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Pressed:  The Forest Chapel: A Short Story

3 Aug

Source: The Forest Chapel: A Short Story

The Forest Chapel

by

Shelley Robinson

The massive front door made of Douglas fir planks blocked me from entering.  The little sign hanging from a single nail, said, “Closed Today”.  I was disappointed because I had made it my habit of coming to this heritage lodge.  It had become my rustic forest chapel surrounded by enormous legacy trees that guarded over it like faithful soldiers.  Over one hundred species of tree seeds brought back by the owners from countries around the world, had been planted here. Logging had been what helped them build their empire and beautiful home.  As a result, cedar and Douglas Fir were used to build and decorate the interior.

Today, the quiet visit that I had anticipated here was put to an unfortunate halt.  I peeked through the mottled hand-blown window glass, wondering if maybe there was a mistake.  ‘Surely there were some people inside’, I hoped.  I strained to see the grand yew staircase, with its one large bannister limb reaching down to the newel post at the bottom.  Everything about this lodge was about trees.  Trees fortified it with its posts and beams, and fuelled it in the large stone fireplace.  The energy that it imbued provided respite from a stressful life.

Because the house was closed, I was relegated to the front covered veranda.  Two drift wood lounge chairs welcomed me to sit.  I had an eery fixation with this place. Sometimes, I would come here and listen.  My adult son had commented when he had visited here, “I can feel the ghosts in this house, Mom.”   He was a big believer in the paranormal; whereas, I was a skeptical believer.  If there had been ghosts, I would have seen some by now in my five-plus decades on earth.  No angels, ghosts or demons had ever come to say hello and actually pay me a visit.  However, I had always felt some strange connections to buildings in the past.  I sometimes heard, smelled, and witnessed things that were a bit unusual.

“Is it open?”  I turned to see a tall backpacker approach.  He sported a paisley bandana and sunglasses, and carried a large overnight backpack.  He clunked up the stairs with large shoe-laceless hiking boots.

“No,” I answered disappointedly.  “It usually is, but I’m not sure what is happening today.”

He smiled slowly revealing a large toothy grin.  “That’s too bad.”  He looked to be nearly half my age and a well-seasoned traveller with all of his weathered gear.  He seemed to be relaxed in his Bohemian lifestyle that I might have embraced if I had had another lifetime to trek around the world.

I nodded, unwilling to share with him my irrational preoccupation with the estate.   He took off his pack and sat down in the other chair.  He pulled out his water bottle, and drank most of it.  He explained, “I am related to the owners.  That’s why I came.”

“Are you the long lost grandchild due to inherit all of it?”  I joked.

“Wouldn’t that be interesting if I was,” he laughed, appreciating the possibility as he looked up at the building.  “No, I am related to the cousin of the owner’s daughter somehow.  My mother used to talk about this family like they were the royal family.”

“They had a strange history.” I explained my limited knowledge of it.  “He inherited the money by marrying his wife and working his way into the family logging empire.  In the end, he was the last surviving of his two children, who died fairly young, shortly after their mother.  It was all very sad.”   I was momentarily distracted by the pretty pink hollyhocks knocking up against the porch front.

“You know quite a bit about the owners,” he mused looking around at the acres of manicured gardens leading away from the forest and down to the Comox Bay.  In the distance, the Beaufort Mountain Range and its white glacier framed this pretty ocean paradise set in the Valley of the Whale.

“Not really.  I did a bit of reading, but there’s not much to learn about it aside from what the tour guides tell us.  I just like sitting in the quiet of it when no one is around.  I suppose I come here expecting answers. I listen for some kind of advice from the walls,”  I admitted to myself and to him.

“The walls…” I could feel him summing me up as a bit odd, and he was likely correct.  He contemplated my strange disclosure for a while, and then said, “I do that too.  I look for answers in odd places, especially in nature.  What are you hoping to learn?”

“I want to learn why I keep coming back here.  Every time I do, I see things changing inside of the house.  I feel a conversation stirring inside of me as if there is something on the tip of my tongue that needs to be spoken.  There are also smells…”

“What kind of smells?”  he pondered.

“Apple pie; a man’s cologne; and roses…lots of roses…oh…and strong cigars.  I can almost see the smoke.  It all happens when no one is around, nor when anyone nearby would be making these smells,”  I tried to change the topic.  “But no matter, I just enjoy the place.”

He sat back in the chair, and folded his arms.  “I am a little bit psychic sometimes,” he spoke tentatively.  It was my turn to wonder if he was a bit daft and disoriented, or in these parts, maybe a bit under the “influence”.  “I have spoken to ghosts,” he said convincingly in a whisper as he leaned in to me to explain further.

The elderly lodge caretake interrupted coming up the steps.  “Can I help you?” the portly older man with an uncomfortable looking limp, stopped to inquire of our loitering.

“We were wondering why the house is closed,”  I prompted him to explain why to my myself and the backpacker friend who had introduced himself to me as James after complimenting on my long hair.  “This fellow here came to see the house because he is related to the owners.”

***

“You may kiss the bride,” the minister announced.  We leaned in to kiss each other very passionately, and then turned, almost surprised to see to the house full of guests.  They clapped in celebration, recognizing the joy we were experiencing together.  We had finally found each other, and we were thoroughly caught up in this special moment.  “We’d like to invite everyone into the dining room to enjoy some wine and toasts,” my new husband, Chris, cleared his voice and announced.  He was very handsome in his dark pin-stripe suit.  His red rose boutonniere complimented the white and red rose flower arrangements that had been brought in by my family.  It was Christmas time, and we stood in front of the Christmas tree, humouring my father for a couple of pictures before heading to the other room.  

