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Author Archives: ivonprefontaine

Look, the trees…..

via Look, the trees…..

I have been offline for the past week, as we moved into our new house, which is located on the same lot we lived on before. We still do not have Internet, so I go to a local coffee shop once a day and sometimes every other day to catch up. Purple Rays provided a wonderful post to get back in the groove.

When we bought our house 40 years ago, it came with two relatively large spruce trees in the front. Those remain in place as proud sentinels and, as Mary Oliver describes trees in to the new houses we build on the same lot, one for Kathy and I and the other our youngest son built.

We chose to stay and build for several reasons. First and foremost, it gave our son a chance to have his own house. Second, we enjoy the community we live in and have been part of the fabric of it for 40 plus years. It is an area of Edmonton that has tremendous stablity despite the rapid growth of the metro area. We have neighbours who have lived in this community longer than we have.

The house on the left is our house and the one on the right is our son’s house as the trees stand guard.

 

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Gift

I began reading a book called Thomas Merton—Evil and Why We Suffer: From Purified Soul Theodicy to Zen. The author, David Oberson, explores the evolution of Merton’s view of good and evil throughout his adult life, framed, first, through a mystical and monastic Christian view and, then, a growing interest in Zen Buddhism towards the end of his life.

I have always been fascinated with Merton’s wide ranging relationships, nurtured through letter writing. Some I knew about from previous readings e.g., Thich Nhat Hanh, Dororthy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. Today, I found another one of his relationships; this one with the poet Czeslaw Milosz who lived under Nazi and  Soviet oppressors in Poland before moving to the US. Merton and Milosz shared concerns about totaliarianism, scientism, racism, etc., which I can only imagine would be intensified in today’s global climate.

Milosz wrote a beautiful poem called Gift to remind me suffering that emerges from life is impermanent. In this poem, he reminds me their is always something beautiful and good, as he alludes to nature and creation that emerges to replace the suffering.

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

I took this picture in BC about two years ago. As I walked on this morning, I reached a higher spot on the path and saw the lake in the distance fog covered. Like the fog, the suffering lifts with time and a warming sun. I let go of the envy, anger, grasping to be present when I work in the garden that is nature.

Fresh Quotes: Mary Oliver

via Fresh Quotes: Mary Oliver

Nancy posted this over two years ago and reblogged it on her site Strawberry Indigo after Mary Oliver passed away.

I noted the other day what draws me to Mary Oliver’s poetry are the questions, direct and indirect she poses. Several years ago, I concluded a presentation on Mindful Servant-Leadership with the following question from her poem Summer Day with this quote: “Tell me what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?”

Another quote Nancy shared which fits is “Instructions for a living a life/Pay attention/Be astonished/Tell about it.” This raises questions about how I pay attention, how we reveal being astonished, and how I give an account of myself and respond through stories. Rather than answers, as Rilke says, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms.” Without preconceived answers, there is eloquence and beauty in one’s questions, living themselves out in ever broadening circles.

Mary Oliver reminds me to “some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” At my age, I understand myself as a river meandering through the landscape rather than cutting through rocks. Perhaps, this appears predictable, but I ask “what is invisible and moves with currents below the surface? What has life taught me? How do I share with others, who often are disinclined to slow down, stop, and listen?”

What I recall is I did the same, filled with busyness and urgency of life, not in the moment, but in some future I chased. Instead of meandering, I was a rushing river carving out a path without concern for what might appear. The second river flows through a narrow channel, with high banks I cannot see over. The first river flows in ways I can look back and ahead, understanding there is mystery flowing below the surface. What is obvious is often superficial, rather than mystical.

Above Numa Falls

 

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

via Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

Yesterday was a day of riches as this wonderful Mary Oliver poem was posted by Dawn and re-blogged by John and Kenne.

There are prayerful and questioning qualities in Mary Oliver’s poetry that challenge me to think about the universe as a place where each sentient and non-sentient being thrives and flourishes. We grow mindful of our needs as they relate to the needs of other living and non-living being. Living is a practical and ethical way of standing in the world. Practical and ethical ways of living are essential to growing spiritually and acting with care towards sentient and non-sentient beings.

