Choosing and Musing

Yesterday a friend, Lani, posted part one in a series called, “Can we learn to be happier?” on Facebook.

I thought that that was an unrealistic expectation and might even cause more suffering in this world. I believe that we focus too heavily on “the pursuit of happiness” instead of acceptance of what is.

I preferred that we instead focus on feeling content.

Lani thought they were perhaps the same thing.

I disagree. Here’s what Etymology Dictionary [DOT] com says about happiness

happy (adj.)

late 14c., “lucky, favored by fortune, prosperous;” of events, “turning out well,” from hap (n.) “chance, fortune” + -y (2). Sense of “very glad” first recorded late 14c. Ousted Old English eadig (from ead “wealth, riches”) and gesælig, which has become silly. Meaning “greatly pleased and content” is from 1520s. Old English bliðe “happy” survives as blithe. From Greek to Irish, a great majority of the European words for “happy” at first meant “lucky.” An exception is Welsh, where the word used first meant “wise.”

and about the word content …

content (adj.)

c.1400, from Old French content, “satisfied,” from Latin contentus “contained, satisfied,” past participle of continere (see contain).

content (v.)

early 15c., from Middle French contenter, from content (adj.) “satisfied,” from Latin contentus “contained, satisfied,” past participle of continere (see contain). Sense evolved through “contained,” “restrained,” to “satisfied,” as the contented person’s desires are bound by what he or she already has. Related: Contented; contentedly.

then I said I preferred equanimity which has its roots in …

equanimity (n.)

c.1600, “fairness, impartiality,” from French équanimité, from Latin aequanimitatem (nominative aequanimitas) “evenness of mind, calmness,” from aequus “even, level” (see equal (adj.)) + animus “mind, spirit” (see animus). Meaning “evenness of temper” in English is from 1610s.

Pausing,  I wondered if I was just being picky or just cranky.

That’s why I’ve gone into the etymology of each word. I grant you it’s not the Oxford English … but I don’t have a subscription right now. Perhaps that’s something I need to treat myself to. But for now… this will have to do.

I claimed yesterday that happiness was too dependent on events, circumstances, even other people and it would seem my memory served me right as it meant in the original sense something to what we would refer as “lucky”.

On second thought I think that’s what many want … to be lucky, wealthy (in the sense of $$$) and even silly giddy. Not that I would deny anyone those moments. Glory, I sure enjoy my “silly/giddy” moments. Just saying I wouldn’t want to be that way 24/7. Exhausting and often inappropriate.

Unless of course, you are Welsh and you want to be wise. Now that would be excellent. However, I don’t think I’ve ever heard even a person of Welsh decent actually express that wish. So I guess this meaning left us late in the 16th century.

What I’d like to offer is that we seek balance such as that denoted by the word equanimity.

I propose that we stop vilifying emotions by calling them good or bad. They are just feelings and we don’t have to act on them.

For a start we can just allow ourselves to feel melancholy when we do and notice how that feels in our bodies. Then go about what needs doing … or if nothing needs doing just go about feeling melancholy.

Certainly, we can warn people that that is how we are feeling, but we may also need to let them know that we don’t need fixing or advice or cheering up. I think that would make me happy on those occasions when I just need to sit with a feeling rather than fake a grin. Indeed, I think that all this duplicity is crazy making.

We rail about the weather, the state of the environment, the behaviour of others … but in the instant we really have no power over any of that. It is only setting ourselves up to believe that we are the centre of the universe. Let’s start realizing that we are all connected and that we can only be in one place in time. Working from that may not always make us “happy” but it’s a good place to start on “equanimity”.

My husband frequently quotes a poem by Li Po and I share this today in all its appropriateness.

In the landscape of spring

there is neither better or worse

the flowering branches

some grow long

some grow short

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Photo Credit Jeff Suchak

layering and textures from Kim Klassen

This Thursday blogging will examine an etymological / emotional theme for the rest of December and seeing that this is the last Thursday of 2013, we may need to extend it into January 2014.

I’d really appreciate your comments about how these posts make you feel. If you have a friend or colleague who might benefit from or even enjoy an exercise in pondering how to be authentic and balanced in this wacky world, please share a link. I’d love the company.

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Another look at “homecoming…”

In Ladder to the Moon, Allegra Taylor, speaks these words outlining the expansive view of home:

“Home, as journey’s end, as a spiritual destination, as coming to rest in my own heart. The end of exile.”

