Flexing very stiff poetry muscles, exploring eternal life

In a still very tentative flexing of underused poetry muscles, the idea behind the poem below came to me so vividly that it had to be written, even if not well! It speaks to a sudden deep internal awareness that particles are more or less constant in the universe; so all of us, in a way, have an eternal existence.

Eternal Life

When my human days are done

and I walk the path of the long goodbye

I will not be gone.

 

Will some particle of me take form

in rock or stone,

ruby’s heart or emerald’s gleam?

 

Or will my flash of green and red,

touched with gold,

draw your eye to the blur of hummingbird wings?

 
Lake and sky
 
 
Within the flow, catching the light

of the lake’s constant changing –

Is it there I’ll be?

 

Perhaps, in the creaking of branches

and the susurration of leaves,

you’ll sense a trace of me still.

 

Or maybe I’ll be a sprinkling

of stardust on indigo

somewhere far out in the universe.

 

It’s somehow comforting to know

that the particles that make up ‘I’

may scatter, but they (almost) never die!

 

February 7, 2018

 

I wrote my first poem before I could actually transcribe the words onto paper.

Then, in my teens, poetry and my deep connection to the natural world saved my sanity in an era when no-one considered the impact of significant loss and grief on an adolescent.

Every now and again, amid the roller-coaster demands of just living a life, the poetic impulse has bubbled briefly to the surface.

Now it feels as if it is time once again to tap into this part of me. But oh how rusty I feel, how hard it is not to become self-conscious, to lose the flow, to try too hard or not enough – I’m not yet sure which!

 

Nature, connection and homecoming

Our first year of living in rural Ontario has been truly special. I have had a sense of homecoming, of re-connecting more fully with nature. And, for me, that connection is the source of much wonder and joy.

Fall at the lake

So I put together a book, A year in the life of The House at Turtle Pond. A kind of journal, it seeks to capture our response to the newness of living through the turning of this first year, looking out over Cranberry Lake on the Rideau system in Southern Ontario, Canada.

It speaks to a deep connection with nature, the rhythm of the seasons and the interconnectedness of internal and external realities.

I wrote it first and foremost so as not to lose sight of the newness as the years pass and familiarity potentially dulls our awareness. But it has been lovely to find that at least a few people find in it something to feed the soul. It makes it even more worthwhile!

The book

Below is a link to A year in the life of The House at Turtle Pond as it appears on the Blurb website. Here you can glance through a preview. If you happen to be interested in having a copy and live locally, please feel free to contact me direct. Blurb often offers discounts to the creator of a book, which makes it significantly more affordable.

By the way, it was our predecessors who named our wetland between the house and road Turtle Pond. And our neighbour noted that this was therefore The House at Turtle Pond,  like The House at Pooh CornerThis seemed apt, especially when I came across this:

And by and by Christopher Robin came to the end of things, and he was silent, and he sat there, looking out over the world, just wishing it wouldn’t stop.

A.A. Milne

 

Gratitude and joy – an intimate relationship

(The first of three interconnected posts on gratitude)

I am increasingly inclined to think that joy and gratitude are close companions, engaged in a mutual dance of enrichment.

When we experience that moment of joy, whether at the birth of a child or in witnessing a beautiful sunset, is it possible to feel joy without a sense of gratitude?

Joy and gratitude for an Outouais Sunset

Perhaps gratitude can exist without joy, but I think ‘the practice of gratitude’ at the very least primes us to experience joy more readily.

So how do we define gratitude? The dictionary definition is simply ‘the quality of being thankful’. Robert Emmons, possibly the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, expands on this, describing it as an affirmation of goodness and a recognition that the sources of this goodness are outside ourselves (see his full definition at the University of California, Berkeley Greater Good website).

A hundred or so years B.C., Cicero argued that among virtues, gratitude is ‘the parent of all the others’, a virtue that begets other virtues. This is backed up by contemporary social scientists who contend that gratitude ‘stimulates moral behaviour’.

I experience gratitude as a state of being, one which provides the lens through which I choose to experience life. As with joy, I am conscious that gratitude is a practice that must be cultivated. I share the Buddhist perception that such a practice leads to the direct experience and awareness of the inter-connectedness of all of life and of the ongoing dynamic of giving and receiving. As well, it creates a context of abundance.

