Sparks will fly #38 #abundance

All along the way, summer fruits are either waiting to be harvested or have reached their potential and fallen to the ground fermenting in the creases of paths and edges of the road. The corn is the call for me to draw on a tune from Oklahoma! The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye and it is a beatiful morning! The fallen chestnuts are making it easy for various creatures to gather food and crushed by passing vehicles are offering up their inside flesh to be mashed up – I wonder if roasted chestnuts are a thing in Portugal.

Each tree seems to be weighed down by it’s fecundity. The word that appears for me on this day, is abundance. For as far as the eye can see there is food for every living creature and for eons cultivated land feeding generations of families, farm animals and pilgrims in this hierarchy of the food chain.

My eye is constantly drawn to what is familiar – pears, figs, apples, grapes, olives and limes. The briars of currents, blueberries and wild rose hip take a while to recognise and all the familiarity of European influence from the adventurous explorers that sits in my DNA wakes up and finds its way through my senses. There are plenty of gum trees too – and the baby blue gums bring their gun metal grey blend into the landscape and remind me of home more than once. With the familiar and the known there is always the opportunity to dig a bit deeper and see what might not be immediately seen. I stretch my sights to look for other species, find a squirrel, some ants and then a butterfly, feeling reassured there is more than fruit.

It took a while to find the right path, such a fitting way to start the Camino in Barcelos. Having arrived in Porto, the day before, more than 12 hours late at 330am and having not enough sleep, I was willing to follow any yellow arrow. But like all instructions in any landscape, a local is best to give guidance and eventually succumbing to local knowledge we found our path out of the town. It had been a circuitous entry into the camino and I loved the poetry of that, even though by the end of the day the extra kilometres were unwelcome by most parts of my body. Keep on walking is the only instruction and locals remind us all with love and kindness, exclaiming ‘Buon camino’ as they pass us on their daily village chores and like their ancestors continue to recognise us as pilgrims even when we don’t know that about ourselves. We get an instruction to slow down more than once – first in Porto from a guide and on the road to Ponte de Lima, from a villager with an umbrella who knows what is ahead for us and wants us to savour what his landscape has to offer us.

At the end of the second day of walking there has been an abundance of rain and after walking all day in it, there is not one part of my body dry. All I am going to say is North Face has a lot to answer for and the rain jacket was the subject of false advertising. The evening stop brings invisible and visible support and I find I go to rest, with a new heavy duty poncho for the days ahead that will be raining too, paper towels to dry shoes, shower caps are promising to improvise to protect and hold, and a laundry bag that will be turned into a backpack cover. I did read the instructions to bring good wet weather gear and thought I had …. but my wet weather experience from the driest state on the driest contintent is not the knowledge I needed to draw on.

It is always what is known that takes us to new places and from that place we are stretched. There are learning opportunities, there is the call to discover how to integrate, recognise and decode what is known and unknown, the challenge to respond to a mounting body of evidence that you are not prepared for what is here and what lies ahead – this is abundance.

Drenched from the rain, the skies have opened to place one more drop on another, and then another and so it goes until I am so soaked there is no where else for the rain to go and the water meets the road and perhaps …. just perhaps … combines with the fermented fruit and water turns into wine.

The harvest is yet to be made, even though all the trees and vines are so pregnant that look like they may soon collapse under the weight of their fruit. Just like any soon-to-be mother they have dropped and they will deliver soon. More than once, I instinctively default to the most ancient of prayers in my canon – Hail Mary full of grace. To be full of grace first before the child is delivered, resonates with me, in this pregnant food bowl of northern Portugal. And what would it look like for me to be full and about to burst? is this the lesson of the rain? What sparks might fly?

Quinta da Cancela, Balugaes

Sparks will fly #37 #onemore

Remember when you were little and you counted the sleeps towards something and there was just one more sleep to go? The idea of one more has been haunting me in my sprint to holidays, putting my belongings into storage, handing over work, finalising papers and board and business responsibilities. One more email, one more call, one more meeting, one more conversation, one more bag … and now it is one more sleep. It is quite a heady mix of letting go, relinquishing on the one hand and taking up on the other. My quest is to remain open, open the road and to the questions that might emerge along the way. The question I am trying to hold onto is: What will the road reveal?

