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Category Archives: Blogging

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

via Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

David shared a wonderful poem by Mark Nepo. It reminds us life is not something to plan. Life is something we live. We exist in a state of flux and float in the breeze like a bird trusting the currents of the stream.

We took these pictures in Glacier National Park. It reminds me how nature just exists. There are no plan as such and no purpose than to be in a paricular moment. The waterfall does not care that we build roads and drive on them. It just flows.

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Doors

The other night, we watched a re-run of the Montana episode of Parts Unknown hosted by the late Anthony Bourdain. I enjoy watching the series and this episdoe about Montana drew to it as we have visited Montana several times.

Bourdain ate with a poet I had not heard of before: Jim Harrison. He spoke about being part of nature and how he feels small under the big sky of Montana. I looked him up and felt I should have heard of him before. He was a celebrated and well-published poet.

I chose this poem as it speaks to how we create binary choices in a complex world and universe filled with a myriad of choices that we follow depending on the spirit. For example, we often think we have to separate the economy and the environment.

The etymology of economy is from the Greek, oikos, meaning household and suggests keeping a good house. We only have to think about animals and how they do not soil their living quarters to understand how economy and ecology are related.

Harrison created wonderful imagery about the sky being a door never closed, but the sun and moon are not doorknobs. He lived in Montana for years where the sky is big and stretches on, as does the land.

I had to look up Dersu Uzala. It was a movie made about a man who lived his life integrated with nature and the universe, who dies when he moves inside.

I’m trying to create an option for all
these doors in life. You’re inside
or out, outside or in. Of late, doors
have failed us more than the two-party system
or marriages comprising only one person.
We’ve been fooled into thousands of dualisms
which the Buddha says is a bad idea.
Nature has portals rather than doors.
There are two vast cottonwoods near a creek
and when I walk between them I shiver.
Winding through my field of seventy-seven
large white pine stumps from about 1903
I take various paths depending on spirit.
The sky is a door never closed to us.
The sun and moon aren’t doorknobs.
Dersu Uzala slept outside for forty-five years.
When he finally moved inside he died.

I took this picture several years ago as I looked from Alberta towards Montana across the field, with fresh bales of hay in the forefront and the mountains and sky forming the backdrop.

Leap of Faith

via Quote: Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets. Even when she writes lines in declaratory ways, there is a profound question being asked.

In this wonderful quote shared on Rethinking Life the question is what happens next. Even under the best and most controlled of circumstances, we do not know what will happen in the next moment.

Living is a leap of faith filled with mystery we can embrace. When we believe we control the next moment, the next instance, we fall short. Mindfulness can help us embrace the mystery. Being grounded in each ensuing moment is the only place we can be.

Where Words Fails

via Where Words Fail

Thank you to Misifusa for this wonderful post.

I have not posted for some time. This seemed like a good way to begin again, afresh. When I was growing up, we listened to a wide variety of music, including Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald. I thought it was the norm and grew into a die-hard blues fan, attending concerts by Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, and King Biscuit when they traveled to Canada.

As an adult, I saw BB King, John Mayall, Etta James, Ruthie Foster, Taj Mahal, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and others. An American friend told me this was not the norm in the US. He did not have the same opportunities to see these performers as I did or, if he did, it was long after they were in their primes.

The Hans Christian Anderson quote fits well “where words fail, music speaks”. Music breaks down barriers without realizing they are coming down. As a Canadian, I had freedoms I took-for-granted, like the music I listened to and the concerts I attended. When I taught, I played a wide variety of music each morning. It ranged from the blues to jazz to country to folk to old rock and to more contemporary music. Students enjoyed it and it surprised them when they heard me play old Johnny Cash, the blues, and rock-a-billy.

Music is colour-blind or, better yet, music is blind to colour.

I like this particular John Lee Hooker song, which I first heard in the early 1970’s. George Thorogood plays it in most of his concerts in tribute to John Lee. Enjoy.

 

A Book Lover’s Tag

via A BOOK LOVER’S TAG 

Diana passed on a tag and posed 13 questions to her followers with this re-blog. The best part of the her post was the John O’Donohue blessing about how our words make the invisible visible through our personal artistry and creativity.

