Connection and responsibility

A powerful circular experience of a breath meditation sitting on the ground on a glorious day blessed by a gentle breeze;  the moments when the boundaries between my being and that of water, rock or tree blur into an acknowledgement of oneness, of connection – these are true moments of grace. They are only possible when the boundaries of ‘I’, of ego-self loosen, moments of ‘awareness’, of being truly awake; the inner experience carries such certainty, sounds a resounding ‘yes’. It all seems so obvious at that moment of awareness!

Such experiences shape the core of my being, make it imperative to live from a place rooted in mindfulness, integrity, wonder and joy.

‘all breath in this world
is roped together’
~ Hannah Stephenson


As we moved to this beautiful place, where nature gently loosens those boundaries on a regular basis, I was startled by the unexpected strength of a sense not of ownership but of stewardship of the land; of a deep love and great desire to do right by it and by all the beings with which we share it. This sense of responsibility underpins my life here.

Cranberry Lake

 

Sharon Blackie writes of ‘the enchanted life’, which for me speaks to that sense of connection and responsibility:

“Enchantment. By my definition, a vivid sense of belongingness to a rich and many-layered world, a profound and whole-hearted participation in the adventure of life. Enchantment is a natural, spontaneous human tendency – one we possess as children, but lose, through social and cultural pressures, as we grow older. I believe that it is an attitude of mind which can be cultivated: the enchanted life is possible for anyone. The enchanted life is intuitive, embraces wonder, and fully engages the mythic imagination – but it is also deeply embodied, ecological, grounded in place and community. To live an enchanted life is to be challenged, to be awakened, to be gripped and shaken to the core by the extraordinary which lies at the heart of the ordinary.”


When we wake

All breath in this world is roped together!

Each breath has the capacity to shift
a stray lock of hair
and a universe.

Everything is bound
in an eternal dance
of particulate and elemental commonality.

It is always so,
but our experience of living
is not always so.

This is something we know
only in the moments
when we wake to enchantment.

May 2018


So what is the challenge of stewardship?

In terms of both outer and inner worlds, I guess for me stewardship is about doing that which supports and maintains healthy states of growth and being, all the while maintaining an awareness of succession.

Practicalities

When we first arrived here, we had a visit from Watersheds Canada looking to participate in their Natural Edge program); in the event, our shoreline was so healthy there was nothing they felt we needed to do! But it helped our understanding; we are careful to cut back rather than in any way ‘clear’ the steep bank down to the water, we do not use phosphates that may run off into the lake.

Nature - a rhapsody in blue - jay and lake

In our wetland, we try to encourage the cattails but not the phragmites; monitor where turtles are laying their eggs, again avoiding chemicals that may damage this habitat.

We have bat and bird boxes and feed the birds all year, but especially at times of particular hardship.

We retain dead trees and brush-piles for their importance as habitats.

We welcome the beings who share this beautiful place respectfully but without the desire in any way to tame them. With time, there is a growing sense of relationship, understanding, even intimacy (into me you see).

Most of our planting is of native species, particularly those supportive to pollinators, humming-birds and butterflies – we seek to supplement what is naturally here rather than unduly to shape or tame it.

Spring wildflowers

We monitor our trees, making decisions as to which saplings to encourage and which to potentially protect from our resident beaver (whose presence in our bay most evenings currently delights us).

Inner stewardship

As to the inner world, hitting my head blessed me with the impetus to develop a much more regular meditation practice than previously (part of my prescription from a neurologist!), which I try to maintain. There is also, I think, a certain discipline required in truly noting and engaging with the world around you in a mindful and joyous way that is a part of nurturing the inner world.

I am trying to learn to say ‘no’ to being the person whose job it is to make things right for others all the time.  I am also trying to learn that I don’t always have to say ‘yes’ to heading into every challenge full-tilt.

Sometimes it is enough simply to observe
and let the universe unfold as it should.


 Coltsfoot

All is not reaching, striving, 
choosing to force growth
and embrace pain
to fertilize the soul.

