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


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.


Falling Leaves New Moon

Last night was the Falling Leaves New Moon — a time when we incubate our dreams and allow Spirit to speak to us.

I’ve been really sick for almost two weeks nd am now on medication. (; P) The congestion is breaking up, but that means that the coughing wakes me.

So today I just got up at 5 am and went downstairs.

The dark night sky was indigo velvet and so many stars were visible.

I threw on a sweater (my mother’s old red one) and went out on the side deck. I was mesmerized. I was gobsmacked. I could breathe in the crisp clear air and I wanted to swing out my arms and twirl around with delight. Like a child.

We have polluted the skies with more than particulate and chemical matter … we have tried to eliminate the dark.

I guess we’re all little children still afraid of what is under the bed when there is no night light. Yet I can’t help but wonder what the skies would look like back where I come from if they put into effect dark sky laws like in Bruce County?

I know there would be a lot more star gazers and a lot fewer casinos. Honestly, I would rather just lay under the stars than gamble away money I don’t have (or can’t afford to throw away). What about you?

Anyway, this morning when a friend (Hi Keira!) posted prose that would melt your heart, I responded and then after I read my response, I thought, there is a haiku in there somewhere. Well it may not be a “perfect” haiku, but I’ll share it with you anyway.

Morning — 5 am

Falling leaves new moon

held in stars gaze — heaven!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.

The glorious moon!

This isn’t exactly what I saw last night on my way back to the Métis Centre for the Women’s Journaling Circle. Our first!

But the sky was full of this amazing orange sphere.

Which makes me think of this poem:

Full Moon Insomnia
by Colleen Redman
The moon is like a jewel
under my pillow
Like the princess
and the pea
I can’t sleep
I’m trying to sleep
but the moon has other plans
I follow its bouncing ball orbit
like reading subtitles in a foreign film
It says: Wake up and write this all down
before you lose such good reception
I’m a nightshift stenographer hired by the muse
to take down the moon’s business
What a wonderful Rest and Cleansing Moon / Hunger Moon celebration we enjoyed. I am so blessed to have such wonderful women in my life. May all who live know such feminine wisdom. Thanks to all who joined me…looking forward to celebrating Spring Equinox with you on March 20th at the Métis Centre in Owen Sound.


Well this is seriously not working. This poetry page and the blog too! I just finished getting the page ready and for the first time ever in wordpress it just refused to find the draft then told me I couldn’t do something (I’ll never know what” and then when I tried to publish it was blank.

Okay…so let’s start over.

This poetry page is definitely not working…

Here is a little flashback for you…

Here is where I ended up this morning…

You may have noticed that I forgot to cross the “t”…

You may also notice that the ink is decidely gloppy…a technical term I have for when the ink is to be dumped!

But here you will notice even with the “t” crossed this page is definitely not poetic. I pondered about prettying it up…adding some pink and mauve flowers, but decided that this page was beyond redemption. So it’s history!

I am sharing this with you for two reasons. First, it’s not a disaster if you don’t like something that you’ve put in your journal.

Second this applies to life…it is okay to start over afresh.

Artfully at loose ends…

There is an art to being at loose ends and for me being “At Loose Ends” is my way of supporting and encouraging others to live that artful necessity in life where we admit that we are not in control. That we are interconnected with everything and everyone…like it or not. So the word for today is prayer…because a prayerful attitude is just about the only way I can imagine living at loose ends gracefully and artfully.

But let’s expand on that word…and instead what I want to do/be is to immerse myself in the potent practice of prayer (and the flip side of prayer is meditation). This means that I can’t just pretend to pray — that won’t change me and it is hypocrisy to even suggest that it might. No it means actually practicing prayer…in every moment of my life. And here I would humbly refer you to Karen Kaezen Miller‘s article on kindness and here for her article on how to practice compassion…which in my opinion is what the “potent practice of prayer” is all about.

That said, I must admit to being a failure more than 20% of the time and often up to 80% of the time. You know why that is? Well…I’ll tell ya…it’s because I try to hard and then failure is inevitable.

So here’s a peek at the page. Feedback is welcomed. Did I actually capture what I meant to? Any thoughts on this topic? Please…is anybody out there!?

And onward…

Here is a sneak preview of the next spread in my journal…

Now I’d like to propose a contest…a real contest…

I am enlisting your help. First I’ll show you a close up of the left page. It’s going to be for the word, poetry. That’s settled.

But here is where your feedback is required. Absolutely necessary.

I only have one day for that feedback, so I do hope you’ll give this some thought.

Originally I thought the page on the right would be for the word, presence. But now it has become a contest among four potentials.

Here are the

choices  in no

particular order…

I won’t tell which way I am leaning, but if you are the lucky one to guess it, you will win a piece of   my (he)ART.     Big smile. ;-D

Come on! Play! You know you want to.

1)  proclaim

2) partner

3)  provoke

4) presence

So pick one and put it in a comment for the page and let’s see who wins! Well, I think if we are all on a journaling journey…we ALL do! Yeah! for us.

Oh and you do know that you can click on any picture to embiggen it, and you can do that more than once. You can get the page so large that you can read the fine print as if it were a large font book! Ooh then you’ll be reading my mind, won’t you?