Despite all the trials, tribulations, betrayals and horrid things I have endured that have worked their way through me in various guises these past years, I am arriving once again to a new threshold – as we all do each new day. Every moment is uniquely gifted for us to receive with as much open heartedness as we can muster. I am thankful I have arrived with one more sleep to go. One more night, the last one in what will soon have the title of the old bed. I won’t be returning to that bed ever again. My grandfather made it for my parents and I have written about it before. We are parting company and it is the last vessel other than my own body that held a marriage. We are breaking up, the bed and I, and are freeing each other from our shared history.

The experience of a dry mouth from anxiety, fear, stress, followed by the insatiable desire to quench the thirst by drinking copious amounts of water, seems like the body reaching out to be a well seeking to be filled. This instruction is one for the road too. Fill up often, leverage off the fear to dip into the well. Shaking off the dust and emptying shoes of sand and pebbles so you can walk on more freely … all the feels of one more sleep.

There were days and so, so many nights, when I didn’t think I could get to this day and now it has arrived with the ease of a gentle reassuring kiss, and a blessing to go forth. As well as some basic clothes, my walking sticks and notebook, I will be taking my own version of the Examen with me – it always seems to help move me forward.

1. Resting into the presence of creative energy of love and the UniVerse – the one Word some call God.
2. Reviewing the day with gratitude.
3. Paying attention to my emotions – how did they show up during the day.
4. Choosing one feature of the day and reflecting on it with love and curiousity
5. Looking toward tomorrow.

There is always one more of something to do, to anticipate, to welcome, to farewell. There is always one more David Whyte poem to journey with, and it has been The Well today (posted below). There are always more sparks to fly and as I fly with my little spark inside of me I wonder what will the road reveal?

The Well

David Whyte

Be thankful now for having arrived,
for the sense of
having drunk
from a well,
for remembering the long drought that preceded your arrival
and the years walking in a desert landscape of surfaces looking for a spring hidden from you for so long that even wanting to find it now had gone from your mind
until you only
remembered the hard pilgrimage that brought you here,
the thirst that caught in your throat; the taste of a world just-missed
and the dry throat that came from a love you remembered but had never fully wanted for yourself, until finally, after years making the long trek to get here it was as if your whole achievement had become nothing but thirst itself.

But the miracle had come simply from allowing yourself to know that you had found it,
that this time
someone walking out into the clear air from far inside you
had decided not to walk past it anymore;
the miracle had come at the roadside in the kneeling to drink
and the prayer you said,
and the tears you shed
and the memory
you held
and the realization
that in this silence
you no longer had to keep your eyes and ears averted from the
place that
could save you,
that you had been given
the strength to let go
of the thirsty dust laden
pilgrim-self
that brought you here,
walking with her
bent back, her bowed head and her careful explanations.

No, the miracle had already happened
when you stood up,
shook off the dust
and walked along the road from the well,
out of the desert toward the mountain,
as if already home again, as if you
deserved what you loved all along,
as if just remembering the taste of that clear cool spring could lift up your face
and set you free.

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Photo by Bram. on Unsplash

Sparks will fly #36 #Reclining

Couch surfing has begun and I have found myself on my old red couch in another city, where it now lives in the Spare Room of one of the offspring. I bought new couches in the last six months of my love’s life to make sure we had plenty of spaces for family to lie, rest, sleep, recover in the dying days that the house was hosting. Now I get to sleep on one of them again as pilgrim life unfolds. The red couches are plump, inviting and know how to be steady to receive. I am grateful to my past self for buying them and seeing them in their new surrounds and making good use of them.

There is a lot to be said for reclining. The famous reclining Buddha statues around the world are a sign of compassion, acceptance of death being nigh and the body is no longer needed. In the moments of deep tiredness I have felt this week, taking a reclining position at the end of the week on the red couch has its own poetry. I am tired and there is one last sprint to come this week to finalise preparations to go away, move what’s left of my possessions into storage, pack my bag and go walking and holidays.

