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.

 

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.

home

Home means something different for everyone. For some of us, home is a safe place where we were nurtured and loved and allowed to grow into ourselves with confidence and a fierce sense of self. For others, home was a scary place that needed to be avoided. There wasn’t a sense of safety or compassion. For some, home wasn’t a place to discover all that we were meant to be.

While the girls were growing up, we tried to create a home that would nurture and protect, love and defend, and care and empower. Our house was a place that you could feel safe and be shown compassion and grace. As girls grew up, they began returning this gift of compassion and forgiveness to Andy and me. We weren’t perfect, but perfection wasn’t a goal, kindness and compassion were. Our kids are no longer kids, they are all adults living their lives and chasing their dreams, but this will always be their home.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Kodak Portra 400

My oldest daughter has recently left our home. She got married this April and moved out with her darling husband, and they are beginning to make their own home. And while our house isn’t the place that they live, I hope they still consider our house, a place they can come back to when life feels harsh and unkind.

Each of us needs this place- a place that we can come back to when life is harsh. A home within themselves that they create that is safe and nurturing, even if it is your own compassion that makes it so. This takes work. Just as it has undertaken work for my daughter and her husband to create their new home, many of us will need to do the job of building a new safe home within our own hearts.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Kodak Portra 400

Some of us didn’t feel cared for or nurtured in our childhood home. Because of this, we might not be sure of our own needs and wants. We will need to learn of our needs and learn to nurture ourselves. Some of us didn’t live in a home where it was safe to feel all of our feelings in a constructive and compassionate way. We will need to learn how to experience our feelings with grace and curiosity. Some felt so unsafe that the world seemed like a fearful place with dangers around every corner. With bravery, we will need to see that while the world holds some risks, it can be a place we can move around with more curiosity than fear.

As we recognize the places of our hearts we need to reorganize and find healing, we will begin to create a safe home with ourselves. And as we learn to feel comfortable and secure within our hearts, we will become safe spaces for others as well. We will have created a home that others can come and visit and experience the safety and love that we have surrounded ourselves with.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Kodak Portra 400

I recently came upon this poem.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

— Derek Walcott

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Kodak Portra 400

Give back your heart to yourself.

Read those words again, slowly.

Give back your heart to yourself.

It sounds so simple, but it takes courageous work. But it holds such promise. A promise of a home that we can be our whole and beautiful selves in, a whole and beautiful self that this hurting world needs.

How are you creating a safe and sensitive home within your own heart? What practice do you pursue to show self-compassion and care? How are you giving your heart back to yourself?

 

I am thinking about the word home with my friend, Melissa.  Journey to her blog for her thoughts on this word.

 

Gaudete Sunday

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent when we celebrate the hopeful cry, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.”  It is an interesting proclaim as we are in the middle of Advent’s darkness, isn’t it?

How many of us, while in darkness and question and pain want to proclaim joy?  For me, joy is not the go-to emotion while wandering in darkness.  Joy is not what I usually ask for.  I usually ask for relief or rest, but never joy.  And yet, Advent reminds us- here, now, in the middle of the dark nights of the soul, joy is there.  She is waiting to surprise us.

So for this Gaudete Sunday, I am sharing with you two poems that have met me while I have been in a dark place and they gave me hope, and with hope came the little surprise of joy. I am pairing these two poems with images from my Japanese Magnolia, that blooms in the middle of winter.  And although I first edited these in purple, my small homage to Advent, today I give them to you in black and white, as a reminder of the darkness each soul must journey through.

First, John O’Donohue’s For a New Beginning.

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 it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing 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 gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

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

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at 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.

And then Mary Oliver’s The Hermit Crab.

Once I looked inside
the darkness
of a shell folded like a pastry
and there was a fancy face—

or almost a face—
it turned away
and frisked up its brawny forearms
so quickly

against the light
and my looking in
I scarcely had time to see it,
gleaming

under the pure white roof
of old calcium
When I set it down, it hurried
along the tideline

of the sea,
which was slashing along as usual,
shouting and hissing
toward the future,

turning its back
with every tide on the past,
leaving the shore littered
every morning

with more ornaments of death—
what a pearly rubble
from which to choose a house
like a white flower—

and what a rebellion
to leap into it
and hold on,
connecting everything,

the past to the future—
which is of course the miracle—
which is the only argument there is
against the sea

May joy surprise you this Advent.

 

 

deep breaths

On some days this world seems harsh and unloving.  We have forgotten to listen to others, ourselves, and the Love that holds us all together.  I have been sitting quietly with myself and reading some of the mystic mothers that wrote about our God… and writing prayers of my own.  May you sit with these words with deep long breaths… giving your precious soul a break from the harshness of this world.

I Am That
Julian of Norwich
I am that.
I am that which is highest.
I am that which is lowest.
I am that which is All.

Consumed In Grace
St Catherine of Siena

I first saw God when I was a child, six years of age.
the cheeks of the sun were pale before Him,
and the earth acted as a shy
girl, like me.

Divine light entered my heart from His love
that did never fully wane,

though indeed, dear, I can understand how a person’s
faith can at time flicker,

for what is the mind to do
with something that becomes the mind’s ruin:
a God that consumes us
in His grace.

I have seen what you want;
it is there,

a Beloved of infinite
tenderness.

Gentle Mother
Staci Kennelly

O powerful, voluptuous, and gentle Mother
who has filled the world with beauty
Open my eyes to behold your gracious hand in all thy works:
the warmth of the morning sun
the cool in the long shadows of evening
the predictability of the changing moon

Hear me as I rejoice in your whole creation including my own heart
Help me as I remember your intimate warmth and constant compassion
Hold me as I rest in the sureness of your devotion and love

rainbows of love

Today is Coming Out Day. And while there is more freedom to come out that there was in 1939, it still isn’t safe for many of our LGBTQ friends to simply be themselves.  Here in the US, they can face discrimination and hate from their very own family and “friends”.  In other parts of the world, they can face death.  In honor of my LGBTQ friends and family, here are some poems that were written by LGBTQ poets and some rainbow photos.   While there are many who don’t understand and are cruel, hateful, and discriminatory, many of us see you how you are- loved, worthy of equal rights and treatment.  To quote an old rector from my church, “… being gay is a gift from God.”  You- all of you- is a beautiful gift to this world.

 

red

Frank Bidart, 1939

Queer

Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.

Everybody already knows everything

so you can
lie to them. That’s what they want.

But lie to yourself, what you will

lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.

*

For each gay kid whose adolescence

was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial

scenario

forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.

*

Involuted velleities of self-erasure.

*

Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative

designed to confer existence.

If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not

me, but herself.

The door through which you were shoved out
into the light

was self-loathing and terror.

*

Thank you, terror!

You learned early that adults’ genteel
fantasies about human life

were not, for you, life. You think sex

is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.

 

orange

 

yellow

Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place

 

green

 

blue

 

Reinaldo Arenas

As Long as the Sky Whirls: For Lázaro Gómez

As long as the sky whirls
You will be my redemption and my doom,
magnetic vision,
lily in underwear,
salvation and madness
every night waiting.
As long as the sky whirls
no infernal could be a stranger
because I have to take care that that would not harm you,
No joy would go by inadvertent
Because in some way I have to reveal it to you,
As long as
the sky
whirls
you will be the truth of myself,
the song and the venom,
the danger and the ecstasies,
the vigil and the sleep,
the dread and the miracle.
As long as the sky whirls . . . but perhaps the sky whirls?
Well: as long as the sky exists.

 

purple

Love is love is love is love is love.