A Winter’s Tale

One Greek myth is the story of Demeter and Persephone.  When Persephone was abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld, Demeter (her mother) conducted a search near and far.  When she finally discovered Persephone’s whereabouts, she commanded Zeus to bring her home.  Persephone had been deceived into eating a pomegranate seed–this action decided her fate.  She would have to spend fall and winter in the underworld with Hades.  Spring and summer, she could surface and be with her mother.

The season of winter is associated with hibernation, inward time and perhaps a time for grief.  In December of 2018, I lost my sister, a long-time companion and my ex-husband had a stroke.  He died ten months later…that was three intimate losses in a period of ten months.  I began this grief journey one year ago…although, really, as I watched these three people decline in health, the grief was there.

One thing about loss, besides the actual physical loss is the loss of “the dream.”  Whatever dreams I had attached to each of these persons died with them.  I was also then mourning the loss of the dreams.  When I came across the following poem by the Persian poet, Hafiz, (1315-1390 approximately), I understood the need to grieve and transform our lost dreams.

Forgive the Dream
by Hafiz

All your images of winter
I see against your sky.

I understand the wounds
That have not healed in you.

They exist
Because God and love
Have yet to become real enough

To allow you to forgive
The dream.

You still listen to an old alley song
That brings your body pain;

Now chain your ears
To His pacing drum and flute.

Fix your eyes upon
The magnificent arch of His brow

That supports
And allows this universe to expand.

Your hands, feet, and heart are wise
And want to know the warmth
Of a Perfect One’s circle.

A true saint
Is an earth in eternal spring.

Inside the veins of a petal
On a blooming redbud tree

Are hidden worlds
Where Hafiz sometimes
Resides.

I will spread
A Persian carpet there
Woven with light.

We can drink wine
From a gourd I hollowed
And dried on the roof of my house.

I will bring bread I have kneaded
That contains my own
Divine genes

And cheese from a calf I raised.

My love for your Master is such
You can just lean back
And I will feed you
This truth:

Your wounds of love can only heal
When you can forgive
This dream.  

Hafiz’s images are so precise that I find comfort in this poem.

How do you address your lost dreams?

“Truth”

I live in the mountains of northern California.  In early 2018, my sister, Kathy, moved one hour south of me at at a lower elevation.  Prior to moving, Kathy had fought cancer for several years.  She followed her own instincts in treating it.  In January, 2018, she opted for chemotherapy.

Following is an excerpt from my journal at this time.

Angels meet and greet.  Glances exchanged, hearts engaged, hands touch–sisters–when the end is near, the truth becomes clearer.  I couldn’t drive her to her first chemo appointment.  It was yesterday.  It was rescheduled from last week.  Last week, I had a good excuse–a big snowstorm.  My sister, lymphedema in her right arm–swollen beyond recognition.  A warrioress with literal wounds.  A bandage is swathed under her arm and across her chest.  This wound that hasn’t healed–the bandages need to be changed daily.

My word today is truth.  Her word is courage.

I told her that I couldn’t drive her because I couldn’t sit there beside her in the hospital as she underwent this intravenous process.  I wouldn’t have been the best support.  She thanked me for telling her my truth.  If we can’t be straight with one another now, when?

She got her hair cut short.  She asked me to knit her a hat, which I began working on immediately.  I painted her a picture of a woman surrounded by butterflies.  I think that she’s going to make it.  We need optimism.  Truth is, I don’t know very much.  The mystery is here, is in us, is around us, is us.  Nature helps.  I send her daily photos of the nature where I live to calm and center her.  To support her with beauty.

Truth is, some days I think that she’s doing better than me.  Truth is, love is a strange animal–she is always showing up at odd times, giving us opportunities.

Like that night I sat on a log beside my driveway, stargazing.  It was so peaceful, I shut my eyes.  A visiting cat sat beside me.  Out of the shrubbery beside me, a rustle. Opening my eyes, I see a creature emerging.  I can’t name it immediately.  And then,
Skunk.  A few feet apart, we stare at one another.  Neither of us felt threatened.  I watched him waddle away.  Truth is, it felt like love.  Does recognition equal love?

Truth as an expression of love.  I love you enough to tell you the truth.  Is there something that stands in the way of truth?  At least, I can try telling it to myself.  When my parents were in their declining years and the family was in chaos, I began a poem with this line:

“Truth lies in a shallow grave
while perspectives hang out everywhere…”

transformation.

