Sinking In

So fellow travelers, one of the things I value highly from being part of a creative community are the moments when one person’s contribution generates another work.  We call it the ripple effect.  Jackie Campbell,  a friend and fellow haiku writer (she posts one almost daily in her thoughtful blog) shared a story with a photo that caught my attention right away.

JackiesDock

Photo courtesy of Jackie Campbell

The image matched a haiku I wrote a few months ago but had not posted  because I had yet to capture an image to match the words.

Tide rises waves come
Hold fast to the shore my friend
Light and love are near

Most of my haikus are created out of the experience embedded in an image I capture, so the visuals usually preceed the words.  This haiku came out of some challenges another friend was experiencing. When I composed it, I sent her a copy on a hand decorated card and kept the original words in my blog drafts waiting to snap the right photo to go with it. Then this morning while wrestling with another post that felt heavy and awkward, I came across Jackie’s candid story and photo. Often when I feel I’ve hit creative quicksand, I will take a break and scroll through my WordPress Reader’s feed or check in on Instagram if only to lift my mood. Most of the time savoring the creativity of others not only raises my spirits, it sparks my own process and I get back into the flow of writing, just as Jackie’s piece gave me the boost I needed today.

Jackie’s honesty about feeling daunted by the process of learning to “get out of manual” mode when using her camera reminded me of how easy it is to doubt our ability to acquire new skills, particularly when technology is a component of the tools we are using. I’ve had my digital slr camera for several years now and there are still settings I have not ventured to experiment with. In fact on my last trip to the Pacific Northwest I chose to leave that camera behind and rely on my phone for photos. With trips planned to two national parks, it was an almost unthinkable choice, one made only because I know I will return to those those parks again in the next few years.

On recent trips I have felt burdened by the bigger camera and noticed most of the photos I like best were ones I captured with my phone. This trip I felt more present in the adventures I had, letting the experience really sink in without the requirement (admittedly self imposed) of capturing it “on film.” There were only a handful of moments when I missed the capabilities of my dslr and the depth of experience I gained by being present without it were well worth the trade off of less impressive shots taken by phone.

20170826_120556.jpgMt Olympus from Hurricane Ridge in Olypmic Natl Park.                                                         One of the moments I missed my dslr and extra lenses.

The fear we have of not creating work that is “good” enough, not getting it “right” comes from self imposed expectations. We just don’t give ourselves the benefit of making mistakes which are after all how we learn to do things better. Our expectations and tendency to compare ourselves to others not only in creative endeavors, but in many, too many, areas of life, fabricate quagmires of doubt. This is why I am grateful for the creative community I am part of.  Encouragement, advice and even an inspirational challenge from time to time (more on that in an upcoming post) are lifelines along a sometimes rocky journey to creative growth and deeper self expression.  We may not always walk side by side, but we are never truly alone. It’s a blessing beyond any measure of perfection.

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

 

Bridges and Walls

So fellow travelers, one day last week I had some time to enjoy a rare morning walk in the little Upstate NY village I live near.

The trees have been a bit shy about changing into their autumn colors this year. September was so hot and dry it seems most leaves simply curled up and dropped. It’s as if they were saying “We give up. We’re just too tired to get through the change this year.” My lawn crunches as if I am walking on broken glass, dark green rafts float across my pond, trees rattle like old bones in the afternoon breeze. As much as I love summer for all the adventures it brings, Autumn is my favorite season. Finding a pop of color by the bridge in the village gave my heavy heart a much needed lift.

Just as I lifted my phone to capture the image, gulls burst into flight over the river. I stopped to take in their raucous energy as they swirled in wild circles, laughing cries echoing over the water. Gratefully I let their apparent joy, ease the heartache of current events. So much sorrow, so much loss, so much violence and anger, so much judgement and blame and most of all, not enough listening.

Those feelings weighed heavily on me as I drove to an even smaller village further “up”state to spend a weekend with several good friends. We met originally in an on-line creative group which eventually began gathering at several annual events giving people who attended a chance to meet and get to know each other. The experiences generated both wonderful connections and, as often happens when communities grow larger, some challenging dynamics. Some of those dynamics seem to resurface once in a while in ways many of us find confusing. Our gathering of friends pondered some of these challenges during our time together this weekend.

When people are hurt, shamed, excluded or ridiculed by others the pain leaves a wound which can linger for years. When we are hurt by someone we trust, we yearn for the violators to acknowledge the pain they have caused, we want to hear them accept responsibility, offer a sincere apology and even promise not to hurt others.