“You have finally found each other…” my best friend began her toast, while my other friends filled up their glasses with champagne in preparation to raise them in good cheer.  The rest of her toast was a bit of a blur to me as she reminisced about my childhood, and some of my accomplishments.  I was also distracted by my husband who leaned in to kiss me on the head during it.  I could smell his sweet cologne, and could sense his excitement and fatigue from the many days of preparation that had led up to this special day.  It was both a triumph and a relief to have it all come together in such a beautiful venue.  I had always liked this house. I had doubted that I would ever marry at all, let alone in such a special place which sometimes felt to be more a church than a heritage home. 

We could smell my sister’s apple pies cooking in the kitchen.  It had been decided that it would be an old-fashioned wedding and what better way with which to bring in a new life together than with the taste of her nutmeg and cinnamon seasoned dessert.  However, there were more toasts, first by my husband’s brother, and then by my other friend, who broke into tears before getting very far in her speech.  It was all a bit of a dream for me, as I had wondered how it all happened so quickly.  

We met each other over coffee, and we spent our first date exploring the park around this very house.  Then, on our second date, we walked further over to the spit, and enjoyed a beach fire by the ocean.   From there, our lives together unfolded naturally, as we shared a mutual love of hiking in the trees.  He would laugh when I would go up to an old-growth Douglas Firs and sacredly hold my hands on their trunks.  I had been told that these parent trees nurtured the smaller ones in the forest.  I believed that they gave me energy too.  We were tree huggers, and for us, there was no finer place in which to share our vows than in a home and park dedicated to appreciating them right along the harbour front. 

It was raining and we wrapped our arms around each other.  The damp pungent smells of the cedar shingles, and the fragrant foliage that stayed green here even into the middle of winter, sharpened our senses to this magical evening.  We sat under the tin roof of the veranda, and Chris pulled me in to him, savouring this quiet moment together before we headed back into the lively celebration. “I love you beyond belief,” he whispered. 

***

“Just come on in,” the lodge caretaker laughed, amused by our interest in the house.  “I have dishes to clean up from the wedding this afternoon.  You can poke around.  I’ll be here an hour or so.”  He pulled out a key chain with dozens of keys on it, and opened the front door.  We were welcomed into the woody living room with hand-woven Persian rugs.  This cozy sanctuary was filled with antique, hand-made mahogany and oak furniture surrounding a large stone fire place that still burned wood on special occasions. “Please take off your shoes,” he looked at James dirty boots and backpack.

“Amazing,” James exclaimed.  We wandered into the dining room with rough cut Douglas fir planks across the ceiling.  A used silver tea service was spread out over the dining room table.  We stepped down into the little breakfast nook and admired the mosaic floor with its inlaid multi-coloured tiles.  They had been brought over in the ballast of ships from the Far East for lumber.  “There is such a powerful energy here.”  He looked carefully at the family pictures on the wall, reading about the family history.  There was one of the owner’s daughter and the owner on the front steps of the lodge where we had been sitting earlier.  She was joyful in her wedding dress, holding wild flowers.  The owner looked on at her with pride.  The photo captured this family in its golden years, and it was with sadness that I thought of everyone who had lived here, and were now gone.

He came over to me and spoke quietly so that only I could hear him.  “I think that this house holds memories of the past and the future in it.”  He reminded me of his son in his youthful belief of mysterious and unexplainable things.

“How can you have a memory of the future?”

“This house seems to have something prophetic about it.  I don’t know if I would call it a memory.  It just gives me some feelings of things to come.”  He touched the heavy wooden mantlepiece above the fireplace.

“What kinds of messages?”  I had been alone for along time.  I always liked to speculate what lay ahead me.  I had many tarot card readings foretelling pretty average events.  Most were vague and inarticulate at best.  I wished that somehow I could know what lay ahead for me.  Would I grow into my older years alone?

“I feel something about you.  You are attached to this home in the past and in the future.  Have you ever been here before?”

“I don’t think so,” but I tried to think about where I might have somehow come across this lovely place in my history.  My family had come over to the island when I was a child, but I had no real recollection of it.

***

The men’s laughter rang through the night louder than the rain that pelted overhead onto the tin roof of the veranda.  They spoke heartily about the deal of the day.  “…and I told him to bugger off if he didn’t have the cash for the lumber.”  All five older gentleman dressed in distinguished evening attire laughed in unison enjoying their whisky and lox.  He pulled out a cigar and clipped the end of it in a definitive stroke, and then handed the cigar clipper over to his friend who did the same.  They savoured the slow catching of the flames before inhaling them.  “Dad,” a woman poked her head out of the front door.  “Can I talk to you?”  

“Sure,” he responded, handing his cigar to a friend with a pat on the back, excusing himself.  He followed her into the lodge, past guests in the living room, with whom he shook hands.  They ended up in the sitting room of the master bedroom, where she sat with him on one of the sofas.  

“I am not sure that I can keep doing it,” she confided to him.  “He has been moody and unpredictable.  I am exhausted with all of the money he has been spending lately.”  She looked over as a little girl peeked around the corner, looking up at them shyly as she made her way from the bathroom back towards the living room to find her parents again.  Mary smiled and beckoned the girl over to her, and had her sit between them, playing with her long red curls as the girl looked up at them through sleepy eyes.  