Wendell Berry has a poem entitled The Wild Geese asking me to be thankful for the gifts that come to me each day. What do I take-for-granted? What do I overlook and treat as ordinary that I can celebrate as (extra)ordinary? As Mary Oliver asks, “how does my body ‘love what it loves?'” How do I notice the universe and let myself find its way home each day?

Here, is a video of me reading the two poems about geese and the poet’s reminder of being present to what is here.

 

Wisdom From Wooden

via Wisdom From Wooden

When I first read John Wooden‘s book They Call Me Coach, I had coached hockey for several years. I was not a teacher yet. I liken his work to Robert Greenleaf‘s servant-leadership. It is about the quality of relationships, leadership, and how people (in)form their character, which are ineffable and indefinable.

Wooden wrote about character, leadership, and what success is and is not, and this influenced how I coached and taught. I shifted from a sage on the stage to a guide on the side more often, focusing on what it meant to be on a team and in a school setting as a teacher and student. I focused on a question: “What do we want to be remembered for as a group?”At the heart of teaching are the quality of relationships we have with our students and players.

Pedagogy and educate come from Greek and Latin words meaning to lead children and youth into adulthood. It is not about winning, losing, or win-win formulae that delude us into missing the qualities of various pedagogic roles.

Wooden’s former basketball players at UCLA, including Kareem Abdul Jabbar (Wooden called him Lew Alcindor even after his name change), and Gail Goodrich speak about how he coached around character and how one played, rather than winning and losing.

In the capitalist and materialistic society we live in, including schools where we compete for marks, not focusing on a win-lose mentality is challenging. Despite challenges, I felt a deep sense of accomplishment when I succeeded and told players and students how they improved as a person. When I meet former players and students, we often talk about the quality of relationships that emerged from those settings.

Tina provides three of Wooden’s quotes related to character and leadership. Regardless of the quote, I find there is what I like to call “uncommon common sense” embedded in the axioms. Wooden also provided what he called The Pyramid of Success, which is below copied from his official site.

Wooden-Pyramid-of-Success

Greenleaf’s best test for servant-leadership is equally as daunting to define and focuses about questions related to the quality of relationships and character formation.

“Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?”

Thanksgiving

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. We celebrated yesterday with two sons and a partner due to work schedules. We will celebrate again for American Thanksgiving. This is in part due to my time in the US completing my PhD and we have extended family who are from the US.

The idea of two Thanksgivings led me to reflect. What am I grateful for each day? I am thankful for family, friends, good neighbours, good health, a house that will feel like home as it is built on our original property, and many other people and things.

What if we thought of each day as a day to give thanks, a thanksgiving?

I wrote this poem called Thanksgiving several years ago.

Gratitude and thankfulness

Share each sacred moment–

Turn to beloved others,

Hold tight,

Acknowledge worth,

(Extra)ordinary emerges from ordinary

Moment by moment–

The taken-for-granted

Reveals itself.

Sharing bounty,

Feeling blessed,

Expressing gratitude,

Saying daily prayers of thankfulness.

I took this in Jasper National Park with the Athabasca Falls behind Kathy.

The video above is by Mary Chapin Carpenter. I have several of her CD’s. Enjoy and be thankful.

Your diet is not only what you eat.

via Your diet is not only what you eat.

Jonathan provided a beautiful image and a poem from Rumi.

What I enjoy most about Rumi’s poetry, is how over time the metaphors he used resonate, perhaps more than ever.

In today’s world, we need to feed our bodies in mindful ways, paying attention to what we watch, listen to, and the people we associate with. They feed the emotional, spiritual, and physical essence of our lives, which are inseparable.

In the modern, hectic days we live in sometimes we forget to nourish the soul and what inspirits us. For me, some of it is time with those close to me, my writing, and nature.

Rearguard Falls August 2019

In August, Kathy and I stopped at Rearguard Falls, located in the upper reaches of the Fraser River. As a result, I enjoyed three phenomena that inspirit me: time with Kathy, nature, and writing, although the last one was delayed.

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