 

In the New Year

2020 feels auspicious.  In the mountains, we are expecting snow and rain, that wintry mix.  I am appreciating winter for a good winter promises an abundant spring.  These days, I am also grateful for the inward time that winter proffers.  Did I use that word correctly?

A little poem, a couplet, that I came across in one of my journals:

A bed of earth below which lays
a startle of forceful green relays
the message that beneath tamped earth
there is the promise of rebirth.

 

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I’ve been painting again.  I wasn’t painting for awhile.  I’ve been grieving three intimate losses in a ten month period.  You might know that grief is it’s own country.  When you go there, everyday life takes on a different sheen.

Anyway, this painting began with a large sheet of watercolor paper (18″ x 24″).  I wrote down my feelings about grief.  Then, surprisingly, emerging from this came my version of “Puss n’ Boots.”  See below.

Blessings to everyone as we go forth.

pussn'boots3

Wardrobes

Moving to the mountains of northern California twenty years ago, a re-wilding has occurred.  There has been subtle permission to become more of who I am.  One obvious change has been to my wardrobe.  When I first moved here, my closet was filled with the clothing I wore while working in downtown San Francisco.  It soon became obvious that these clothes were not practical for life in the mountains. I had a fondness for some of these tailored clothes–the neatly pleated fuschia skirt.  The black belt with the gold and silver cranes intertwined on the wide buckle.  The knee-high boots with a slight heel–a bit of cool esteem.  The black and white checked tailored suit paired with the raw silk blouse.  The fitted, stylish dresses in my favorite colors–turquoise, deep red, navy blue with polka dots, a few soft pastels–each one fit a mood of the day.  Some were concealing, others modestly revealing.

These clothes didn’t come out of the closet once I moved to Mount Shasta!  Each year, I shed more of them.   They were traded for practical and comfortable jeans and tee-shirts.  I searched for the best hiking boots or running shoes–comfort and hardiness are everything.  In the winter, it becomes about layering.  I ordered silk leggings and tops.  Long-sleeved cotton shirts, wool sweaters and vests.  Waterproof outerwear, down jackets.   I didn’t miss trading nylon stockings for the sturdy cotton, and wool sock blends.  I knitted myself a few hats that I could tug down over my ears, and scarves wrapped up under my chin.  Mittens, a variety as, like socks, there was often one missing.    Of course, come summer, all of this was shed for the comfort of light cotton and less is more as the temperature rises into the 90’s or 100’s.  A serviceable swimsuit for dunking in one of the many lakes.

I wonder, Do clothes make the woman?  Or, am I being tailored by my environment?

Living in the mountains brings out an inherent spirit of adventure that had been dormant.  Where does this trail lead?  And that one?  What hidden lake is waiting for me to discover it?  The falling in love with where I live.  The beauty that lures me.  The trail that winds and I wonder what’s around the next curve, up that hill, over that ridge…I must follow.

bear1.jpg

I encountered this bear on a river trail a few days ago.  We were a comfortable distance apart as he posed for a few photos.

Cycles of Creation

“The cycle of creation, of rising and falling energy, is as it should be. In this sense there is no such thing as creative block, or writers block. There is a time when creative energy flows like a river underground and disappears for a time, in the meantime making something, creating a new body, and then emerging again.”

— Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I have known this to be true from my own experience.  When people talk of writer’s block or tell me that they are not inspired, I remind them of this.  That what we perceive as a block or a lack of inspiration only means that we have entered what I term the fertile void.  In this place, the material of the deep psyche is mingling with your life experiences and your soul quest.  It is in this place that something new is brewing.

Within the fertile void, there is a sort of amnesia.  Even the very things that I’ve been passionate about don’t arouse the energy to bring them to fruition.  And, I lose direction of where to go next with these passionate ideas.  Desolate and aimlessly wandering, I face frustration and lack impetus.  In those times, if I can remember that this too is part of the creative cycle, I might find some relief.  Learning to recognize and trust the creative process at such times, is helpful and hopeful.

This point of seeming stuckness in the creative cycle is not something that needs to be solved.  We see it mirrored in  the wiles and cycles of nature.  If we live in a place with four seasons, we are especially privy to these cycles.  Within her blossoming spring, simmering summer and picturesque autumn, we see momentum and purpose.  Then, that immobilizing frigid winter comes and there is limitation, slowing, hunkering down, waiting it out and inward searching.  When I remember to welcome the winter, I am privy to her gifts.  This fallow time of rest, going inside literally and figuratively,  allowing the integration, rather than resisting it helps.  Winter, this seemingly inert time, is vital to the creative process.  It is not only restorative, it harbors the potential of spring.