“I don’t know what to tell you.  Marriage isn’t easy, Dear. It seems like yesterday when you were the bride here in this house.  I think you have to talk to him and make it work,” he looked into her sad eyes, and offered, “Would you like me to talk to him?”

“No,” she was quick to reply.  “He would be furious.”  She started to cough. “We have to get back in and pay our respects to the beautiful bride.  She is such a lovely New Year’s bride, isn’t she, Dad?  She has so much hope for the future, doesn’t she?…”  She sighed.

“Yes, she does,” he held her hand.  “1967 is going to be a good year for all of us. You lie down,” he pulled her in for a hug and then encouraged her to rest.  “You don’t look well.  I’ll pass on your best wishes to the new couple.”  

“Okay,” she agreed.  She never left a social occasion early. He held out his hand to the small girl who looked up at them with wide green eyes.  “And we need to find your parents, Missee,” he smiled down at her, and then led her out to the living room.

***

“It’s a beautiful place,” James looked around and then down at his phone where he typed a message.  He looked up at me and then spoke a bit distractedly.  “I do feel the energy that you are talking about.”  We had wandered around the upstairs and we ended up in the owner’s daughter’s bedroom.

“Apparently this room has been reported to have ‘an unexplained chilly draft in one part of this room’”, I read the description of the room posted on the wall.  “‘Over the years, various lodge caretakers and workers have reported sensing a ghostly, yet benevolent, presence about the property, particularly in the owner’s former bedroom’.  Spooky!”  I turned to James and we both looked out of the room with a stunning view of harbour.  “This is the room where I smell a lot of lavender.  I asked the lodge caretaker before if they used lavender oils or perfume in the room, and he said that they do not.  He also confirmed that there was no longer lavender on the grounds because it was sometimes invasive to other flowers.”

James turned to with a strange look in his eyes.  “I think you will have a significant moment in this room.”

“Really?  Unless I break in here at night, I don’t think anything really interesting can really happen to me here with all of the tourist traffic,”  I teased.

His phone chirped again, and he made apologies.  “My girlfriend is texting me, and I’m going to have to go.”  I was taken aback by the abrupt ending to our brief encounter.  He continued, “It was nice meeting you.  Remember, good things are going to happen to you in this house.”  He said a quick good-bye, leaving me to wonder about where he would end up.  I was left alone in the quiet of the house.  I explored the adjoining dressing room with its built-in cupboards, and coal fireplace.  I felt a presence, and heard a hint of laughter, but I wasn’t sure if it was my over-active imagination.  I stayed still, listening.

***

“She is so perfect,” I held my sleeping grand-daughter, Jane, breathing in her lavender talcum powder while her mother, Andrea, explored the room. Jane’s little eye lashes fluttered and her tiny fingers twitched while she slept in my arms.  I was in love with this little biological heirloom that my son and his wife had given our family

“This is an amazing house,” Andrea exclaimed as she wandered around the room, appreciating all of the antiques.  “Do you think this room is really haunted?” 

“I don’t know.  I’ve always felt like it had something magical about it.  Now you are here to share it with me,” I revelled in the intimacy of this moment together, just the three of us.  

“It looks like they are setting up for a wedding on the front lawn?” she pointed down to a man who was setting up a table next to a full garden of pink hollyhocks.  I leaned out of the open window, and recognized him. I couldn’t quite place where I had met him.  He looked up to the window that we were leaning from, and squinted up at us.  

“Hey, Christine,” he seemed excited to see me.  “Remember me?”  

“No,” I yelled back, smiling.  My daughter-in-law’s awkward laughter suggested that this might have been a forgotten lover from days gone by.  

“I’m James…”

Like a slow processing computer, my mind finally crunched out a memory of my very brief encounter with this man.  “James!  The backpacker.  I remember you.  God, it has been almost ten years.  Do you work here now?”

“I took over that old caretaker’s job.  It helped to be a long lost relative.  I love the trees, and hell, the pay was pretty good.   I got married too.  We live in the little cottage behind the house in the forest,” and as an after thought he blurted, “…and you still have that pretty long red hair.”

I smiled a bit awkwardly.  The dots in my head were starting to re-connect the many pieces of the puzzle of this house that we had spoken briefly about a decade ago.  “I got married too, and we got married here in this house. This is my daughter-in-law, and their baby!”  We both waved a bit awkwardly to him, holding up the sleeping baby who was oblivious to our hollering back and forth.

He gave us a thumbs up and flashed us those big white teeth.  He still wore a flannel shirt, and I wondered if he had finally gotten shoe laces for his big boots.  “You see,” he yelled up happily to remind her knowingly, “Good things did happen here, didn’t they?”  Our conversation years ago had been a foretelling of things to come for me, and stirred a memory from my childhood that I had long forgotten.

“Yes, they did!”  I gave him a thumbs up, and held my other hand to my heart at the immense realization of it all. 

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Pressed: Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Three: What Trouble Teaches Us

31 Oct

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Three: What Trouble Teaches Us.