  1. Do you have a favourite place to read? No, I read everywhere but in vehicles.
  2. Do you use bookmarks or random pieces of paper? I use both and more. I turn corners, highlight, and use sticky notes with notes.
  3. Do you eat or drink while you read? I drink tea, but rarely ever eat while I read.
  4. Do you listen to music or watch TV? There always seems to be music playing, but I find the TV distracting. Music fades into the background.
  5. Do you read one book or several at a time? I do both. I find reading one book helps me focus, but I cannot help reading more books.
  6. Do you prefer reading at home or elsewhere? There is a small coffee shop a few minutes from the house. The baristas and owners welcome me almost each day.
  7. Do you read silently or out loud? I read silently most of the time, but, when I read something of particular interest, I read it to Kathy. I enjoy reading to our grandson when we visit with him.
  8. Do you read ahead or skip about? I skip about. I like to read the index in a book and see who references are if it is a book I use for my writing. I cheat and read ahead in non-fiction.
  9. Do you break the spine or treat it like new? I buy many of my books used, so they come well used. If I get a new book, I mark it up inside, but treat it like new.
  10. Do you write in books? I mark them up with a felt marker and make notes for future reference. The exception is when I read non-fiction and poetry.
  11. What books are you reading now? I am reading The Company of Strangers by Parker Palmer.
  12. What is your childhood favourite book? I don’t have one, but I remember reading Little Golden Books and having them read to me as a special part of my early reading.
  13. What is your favourite book of all time? That is like choosing who my favourite child is. I think it depends on mood and time. I enjoy great poetry i.e. Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry. I read books about spirituality i.e. Parker Palmer. I read about education i.e. William Pinar, John Dewey, and Madeline Grumet. I read about philosophy i.e. Aristotle, Hannah Arendt, and Paul Ricoeur. My favourite fiction writers are John D. MacDonald and Paulo Coehlo.

 

Take a Knee

I begin this post with two points. First, I am not American. I spend time in the US and enjoy my time there. One thing I enjoy, and I shared with my students, is the way Americans respond to their National Anthem. Second, Canada, where I live, has social and historical skeletons in the closet i.e. residential schools.

My aim is not to pass judgment, but to cast a different light on what it means to take a knee. In a world that is increasingly secular, perhaps I lose my way in what it means to live in a spiritual way and it can mean many things to different people.

The image that comes to mind when I think of is people kneeling and standing at the foot of the cross of the crucified Jesus. We were not there, but we are told his friends, family members, and followers knelt and stood. It seems there was no one right way.

When Colin Kaepernick first took a knee, I thought of it as praying. The etymology of prayer is to ask earnestly, to beg, and to entreat. Prayer is asking someone i.e. God or something bigger i.e. Universe or a nation than I am to intercede in a concern to me.

To genuflect is to kneel, usually with one knee. It is an act of worship and respect. Parker Palmer wrote about fidelity as something other than mere loyalty. It is loyalty to an obligation, cause, and idea one holds dear.

Who or what one asks depends on one’s spiritual and religious background. What I understand is that there are no fixed answers when I take a knee and pray. I have to listen. Part of praying is silence, listening to what Parker Palmer calls my inner voice. It is only in moments of silence, whether kneeling, standing, or walking, that I hear that inner voice.

I pray in various ways and have since I was a child. When I enter a church, I find holy water, bow to the cross, and complete the sign of the cross. I stand. As I enter a pew I genuflect, taking a knee. I do so with two surgically repaired knees. At times before, during, and after service, I kneel, I pray, and I listen to what my heart says. Other times, I stand. During the Lord’s prayer, I stand and join hands with others asking God to intercede on each of our behalf. As I receive communion, I walk slowly and quietly, bowing my head as I accept the host.

For me, kneeling, standing, and walking quietly show my fidelity to a cause and purpose larger than me. In this case, it is plight of people and our shared humanity. I make a point of being quiet, because it is a time of thoughtful meditation and mindfulness of how the world and I are broken. I beseech someone or something larger than me to intercede and, as Parker Palmer says, to make whole the broken.

 

 

Merry Christmas

I grew up in Northern Alberta and Christmas was a special time of the year. I recall cold winter nights. I mean they were cold–almost minus 40 at night. Our windows upstairs were partly frosted over and on moonlit nights the light kept me awake or that is what I told others.

During Advent, my mom and older brothers walked across the street for evening Mass. The younger ones, including me, went to bed. I did not fall asleep right away and would watch out the window for them to come home. I thought no one saw me, but my Mom would come up and tell me to go to bed.

The other experience I recall is the Northern Lights and how you could hear them as they lit up the sky. We don’t see them very often in Edmonton with the urban light. When we spent time at the farm at Christmas, we heard and saw them there. Again, on cold nights we heard the train (about a mile away) and it sounded like it was coming right through the house.

I wrote this poem several years ago about the magic provided by the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and Christmas. What message was in those celestial colours and sounds? As a child, I thought the sky talked to me and told me a creation story.

Small children–

Breathlessly wait,

Peer through frosted window

Soak it in.

Heavens ripple–

Lights undulate;

A celebratory fury

An indisputable guide.

This old house speaks;

Nature answers–

The heavens crackle

Sweet symphonic sounds shimmer.

Earth’s floor–

Blanketed in white

Celestial colours speak to me

Captures young senses.

A vivid winter scene,

A sensual, sensory palette,

Reminds me–

Christ’s Mass is here.

pic_wonder_northern_lights_lg

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