fall retreat

This weekend, Alive & Well Women hosted a beautiful day retreat and I was so blessed to be there.  Spending the day with other women creating, resting, asking, and laughing is just what my soul needed. It was what we all needed.

In the morning hours, we had an hour and a half to be alone in the beautiful Monrovia mountains to read, sketch, and write.  Surrounded by the beauty of Mother Earth, taking in all of her offerings of the day, my body settled and felt embraced in Love.  I wrote one of the offerings below and wanted to share it here.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Surrounded, by Staci Kennelly

I am surrounded
by the gentle breeze,
by the smell of sweet sage.
by the sway of the golden grass.

I am surrounded
embraced, but not captive,
held, but not bound,
possessed but not owned.

I am surrounded.
Surrounded.
Surrounded.

Enveloped by the gentle yielding of her lavish bosom,
breathing in the sweetness of her bountiful grace,
allowing my soul to bend and sway in her liberating love.

I am surrounded.

Darkness Cover Me, by Sara Thomsen

Darkness Cover Me
like a blanket of night
Oh, cover me lightly

Shadows gather around me
Deepening darkness,
Whispering softly

Holy Maker of Moonlight
Singing through starlight
Keeper of all life

Hidden Seed deep in the dark soil of the earth
Fertile Ground, Womb of the Night, bring us new birth

Don’t forget to take time for yourself- whether you write, walk, laugh, or simply nap.  If you are in the Southern California area, I highly recommend following Alive and Well Women (click here for link) to receive information about their events.

 

deep breaths

I am taking deep, life-giving breaths today.  With each breath, I am feeling all my feelings from anger to sorrow and with each exhale I am reminding myself that there is strength in hope and power in love.  I will not let any of it be diminished- my anger, my sorrow, my hope, or my love.

Take a few moments for your own soul today. Remind yourself of your strength and power.  Breathe in. Breathe out.

Sorrow by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Sorrow like a ceaseless rain
Beats upon my heart.
People twist and scream in pain, —
Dawn will find them still again;
This has neither wax nor wane,
Neither stop nor start.

People dress and go to town;
I sit in my chair.
All my thoughts are slow and brown:
Standing up or sitting down
Little matters, or what gown
Or what shoes I wear.

 

 

 

Blessed Longing by Goethe

Tell no one else, only the wise
For the crowd will sneer at one
I wish to praise what is fully alive,
What longs to flame toward death.

When the calm enfolds the love-nights
That created you, where you have created
A feeling from the Unknown steals over you
While the tranquil candle burns.

You remain no longer caught
In the penumbral gloom
You are stirred and new, you desire
To soar to higher creativity.

No distance makes you ambivalent.
You come on wings, enchanted
In such hunger for light, you
Become the butterfly burnt to nothing.

So long as you have not lived this:
To die is to become new,
You remain a gloomy guest
On the dark earth.

a new beginning

There is something about the turn of the calendar, the newness of the first of the month.  What are you about to begin? What is about to be birthed within you?

I am thankful for John O’Donohue’s poem, A New Beginning.  It is a true blessing and guidepost.  May it strengthen and encourage you as we begin, either for the first time or the hundredth.

Rolleicord V | Agfachrome RSX II 50, expired

In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time is has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.

Rolleicord V | Agfachrome RSX II 50, expired

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with the energy and dream
A path of plentitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Rolleicord V | Agfachrome RSX II 50, expired

 

 

first roll

My sweet husband gave me a Rolleicord V for my birthday.  I took my youngest daughter out to shoot a test roll.  In honor of her coming out this year, I pairing the images with some of my favorite LGBTQ poets.

Rolleicord V | Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 1:3.5 75mm | Fuji Pro 400

Rolleicord V | Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 1:3.5 75mm | Fuji Pro 400

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
– Oscar Wilde

Rolleicord V | Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 1:3.5 75mm | Fuji Pro 400

Rolleicord V | Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 1:3.5 75mm | Fuji Pro 400

The Journey
Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Rolleicord V | Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 1:3.5 75mm | Fuji Pro 400

Rolleicord V | Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 1:3.5 75mm | Fuji Pro 400

“Please remember, especially in these times of group-think and the right-on chorus, that no person is your friend (or kin) who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow and be perceived as fully blossomed as you were intended.”  ~Alice Walker

Rolleicord V | Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 1:3.5 75mm | Fuji Pro 400

Rolleicord V | Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 1:3.5 75mm | Fuji Pro 400

To all those still living with the secret of who you really are, I pray you will find a safe place where you can be fully you.  We need all of your true, queer, and beautiful self.

for courage

I have a few friends that are going through some dark days.  If we are honest with ourselves, we all have dark days; the days when the little things seem big and the big things seem impossible.  It is hard to be vulnerable and brave with yourself and others on those days. The darkness seems so powerful and overwhelming, we think to hold onto it all alone in the corner is the safest thing to do.  Maybe you need to do that first… for a few moments.  But the only way out of the shadows is to find the light within you and allow it to shine.  And on the days we cannot find our own light, we hold that light for each other.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Fujicolor NPL 160 Professional

For those wanting the courage to find the light within their darkness, a blessing by the good John O’Donohue.