And today these words bite into my heart till it bleeds. For today we are having the Bruce Grey Owen Sound’s late edition of Sisters in Spirit Vigil Imageand it is the day I hear the news that 2 more young women are missing – Nicole Hannah Whiteduck and Laura Spence.

These two young mothers (Laura has 4 children, one is three months old, Nicole has ) left to go and “party” … or so we surmise. They had come into some money, and they cashed these cheques, but they left their wallets and cell phones home … and that surprises me because I have daughters and sons of my own who bring their cell phones everywhere. They left home with only the clothes on their back.

Ironically, Bridget Tolley, Laura Spence’s mother, is a founder of Families of Sisters in Spirit.

By all appearances they didn’t plan to disappear. But they have.

It is hard to “go missing” on a reserve; they are true communities; everybody knows everybody. Yet they have truly “gone missing”. They have been missing for five days.

No calls to families. No contact with friends.

And we worry.

We pray.

We hope against hope.

More than five years ago, Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander, went missing from the Kitigan Zibi reserve and neighbouring Maniwak. The same communities that Nicole Hannah Whiteduck and Laura Spence belong to. These women are still missing and unaccounted for.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, called for an “the “disturbing phenomenon” of missing and murdered aboriginal women” in Ottawa on Tuesday, October 15, 2013. Yet the federal government seemed not to notice his call for “a comprehensive and nationwide inquiry into the issue could help ensure a co-ordinated response and the opportunity for the loved ones of victims to be heard and would demonstrate a responsiveness to the concerns raised by the families and communities affected by this epidemic…”

Yet here we are – exhausted from the effort of repeatedly finding ourselves in the position of helplessness approaching hopelessness and futility as to how we can prevent this kind of thing happening. Worse still, we often worry alone in our own small communities…alone and feeling unsupported.

So tonight, it warms my heart to be joined by others who empathize with our loss…and not just the loss, but the callous disregard to find answers and … frankly to find these women and/or their abductors … and sadly sometimes their murderers.

We gather tonight to say Gi zah gin to each of these girls and women (and to boys and men) who are far from home. We love you. We will always remember you. We will wait and work until we can bring you home. Until every single one of us is safe everywhere we go… none of us can truly feel safe.

I want to reassure this community that we are cohering into a small group of concerned First Nations people and thankfully some who may not know their connection to our Nations, yet know that we are all connected…we are all Relations. Plans are underway as we meet here for 2014. Next year, we will be gathering again on the real ceremonial day, October 4th to honour these women, to bring them home…and to let all the powers that be know that we will not be silenced, we will not rest until every person in this land takes the “going missing” of a woman, a girl, a boy, a man, a child of this land seriously enough to take action … until that is resolved. And we will continue to do this until there is no longer a need, may it be so, for us to worry, to pray, to hope for the return of our daughters and yes, our sons.

ImagePhoto Credit: Jeff Suchak

Until we are all safe until Mother Earth calls us home.

Gifts and Apologies

ImageIt is the gift giving season, isn’t it? Yes, we give presents to show that we care for others. Right? Or do we just gift someone with whatever, just because, and roll our eyes at the crowds of inconsiderate, downright rude people in our way as we go about our “duty” shopping?

As for me, I’ve already got all the gifts I need. A healthy family, people who show up, a roof over my head, a good (and never ending) education, heat in the winter, food in my belly (lots of it too) and potable water. There are many of my brothers and sisters, and cousins, and aunties and uncles, and friends, and on down the line…who don’t.

Some of them, women in particular, started a movement called “Idle No More”. Oh we could argue about the men who hornswoggled the media spotlight, who took credit where no credit was due, but that would just distract people from the whole idea. Because actually “Idle No More” can’t be allowed to get lost in petty arguments about whose idea it was, or whether or not you are Status, Non-Status, Legal or not, Shadow Indians, Grey Indians, Apple, Urban or Rez.

This movement has grown so fast and so healthy because it is the right idea for this time. And time is running out.

Now I have friends who are, quite frankly newcomers to Turtle Island, some are even the first generation to live here. And maybe they don’t quite get the history, or maybe they just don’t want to be bothered with the history, or maybe they get confused by political gobbledegook or jabberwocky. Some have even pointed out to me that “Prime Minister Harper” has “apologized” in public and they feel we are being ungracious to expect that he follow up his “apology” with action. But you see an apology isn’t an apology if it isn’t followed up with action, repeatedly and sincerely. So, what we are expecting now is that this “apology” be made authentic and sincere. And the only a government can do that is with action.

