Step the first … Crows

Or as Anne Lamott explains, bird by bird. Although what she means is that we get through the story that we have to write word by word, as for me bird by bird suits in all sorts of ways.

When we first arrived here in Owen Sound, no, when we first began to live here, in this house, in Owen Sound whaImaget really struck me was the murder of crows that woke me every morning. That was different. And delightful…though my dear friend JL will definitely not agree.

So much was different. In good ways and bad. Mostly bad at first. Bad because my husband was sent to BC (the province, not the date) for a two week training and I was already feeling lonely and “interrupted”. I didn’t know who I was and no one else knew either.

But each morning the crows cawed to me. Woke me with their raucous and joyous chorus. And what delighted me about that was that all those crows deterred the starlings who rob the feeders we put out for the birds we want to attract … the pretty ones, the little ones, the ones who warble and tweet and chitterchatter. And those birds also seemed to appreciate that chorus of the crows because they got the lion’s share of the seed and the starlings didn’t disturb their nests.

It still wasn’t home. Maybe it never will be. But it was a start and so this blog post is dedicated to crows. The birds who showed me a new way, a new direction for my life…for the moment. And so I am lead to ask if crow was my first muse pointing me into a whole new direction. Just musing.


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



– 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

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  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.


Each season has its own special beauty which we will miss if we dwell instead on the less crystalline and beautiful aspects … oh I know that frost makes us have to fling the scarf about our necks and put on those fingerless mitts…maybe even walk a little quicker to get to the next destination. But gaze on the lovely shot Jeff captured out for a walk this weekend. Who could call that anything but lovely?

Today may be a dreary drizzly day, but then tomorrow the sun may come out and hit the frost on those red berries and bring a smile to my face and delight to my heart.  So my wise words for today are mostly to myself, but if they work for you please let me know and they are free for you to share with friends and family.

I know school has been keeping me busy and away from blogging, but I miss you all (and the writing) so much, I’m going to make it a priority to blog at least once a week and if time allows twice. And that makes me smile as well. In fact I feel so light I think I could just float on the wind! Wheee!

Week Two — Land

Early morning view near Irish Block Road / Grey County taken: September 10th, 2011 photo by Jeff Suchak

This Sunday in the Liturgical Cycle of the Seasons of Creation is Week Two. Today, we worship and mourn with the land, the soil, the clay, loam, sand, the body of our mother, The Earth.

I turn now to one of my favourite books read repeatedly during my full time seminary years, “The Body of God” by Sally McFague…”Ecological deterioration is subtle and gradual, it involves the daily, seemingly innocuous activities of every person on the planet.” I cannot change “every person on the planet”, nor can you. We can only change ourselves, our own behaviour, our own attitudes…but that is a spiritual mandate for every one of us who is “awake.”

But this is Sunday, one of the traditional days when people gather together to worship, to lament, to pray, to praise, to be comforted…and to be challenged. I invite you, each and every one, to do this. But, of course, being me, i invite you to do this with a slightly different slant, standing or sitting in the light, with your eyes wide open. Let us gather together. Let us worship, lament, praise, pray for the Land.

We worship outdoors perhaps in a garden, a meadow or on a nearby trail. Some of us are scaling a local mountain, some strolling a beach, others will be collecting rocks, some will be “documenting reverence, practicing the wild.”. Some of us will write and draw maybe even paint a little, sitting on a smooth rock, beside the trail, sheltered by the natural Cathredral’s canopy.

It is outside, outdoors, out of the boxes of bricks and mortar where we can touch (the) Godde (of our understanding) and where we can connect with Source’s Creation. The Creation of which we are a part, only a part, a small part.

We realize that we create chaos.

We commit mayhem.

We forget to think beyond the moment by not being fully present in the moment.

We repent that we disregard Creation, that we pollute, misuse, waste, and kill the soil with chemicals, harsh plowing methods, quarrying needlessly, dumping & littering (here is what one sustainable community is doing about that), and creating ever more landfills.

Pause now to give your gifts, lay down your “tobacco”,

pour clear fresh water on to the ground …

make your apologies — in whatever way is meaningful to you — to this soil that feeds us.

This Sunday we worship and mourn with the land, the soil, the earth realizing that we are poisoning, neglecting, abusing our mother that feeds us. We are sorry. We are very sorry. We want to stop this. Help us to change our ways.

What else can you do besides saying you’re sorry, praying, using your words?

Buy local food. Buy organic food processed locally when you can.