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“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Nobody knows my sorrow

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Glory, Hallelujah”  Louis Armstrong (traditional)

Standing on the Edge:  I was on an airplane with few movie choices, and I stumbled across a thought-provoking one called A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby.  It is about these four unsensational, but depressed characters that find themselves up on top of the Topper Tower in London all looking down contemplating the jump.  They are embarrassed to be exposed to each other as they find themselves on the same humiliating journey looking down to the ground.  After some awkward conversation, they agree to put off their decision to jump for six weeks.  They decide that if they still feel the same way on Valentines day, that they will meet and resume the jump.  However, predictably in the interim, they find that by knowing that they are no longer alone, and by seeing each other through the mirrors that are vulnerably held in front of them by each other, they find other ways of seeing and then resolving their difficulties.

What I have found in my human journey filled with markedly exciting and successful highs, and some periodic difficulties, is that trouble can insidiously shape us in some pretty unnervingly long term ways if we allow it to happen.  Sometimes it takes someone to say, “Hey, actually the problem is not this way, or that way, or that big.  You are just seeing it that way.”  Each time we have a problem that we delicately avoid, shove under the carpet, or feel that we have successfully averted, we become more adept at avoiding looking life in the eye through fresh and resilient lenses.  More often, we spend a lot of solitary time trying to “…to rebuild [ourselves], piece by piece, with no instruction book, and no clue as to where all the important bits are supposed to go” (Hornby, 2014). As a result, after each little break in the glass, when we finally stand back and look out of our windows, we have a very distorted view of life out there.  Our “cognitive distortions”, ranging from “tunnel vision, all-or-nothing thinking, should and must statements, worse case scenario thinking through to personalization, overgeneralization” (Beck, 1995), and many more disfunctional thought patterns, begin to rule how we conceive of the world around us.

The Trick is to Pretend and Not Let It Happen Again:  What we learn as children when we fall down, burn ourselves, or have something painful happen, is that in the future, we steer clear from making the same mistakes again.  The whole goal of our human conditioning is to avoid pain at whatever costs.  However, as we get older, the maze of “avoiding life’s difficulties” becomes pretty complicated.  We get lost in it.  We lose other people while we or they are in it.  Then, we stay clear of all things because there might be some remote possibility that something awful that we experienced before, might jump out at us when we least expect it.  We deny.  We blame.  We hide.  We do not “cope” in the really profound ways that allow us to get back on the horse and keep riding onward. We know when we get triggered by past episodes.  Our bodies start to tense.  Our breathing gets faster.  Our muscles get ready to fight.  However, our brains turn off because our blood flow is relegated elsewhere in our state of flight and fear.  The majority of the population gets lost in this trigger trauma cycle.  No one likes going down these scary rabbit holes, so they are either hyper-vigilent to prevent any problems (doing everything right), or hypo-vigilent to respond to them (numbing out and apathy).

The Mind’s Eye:  What has dawned on me lately, as I live on my own and have to grapple with difficulties by myself, is that troubles are only as big as I choose to make them.  It took a few recent falls to see that I am going to continually fall as long as I “live”.  Now I need to learn how to fall, and not how to avoid falling.  I remember learning how to roll and fall on cross country skis.  It was something that was expected to happen when we skiied, and as a result, when we fell, we knew how, and didn’t think much of it.  The key is to get up and to look at what happened and learn from it.  However, it is very important to not take on crazy reactive behaviour because we take what happened to us too personally and own more of the responsibility than is ours to own.

What I am discovering about my own life is that my circle of influence is pretty small.  There is really very little that I can truly control in my life other than how I think about my experiences.  I can make some choices within the context of my home, my work, my society, my culture and the world; however, there is a randomness in the universe each and every day that I live out loud.  There is always going to be some asshole who is going to say his or her rude comments and be obstinate just because I have an idea that is new or different, or that he or she did not think about first.  There will always be some obstacle standing in the way of some outcome (not all) that I am trying to achieve.  There will always be some cost-benefit analysis that I will have to do to make my straight lines to happiness a bit loopier than I want them to be.

The key for me lately is to stand my ground:  What do I need?  What can I leave?  What matters?  What does not matter?  I need to be clear about these fundamental questions in the moment of each experience that I live so that if I am triggered, I can breathe and say, “I don’t need to address this right now or ever!”  That is a choice I can make each and every time I feel my defences kicking in, and I experience what I perceive to be trouble coming my way.

Trouble in Partnership:  What I am also learning lately as I date and discover with whom I am interested in being in partnership, is that people do not have to be similar in many ways, and sometimes not even all that perfectly compatible except in one way:  Do we know how to solve problems together?  If people can agree on how to see and solve trouble together, we have a better shot at a relationship than all of the fairy tales stories we grew up believing would be our romantic outcomes.

The difficulty is that there are not many problem solvers who want to sit in the eye of the storm either independently or interdependently and “take it on”.  We are in a wounded world of avoiders, defenders, and fair weather seekers.  It is not easy to find that special someone who is well-versed in the matters of handling difficulties with a level head and heart.  Many of us look, connect, sense a little trouble, and move onward.  In established relationships, some are healthy teams of trouble shooters, but many marriages are filled with land mines and danger zones that are delicately side-stepped to stay “happy” together.

Stay Awake:  I encourage all of us to really look at all of the things that scare us–the people, places, things, experiences, memories, and ideas.  Sometimes they are hard to conjure up as we have become desensitized.  Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know until someone points it out to us.  However, when we are ready, it helps to get raw and vulnerable and find out what frightens us, why it hurts us, and then start examining how to address it each and every time it happens… because it will happen over and over again until the day we die.  It means responding, and not reacting.  As well, when we are awake to it, we can stop asking everyone around us to walk on eggshells to avoid hurting us, and start getting a bit stronger about dealing with what real life experiences have the potential of giving us both good and bad.  It puts us in charge of our own life experiences and what we believe about it.