Strictly speaking the apology only covered Residential Schools and as horrific a genocide that was (is) it’s just the tip of an iceberg. A very cold, sharp, scary iceberg. And even this apology hasn’t really got teeth or legs. That is aside from blaming the churches and them throwing a few dollars here and there for showy events rather than allowing people to speak until everyone has heard their stories. Because those stories make people uncomfortable, maybe even ashamed — and really what can anyone do now?

As for me (and I think I’ve got a lot of folks behind me on this

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– Native, and Non-Native alike) I’d like people to be able to expect a roof over their heads, healthy food in their bellies, heat in the winter, a decent school and educational system for their children, clean air, water and protected land to be just that – protected! Sounds simple doesn’t it.

But there’s a fly in the ointment here. Because protected lands that were “gifted” to First Nations haven’t been protected at all. Promises have been broken over and over and over again. If you’d like a quick read and a little background, I’d recommend that you pick up a copy of “The Truth About Stories – A Native Narrative” by Thomas King. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll want to continue on to “The Inconvenient Indian” by the same author. That is if you like a good story and as Thomas explains, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.”

So promises to protect lands whether that be a reserve (reservation in the U.S.) or a National or Provincial Park or just to keep the land safe for the sake of the land, or those who live on, in, or around it need to be kept. So whether it’s a government or a corporation or a neighbour who doesn’t keep the promise to steward the land in a good way, we all need to pay attention, to stand up and say, “Hey wait a minute. I won’t let you get away with that.”

Oh and don’t ever let anyone tell you that the government “gifted” First Nations with their “land” … The land is not for sale and you don’t own it in the same way you don’t really own anything else. It just is.

We’re welcome to live on it, tend it, live off of it – but we lose that right when we don’t take care of it. And deep down in your heart of hearts, you know that; you knew that from day one. So it’s no gift… As Thomas King says on page 137 of  The Truth About Stories – A Native Narrative, “It’s a lovely sentiment, isn’t it. Gifts. The Great White Mother and Father and their Red Children sitting around a Christmas tree, enjoying the holidays, the Indians eager to see what presents their parents have bought for them. A Currier and Ives moment.”

Only it’s not and you can’t buy land. Even if you believe that you can; even if that’s what the government, the corporations, and the banks want you to believe.

The land is finite and there are constraints to what it can absorb and still sustain itself and us. Though I imagine it will heal once we’re gone – and we’re working on that just as fast as we and those big Corporations can.

But you can make a difference. You can stand up and be counted; can make your voice heard. There is a hitch though. You have to follow that up with sincere actions. I have faith in you; I believe that you can do it. That we can hold each other accountable as well as governments and corporations. I’m counting on you, we’re all counting on you – especially Mother Earth.Image

Sock Monkey Alert

Hello alllll on this most wonderful of November Sundays.

We have a new sock monkey frenzy going on over at Six Degrees of Creativity. Be sure to go over and see what all the fuss is about.

As most of you will know the U.S. just had a national election. Quite a frenzy there too. Not to mention Hurricane Sandy. Friend Robin in New Jersey just got the electric power back on. So what is my point here…

Well, this morning, my kind husband came upon this inn

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in the woods…

out on a quick photoshoot…

Talked with the innkeeper

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who told him a tragic tale…

Seems a juvenile sock monkey wearing this ID tag (pardon the blurriness)

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in a frenzy of his own escaped on the SockMonkey Underground Railroad (which as everyone knows ends right here in Grey County, Ontario).

However his relief was not to last long.

Savagely attacked and left for dead…

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Well, my dear honey couldn’t bear the thought. He rescued him; brought him home.

Surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.

Please pray that we have success.

Hopefully thankful

I am so thankful that a friend (thanks Susan!) plugged me into Coursera with its many, many FR*& University courses. And very very grateful for my husband, Jeff, who brings me to such wonderful places to get me away from the computer…

Still, I am presently enjoying myself ploughing through Modern and Contemporary American Poetry and reading poetry that I had only heard of.

It is stretching me and giving me some little self-discipline in paying attention and staying organized somewhat less distract able.

digital camera/photo credit to Jeff Suchak of Mythic Landscape

In fact, I’m so thankful that I’m going to go waaaay out on a limb, like some trembling scarlet leaf, and share my first assignment with you. It is a short essay about Emily Dickinson‘s poem, “I taste a liquor never brewed” which for the sake of ease on your part I have included within this post.

