds for the future in her post as well.

http://rachelbarlow.com/2016/11/12/absence-of-fear/

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

 

 

 

Mysts of Yesteryear

So fellow travelers, there’s a tree I drive past every morning on my way to work.

It stands full and strong, in a wide open field, steadfast in its solitary reign. I never tire of the image as it shifts subtly through the seasons. Some mornings this Tree is my reminder to stand quietly through the winds of constant change.

A few weeks ago early morning light and fog created a mysterious vision. There was something there seeking to be known. Sitting with the images I captured, I sensed words playing in the mist. More sounds than statements, more feelings than phrases, like distant echoes of joy from a playground.

This haiku emerged from an accidental prompt contained in some helpful comments from my creative friends. It fit in a baffling and amusing way.

Myst

O rem yesteryear

Mystery of the unknown

Thoughts rise from the myst


Sometimes when we listen, even when the words don’t seem to make sense, we can find wisdom in our mistakes.

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