Join a CSA. Find out what that is.

Grow a garden. Grow a garden instead of a “lawn”.

Stop adding chemicals to the soil.

Buy heirloom fruits and veggies. Save the seeds. If you don’t have space, give them to someone who will be able to save them and grow them.

Join a community garden, a collective kitchen. If there isn’t one near you … start one. Since this is a “Season” of the “Church” … ask a local church to lend you their kitchen…maybe even sponsor your group.

Write a letter to Monsanto, your local, regional, or federal representative, your local newspaper to express your commitment to fix what you can, while you can.

Best of all campaign in your little corner of the world for elected officials to work together creating sustainable communities!

Be the change whoever actually said those words first, doesn’t really matter, may even be irrelevant, what matters is that it speaks to your heart and impels you to change, to act, to make good what you can.


Now go outside and touch the earth!

Always remembering to walk gently and lightly.


“What do you wish to choose?”, asks Jamie Ridler over at Jamie Ridler Studios and I ponder about that…

pretending i’m laying in this meadow…

(I am trying to be mindful of those on dial-up so i’ve posted thumbnails…please click on them to embiggen. Thanks!)

The word choose necessitates choice. Often we make the mistake of thinking we don’t have a choice, but not choosing is a choice, staying put is a choice, giving up is a choice. And I’ve decided that I will face that square in the eye and choose—consciously choose. So…

What choices are spread before me like a wildflower of immense beauty?

What lays before me in my one wild, and precious life?

Oh, yes, one I have supposedly already made … a hard choice in many ways, but also a path of least resistance and all for the best in the long term. But I waffle and I dither…oh could I? should I? what if…. But no, choice is made, done and done. Move forward. Let go. But how my heart asks. How do I do that. You make a choice to be at peace with your decision, that’s how.

So now what choices lie before me, today as I cast this wish?

This is a hard one…oh, wait, not so hard…I am going to choose to be at peace with the choices I have made and am making in the present as well as those choices that I will face in future times. After all is said and done, we choose based on the information we have at hand, with the skills we have right then and there. So here’s my choice for today:

I wish to choose to be at peace with the decisions and choices I make now and forever. No flip flopping and what iffing. No regrets and should haves. No, none of that. Just and only conscious, informed choosing…

And then letting the seeds fall where the wind takes them.All photography credits to Jeff Suchak

Delinquent blogger apologetics

Yes, yes, it’s true. Once again, I have been a delinquent blogger. If you are a regular follower then I do apologize. If not…well, then, you really won’t have noticed anything anyway so please come back soon and you will see that I usually blog more frequently.

And no I haven’t been living in a cave…that would have been rather more pleasant.

The problem you see is that family matters, urgent, pressing family matters have gotten in the way of blogging. My imposed “vacation” from blogging is coming to an end though. Next week things promise to relent and my time for art will be freed up as will I.

There will be much reporting of journal techniques and progress with my visioning words. There will. I promise. Yes, there will.

See you next week. We’ll laugh about this all later.

Keep smiling and keep journaling … though I haven’t been blogging, I have continued to journal up a storm. In fact, there may even be miracles in the offing.

Befriending our shadows

Snowed in again.

Well not really, I shovelled out, but left another hour for Amos to deal with when he wants to get his car out tonight to go to work. I figure one and a half hours is this ol’ girl’s limit. Our lane is so short and you run out of places to throw the snow if you don’t give yourself a wide berth at the outset of winter. You just know there is more to come! Weather report calls for at least 15 cm more over the next few days. Luckily this batch is lighter than the early squalls dumped.

I just finished a paper for my program in Spiritual Direction (Jubilee Ontario) in which I focused on the shadow side of our soul and how we need to befriend it. In doing research I came upon Brenée Brown’s book, “I thought it was just me…” (a book I highly recommend for all women of any and all ages). Her work was quite telling and very helpful in my own research. Then today, I was following links about journaling (mostly extreme visual journaling) and lo and behold there I am at her blog! Holy coincidence, eh, Batman?

Another coincidence…what I use to live authentically, to explore and shed light on my own shadows, and to live whole heartedly is extreme journalism.
Life is a circle!

Hope y’all will join me on the journal journey in the new year. It’s a wonderful (if sometimes bumpy) ride.

Oh and here is a peek at my religious timeline which I had to submit for a covenant group that I belong to.

In case you can’t quite make out the sentence at the bottom (the page isn’t finished yet)

it says, “All of life is a constant recreating.”