Let’s stand away from the edge so that we don’t feel as if we are on this dangerous precipice each and every time trouble arises with the fear of falling over.  Better yet, let’s make sure that there never comes a time that we feel the need to jump off.

The self is a mystery. In our efforts to pin it down or make it safe, we dissociate ourselves from our complete experience of whatever it is or is not” (Mark Epstein, The Trauma of Everyday Life).

Pressed: 52 Weeks Being Now: Week Forty: Silent Knowledge

12 Aug

52 Weeks Being Now: Week Forty: Silent Knowledge.

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Stopping to Listen: Every so often we get caught up in the inertia of our lives and in the words and actions that precipitate what we believe to be the “truth”. We are so busy trying to figure out what the truth means, that we lose the essential point of why we are trying to learn it in the first place. We want to experience joy. We want to experience love. We believe that the absolute truth will allow us some sense of security in knowing our goodness and that of those around us. Then, and only then, can we experience true joy and love. However, the truth is only a story that we tell ourselves, or that we allow others to interpret of us:

“I am only one half of the message; you are the other half. I am responsible for what I say, but I am not responsible for what you understand. You are responsible for what you understand; you are responsible for whatever you do with what you hear in your head, because you are the one who gives the meaning to every word that you hear” (Ruiz, 2010, p. 104).

Usually, we listen to the words of those we hope are telling us the truth. We watch their actions. We try to align their words and actions so as to have them make testaments of what we need to believe to be true. However, in the end, it is all a story. It is a perspective, and what truly matters is what is beneath the story. “The truth is silent. It’s something you you just know; it’s something that you can feel without words and it’s called silent knowledge” (Ruiz, 2010, p. 110). I refer to it as intuition.

Quiet Communication: Intuition is sometimes fed by little clues. If we really listen, we hear someone’s character by subtler things found in between the words and actions. These sometimes imperceptible details become magnificent, in particular when we are at odds with ourselves and each other. Compassionate details matter most in moments of difficulty. For example: the sound of the patient breath; a loving look; our tears wiped; a patient tone; loving eye-contact; arms open; whispering tones of gratitude; no rushing; quiet rest; the benefit of the doubt; a hug; a loving presence; strong persistence; a belligerent belief in our internal goodness despite the proof in the moment of something less; a hummed melody; pure stillness; compassionate space and intimacy; staying awake; a caress; a touch on furrowed brow; a knowing look; and never ever feeling ignored. All are quiet forms of love that are somewhere between or beyond words and action.

When we show this quiet love, we believe in ourselves more. This silent belief in our own goodness are the roots that we grow into the ground around us. These are the roots of disciplined empathy which I like to call integrity. These roots give ourselves and people confidence in us, even when the wind blows.

Although you are a talisman protecting a treasure,
you are also the mine.
Open your hidden eyes
and come to the root of the root of your Self.
(Rumi, Root of the Root)

When we are quietly strong this way, we and the people around us always know that we only tremble a bit in the storms, or when we are tired. Regardless, we remain standing, and continue to grow upward into the sunlight. There is a tacet understanding that unless we are forcibly chopped down, or burned, our goodness is intrinsic and constant. We do not tire from being this way because it is a good way to be, but it takes effort. We see no limitations to it because we understand that “the mind that perceives the limitation is the limitation” (Buddha).

If we are really listening, we do not question the internal goodness of ourselves and others because it is just there, sometimes covered up by confusing words, and complicated actions and the assumptions that we draw from both. However, if we are really listening, we hear each other in deeper timbres. We know intuitively of the pain and the love that resides deeper inside of us and those around us. We ask different questions. We appreciate the power of the pregnant pause when we respond, not react. We step forward into the wind, not backwards. We sing inwards, rather than shout outwards. We pull forwards rather than push away.

Don’t go away, come near.
Don’t be faithless, be faithful.
Find the antidote in the venom.
Come to the root of the root of your Self.
(Rumi, Root of the Root)

In other words, when we are rooted, we stay. We stay present. We stay connected. This staying is the silent knowledge of our spiritual love as compassionate people in all of our complexities.

“Human beings are millions of things in one day.”
― Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Nine: Creating the Grand Adventure

6 Aug

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Nine: Creating the Grand Adventure.

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Getting on the Train: My recent move to the Comox Valley to live on my own in a new culture, and in a paradise setting, has taught me three things. I can do it. Secondly, that it is not exactly where I want to be at this time in my life, and thirdly, I am not living out my true potential in my major career (although I appreciate my good fortune in having such a good job in the Comox Valley, and I enjoy some of this work very much). I am at a critical turning point. Pender Island, the cottage that I bought in tandem with moving to BC to work as an administrator, was clearly the right decision. This has become a place where I will set down some roots and return to it time and again, as my little sanctuary for as long as I can afford to do so.

My friend, who recently visited my cottage, left me with an interesting quote that she found from watching the movie The Lunchbox: “Sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station.” To some degree I feel similarly to the lead character in the movie. I have gotten on a train, and am confident that this was a good step towards getting towards where I need to be (although I am not exactly sure of my destination). At least I got on a train, as many of us talk ourselves out of doing that because we want guarantees that we are safe in whatever we do. Whereas, life is really a journey. It is about taking a series of steps that head in the direction of our souls, and hopefully, allow us to do what we are called to do along the way so that we live authentic and rich life experiences.

