Transformation, mystery and water

Fluent

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.

~ John O’Donohue

I look out onto my beloved lake as it transforms, very visibly, from the illusory immobility of ice to its fluid state and I listen to what it has to tell me.

Water is the true stuff of life,
The deep mystery at the centre of all that is.

Water exists in a continuous state of flow,
a constant state of transformation.

Confronted by heat or cold, it turns shape-shifter;
mysterious mists weave their enchantments,
clouds build castles in the air,
Jack Frost traces ferns across the glass,
the land is pelted by hail and graupel,
and blanketed by a quilt of snow.

The lake freezes and, later, thaws;
watching the ice come in and leave
teaches me patience with the ebb and flow,
the unseen nature of transformation.
After days of retreat and revelation
a clear sheet forms over the returned water,
once – oh joy! – with the exquisite,
unexpected blooming of frost flowers.

Yet the process of change
continues inexorably,
moment by moment rewriting
the relationship between ice and water
in patterns of constriction and release,
of return to rigidity, then surge and flood.

Transformation exists
in every moment.
What is now
is not the same as what just was
or will be.

Out on the lake,
the ice lets go as we watch;
the clouds race across
the new-blue sky
casting shadow spells
or float in the emerging reflective stillness.

Clouds on ice and water

Beneath all is the constancy of water
and a process of transformation
without beginning or end.

Water is the true stuff of life,
but life is all transformation!

 

My inner transformation,
in this body that is more than 60% water,
is similarly complex.

There is much that goes unseen.
Just when it seems the ice is melting,
something inside rigidifies once more.

There are moments of unexpected joy and light,
but also times of constriction and the flood of overwhelm.

The lake reminds me that 
all is unfolding, in its own time,
exactly as it should.

As I embrace my own transitions,
may I remember that this moment is all that I have,
is all that I am or need to be.
Let me inhabit it fully,
wrap it round me like silk
then allow it to slip away . . .

Lake in transition

Transitions in the seasons of the soul

I think there are multiple layers to the manifestation of inner seasons.

The internal season

On occasion in the past I have been very conscious of a specific internal season, particularly of winters of the soul as times of dormancy, retreat, grieving even. This is one layer and, from this perspective, I see myself now as in a transition from a winter that has been a time of  mystery, of deep and subtle transformation, of stillness and silence, of hidden growth requiring patience and faith. 

What has been interesting is that, in paying attention to the shift in nature these last weeks, I sense that it is not some human failing that we rarely transition smoothly; if this is the path nature takes then it seems to me that the two-steps forward one-step back dance is an inherent aspect of the character of change.

Thaw - land steepingI see the land, still frozen, steeping in the thaw water that it is not yet ready to absorb, grungy, muddy, yet with hints of the possibility of spring. And I realize that I am content to live this within my own transition, to steep in a flood of insights that I am not yet fully able to soak up. I see the lake existing as thick white ice, clear glass and sparkling open water simultaneously and something inside me whispers ‘yes!’ in affirmation and recognition.  In focusing on the subtleties and nuances of this time between winter and spring, I am newly comfortable in my own space of between.

Water in three states - between seasons

Carrying all the seasons within

At another level, I am aware that I carry all the seasons within me, and can draw on the riches of each as I need or choose at any given time.

The turning of the year

Finally, there is the part of me that responds to the turning of the year, increasingly delighting in the changing rhythms that inform my living in both the exterior and interior worlds.

As winter leaves the lake . . .

 

Now, in this time of increasing intimacy with both the natural and the inner world, each season, each new manifestation, each day of brilliant sunshine or unrelenting rain, each moment, is becoming equally precious. This is becoming almost as true for the seasons of the soul as those of the year’s turning. I try to sit with each, knowing that all things pass.

 

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!

 

What does nature mean to me? Why is it important?

I was ever a child of nature, integrally connected with the rhythm of the seasons and with a strong link between external and internal realities.

Nature’s place in my life is as a sweet familiar melody running through my living,
it speaks the language of my soul;

it connects my roots to the beating heart of Mother earth
and it centers me in ‘now’ and ‘am’;

it lifts me out of the mire of day to day concerns;
gifting me moments of deep knowing and insight;

even in my darkest days, it anchors me to wonder and joy,
lighting my way back home to my best self;

it roots me in awareness of the constancy of change, unafraid,
and threads the cycles of dying and rebirth within my being;

it enfolds me in a living silence, rich in mystery,
opens the door to realms of myth and magic;

it inspires me to watch, to note, to listen,
sating my senses;

it draws from me a life-affirming reverence,
a deep resounding ‘yes’!

 

Nature - a rhapsody in blue - jay and lake

 

I’m very excited to be embarking on an exploration into Nature’s Poetry. Even this afternoon’s first foray into the preparatory work for Session 1, beginning to look at my personal connection with nature, has been richly nourishing.

I have, over the last couple of years, felt the pull back to my writing roots, which started with poems before I could even put pen to paper (I was three years old). So this online course speaks both to my deep sense of return and re-connection to nature in living rurally and to rediscovering a mode of expression that faltered as I focused on career and family.

What a delicious luxury it is to be invited down a path along which poetry, both in the reading and the writing, can illuminate one’s inner landscape! 

I intend to do my best to follow Mary Oliver‘s instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

 

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.