Tending a Blog

When I first began writing this blog nearly two years ago, I had a direction in mind.  It was to write and share inspirational vignettes that would prompt you, the reader, to write.  Then, for about three months, I blogged about the final years of my parents lives.  Presently, I am allowing the blog to decide which direction it wants to go in next.  At this time, I don’t want to assign a theme.  Rather, I want to let the blog morph, to be a bit eclectic and finally to choose its own direction.  When I paint intuitively, that is precisely how a piece evolves and settles on what it is going to be.  So I guess this is an experiment of sorts.

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Having not blogged for a couple of months has provided a much needed immersion into grieving.  I have followed the breadcrumbs of grief to witness how I grieve.  I have noted how I sit with irrevocable change.  I participated in a two-month long grief group.  I’ve felt the safe womb space that we were held in apart from the rest of the world.  I noticed how we bonded into the commonness of the experience of losing a loved one(s).  I experienced a feeling of family with relative strangers.  At the end of each session, we hesitated  to leave the little room where we met.  This was without a doubt a safe place for each one of us to feel what we were feeling without masking it for the benefit of others.  Sacred space and time apart.

Years ago, I remember being in the workplace.  A fellow worker lost her husband suddenly.  She was given three days off of work to make arrangements and to grieve this profound loss.  I remember thinking how ridiculous it was to expect that she return to work without having that necessary time to grieve and comprehend the changes to her world.  I considered that she was initially in shock.  It takes awhile to  sink into the recognition that things would never be as they once were.  That he wouldn’t be coming home after work.  That they wouldn’t discuss the education and challenges of rearing their four children or their future plans…all evaporated in a moment.  I remember how she seemed to put on a mask for the benefit of her co-workers–was it heroic or something that she felt forced into–to pretend that she wasn’t a crumbling mess inside?

How do we educate ourselves and others on the significance of allowing grief into our lives?  In some cultures, the mourner wears black for a year.  When people in the community see this person, they understand, “Ah, he/she is in mourning.”  They do not expect you to “Get over it” or “Put on a happy face.”  Grief is recognized and honored as a tender time.  In grief, there is a certain vulnerability that the mourner experiences.  Sometimes you might want to hide away; other times you crave company.  Often, you need to talk about the loved one or your feelings of loss.  But only if you feel safe enough to do so.

That said, I can see how grief is a unique experience for any individual.  How do you tend your losses?  How do you grieve?

Your comments are welcome.

Horse Camp

I wrote this entry a few years ago.

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Nature is a vital re-balancing refuge.  Today, I hiked up to Horse Camp (elevation is 7950 feet)  from Bunny Flat on Mount Shasta.  The hike takes me about an hour in one direction.  Sitting at the backside of the Sierra Club’s stone cabin built in 1923, I face Olberman’s Causeway–a path built by Joseph Macatee Olberman.  The path leads up to Avalanche Gulch which is the beginning of the climb to the summit of Mt. Shasta.  I’ve been told that scaling Mt. Shasta is not something you want to do in late summer.  It’s the season for avalanches.  Summiting is not something I aspire to…but I love being here.

The mountain has a few slimming glaciers on this south side; it’s mostly cocoa-colored now with sparse hardy trees, shale and rocky outcroppings.  At this lower elevation, there is purple lupine and rugged bouquets of gold flowers that soften the landscape. Flutters, birdsong and a sneaky chipmunk keep me company.  The chipmunk gets more daring, checking me out to see if I have food.  A few feet away, I see that he looks healthy enough.

Voices precede their owners, filtering down from the summit trail.  Masculine voices as if through a megaphone.  There is a stone fountain with a water spicket–the most pristine
spring water to be found…and cold!  A rugged woman with an overnight pack stacked high trudges by me.  She’s no stranger to nature and camping.

I could say that I’m on a Vision Quest…questing for my next occupation, preoccupation, gift to offer the world.  Afterall, a gift given is a gift received.  Connecting to the earth at this power spot, I imagine that if I get quiet and receptive enough, something will get through to me.   I’m here yet often somewhere else in my head.  Meanwhile, the men catch up with their voices.  No one I know in this weary bunch of summiters.  They unstrap their backpacks and rest on the adjacent bench.

The chipmunk is right under my feet.  So bold.  “Go away,” I whisper.  One man clucks for the chipmunk.  The chipmunk ventures closer but sees no food offering so he retreats– back to me.  My mind wanders and I wonder if my smartphone has reception here.

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In the spring, 2019, this is how Mount Shasta looks from Bunny Flat, elevation of 6950 feet, after a “real winter.”

 

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Existential Loneliness

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This painting had an evolution…it started off as three women disco dancers, then two polar bears, then a single polar bear with a different landscape and now this rendition.  Finally, I wrote the following sonnet on the canvas as a part of the background in the meadow.  It’s not meant to be legible, only a design element.