To recline is to lean back, and in this day and age, where leaning in is a mantra, I am enjoying playing with this idea of leaning back! The dictionary tells me the word comes from the Old French recliner or Latin reclinare ‘bend back, recline’, from re- ‘back’ + clinare ‘to bend’. This is not a going backwards kind of bend, but a bend that you do again and again to focus, to reflect and to let inanimate items take the weight of the body from the earth, to hold it in some kind of suspension, while restoration takes place, or even perhaps transformation. Like every night’s rest where we recline, we bend back into our beds, and return to the dark, and while our eyes are shut all kinds of renewal take place. Clarity often arrives after leaning back.

Time of the red couch awake, and asleep, enables sparks to rise up from old embers and memories I don’t want to hold come with them. The sleep I long for doesn’t always come, but the reclining remains and continues to be an invitation to rest. I am looking to the serene face of one who knows how to recline and lean back into mortality allowing sparks to come and sparks to go. Lying back, sinking into the red couch which is both cause and effect of some of my broken heart. Rumi says you have to keep breaking your heart until it is open and I wonder how much more breaking is even possible and what corners of my heart are still aching to be open? Reclining, is hinting to me, that there maybe more to be done by leaning back than leaning in.

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Photo by Joe Robertson

Sparks will fly #35 #Spring

Been pouring all night, so appropriate for waters breaking to birth the new season of spring. Like so many new beginnings, first there is the heaviness of pregnancy, then the waters break before something formed but not quite fully operational, arrives. This is the season of buds forming, then opening, the seeds who have been busy gathering up their energy in dark places push through and poke their green heads up. This is the season where possibilities emerge and what looked like it might have been dead or at least in a deep Sleeping Beauty kind of sleep, opens and transforms.

I am constantly impressed by how seeds quietly go about storing up their energy and  push and push and push, until there is a crack in the brown ceiling they hit them selves against, and keep striving towards the light, but that comes after the dark and often shitty, dank place they are in and at the other end they build a system of roots that do deeper and hold themselves in place. This two way stretching and striving for nutrition and life is a constant reminder to me of what is needed to get by in the world. The human condition is fraught with times we are in the dark, know leaning into the light will help us unfold, and that we have to go deep to draw on what gets left behind in the soil. All those micro-organisms, humus, worms are there to help us reach for the stars.

Sparks of life, new ideas, possibilities and invitations start turning up to announce that hibernation has come to an end. I wonder what I have unknowingly been hibernating that might burst through some of what has been hiding under ground?  Within two weeks I will have packed up all I have left to make a home, packed a bag to hit the road, said goodbye to a village that has held me for the past fifteen years and closed a lot of chapters. I will wander away quietly with no ceremony, not quite a disappearance as I am sure to find my way to being close by on my return, but I will be without a permanent address for the first time in my life. This new season in my life comes from heavy clouds, plenty of precipitation and fodder churned into the earth from scraps, shit and disease, breaking down and turning into fuel.

Spring following winter is reassuring, even on day like today Father’s Day in Australia, where I miss my Dad. He  always had hope even well into his dying days. He was a man who opened himself up to new possibilities from ideas, words, food and was never short of advising on what might need to be transformed or changed to bring new life to a situation (he continued to write to the coaches of his football team even in his last days).  He died in spring and this year I will be on the other side of the planet when it will be his anniversary and birthday. We buried him on his birthday and when we talked about dying, he told me he wanted to be buried so the earth and all its creatures would take their time with him.  These words have held me in good stead during the winter seasons past and this one in particular. The title of a book he wrote, Help Yourself to Happiness, I am taking as a clear message from him to enter this season.

Letting nature take its course and being reminded to lean into what the winds, rains and Gaia herself wants to teach me and invite me into a practice. With the practice comes the discipline and truth that winter is followed by spring.

As we wake up and enter the spring, coming into what was in the dark, beneath the surface, where there are expectations for sparks to fly, I turn to David Whyte’s poem What to Remember When Waking, to hold me as the new season arrives.

What to Remember When Waking

 

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

— David Whyte

bookKeith

Dad wrote this book and it was published by Lothian in 1999. Nothing says spring like a daisy.

Sparks will fly #34 #toddling

Recovering from trauma is all part of the human condition.  Most of us begin in trauma as we journey through the birth canal and surprisingly come out a bit squished, bruised, maybe even a bit jaundice.  Over the life course, we have plenty of opportunities to experience trauma. The first falls when we learn to walk, may well be interrupted by tops of tables, kitchen obstacle courses and ambition beyond skill. The toddling is instructive. We cry, dust ourselves off, maybe get a hand up, sometimes have our hands held to steady and shepherd us to the next effort and then over time build our capacity, resilience and eventually (if we are lucky enough to have two feet) are able to stand up straight and tall for all the world to see. We get grounded and from there we learn to walk, dance, jump, leap over, run.

