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Too deep for words

October 25, 2010

When something profound has happened in my life, like this past weekend at The Listening Well workshop with Christina Baldwin, I often find myself sitting with images and music for awhile before the words are ready to emerge.

I have been changed by a circle of 16 women who came to the shore of a lake to sit in a circle, tell stories, dream of a transformed world, listen deeply, stand beside each other, and pass tissues when necessary. We talked, we laughed, we cried, we walked through the woods, we played on the swings, we crunched in the leaves, and we built a spontaneous labyrinth. It was magical.

Note: if the video doesn’t have any sound, try this version. I tried to use a song that became meaningful to us this past weekend (Calling All Angels, sung by Jane Siberry), but YouTube was threatening to strip the sound from the video. I created an alternate version.

On the last morning there, a song was on my heart. I didn’t know where it came from, and when I Googled the lyrics, it appears I may have rewritten them, but I kind of like the lyrics my heart wrote better than the original.

I could not ask for more of the earth below me

could not ask for more of the sky above

I’ve got all I’m searching for

and I could not ask for more.

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Feels like home to me

October 18, 2010

Recently, I was invited to join a blogging circle made up of Tara Sophia Mohr, Lianne Raymond (two contemplative thinkers whose writing inspires me) and myself, to consider, together, our response to the recent blogging trend of promoting a lifestyle detached from possessions and place (“location independence”). I’m delighted to be part of this circle and I invite you to visit the blog posts written by Tara and Lianne on the subject.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… I am a wanderer. I am truly happy when I can spend an afternoon wandering aimlessly through an unfamiliar part of the world (or even just my own city), usually with my camera in hand.

I grew up dreaming of being a gypsy. I read every book I could find about gypsies and wanderers. Sometimes I’d pack a lunch, wander into the woods around our farm (on foot or horseback), and pretend I was an explorer, miles from civilization.  My friend Laurel and I would build teepees out of dead trees, concoct stews out of garden vegetables over small fire pits, and scheme about how we could live in the woods forever (or at least until the rain or snow chased us into our warm beds), with our horses as our trusted friends and transportation.

Even now, I read books like Tales of a Female Nomad, and I fantasize about selling all of my possessions, packing a backpack and my laptop, and wandering around the globe making my living as a travel writer. Almost every spare dollar I have goes into some version of travel (in fact I leave on another trip this week) – I just can’t get enough of it.

With such wanderlust coursing through my veins, I fully understand the appeal of those bloggers who are following a trend right now to write about reducing our attachments to things and places and choosing a location independent lifestyle (living and working without a permanent home base). I’ll admit it – part of it feels so attractive to me.

But… there’s another side of me that knows that I could not be fully happy without some connection to place. I like to wander, but at the end of my wandering, I like to come home. Not only do I like to come back to a place that feels comfortable, but I like to renew my aquaintance with some of my favourite things. I slip my feet into my worn out old slippers. I curl up under the comforter made from the wool of my dad’s sheep. I drink chai tea from my favourite pottery mug. I pull my favourite books off the over-crowded bookshelf.

This is my place, in this house, in this Canadian prairie city. I am a prairie girl through and through. I have traveled far and wide, and I love the mountains and am drawn to the ocean again and again. But this prairie landscape – these wide open skies, these impossibly flat lands, these rivers and maple trees and tall grasses blowing in the wind – it calls me home again and again. I can be drawn to tears by nothing more spectacular than the way a simple prairie horizon slices through the big, bold, blue sky.

There is just something about the power of place that one cannot fully understand. We are connected to our surroundings and that’s the way the cycle of life is meant to be. I think of the pilgrimages I make on a regular basis – pilgrimage to my home town where echoes of my childhood still reverberate; pilgrimage to my husband’s favourite fishing hole where our relationship has been shaped by this mist on the lake, the loons, and the giant dying tree that – from year to year – has fallen further into the lake; and pilgrimage to our son’s grave where I sit and wait for wisdom to find me. These are all places that are connected to me and through them, I connect to Spirit.