Occasionally this does happen, though only in circumstances where the hurt is a result of a genuine misunderstanding, Most of the time the cycle of betrayal and hurt result from actions of people whose behaviors reflect internal issues they are either unaware of or are unwilling to resolve. So most people are left trying to deal with unresolved pain. “Walk away, move on,” people are told over and over without being offered an answer as to how one does that.

Art with a message found in a little garden 

The topic of bullying and toxic relationships comes up frequently when you work at a high school and being on a special ed teaching team it’s something we encounter all the time. At a workshop during one of the professional development sessions our school district holds each year, one of the facilitators presented the empowering work of author Kari Kampakis.  Kari teaches young people that everyone in our life serves a purpose and has something to teach us. When it comes to the way we are treated by others, some people teach us about the kind of people we want to be and others show us who we do not want to be.

We tend to create bridges connecting us to the people in the first category and build walls to protect us from the latter people, but Kari talks about “leaning into” the feelings from hurtful experiences. By this she means being aware of what they did to make us feel the way we did; was it their words, the tone of voice, their actions and what specific actions affected us? Then, take what we know and promise we will learn from their mistakes. “Make specific pledges,” she encourages kids, “Say ‘I will make sure others feel included,’ ‘I will listen when other’s are struggling and comfort but not try to fix them,’  ‘I will not expect more acceptance than I myself can give.’ “

Walls protect but they also confine and we can easily become trapped. When we allow the hurtful actions of others to teach us specific ways of how we can treat others with more kindness and compassion, we reclaim control over our experience because chances are the perpetrator is unlikely to change and the apology we seek will never come. Instead of constantly reliving the hurt, we draw strength from healing pain, take responsibility for our feelings and turn anger into positive action. Consciously choosing to judge less and learn more empowers us to walk away, move forward and get on with our own journey. Bridges, not walls aid that journey.

Here’s to walking bridges over no longer troubled waters

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

False Moon

So fellow travelers, unusually warm weather has created some strange images in the mornings. Today for example I was greeted by rose-violet air. No, it was not the sky, but the air itself which glowed. Dawn had infused the thick fog hovering just above the ground with the color of sunrise. I watched the air around me shift subtly from lavender to gold. The effect was mesmerizing.

Some mornings, the fields I pass on my way to work have revealed wispy cloud dragons sleeping between rows of apple trees and stacks of hay. A few days ago the fog was so thick I momentarily confused a neighbor’s driveway light for a celestial body. The sun? No. The moon? It made no sense,  hadn’t I just seen the waxing crescent moon the night before? Then I laughed as I unscrambled the nonsense my perplexed brain had generated. Quite a metaphor for some down right confounding exchanges I’ve encountered in the past few weeks. Judgements passed based on expectation instead of personal interactions, assumptions based on past experience instead of current circumstances, misunderstandings based on indirect communication, all hallmarks of the murkiness of humans trying to relate without being fully open to one another.

 

Naturally a bit of haiku emerged from the untidiness.

 

False moon morning fog

Doubt not friendships tried and true

Trust your heart not lies

 

Fuzzy cell phone shot of the would be moon

It is well to remember actions speak louder than words and before speaking we are best advised to listen.

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safe Haven

“Hope rests on a foundation of understanding and happiness is sheltered by a roof of tolerance.” Hugh Prather

So fellow travelers, working at our local high school I see the damage that bullies inflict not only on their targets but on a community as a whole. Just last year, our community lost a very precious young life to the ravages of bullies. Every now and then I also encounter bullying from adults who should know better.

Always I feel at first a flash of anger igniting remnant embers of past hurts from childhood tormentors. Yet in my heart I know anger begets more anger, perpetuating the cycle of pain. Stepping back gives me a chance to gain perspective, refocus and respond rather than react. That’s easier to do when you are a bystander, a far bigger demand if one is the target.

Recently waves of hurt and anger rocked an online community I belong to, created by falsehoods lobbed by a very public persona with their own following.  It was just the most recent in an ongoing cycle of attacks cleverly veiled as righteous anger at fabricated injustices. The details are less relevant than the effects.

Here is where communities either stand or fall.

And ours, I am proud to say, stands not only united, but stronger and closer than ever.

Too often we are unaware of the pain a simple comment or action might cause others. Those who are hurting often do not realize their pain isn’t obvious until they speak up. When this most recent attempt to malign the characters of key members of the community surfaced it swiftly proved those accusations false simply by the honest, straightforward response of those attacked by this outsider.

Our community is stronger because people had the courage to speak up, share their pain, admit mistakes, ask for and receive forgiveness. When a space is truly a safe haven truth can be spoken on all sides. No single voice dominates or controls the dialogue. Then clarity and healing are possible because all voices can be heard. Our community has the blessing of this freedom because it was founded specifically to create a safe haven. I have no doubts about the integrity or intentions of those who lead the group and I am grateful to be a member.