Gratitude also roots us more firmly in the moment. As the Chopra Centre puts it:

“gratitude brings our attention into the present, which is the only place where miracles can unfold. The deeper our appreciation, the more we see with the eyes of the soul and the more our life flows in harmony with the creative power of the universe.”
http://www.chopra.com/ccl/cultivate-the-healing-power-of-gratitude

Whilst gathering my thoughts for this post, the phrase ‘a state of grace’ flickered through my consciousness. Given that the words ‘gratitude’ and ‘grace’ share a common root, this is unsurprising. But what does this mean to our understanding of gratitude?  Vipassana (insight) meditation teacher Phillip Moffitt expresses this beautifully:

“This grace of conscious life, of having a mind that can know “this moment is like this,” is the root of all wonder, from which gratitude flows. The wonder, the mystery, is that you, like everyone else, are given this short, precious time of conscious embodiment in which you can directly know life for yourself.”
http://dharmawisdom.org/teachings/articles/selfless-gratitude

(See also Grateful to whom? and Gratitude is good for you!)

Buying human

“I’ve never lived anywhere where I am on hugging or flirting terms with so many of my local shop-keepers.”

I’ve quipped this to a number of people, flip, mildly amusing. But there is a deeper strand to the thought.

One day, at the Brickworks Farmer’s Market, I watched other people’s children engaging with the process of buying food. It struck me that there was an en-joy-ment that is mostly absent from the supermarket experience.

I am increasingly choosing to buy much of my food from people with whom I have developed some relationship, where I have some sense of where it has come from, how it has been raised or grown. Many of these people are passionate and hugely knowledgeable about what they do.

Bill, at Art of Cheese on Kingston Rd., really knows his cheese but is also expert in the kind of banter that keeps you coming back for that connection as well as the cheese.

Royal Beef on the Danforth are Master Butchers, skilled in their art; they keep us stocked with naturally raised beef, pork and chicken, as well as wonderful creamy goat feta, artisan Salami and more. But we also go back for the warmth of welcome from Carm and her staff, the well-informed suggestions.

Our garlic comes from Ross of Stone Soup Farms, who grows a number of different varieties north of Brockville – I never want to have to go back to supermarket garlic; this tastes so much better! A first meeting at the garlic stall at Soupstock and chance re-union at Royal Beef have grown into a friendship.

In each case there is a combination of a quality product, passion and expertise, and what I would term ‘relationship marketing’.

Similarly, when I buy clothes, more and more I seem to seek out smaller shops where, again, there is genuine passion as well as a line of connection through to the maker. Jennifer at Ziliotto epitomizes this; she seems to have an innate understanding of ‘relationship marketing’. A couple of times a year or more, I find myself at the Danforth store, sipping wine, nibbling cheese and meeting interesting people. Alongside this, I have expert input from the designer and her staff on the clothes that suit me and how to work them. I also get to meet the craftspeople behind the jewellery, belts, bags and hats that the store stocks in addition to Jennifer’s designs. The hug when I leave, often accompanied by a small gift sourced from another local business, is genuinely warm. In between times, that vital sense of connection is stoked by an excellent weekly video blog. This approach epitomizes to me the point of intersection between authentically human relationship and good marketing.

What I have noticed is that, whether buying food or clothes, if I buy from this connected, passionate space, the authenticity of the experience imbues the ‘product’ with a richness that is largely absent from my experience as a ‘consumer’.

When I have talked to Bill, Carm or Ross, or a local producer in the Farmers’ Market about what I am buying, I savour every mouthful. And every mouthful comes with a host of subliminal connections and emotions that enhance the experience. It seems to me that I even eat less, because what I eat satisfies more than the physical need for sustenance.

To wear one of my Ziliotto dresses is, at some level, to relive the sense of embrace of the buying experience. Team it with a Susana Erazo belt and I’m already surrounded by friends before I start my day! The material objects have become imbued with connections and meaning that enrich my living.

It strikes me that both obesity and the constant need to buy new things can, in some part, be traced back to the lack of connection and meaning that is so often the mark of mass consumerism. We crave more food, more clothes, more everything, because we live with a sense that our appetites are never quite satisfied.

So this is by way of a salute to that small but growing band of entrepreneurs who understand that passion, meaning, friendship, connection – all those qualities that define the best of what it is to be human – can also be good business.

Joy, suffering and the ego

I read today a view that the ego will always attempt to suck us back into a state of suffering. Without resistance, we begin to blur our sense of separateness and the ego needs us to see ourselves in terms of separation and difference.

From the egoic point of view, it’s vital that we remain in conflict to some extent, and that’s why, when we look at the world around us, we see so much conflict among human beings.  (Adyashanti: Falling into Grace)

This prompted for me that the realization that joy, at least as I perceive it, is rarely if ever ego driven, existing most profoundly in the moments when the barrier of ego-separation is breached by a sense of connectedness, of grace.

So for me, part of the purpose in consciously working to develop the capacity to access joy is to provide myself with one of the tools with which to combat the pull of the ego and the resultant ‘suffering’, the fall from grace into being a part of conflict.