I think there’s a danger in becoming too flippant with our connection to place. A nomadic lifestyle might work for some (and I certainly wouldn’t be one to judge it), but if we as a culture choose transience and lack of connection as the norm, then we risk treating our earth as just another disposable, temporary possession.

Just as yesterday’s styles no longer suit us and closets full of clothing make their way quickly into a trash heap or second hand store, yesterday’s homes and yesterday’s trees and yesterday’s soil become disposable and “not my problem anymore”.

If I don’t fall deeply in love with a place (the kind of love that means being loyal through the ups and downs – including the harsh prairie winters) – if I’m going to move on tomorrow anyway, to the next interesting location – then it doesn’t really matter to me what becomes of the green-space or the landfill sites or the endangered animals.

It might sound simplistic, but I think it’s something we all need to ponder. I think it might be worth considering the different ways that tribes or cultures who have been in one place for generations or centuries treat their homes compared to those who have less of a connection to the place they live. Is there a difference? I suspect there is.

Tonight I took my daughters to see Toy Story 3, another great story in the saga of the toys who want nothing more than to have permanence and to belong to someone who cares about them. As the toys fight to survive a number of evils, including a landfill site where all of the trash gets shredded and burned, they hang onto each other with one belief giving them strength – they belong to somebody and they matter. It’s a beautiful story about how our connections to things can give them life and meaning.

I am not suggesting we should all become materialistic, and I don’t think our possessions should ever hold a higher place in our lives than love and compassion and generosity, but I do think that by honouring our homes and our dearest possessions and the places on which we stand, we show respect and love for the earth and her Creator and all that she provides for us.

How to be a woman

October 14, 2010

There may come a time, my friend,
when you have lived too many lives
that are not your own,
followed too many rules that broke your spirit,
and mastered the art of imitation.
This will be a time when you’ve forgotten your own shape
and you find that you no longer remember
just how to be a woman.
Believe this: you can remember again,
you can fit back into the shape that you were meant to be.
It hasn’t truly gone away.

Start by taking a deep breath
and sit quietly while you
listen to the wisdom written on your heart
by your God/Goddess.

Be kind to yourself
caress your skin, your hair,
your breasts,
all the body bits that make you woman.

Gently touch the flabby bits, the too-skinny bits,
the old bits, the not-perfect bits

Stop to kiss Mother Earth, Gaia,
bend your knees, run your fingers through her soil
hug her trees, blow kisses into her wind.

Twirl your skirts
kick up your heels
and dance while you listen
to the music nobody else hears.

Then, when you are ready, turn your head in the direction
your own journey calls you
and don’t look back
even when you hear the cries
of those who feel betrayed
by your leaving.

Stand tall, my friend,
you need to be courageous for this remembering
you need to be ready to break things
shift things
disturb the status quo.

You need to be powerful,
and wise, and steadfast,
in this re-birth
because it is what is expected of you
by all of those waiting for you to lead them.

Make no mistake –
they ARE waiting for you to lead them
because they are afraid,
they are hurting,
and they have lost their way.

They need your strength,
your courage,
your beauty,
your art,
to lead them into this new place.

But first,
be gentle,
sit quietly,
for you need this time of rest
to prepare you for the journey.

What do I need?

October 12, 2010

My friend Christine invited me to join Graciel’s blog challenge to go out and find/make signs that reflect what we need in our lives. Since I wanted to wander back into the woods to find my enchanted purple-leaf-hideaway anyway, I grabbed my camera, a Sharpie, and some paper, and set off into the sunshine.

It turned out to be a much more meaningful exercise than I expected. (And… oh my! What fun I had with my camera!)

Here’s the evidence:

(with music from Hot House Flowers)

But… I haven’t accomplished anything!

October 11, 2010

“Hello, my name is Heather Plett and I am an accomplishment-aholic.” Cringe.

It’s true. I’m addicted to accomplishments. I NEED to see results or I start to get twitchy.