What is the Grand Adventure? It is difficult to describe to someone what a grand adventure actually means. So many of us get into relationships to achieve the outcome of having a relationship. We work at jobs for the satisfaction of achieving our career goals. We have children to raise and launch them into adulthood. In many ways, we go through a series of developmental tasks that help us to experience key personal and professional goals through to fruition in very componential and linear ways.

Whatever the goal, the Grand Adventure is something big, important, meaningful and memorable. It is deemed an adventure because it requires preparation, courage, and possibly, training, to carry it through to fruition. It is something that we will be proud to tell our friends and family, and to look back on with happiness and pride. We will be able to reminisce in the glow of accomplishment, and say, “We did this together!” Or, “We built this!” This memorable lived legacy can be something either internal, external or both.

I believe that a Grand Adventure is something bigger than any one developmental task in our lifetimes. It affords us to have a relationship within a bigger life trajectory. It allows us to consider our career within a larger overarching plan or series of plans. We can then bring our children into a bigger conceptual space about their purpose for being. Rather than simply raising them within some established structures and formative milestones that are typically accepted as “growing up” in our cultures in safe and acceptable ways, we broaden their life experiences through a bigger life vision that often involves building strength, confidence, and helping ourselves and others to be better people.

Vision-Making: The Grand Adventure is something that we can do ourselves, or with others. I believe living out this type of big dream would be most satisfying, albeit, most challenging, to do with a partner. I also think that this is the type of thing that relationships benefit from to help us align our spirits. Living on a shared Grand Adventure requires a kind of vision-making of each partner so that we can first find meaning in our own independent plans, and then in our shared visions. I believe that it is important that both people in partnership own part of the dream so that we feel some shared passion and motivation in fulfilling it. We are co-pilots and rely on each other flying towards our connected dreams.

Essentially, when striking out towards this vision, we each sit side-by-side at our easels considering what colours we will throw onto it, or how we might delicately paint over our blank canvasses. Everyone has a different visioning style. There are no paint by numbers. There are no rules that make one painting right and the other wrong. It is dreaming aloud without any preconceived notions. Writers refer to this as “free writing”. As we create, ideas come into shape, rather than what is typically accepted which is that all things need to have an outline, or clearly measured blue prints.

From time to time, we will peek over at our partner’s painting, and see what is emerging. We give each other space to dream and grow, trusting that we are both committed to building something together and in some synchronicity and on a similar timeline. And then together, we compare our creations. It might be a cacophony of colour, or a clearly rendered painting from a picture held in our minds, perhaps from childhood. Then we consider how the ideas align. What brainstorming needs to occur to make each one independently as beautiful as possible. And then, what happens when we bring them together and merge them? What are even more possibilities when both dreams are combined? The logistics are not the point at this part of the adventure. All that is required is hope, enthusiasm, inspiration and raw courage.

Imagine travelling to a foreign country to work with a non-profit charitable organization to help bring water to communities. Consider what it might be like to climb key mountains in the world that are both beautiful and challenging. What if the grand adventure is to co-author a book while travelling and living somewhere that is unfamiliar and new? What if it looks like sailing from one coast to another and learning to live off of the sea? What if it means living in a community of people working towards the goal of saving an animal or ecosystem that is fragile? Perhaps it is living for a year or two discovering different spiritual practices? What if it might be to research a certain thing or situation and publish the findings? It might be simpler, and could involve setting personal goals of physical well-being or building something tangible that has value to both people and is helpful to others who need this support. What if…? is the type of talk that occurs at this stage.

Living the Dream Aloud: Eventually, the time comes to live it aloud. The architect and the carpenter need to work together to carefully craft what the dream might be. The logistics of how the blocks from the quarry are lifted, cut and crafted together, need to be considered. It takes ongoing communication and disciplined planning in order to see it through so that there is a nice sense of possibility and momentum in its creation. Most importantly, both partners need to share in the leadership. The skill set of each partner is respected, but neither is made responsible for motivating the project. Instead, it is agreed that if it matters to both, both must contribute to its launching. Each must relish in the work and joy that it will bring the partnership. Both must appreciate how to open our arms and abandon ourselves openly to the unknown that happens on every adventure. No one person is left holding the bag, as having a trusting and reciprocal commitment is the key element of a shared adventure. At times, this takes discipline, effort and might require education or guidance from external sources where challenges emerge.

Doing It: Finally, the adventure begins to unfold. It can sometimes happen while it is still being planned, and it might continue and branch off into many directions; but most importantly, it happens. It might not happen exactly as planned. It might become too large or too small, and require revisions along the way. There might be some breaks for rest, or modifications so that both people can sustain the journey. However, again, the point is that there is follow-through. The dream comes to life. There will be a wonderful story to tell before, during and after it happens. I like to believe that the partnership will benefit and grow from the experience, and so will others that we encounter along the way, provided that we act from a place of love and integrity. And then, at the end of the adventure, hopefully we will find that it is really only the beginning of our next adventure together.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Nine: Creating the Grand Adventure

5 Aug

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Getting on the Train: My recent move to the Comox Valley to live on my own in a new culture, and in a paradise setting, has taught me three things. I can do it. Secondly, that it is not exactly where I want to be at this time in my life, and thirdly, I am not living out my true potential in my major career (although I appreciate my good fortune in having such a good job in the Comox Valley, and I enjoy some of this work very much). I am at a critical turning point. Pender Island, the cottage that I bought in tandem with moving to BC to work as an administrator, was clearly the right decision. This has become a place where I will set down some roots and return to it time and again, as my little sanctuary for as long as I can afford to do so.