One cold night at the beginning of another long winter in the mountains of northern California, I fell into that state of existential loneliness.  I happened to have this painting in process on the wall in front of me.  My own loneliness expanded to include the polar bear at the north pole.  I considered his solitary life, that his habitat is dissolving due to global warming.  There is the real possibility of his extinction.  In writing this sonnet, I connected to the polar bear and as a result, I felt less lonely.
Is that the secret to existential loneliness–to expand our circle to include more of the life that is?

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© by Christine O’Brien

It’s cold and I’m alone again, at night.
The stars, so far away, no comfort there.
Is the polar bear aware of its plight?
Ice floes are melting, does anyone care?

Across the tundra the northern lights dance;
radiant colors blast the starry sky.
If we change our ways, would he have a chance?
“Global warming; couldn’t be helped,” we sigh.

We’re safe in our cozy habitats, home.
The borders of our lives within these walls.
The far arctic circle, his place to roam
outside of our range, his frozen cry falls.

What’s it to us, a whole species demise?
Could it have gone better if we’d been wise?

“Water Water Everywhere Nor Any Drop to Drink…”

When Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, he was surrounded by an ocean of undrinkable water.

The upcoming art show at Siskiyou Art Museum in Dunsmuir, California has the theme of EBB AND FLOW.  It is an open call to artists of any ilk to create something to do with water–“celebrating water in all its forms.”  We have come to call water our most precious resource.  There are those in the world who deny global warming.  There are others who are ready to prove that global warming is without a doubt something we need to face –yesterday!

Drinking tea in the morning is the way I begin my day.  I do like my tea…and a cup in the afternoon or at the end of the day is a pleasant ritual.  What would I do without my tea…I began this painting a few years ago before this art show was conceived.  Now, it has become timely and I think I’ve finished it.  Just a few touches and then it’s ready for the show in July of 2019.  And I am calling it “water, water everywhere…”  Doesn’t she look a bit parched?

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Permissive Poetry

An intrinsic premise of poetry is the permission and freedom to TELL THE TRUTH!

When I first began writing poetry, I was in a state of unrest.  Old inner worlds were crumbling as new ones were being born.  What I had built my life structure upon was proving false.  What was trying to form was insubstantial and unknown.

Poetry can chart the course between what is known
and what is unknown.

Do you think this statement is true?  It isn’t the route for everyone, but it certainly has been the permission-giver for me.

In those days, while I might not speak my truth to my husband or father (both of whom inspired fear), I found I could write it (finally) in my journals.  And then, poetry entered my life.  A form that could hold both emotion and unravelling beliefs and the uncertainty of what was next.  Pretty amazing.  And it could do all of this in a succinct way!

Throughout known history, poetry has been the “go to” for sensitive souls.  The minstrels were the storytellers, often in rhyme or rhythm.  The poets were the sensitive touchstones of a particular era and culture.  They could talk about what was right, wrong, intolerable both personally and in the context of the larger society.

Poets and artists are the heart of any culture or era.  They are the sensitive underbelly and resonate with deepest feeling and often, what the culture needs to embody or embrace in order to healthfully evolve.

Writing Prompt:
This is my perception of permissive poetry.  Has poetry, whether you read it or write it yourself, given you permission to tell the truth?

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An Unexpected Turn…

Life is full of the unexpected.  I was reminded of that last week.  Planning on a getaway from the smoke that has preempted this summer, I headed an hour and a half north.  I planned to be there for one week, Ashland, Oregon.  I planned on enjoying good films, good food, the fun and creative shops, the beautiful park, meeting a friend for dinner and people-watching.

My first morning there, I woke in excruciating pain.  This can’t be happening?  I won’t go into the details…longish story short, I ended up in emergency twice and spent one overnight in the hospital.  The whole odyssey was traumatic…and woven into this were miraculous encounters.  I had to make some choices under duress and away from friends and what was familiar.

This unexpected turn of events left me reeling afterwards.  I process things through body movement, massage, talking about the experience and through creativity.  This wild piece came through to help me to work with my experience.  The process continues as I integrate and heal.

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Writing Prompt:
What are your ways of dealing with trauma?  The unexpected?  Write down what supports you when you are rallying from an unexpected or traumatic experience.

The “Fierce Defender”

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Did you know that the male Cardinal bird is nicknamed the “Fierce Defender?”

In the Native American Culture, there are totem animals.  Animals have traits or symbolic qualities that we can apply to our own lives.  Jamie Sams and Ted Andrews are two people who have written extensively about this.  I refer to each of them when an animal crosses my path…especially an animal that I rarely see…like a bear or a wolf.  Or when I suddenly feel drawn to a particular animal.  I consult their books or go within myself to inquire as to what that animal offers that might be of help to me in any given situation.

Writing Prompt:
Is there an animal that has been crossing your path recently?  Or even one that you feel drawn to?  What might that be about?