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Day 214 “Divine Spark”

The emerald waters
of my crystalline personality
are only a reflection
of an external light.

Lurking below the surface
the murky waters
of self-deprecation
create further illusion.

Dive deeper,
beyond the cold chill
of darkening thoughts
and threatening despair

Weed through the silt
of bottomed out desires
and find an opening –
black and foreboding.

Enter with an open heart
and find the chest within
rusted from neglect,
unguarded, with open latch.

Brush away the cobwebs
and with respectful caution
lift the dusty lid
and behold the divine spark

My true essence,
Tucked there in the darkness
an eternal flame
vibrant and vital.

Release it for me,
be so kind,
to light this dismal patch
and set my waters aglow again.

So that the emerald waters
of my crystalline personality
would reflect my inner
divine light.

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Day 213 “Life After Life”

“Scoot up on the step, Rie-Rie, and let Mommy put on your new shoes.” With only weeks to go until my second child was to be born, I found bending over impossible. Obligingly, Marie climbed up the steps and offered me a foot. “Look how shiny they are! Don’t you love them?”

The black patent Mary-Janes fit her tiny feet perfectly. She sat patiently while I adjusted the buckles, chattering away as she often did, but this time I found her words strangely unsettling.

“When you were little you always loved your Baby Dolls the best.”

Baby Dolls! It was a term I hadn’t heard for ages.

“Where did you hear them called Baby Dolls?” I quizzed my two-and-a-half-year-old.

“You called them your Baby Dolls. You had to wear them everywhere.”

Marie often talked of when she was big and I was little; I had just thought that it was a thing that young children did. When you were a baby, I fed you applesauce, she’d say, for example. But repeating a name I’d left behind in my own childhood and forgotten startled me. Who are you? I wondered.

My second daughter was born at the end of October, the same day we moved into our new, unfinished home. Without kitchen cupboards, or a proper countertop, I was forced to bathe my newborn in the bathroom sink. I assigned Marie as helper and stood her on the toilet seat where she would be within reach. On the back of the toilet, I had placed a flower arrangement, made from the silk flowers that had been part of my bridal bouquet. Marie spotted it at once.

“Oh, how pretty!” she exclaimed. “I made one of these once.”

“You did? And when was that?” I couldn’t help but be amused. In her short life, at home with me, I knew for certain she had not.

“Oh a long time ago, before you were born. Only I made it out of yarn.”

Yarn?! Where did she come up with such things. I would say ‘wool’, not ‘yarn’.

“Oh yeah? And where was that?”

“It was when I lived in England. At school.”

“And how old were you then?”

“Sixty months.”

“And how old is that?”

“Five.” Marie said it so matter-of-factly, but I was stunned. How does a not quite three-year-old know that sixty months equate to five years?

“Marie is scaring me with the way she talks,” I told my mother over the phone. “It’s like she has been here before.”

“You were like that too,” was her response. “She is just very bright, that’s all.”

I wasn’t so sure. I called my cousin Lynne. “Could she have been here before, like she says?”

“Some people believe so,” she said. “It’s called reincarnation. There’s a book you should read that might help you out. It’s by Ian Currie – You Cannot Die.”

It was the beginning of a shift in the way I thought about life, and life after life.

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Day 212 “Dharma”

“Let’s start by completing this reading and writing survey,” I suggested to the tall, lanky young man who had recently been placed in my care. Uncertain as to whether or not he had any literacy skills, I offered to read over the lists with him. “We’ll place a check mark beside any or all that apply.”

“Sure thing, Mrs. E.” Mark gave me that charming smile that he was famous for. Although his criminal record was longer than his academic one, Mark was a very likeable young man.

“Which of the following do you read? Magazines?”

“Sometimes. Motorcycle ones mostly.”

“Good.” I wrote that down.

“Newspapers?”

“Not so much. I’d rather watch it on t.v.”

“I’d have to agree. Letters? This must be an old list….” I started to apologize.

“Oh no! I read letters all the time.”

“You do?” I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d received a letter. “Who writes to you?”

“My boy, Ace.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, he’s serving time for assault.”