Today, early morning light and heavy dew revealed dozens of tiny spider webs draped everywhere around my yard. It’s a common late summer sign of egg sacs having hatched and hundreds of tiny webmasters were busy working under the cover of darkness. Tiny strands strung with glistening dewdrops festooned my yard like the remanents of a joyous party.

 

Magic threads appear

 

Build bridges of trust and faith

 

Friendships strong as steel

 

 

 

 

A beautiful metaphor for webs of deception transformed into a celebration of friendship, iluminated by the Light of Truth.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may you find true friendship along the way.

 

 

 

 

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.

20170713_093333

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.

20170716_084848

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.

 

 

 

Leading Edge of the Storm

So fellow travelers, this is my view as I head to the morning rally at the Federal Building downtown. 

Ours is one of hundreds of rallies and marches in support of the Womens March on Washington DC. All over the world, people of all genders, ethnicities and faiths are gathering in support of women’s rights, civil rights, Human rights.

Some gather at great risk in countries where peaceful protest is forbidden. Yet I am mindful of that legislators in five states of our own country have introduced laws to endanger the right to peaceful demonstration.

Not on my watch. 

Today hearts and hands join in peace and unity for liberty and justice for all . Tomorrow the real work of moving forward begins.

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

Stand Up

We believe kindness cannot sit down simply because anger has stood up.”  Penzeys*

So fellow travelers, recent dialogues on various social media forums has given rise to much conflict.  There’s been some collateral damage, fractured relationships and unraveling of connections. Yet within my own circle of close friends and family, we seem to have weathered the storm of uncertain times. I’ve been pondering why.

And then someone left a comment on a post I shared which contained an article about a respected civil rights leader being discounted and belitted by another elected official. Up to that point I had considered it an act of kindness to quietly remove negative, ill-informed comments, which have thankfully been rare on most of my forums. To date, I simply removed those comments without responding, although it often left me wondering if people fully grasped what their negative comments reflected about them. I try to be mindful of “casting the first stone,” we all have our flaws.  

painted-desert-rocks-edit

Love is always there, sometimes we have to look closely.

It was not the negative tone of the comment which coalesced my thoughts. It was the willingness to post without regard for the truthfulness of their comment. Worse yet it came from someone I respected, someone I thought would know enough to vet their information more thoroughly rather than simply pass along an inaccurate “headline.”

I’m not against engaging in a thoughtful exchange of opposing ideas when the content is accurate and free from personal attack towards me, other individuals or groups of fellow humans. I feel it is important to note my circle does encompass a fairly broad range of ideological stances. I firmly believe understanding different perspectives is essential in embracing the wonderful diversity of human society.

collage-edit

 How boring our world would be if we were all the same. Wall collage, Portland Oregon 

I was the subject of a fair amount of bullying as a “half-breed” kid in a very white neighborhood. I may have forgiven but rest assured I never forgotten the sting of those taunts. Now, as a mixed race, internationally educated woman who works with special needs students I strive for acceptance and tolerance. I do my best to keep a positive focus in what I publish here. I’m not trying to minimize the issues, indeed its quite the opposite.  In truth I feel there’s enough negativity to fill the Grand Canyon out there. My feeling is “Let’s not add to it here.”

I said the same on my Facebook page, which I also try to keep focused on positive perspectives and action with a healthy dash of irreverent humor. Heaven knows if we can’t laugh at ourselves from time to time we truly have lost our way.

So I felt the time had come to post some clearly defined boundaries on my page. I am deeply grateful the majority of friends in my social media circles don’t need those reminders. I asked simply for comments to be respectful, accurate and kind. If it’s not something one would say face to face to someone else, then it is not welcome on my feed.

Kindness matters, to me, to our society, to our world. Going forward I hope to see it expand and shine hope into an increasingly uncertain future.

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

 

*The opening quote came from a post on Penzeys Spices web page.  The post goes on to say  “It’s simply not enough to point and say “Can’t you see what they’re doing here?” In the long run you have to offer people a better vision of the future, a vision they want more. ” and they walk their talk. I’m glad I found them.

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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Solstice Circle

So fellow travelers, last night a good friend of mine from my Vision Quest years hosted a drumming circle to honor the Winter Solstice.

We  sent a big vibrant wave of energy out to enfold our world and all creatures living here.

Consider yourselves hugged.

You’re welcome.

 We all needed it, I know.

This morning as all the lights and bushes by my little pond were being blessed with a sparkling coat of new snow, these words rose from the silence~

Drumbeats call hearts join

Let Peace and Light hug our world

Solstice Circle Song

 Blessings of the season to all.

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