My friend, who recently visited my cottage, left me with an interesting quote that she found from watching the movie The Lunchbox: “Sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station.” To some degree I feel similarly to the lead character in the movie. I have gotten on a train, and am confident that this was a good step towards getting towards where I need to be (although I am not exactly sure of my destination). At least I got on a train, as many of us talk ourselves out of doing that because we want guarantees that we are safe in whatever we do. Whereas, life is really a journey. It is about taking a series of steps that head in the direction of our souls, and hopefully, allow us to do what we are called to do along the way so that we live authentic and rich life experiences.

What is the Grand Adventure? It is difficult to describe to someone what a grand adventure actually means. So many of us get into relationships to achieve the outcome of having a relationship. We work at jobs for the satisfaction of achieving our career goals. We have children to raise and launch them into adulthood. In many ways, we go through a series of developmental tasks that help us to experience key personal and professional goals through to fruition in very componential and linear ways.

Whatever the goal, the Grand Adventure is something big, important, meaningful and memorable. It is deemed an adventure because it requires preparation, courage, and possibly, training, to carry it through to fruition. It is something that we will be proud to tell our friends and family, and to look back on with happiness and pride. We will be able to reminisce in the glow of accomplishment, and say, “We did this together!” Or, “We built this!” This memorable lived legacy can be something either internal, external or both.

I believe that a Grand Adventure is something bigger than any one developmental task in our lifetimes. It affords us to have a relationship within a bigger life trajectory. It allows us to consider our career within a larger overarching plan or series of plans. We can then bring our children into a bigger conceptual space about their purpose for being. Rather than simply raising them within some established structures and formative milestones that are typically accepted as “growing up” in our cultures in safe and acceptable ways, we broaden their life experiences through a bigger life vision that often involves building strength, confidence, and helping ourselves and others to be better people.

Vision-Making: The Grand Adventure is something that we can do ourselves, or with others. I believe living out this type of big dream would be most satisfying, albeit, most challenging, to do with a partner. I also think that this is the type of thing that relationships benefit from to help us align our spirits. Living on a shared Grand Adventure requires a kind of vision-making of each partner so that we can first find meaning in our own independent plans, and then in our shared visions. I believe that it is important that both people in partnership own part of the dream so that we feel some shared passion and motivation in fulfilling it. We are co-pilots and rely on each other flying towards our connected dreams.

Essentially, when striking out towards this vision, we each sit side-by-side at our easels considering what colours we will throw onto it, or how we might delicately paint over our blank canvasses. Everyone has a different visioning style. There are no paint by numbers. There are no rules that make one painting right and the other wrong. It is dreaming aloud without any preconceived notions. Writers refer to this as “free writing”. As we create, ideas come into shape, rather than what is typically accepted which is that all things need to have an outline, or clearly measured blue prints.

From time to time, we will peek over at our partner’s painting, and see what is emerging. We give each other space to dream and grow, trusting that we are both committed to building something together and in some synchronicity and on a similar timeline. And then together, we compare our creations. It might be a cacophony of colour, or a clearly rendered painting from a picture held in our minds, perhaps from childhood. Then we consider how the ideas align. What brainstorming needs to occur to make each one independently as beautiful as possible. And then, what happens when we bring them together and merge them? What are even more possibilities when both dreams are combined? The logistics are not the point at this part of the adventure. All that is required is hope, enthusiasm, inspiration and raw courage.

Imagine travelling to a foreign country to work with a non-profit charitable organization to help bring water to communities. Consider what it might be like to climb key mountains in the world that are both beautiful and challenging. What if the grand adventure is to co-author a book while travelling and living somewhere that is unfamiliar and new? What if it looks like sailing from one coast to another and learning to live off of the sea? What if it means living in a community of people working towards the goal of saving an animal or ecosystem that is fragile? Perhaps it is living for a year or two discovering different spiritual practices? What if it might be to research a certain thing or situation and publish the findings? It might be simpler, and could involve setting personal goals of physical well-being or building something tangible that has value to both people and is helpful to others who need this support. What if…? is the type of talk that occurs at this stage.

Living the Dream Aloud: Eventually, the time comes to live it aloud. The architect and the carpenter need to work together to carefully craft what the dream might be. The logistics of how the blocks from the quarry are lifted, cut and crafted together, need to be considered. It takes ongoing communication and disciplined planning in order to see it through so that there is a nice sense of possibility and momentum in its creation. Most importantly, both partners need to share in the leadership. The skill set of each partner is respected, but neither is made responsible for motivating the project. Instead, it is agreed that if it matters to both, both must contribute to its launching. Each must relish in the work and joy that it will bring the partnership. Both must appreciate how to open our arms and abandon ourselves openly to the unknown that happens on every adventure. No one person is left holding the bag, as having a trusting and reciprocal commitment is the key element of a shared adventure. At times, this takes discipline, effort and might require education or guidance from external sources where challenges emerge.