Even though I’ve been determined to not be too driven this month and to spend some time in sabbatical letting ideas percolate, there’s a piece of me that is TOTALLY STRESSING OUT about it all.

This morning, I started feeling that familiar ball of anxiety in my belly, reminding me that I’ve already been off work for a week and I have so little to show for it.

As always, my well developed Mennonite work ethic was whispering in my ear “Thou shalt not fritter away the day!”

And then there were all the other voices that chimed in… “if you’re so determined NOT to build your business too quickly and instead spend time in the neutral zone between the old and the new letting creative ideas take shape, well then shouldn’t you at least be keeping the house clean? Or shouldn’t you be making amazing delicious meals for your family to enjoy? Or shouldn’t you have at least painted something, or redecorated the house, or read a dozen books, or… SOMETHING?”

I know what you’re thinking… I’ve been known to write about and teach people that “you have to give the creative muse space to breathe” and “transitions shouldn’t be rushed” and “sometimes when it seems like nothing’s happening, the most important things are brewing under the surface”. I KNOW THOSE THINGS! But sometimes they’re easier said than done.

This morning, after a healthy dialogue, I told those pesky voices to shut up for awhile, grabbed my iPod and my running shoes, and went outside to enjoy this glorious Fall morning. After all, isn’t that what you’re SUPPOSED to do on Thanksgiving – just hang out being thankful?

I wish I could tell you that I stepped into the sunshine and that ball of anxiety just magically vanished. But it didn’t. It came with me – stubborn, annoying thing that it is.

Feeling a little bored with my surroundings and not fully enjoying myself because of that ugly ball, I wandered into a different part of my neighbourhood than I usually do. There’s a large undisturbed stand of trees that I’d been meaning to explore. I crunched my way down leaf-covered trails and found a log to sit on. There I sat, trying to let the trees and the birds and the squirrels ease the mood I was in.

I closed my eyes and tried to examine just what that ball felt like and in which part of my body it sat. It was large, resting in the pit of my stomach, but pushing up into my lungs so that a deep breath was difficult.

I whispered a little prayer, “God/Goddess, take this ball and make it into something beautiful.”

And then I pictured Sophia (the feminine wisdom of God/Goddess) reaching inside me taking hold of this large clay ball, pulling it toward herself, and shaping it lovingly in her hands. It was beautiful watching her, the sunlight dancing in her hair. But she’s too slow for my accomplishment-aholic mind, and I got impatient when I couldn’t see the results. “What is it going to BE?!” I demanded, but she just smiled and winked. And kept shaping.

Not totally satisfied and too restless to sit, I got up and walked away. Sophia frustrates me sometimes.

I wandered further into the woods where there were no paths. The smell of rotting leaves reached my nose. “See how I create these woods?” Sophia whispered. “It takes years and years and many cycles of the seasons – birth, death, rot, rest, re-birth – to grow them into this lovely place where you can wander. The winter ahead is a long one, but the trees will wait through it. Have patience my child.”

Patience, schmatience! I’m not a tree – I have to make a living after all!

And then I spotted them – purple leaves! In just one tiny section of the woods, vines were drooping from the trees and all of their leaves were the most lovely shade of purple. Few other leaves were left on the other trees or plants in the same area, so the sun shone through, illuminating just the purple leaves in an enchanted corner of the woods. It looked like a special little place where fairies would gather to dance in the twilight, wrapping garlands of purple leaves around their necks as they giggled and danced.

I don’t know why, but those purple leaves finally shifted my mood. Maybe it was the knowledge that these vines that I’d never noticed before grow in this one little corner of the woods completely un-noticed and un-appreciated by anyone all summer long.  But when it comes their time to shine – when all the other plants have released their leaves – they burst forth in magical purple, oblivious to whether or not anyone is paying attention.

I want to be a purple-leafed vine.