This does not mean that I am unproductive during the time of inwardness.  Instead, I can work on creative projects that I’ve stashed away…things like knitting or sewing or cooking a gourmet meal to share.  I might clear out some old files that really do feel stagnant.  I might study something new or even learn Spanish–a promise I’ve made to myself.

How do you experience the fallow time?  What resources do you call on to see you through?

 

A portal

…is an entry point, a place you might not usually notice…for a moment, it is visible.  And then it seems to dissolve into the ethers, defined as “the essence of the universe.”  You enter rather spontaneously or you might miss it entirely.  A lost opportunity.  Hesitation, over-consideration, distractions camouflage the opening.  If you enter, you are in new territory.  You can be certain of disorientation.  Remember Alice in Wonderland and the rabbit hole?

blacandwhite1

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I remember a time when I was hiking at Southgate Meadows on Mount Shasta.  It was my birthday.  A friend had tied a scarf, a birthday gift from her, around my curls and I had set out alone.  After hiking a couple of hours, I came across a bubbling spring.  The sound of it was like a herald.  A man, also hiking, stopped and told me that this spot was  a portal.  He said that if I sat and listened for awhile, I might be able to hear the quality of musical notes that the water running over the rocks was creating.  That a certain combination of sounds produced an opening, a portal.  He wandered on.  I sat and listened.  There was definitely a music of sorts.  However, I can’t say that I found the entry point.

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In writing or painting, the writer or painter looks for a portal…an entry point to the story that wants to unfold or the painting that wants to evolve.  I think that there might be two portals–one for the writer to begin writing and then one for the reader to be drawn into the story.  One for the artist to enter the painting and one for the viewer to bear witness.  Each entrance requires a surrender…which is the consent to be changed by something external to us.

Have you discovered such portals in your life, in your creative pursuit?

The Salmon

If I wrote a similar blog before, oops…I apologize.  That said, it’s probably worth repeating as the salmon are sacred to the Native Americans.  They symbolize, among other things, that the water is healthy.

I pull off the Klamath River Highway 96 into the Temple of Heaven campground and drive down the 200 feet to be beside the Klamath River and perhaps get a glimpse of the salmon swimming upstream to spawn.  As a woman alone, an insecurity haunts me.  No one knows that I’m here except an old man at The Visitor’s Center at the last rest stop.  He gave me directions on how to get here.  I told him that I wanted to see the salmon running upstream.

“Likely place as any to see the salmon, though I’ve only seen one myself this year, so far, back about two weeks ago,” he ruminates.

“Why, when I was a boy growing up here, the salmon were so thick you could walk across the river on their backs.”

His eyes squint, studying me to see if I bought that.

“It’s true,” he said.

Then, “Go to the right; stay on the road for six miles.  You’re gonna be up 200 feet and you’ll come to a hairpin turn.  Cross over to the left and drive down.  It’s a campsite and there’s a sign, “Temple of Heaven.”

He looks me over, “It’s safe there,” he says as if reading my thoughts.

At Temple of Heaven, I park the car noting the one other car there.  I don’t see anyone but you can bet that my instincts are sharpened.  I find a place not far from the car beside the river.  A wide pool seems to have an underwater light infusing it.  I spot not a single salmon.  I feel somewhat wary, out of my familiar zone, off the well-trod path.  I don’t stay long, though it’s a beautiful spot, pristine and remote.

Driving out of the Temple of Heaven, I pull off the highway several times to see the river from different aspects.  The 1901 rough hewn wooden bridge over Ash Creek which Abner Weed (of the town of Weed fame) had a hand in constructing.  On the ground next to my parked car, I see a scrap of a paper wrapper.  It reads “Live to experience ‘MY INSOLENCE.”  I can only guess that it’s the name of a perfume, or a condom or an insolent miniaturized alien who obviously left because she’s not here when I kick the paper over.

The Klamath River, like most of the rivers I’ve seen, is distinctly beautiful.  I drive towards Yreka along a stretch of road I’ve never traveled before.  Highway 263 parallels the Shasta River.  The Shasta River snakes through Dry Gulch.  At one point, there’s a pocket of houses in a canyon beside the river.  I stop the car to take a picture.  I pull over several times to let the occasional car pass or to view the winding river stretching though the rocky gorge.  White foam and ripples brace the vegetation on the banks.  Another distance and then, Mount Shasta appears with new snow on its north face, rivaling Shangri La.

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The Native American Tribe, Winnemem Wintu, is local to northern California…they are the protectors of the salmon, the river, the water.