“I taste a liquor never brewed —
From Tankards scooped in Pearl —
Not all the Vats upon the Rhine Yield such an Alcohol!
Inebriate of Air — am I —
And Debauchee of Dew —
Reeling — thro endless summer days —
From inns of Molten Blue —
 
When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove’s door —
When Butterflies — renounce their “drams” —
I shall but drink the more!
 
Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats —
And Saints — to windows run —
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the — Sun —

“Shook Foil”

One cannot help but be struck with the resonance of this poem with transcendentalism. Other poets such as Ralph Waldo Emerson (who was a visitor in the home where Emily lived) were immersed in transcendentalism, but Emily dances on Ockham’s razor and seems reluctant to fling away her Calvinist Christian roots yet experiences God in the natural world with far greater joy and ease than within the confines of “original sin” which she eschews. Gerard Manly Hopkins manages to stun us with his visceral experience of God in nature in his poem, “God’s Grandeur”[1] from whence I have taken my title for this essay.

This introverted (not ‘shy’) Enneagram Nine woman resists being sucked into the Calvinist vortex of Revival with its social seduction of both earthly acceptance and eternal life with a select few. It is possible to hear these personality traits and the panentheistic (note this is not Pantheistic) leanings of Universalism and Unitarianism which was heavily influenced by her contact with nature and her reading of Emerson and his ilk.

Imagine this young woman who had to leave school – which it would seem agreed with her – and remain in the confines of her home – though some say it was a lifestyle choice. Regardless of the reasons behind her choices, you can hear the abandon of a child set loose in many of her poems, this one in particular for me.

She whirls around with metaphors from both her social world and that of nature. For instance she compares herself as “inebriate of air” on “a liquor never brewed” with the “drunken bees”. Both risk being turned out of the foxgloves by developers who would tame and subdue the wildness of nature – and of Emily?

The “drams” refer to both the nectar sipped by butterflies and a small drink of ‘spirits’ sipped in the parlour by her friends and family after a hearty meal. All of us in both worlds gluttons and drunkards and hence kin of sorts.

The “molten blue” refers to the incredible intense blue of early Autumn and late summer skies – a contrast to that flat pale blue of winter when Emily with her frequent cough and kidney disease would have been ‘caged’ inside her home for fear of exacerbating her condition.

Imagine how free she felt then to be out under that open sky, clouds scudding overhead frolicking in a nearby meadow – a freedom she compares to that of the winged world of bees, butterflies, Seraph and Saints.

The world “reeling” connotes both a dizziness and a dance where logic is overtaken by sheer unadulterated joy and visceral sensation.

Picture the Seraphs swinging their “snowy hats” (halos perhaps?) in contrast to the theological reality[2] of Seraphim[3] and Cherubim who would have been understood to be fearsome and awesome Creatures dwelling in and protecting the place where God resides and not confused with cherubic little angels holding hearts on ribbons in some Valentine’s Day postcard.

Saints too dwell in the presence of God – a light that blazes so brightly that we would be consumed and blinded by it. Yet these heavenly Creatures run to see “the little Tippler – leaning against the Sun.” Could Sun be a play on Son an oblique reference to Jesus Christ? If so, we might imagine that God smiles on Emily as she cavorts with the Creatures of Creation and this is her inside joke with the Jesus who has vacated his “cross” to hold her up and support her – dare we say encourage

Nature’s haiku … “Ghosts”

her – in her literary gambol.


[1] Poem retrieved from the Internet on October 7, 2012 at http://www.bartleby.com/122/7.html/  originally found in Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)

[2] I spent two and a half years in a High Anglican seminary and another two years in Francis Sandy Theological Centre (a Christian theological seminary for those working with or of First Nation heritage). The information to which I refer was part of a number of conversations with professors of Old Testament and Theology.

[3] The word “seraph” literally means “burning ones”, they have six wings as described in Isaiah 6:2 “Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” Please note that in the Hebrew Testament when the Seraphim, or anyone else for that matter, cover their feet they are actually covering their genitals. Feet is used as a euphemism in “polite” society. Devout Christians of this period were likely knowledgeable about this, hence this image is irreverent and a poke at the stodginess of Calvinism.

Turtle Journal Cover … new beginning.

Turtle Journal Cover ... new beginning.Today is Wednesday…the day my tribe casts wishes. I’ve been away so long, I feel a stranger, but it’s interesting that

Jamie Ridler

poses this question today, “What do you wish to start?

Talk about synchronicity! Which I must say I am…

Why my dears, just at lunch with my very dear friend Jamie (another Jamie with whom I’ve been working through Melody Beattie’s40 Days to a Miracle”) and I decided to switch gears from this process we’ve been doing for 18+ months and focus more on being accountable first to ourselves (and with each other) on giving ourselves permission to focus more on our artistic endeavours.