  • I want to shine in all my uniqueness, even when few people notice.
  • I want to offer the magic that somebody stumbles upon the moment she most needs it.
  • I want to be prepared to give up those purple leaves at the end of the season when it’s time for rest and rejuvenation.
  • I want to offer up what the world needs – even if it means surrender and (gulp) death – for growth and re-birth.
  • I want to be ready for my own new growth when that season has arrived.

How’s that for a business plan?

(I didn’t have my camera with me in the woods, but I brought a few leaves home with me.)

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  – Matthew 6:28-30

 

Thankful

October 10, 2010

crunchy leaves underfoot
conversations that comfort and challenge
epiphanies in coffee shops
my new macbook
my husband, who sold his boat to buy me a macbook
the new ipod touch that came free with the macbook
the amazing wisdom from teachnow that is soaking into my heart
fall weather so beautiful it’s difficult to stay inside
sophia and all that she is birthing in me
birthday breakfast with my mother-in-law who looks finally at peace
potatoes baking in the oven for tonight’s thanksgiving meal
extended family that I’ll share tonight’s meal with
daughters treating each other with respect (at least at this moment)
wandering in the sunshine on a Friday afternoon
new business cards, on order, complete with my own photography
upcoming inspiration
these words, shaping me… “I am a teacher”
these other words, long alive in me… “I am a writer”
running past a bird-song-filled pond while a hot air balloon is rising with the sun
comfortable running shoes
a new water bottle & ipod holster that makes the running even more pleasant
three new books waiting to be savoured
watching my oldest daughter play volleyball passionately after a difficult year of no sports
my camera
the peace of knowing I’ve taken the right step

Get out there and SWEAT!

October 8, 2010

It’s official – I have become one of those obnoxious people who rave about the joys of running while chatting with friends at cocktail parties. I know – I usually want to shoot those people when I see them, so I understand your sentiments. (Please don’t shoot me.)

Bear with me for awhile… (or run off to another blog and come back when I’m talking about things that don’t annoy you).

On Wednesday, just after I’d finished a vigorous 7 kilometre run and came home sweaty and red-faced like you see in the picture below, I opened my friend Desiree’s post, and she had done her Wednesday Wisdom video about the power and impact of sweat. She quoted Rev. Jesse Jackson… “Both tears and sweat are salty, but they render a different result. While tears will get you sympathy, sweat will get you change.” I burst out laughing at her impeccable timing. Little did she know I was at that moment leaning my head away from the computer so I didn’t drip all over the keyboard. I sweat A LOT. Just ask my children, who like to laugh at me after I run.

Seriously though, it feels SO GOOD to sweat. If you don’t have a regular activity that brings out the sweat in you, maybe it’s time.

Here are a few of the benefits of my morning running routine (and almost any sweat-inducing exercise regime.)

  1. Energy. I rarely get that mid-afternoon energy slump when I’ve been running.
  2. Change. My body is changing – for the better. No, I haven’t lost much weight, but it feels healthy and strong and my posture is better (which is also partly due to my breast reduction surgery).
  3. Epiphanies! My brain does wonderful things when I run, and often my best ideas show up during this time.
  4. Alone time. When you’ve got as many people making demands on your time as I do, you certainly appreciate 45 blessed minutes when not one expectation is waiting to be met and not one person is interrupting your thoughts.
  5. Community. Although I love to run alone, it’s quite lovely meeting other runners and doing the smile and nod that says “hey – we’re in this together!”
  6. Music. I don’t often spend 45 minutes of uninterrupted time listening to good music, but when I run I do.
  7. Neighbourhood. You get to see more of your neighbourhood streets and notice more of the interesting details than you ever do in a car.
  8. Meditation. The repetitive movement of your footsteps on pavement really does magical meditative things to your mind.
  9. Sunrise. And mist on the river. And early birds getting the worms. And all that is beautiful in the early hours when the world is waking up.
  10. Something to talk about at cocktail parties. Ha!

Have I convinced you yet? Or do you still want to shoot me?

p.s. I just discovered that my friend Julie Daley wrote a great post about the joy and pride of being “women who sweat“.