“Do you write back to him?”

“Of course. We’re tight, Ace and me. He’s like a brother. I’ve known Ace since we was kids.”

Good to know. Mark has literacy skills. I checked off letters under the writing column.

Hovering over the journal box, I asked if he ever wrote a diary or journal.

“I’d like to,” Mark said, “but who would ever want to read what I have to write.”

It was the opening I needed to hook Mark into learning. I was charged with helping Mark obtain a credit in English and Math. Math was easy, as he liked the subject and demonstrated a natural ability; so English was the challenge. We decided that Mark would read a memoir and I would construct relevant writing exercises that would form the basis for Mark’s own personal blog / journal. Mark and I were both excited about the prospect.

What ensued were many hours of heart to heart talks. Mark, the youngest child of a broken home, had been left to his own devices at an early age. He stop attending school in the seventh grade and quickly began to wander with a rough crowd. He confessed that he really did want to turn his life around, but that he didn’t know how. I advised him that while change was possible it would be hard, and might mean a purging of relationships.

“My boys are my family, Mrs. E.” he explained. “Whenever I’ve needed anything, they are the ones I turn to.”

I understood, but I also knew that if Mark was to truly make changes, his friends would have to go.

“Ace is isn’t really his name, you know,” Mark said to me one day out of the blue. “It’s his gang handle. I have one too.”

“You know, Mark, if you sat your gang down, individually, and asked them whether or not they’d like to change their lives, I suspect half would say they did and the other half would be sociopaths.”

“You are right about that, Mrs. E. Take Ace for instance. He comes from a good home; his mom is a professional, and quite successful. His dad is never around, which was part of the problem, but his stepdad’s a good head. He just got off on the wrong foot because of his colour.”

As Mark continued to talk, Ace’s story began to sound all too familiar.

“Wait a minute, Mark. I think I know Ace…or his mother at least.”

He told me Ace’s name and my heart sunk. “I knew Ace as a young man. I knew his mother very well, and admire her deeply. Next time you write to Ace, you let him know I’m thinking about him, and his family.”

I left school that day with a very heavy heart, my last conversation with Ace’s mother echoing through my mind.

“I don’t know what to do,” she cried into the phone. “The police just won’t leave him alone. It’s racial profiling.”

I couldn’t believe what she was saying to me. I didn’t want to. Our city, in these times, capable of racial profiling. That didn’t happen in Canada, did it?

I didn’t hear from my dear friend again after that conversation. Our lives took on different directions, and even though I dropped her a line years later, she didn’t respond. I was beginning to understand why. Her baby was in jail doing time for assault.

“He didn’t do it, Mrs. E!” Mark had tried to reassure me.

Somehow, I believed him. But the story continues to haunt me all the same. Could I have done something different?
Did I let my friend down in her time of need because of my own ignorance.

One thing I know for certain: the world is made up of many interconnecting circles, and sooner or later, what we’ve left behind will catch up with us in one way or another.

Learn from me: Take care of each other in the moment. You don’t know how far-reaching your actions will be.

adversity · aging · life · nonfiction · recovery

What I’ve Learned From Trees

Meditating on the majestic beauty of the trees outside my window, I come to recognize something about myself. I cannot help but think that even though they are symbols of quiet strength, trees are not without their own vulnerabilities. Acts of Nature, or even human folly can bring them down, and so they, like me, are not immortal.

th-3Perhaps none of us is meant to be an impenetrable force: the kind of force I aspired to in my youth.

You see, I always thought of myself as a strong woman, however; unlike the trees I contemplated in my last post, I was not flexible – bending graciously to the winds of change – but belligerent, resistant, and arrogant. I was a right fighter. Having grown up in an atmosphere of relentless uncertainty, I commanded myself to be strong, believing that with an iron will, I could gain control of life – not just my own, but the lives of those around me. I adopted an air of superiority – pretending to know better than anyone else – even though on the inside, I never measured up. Showing vulnerability was never an option. Instead, I must have appeared the fool, and undoubtedly hurt many others.