So tomorrow we start. My intention for this next period will be to spend at least one-half hour per day working on the above project which has been patiently waiting for YEARS. Yes, dear hearts, years.

Oh I hear those sighs, see those heads nodding. We all do it. So what better day to start than today? Just the prodding and prompting I needed from my two favourite Jamies.

Each day each of us will be accountable to spend the time we commit to and before hitting the pillow to email one word, “DONE!” to our partner.

Simple, no?

Day at a time.

It’s about time!

Pondering an old red sweater …

Right now I am reading “No Ordinary Time” by Jan Phillips. Well, to be truthful I am not so much reading … as practicing this book. There are ideas, concepts, constructs, words, sentences, musings on every single page that I want to commit to memory, imbue into my cellular structure. This, found on page 195, speaks so intimately to my sense of “At Loose Ends” that I must share it…

Your words and thoughts

are your yarn and knitting needles.

Your life is the afghan, the mittens, the scarf.

If you work with wool and cotton threads

You will never end up with a cashmere sweater.

At first glance our socially constructed dichotomies will cause us to judge wool and cotton threads as “less than” cashmere.

But stop and think for a minute…

Do we all need, want, struggle to attain, desire, feel comfortable in and with a cashmere sweater?

Mostly I like to wrap myself in an over sized wool sweater while I snuggle into the sofa with a good book and a canine companion.

I still have an old red, acrylic sweater that I rescued from the cloImageset of my mother after her death. For years I fondled the hankie left in one of the pockets and was comforted by the scent of Noxema. It quite literally WAS my mother in those letting go times. Now the scent is gone, but still the sweater is pulled from the closet to be worn when I need to let go of feeling like a “motherless child” and yet still feel childlike and cared for and safe.

My mother and I were/are both knitters. Wool is my choice; acrylic hers. We are so different, so alike…a knitted sweater so familiar an object as to be taken for granted (like a mother perhaps) until it becomes necessary. How wonderful to have these lines to bring to recall so much. To feed my soul with the ordinary, the mundane, the trivial…that makes up so much of a rich, full life.

And so this short five lines gives me material to meditate on for years…

Thanks, Jan.

Enough…

I recently read in a post by Martina McGowan (http://martinamcgowan.visibli.com/share/LFSPsq) through SoulSeeds
this quote from Anne Lamott (who by the way is my favourite writer on spirituality) which I have decided will be my mantra,

“Every single day I try to figure out

something I no longer agree to do.”

Imagine that. Really. What if I … what if we … did what was necessary … and then stopped?

So, I am not going to do more than expected for at least 8 hours every day.

And by “more than expected” I mean what is absolutely necessary.

As an instance … when the garden needs watering,
I will water it … just enough.

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I will not weed out every single thing that I didn’t plant. It might, after all, be a gift.

I will not decide to transplant a dozen perennials.

I will not decide to dig a new area out.

I will do what is expected (supposedly by my plants), I will water them … just enough.

I won’t soak them unless they are parched.

And I certainly won’t even water them if there are rain clouds in the sky.

I will water them … just enough.

And I will enjoy that I am just enough while I am at it.

And while I’m at it…I’m giving you permission to do the same…because you are enough.

Live joyfully…

You ARE enough.

You are ENOUGH.

YOU are enough.

Wishes for winter

Jamie Ridler faithfully prompts us to wish every Wednesday. Today she asked, “What is your winter wish?” Since today was almost as hectic as yesterday, I had to wait till this evening to even give this some thought. So what do I wish for winter? What is my winter wish?

Aside from a long, red “swing” coat

and new high boots

…there is nothing i can think of. Though I am having fun playing on Pinterest

Nothing I really, truly need really.

I have plenty and then some as Susan Werner sings. So as she sings…when you have plenty and then some the thing to do is to share that. So my wish for this winter is the opportunity to do just that.

I want to share and serve. I wish to build up a community around me. And then I want to serve the community where I have found myself at home.

Oh and I want to become a real “expert” with Photoshop Elements 10

in gratitude to my husband for gifting me with this.

What do you wish for this winter tide?

Prayer

This is my first intention word for 2012…

I have to rush off to church for now, but i’ll post later. In the meantime, here is a prayer that speaks to my heart…

I hope it piques your curiosity…

For Presence

Awaken to the mystery of being here
and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to
follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of
soul.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek
no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven
around the heart of wonder.

~ John O’Donohue