Doing It: Finally, the adventure begins to unfold. It can sometimes happen while it is still being planned, and it might continue and branch off into many directions; but most importantly, it happens. It might not happen exactly as planned. It might become too large or too small, and require revisions along the way. There might be some breaks for rest, or modifications so that both people can sustain the journey. However, again, the point is that there is follow-through. The dream comes to life. There will be a wonderful story to tell before, during and after it happens. I like to believe that the partnership will benefit and grow from the experience, and so will others that we encounter along the way, provided that we act from a place of love and integrity. And then, at the end of the adventure, hopefully we will find that it is really only the beginning of our next adventure together.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Seven: Getting High and Staying High

3 Aug

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Seven: Getting High and Staying High.

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Getting High: Everyone wants to get high–metaphorically, literally, spiritually, through drugs and alcohol, artistically, sexually, or other. What is interesting to me is that most people don’t know what “getting high” actually means. As well, we don’t understand the following:

-We don’t know why we want to get high so badly
-We don’t know how to get high in safe, healthy, or relevant ways
-Once we are high, we are not always sure how to really appreciate it

As well, most people who do get high, want to replicate it over and over again in exactly the same way. We think that if we just re-do the same steps, in the same way, that the same outcome will result. However, the nature of any ecstatic experience is that usually we cannot re-formulate it through mere repetition. Each time, some different variable comes into play that requires the need to be attentive, creative and intentional so that there can be new unique and wonderful outcomes.

Of course, this takes effort. People who do not want to make the effort usually end up taking drugs; resorting to simulations on a computer; or need some other extrinsic catalyst to jump start them into the sublime.

Hot Air: An example of getting high for me was a hot air balloon trip in Capadocia, Turkey (see pictures below). The last time that I had taken a balloon ride prior to this adventure, was in Calgary, Alberta a decade previously. It had been a less than thrilling experience on a cold morning with a grumpy husband who wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the whole early morning escapade. As well, as we ascended into the air, our little son was waving up at us with a worried expression, wondering if his parents would disappear into the clouds and never come down again. (Because of his alarm, my father took it upon himself to follow our balloon by driving through the city underneath it to the safe landing spot, reassuring his grandson all the while). As a result, I remember the whole balloon ride as a feeling of mixed emotions about why I was doing such a far-fetched thing in the first place without my son, and with my, now, ex-husband.

As a result, when the suggestion to go up in the air with complete strangers in a foreign country, came about, I wasn’t sure that I would find the experience to be anything more than this botched attempt at getting high in the same way the first time around. While the crew began the launching process in the pre-historic landscape of this famous Turkish desert valley, the sunlight was just starting to appear on the horizon. In the darkness, the blasts of the burner flame sounded like hungry dragons, as they heated the air through the balloon mouths. Once they were air buoyant, we jumped into the balloon basket. We were all a bit nervous as the box swayed sideways before launching, but finally the ground crew released the balloon into the pilot’s capable hands.

Magic in the Ascent: As we ascended, magic began to unfold all around me. This balloon ride was different. I was surrounded by a few fellow travellers who were as equally interested in being “mesmerized” as I was by the ascent. Their enthusiasm was contagious. The desert landscape below filled with miles upon miles of wind burrowed rock formations (which we call hoodoos in Canada) was absolutely breathtaking.

As well, the Turkish balloon companies did not, at this time, have any regulations about how high they could actually fly. I had been told in my first balloon flight about the Canadian guidelines because of the dangers of flying too close to the sun, and other elevation precautions. In Turkey, words like “guidelines” or “precautions” never came up. He seemed more interested in sharing with us what we would see, not what might go wrong. All the while, we just kept getting higher and higher. At one point, when I looked down, I realized that I was “high”–very very high. Any fear or trepidation about heights was something that I should have thought about before the trip because here I was…up in the clouds. I breathed in the height. I kept my eye on the beauty, and I revered in the experience. All of it was simply too beautiful for fear to step in and ruin it for me.

Some of the high had to do with the pilot. I trusted him. He spoke confidently about the height. He seemed credible and capable handling the balloon. He pointed out what would be happening before, during and after the trip so that we were at ease. He had a certain “enthusiasm” (coming from the word “entheos”, which in Latin means “of the Gods”) that awakened me to what I could expect. However, I was confident that everyone in the basket would see and experience something very different from each other. The flight was also gilded in gold for me because of my openness to trying it–again. I was a different person this time around. I had the capacity to get high, and I appreciated the joy of doing so in a way that I had never experienced before. I was high on my new status in life. I was free.

Staying High: What amazes me about the whole experience is that the balloon ride was not the real crux of the experience for me. The rush was my willingness to embrace all aspects of the experience. I was doing something that other people had done a thousand times, but for me, it was as if no one had ever done this before. How could the universe be this wonderful? Why was I so fortunate? What would I see, and remember from the experience? For the duration of the trip, I was out of body. In memory of it, I find it surreal to consider how magnificent the view was, and I am still high in the recollection. I was in another world. I was on another planet. I was flying high. And what is most important to realize about this existential height experience was that there were no drugs required, then, during the flight, and now, in the remembrance of it (although I am sure the adrenaline rush released a bit of dopamine). This was flying high for real, inside and out.

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Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Six: Coast to Coast Calling

30 Jul

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Six: Coast to Coast Calling.

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Coast to Coast Calling

Impenetrable darkness

The Pacific bonfire questions the night sky
“How bright am I?”

Aurora’s luminescent spirits
hiss at the stars

Thunderbird’s wings
slash open the skies

Forest’s wild flames
scratch the night awake

Cygnus’ crystals in milky galaxies
flicker and fall

Light wars
Merely distractions

The Atlantic waters
quietly phosphorescent
reply

“I see you”