For Courage

When the light around you lessens
And your thoughts darken until
Your body feels fear turn
Cold as a stone inside

When you find yourself bereft
Of any belief in yourself
And all you unknowingly
Leaned on has fallen

When one voice commands
Your whole heart,
And it is raven dark,

Steady yourself and see
That is is your own thinking
That darkens your world

Search and you will find
A diamond-thought of light,

Know that you are not alone
And that this darkness has purpose
Gradually it will school your eyes
To find the one gift your life requires
Hidden within this night-corner.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Fujicolor NPL 160 Professional

Invoke the learning
Of every suffering
You have suffered.

Close your eyes
Gather all the kindling
About your heart
To create one spark.
That is all you need
To nourish the flame
That will cleanse the dark
Of its weight of festered fear.

A new confidence will come alive
To urge you towards higher ground
Where your imagination
Will learn to engage difficulty
As its most rewarding threshold!

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Fujicolor NPL 160 Professional

 

Find your light, walk in it, and let it warm the earth.

a fearful thing

My loving, kind, hilarious, and talented brother took his own life this week.  Why and fuck are two words I continue to say at least once an hour.  The tears flow as I think of his beloved wife and the days, weeks, and years ahead of her. My heart breaks as I think of my other two brothers that are grieving their best friend and faithful companion.  And I fall into a puddle of grief as I imagine the heartbreak of all our parents.

Why?

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Why?

When I was little, we would go to the beach and play in the waves.  Sometimes a wave larger than we were expecting would crash over our heads and take us under the water.  Sometimes we would swallow large amounts of salt water.  Others, the wave would tumble us into the sand and we would be dragged along the ground.  Others, the waves would be so strong, we would be tossed like a shirt in the washer and not know which way was up.  Most of the time, the wave would give us all three in one swoop.

This is how I experience grief.  I will be doing a simple chore, and suddenly, like a wave, I am taken under by sadness.  A memory of a happier time or the idea of my brother being this sad and hopeless will pop into my head.  Sometimes I simply weep, others I fall to the ground into a puddle of sadness.  Occasionally, the grief feels so deep and overwhelming, it reminds of tumbling in the waves, being hit by the sand, not knowing which way is up.

And just as suddenly as it all came on, I am back to swimming through life, knowing that the next wave will be coming- not knowing how strong it will come on nor how hard it will tumble me about.

As I swim and wade through these waves of grief, I catch my breath and try and soothe my tired and wounded soul.  I try and find moments of hope, quiet, and gentleness.  One way I find that is through poetry. It helps to hear the words of the broken hearts that have gone before me.

‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –
to be,
And oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
And a holy thing,
a holy thing
to love.
For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.

Tis a Fearful Thing
~Yehuda HaLevi

 

Your body is away from me
But there is a window open
from my heart to yours.
From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.
~ Rumi

To live in this world
you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
~Mary Oliver, “In Blackwater Woods.”

Go out to the world and love each other today.  Be kind.  Be gentle. Be love. Be you.

simple prayers

I am enthralled with the New Zealand Prayer Book lately.  It all started when my church posted The Lord’s Prayer in the liturgy.  The quickly had me down the lovely rabbit hole of reading and reciting the prayers from this beautiful book.  You can find a copy of it here online.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Fuji Pro 400, pulled one stop

A Call to Worship

Holy One, holy and eternal,
awesome, exciting and delightful in your holiness;
make us pure in heart to see you;
make us merciful to receive your kindness,
and to share our love with all your human family;
then will your name be hallowed on earth as in heaven.

Lord God,
when you give to us your servants any great matter to do,
grant us also to know that it is not the beginning,
but the continuing of it, until it is thoroughly finished
which yields the true glory.

God of work and rest and pleasure,
grant that what we do this week may be for us an offering
rather than a burden;
and for those we serve, may it be the help they need.
Amen.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Fuji Pro 400, pulled one stop

The Lord’s Prayer

Eternal Spirit,
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and forever. Amen.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Fuji Pro 400, pulled one stop

 

Do you have any new prayers or poems that have been illuminating your days lately?  I would love for you to share them with me.

~Staci Lee