True strength, I realize now, comes in retreating in the face of adversity, and the willingness to see beyond personal righteousness. It involves an openness to understanding alternative perspectives, and the wisdom to perceive the truth underlying the turmoil.

th-4My current life circumstances have brought me limitations: physically and mentally. My awake and energetic times are severely restricted. I am challenged to create a new definition of self, and what it is to be strong.

I dreamt of my dear cousin Bev last night. Bev passed away recently after battling cancer for ten years. In all those years she faced her struggle with a quiet strength: maintaining her outer poise, surrendering to the times of severe illness, and establishing healthy boundaries. She was a model for gracious living. Truly a strong woman.

Illness has brought me an opportunity to retreat for a while. It is allowing me the possibility of real change: measurable change. In surrendering my old sense of self, I will surely emerge new.

In the meantime, I remain open and vulnerable – not comfortable – but then at fifty-six years of age, I am well rooted. Like the trees.

disability · health · mental-health · poetry · spirituality

As a Tree

Confined for hours at a time to my bed, I cheer myself by contemplating the trees outside my windows. There is something in their stoic beauty that both calms and inspires me.

Be as the tree a former meditation instructor taught me.

If I were a tree
my roots would run deep into the earth
and spread in all directions
grounding me.

Present.

My trunk would be wide and solid
weathering all storms
supporting other life
a tower.

Strong.

My branches would reach up to the sky
and dance with the breezes
and bend with the changing seasons
and bow to Nature.

Flexible.

If I were a tree
I would be calm, yet strong;
have heightened awareness, yet be rooted in reality.

I would yield to change,
yet stand proud in my own existence,
growing with grace.

If I were a tree
I would live in harmony
with Nature.

Present, Strong. Flexible.

Fully alive.

(Image from: www.nbcdfw.com)

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Day 209 “The Multiverse”

In innocence, I first encountered her;
I, a mere child of five:
wide-eyed, curious, and unafraid;
she a creature of Nature.

The woods where I wandered were hers,
densely populated, untamed.
She eyed me with bewilderment,
this unattended sapling in her path.

With feline instincts she stalked me,
considering her moves
I was hers, undefended –
and so she took her time,
waiting for me to ripen for the attack.

She followed me through the fields
of adolescence,
pacing the perimeters
patiently biding her time.
And I, with growing awareness
came to understand her threat.
And I picked up the pace.

Into adulthood I ran,
seeking safety in the concrete walls
of business life, and fast-paced living
and like a cat with a mouse
she toyed with me,
knowing I’d be hers in the end.

She shrank back into the shadows
when motherhood became my calling
no doubt a Mother herself,
and therefore compassionately courteous.
But she never gave up.

Into old age I run, but –
the cougar grows closer,
her senses fully alert;
she smells my fear, and
fully powered she leaps
towards me,
and even
though
I seek
the safety
of my home
she easily
penetrates
the ineffective
doorways
of my
mind
and
pounces…

The Tao says that we live in a universe
of multiple possibilities –
a multiverse –
but when your life is spent
in survival mode,
in constant flight,
always looking behind
It is difficult to see the vast horizon
that lies ahead,
or even dream of possibilities

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Day 208 “Undivided Attention”

Undivided attention.

Two words that brought me hope as a parent and caused me a deep sense of guilt.

I just had to talk on the phone in the presence of my children to know that it was my attention they wanted, without any distractions, and I knew if I could deliver that, they would behave. It gave me hope.

In reality, I had three children, four and under, and a house to run, and a job on the side, and a husband that was never present, and a family who perpetuated drama – not to mention a desire for a life of my own- so giving the children my undivided attention seemed like an impossible task and caused me enormous guilt.

I was never good enough in those years. (Is this every mother’s lot?)

Then, as a teacher, I realized that my students, like my children, were starved to be seen and heard, and I strived to give each one my full attention, if only for moments at a time, but it was never enough and I felt inadequate.

Now, challenged with this illness and unable to give much of anything to anybody, I realize that it is I – my body/mind/spirit – that needs me to be fully present and aware.

It is no longer okay to feel not good enough.

Guilt, you have no place here.

I am learning all over again about the benefits of undivided attention.

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