It is not always so!

The coltsfoot 
opens a  yellow face
to the sun

but closes itself
to the dark shadows of evening
and the grey of a rainy day.

As the sun shines,
it transforms effortlessly
into radiance.

Soon, soon
its leaves will form
a carpet of green hearts.

 

I do not have to keep myself
resolutely open to dark
and storm.

I too can close up
when shadows fall,
ready for the sun’s return.

May 2018

Coltsfoot - first flower of Spring

Joy Quotes

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen

I came across a wealth of wonderful quotes relating to joy today, some of which I have added to my Joy Quotes page. However, the quote above seems to encapsulate my purpose in creating this site.

 

 

White Night (2)

“But I haven’t seen any art!”

A snatch of conversation overheard more than once during Toronto’s Nuit Blanche.

I think one of the best things about this annual all-nighter is that it reminds one of how artificial boundaries are.

What captivated us was the sense of a city street party for over a million people, the reconnection with childlike joy and wonder, and, in the better installations, a sense of seeing the world through fresh eyes. Maybe not high art, but fulfilling at least something of artistic purpose as I define it.

I think joy, in this context, is rooted in the excitement of the unexpected, in wonder and, perhaps most of all, in conectedness.

Highlights?

  • Small installations by the Artists Cooperative of Canada at Spadina Museum, a garden walk reminiscent of magical prep-school ghost walks (with the bonus of Casa Loma and the view across the night city)
  • The hypnotic calm of a forest of lights and white, feather-fronds in the Atrium of the Royal Conservatory, itself a glorious blend of old and new (Philip Beesley’s Aurora) – video coming soon!  I already know and love the Conservatory’s fabulous Koerner Hall, where a solitary ghostly pianist took to the stage . . .

  • Spotlights (of unknown origin) picking up night clouds as if in some giant night-club as we stood in one of many line-ups (queues)
  • Flaming Pine Cone sculptures outside Campbell house – simple, mesmerizing, beautiful (I want one!)
  • The surprising delicacy of Auto Lamp, a white van punctured by brilliant light, shimmering light-flakes across the buildings at Yonge and Queen

  • CRUZE Remix, a definition defying combination of car show room, multiple projections screens, driving track through moving patterns of intelligent light inspiring live mixing of music  and video, a hand-painted car – this more than anything else made me question my need for definitions and boundaries as commercial promotion and spectacle intertwined!

It is easy to be cynical and dismissive – there are always critics. But, as well as enjoying the spectacle, we relished the unwaveringly amiable crowd (even when crushed tighter than sardines on the subway at 3 a.m.) Our evening was  not darkened by drunkenness or anti-social behaviour; I have read that, with bars unusually open until 4am, eventually a point is reached, but, in the seven hours or so we were on the streets, we saw almost none.

If culture is the glue that holds a society together, then without doubt Nuit Blanche is a significant cultural event – I felt truly part of an amazing city in a way I have not experienced anywhere else. It may or may not be ‘art’; but its weird and wonderful happenings do possess a positive power to bring people together, to inspire and illuminate. Toronto would be the poorer without its White Night.

White Night . . .

Our first Nuit Blanche in Toronto is almost here! With a joyous synchronicity, one of the many installations this year is a piece by Philip Beesley, Aurora, described as a ‘responsive forest of light’.

Hopefully Saturday night will be short on sleep but rich in weird, wonder and joy! Can’t wait!

At its core, Nuit Blanche is a 12-hour event with a mandate to make contemporary art accessible to large audiences, while inspiring dialogue and engaging the public to examine its significance and impact on public space. Nuit Blanche is both a “high art” event and a free populous event that encourages celebration and community engagement. From sunset to sunrise city spaces and neighbourhoods are transformed into temporary exhibitions. Unusual or forbidden spaces become sites of contemporary art open for all-night discovery and rediscovery. Cultural institutions, from museums to galleries to artist run centres, open their doors and offer free access to contemporary art. The everyday is suspended as the city’s landscape is changed to welcome a variety of artistic experiences.