My experience in getting over trauma is an act of toddling. There are the inevitable bumps on the head when I raise up with confidence I am ready to stand, and then find I misjudged where the top of that table was, and end up with a bit of a bloody knock.  There are the all the visible and invisible hands pulling me up to help me get back on my feet. Some of those hands consciously know the practical help they are offering and others have completely no idea. There are even people who don’t realise how they are being deployed by the UniVerse to help me along the way.  These hands turn up every time I get out of my own way and catch the invitations as they come tumbling in to me.  I don’t even have to ask sometimes, but I do need to keep my awareness alert and ready to catch as others pitch.

I have people watching me, to see what I will do next, how I will handle situations. Mostly they are kind, generous and encouraging family and friends who want me to bring my best self to all situations. Some have special talents to warn me of obstacles in my path, that might lead to a fall in my toddling. Some have the capacity to cheer me on and chuckle at my more interesting moves as I fall gracefully and not so gracefully from time to time. I noticed this week I have started laughing more and that is surely a good sign. I have also noticed I am beginning to get more playful again, this feels like relief, I have been missing that piece of myself. Truly something is shifting and lifting. I know that I am still toddling though, and falls are inevitable.

Toddling informed trauma recovery includes understanding the mood swings of toddlers  – one minute confusion, next rage,  closely followed by tenderness.  And like toddlers who fall over in their early efforts to walk, there are still days when I want to lie on the floor, bang my hands into the ground, sob uncontrollably and have someone say “there there”, pat my back, bring me food, change my clothes and tuck me into bed. These days are getting less frequent and my internal tantrums are only for a very small audience and do not appear in public places.  I am beginning to get excited and making plans for change as in a few weeks I will be travelling, to start walking a piece of the Camino. I expect there is more toddling to come and more sparks to fly.

 

Sparks will fly #33 #presenttense

The plane was on the tarmac and already almost two hours behind schedule and this last waiting time seemed to be related to inappropriate behaviour of a male passenger towards a female passenger. It was very late in the day and meant another delay was going to keep me well away from where I was planning to be. I was being disrupted by a disruptor, I adapted, sorted out a work around.

Everyday we get disrupted by forces outside of ourselves, we are constantly making adjustments. Having a well oiled set of improv skills and a tool kit of hacks certainly helps in these moments. Nothing works better though than having a reservoir of past experiences and the knowledge that this too will pass. Time is perhaps the biggest disruptor that gets the least cred.

I am unfolding from a week, where I have been disrupted, disturbed, liberated, interrupted, cycled through a series of emotions and memories. I am fascinated in how memories show up as teachable moments. Avoiding nostalgia, I drawn on memories that have been left alone in drawers, in fading blue ballpoint ink, untouched for years. The memories flood back of conversations, touches, shared hopes and dreams, yet these words while true in every way are an alternative truth. The complexity of both and words is beyond my grasp some days and my memories fight with truths disrupting every neuronal pathway.

Some of the teachings of the week include making new memories by grounding self deeply into the present – not the past or the future.  This is living with time as the great disruptor. Time is what a clock reads. although we know time is able to stand still, run ahead of us when we aren’t ready and go so slowly that it is torture … possibly all within the cycle of the sun rising and setting.

Tense is an indicator of time and present tense living can be tense, in-tense even. Living in present tense concentrates time with the essence of the moment completely focussing the mind, body and spirit. Just a drop of the fragrance “the essence of time” can perfume a whole day.   I am often in a fog wandering in the present tense fragrance that is always with me, longing for a time, when, as Rumi says, the fragrance of flowers crushed, forgiveness, arrives.  Disrupted by forces outside of myself, my heart crushed, spirit broken, grief makes way for new  beginnings.

Trust is rooted in love and fear rooted in control, trusting the future to hold me, as I separate from what has control over me. Inevitably, these sparks disrupt and offer work-arounds to reveal future in present actions. Present tense still shines a light into the future from the darkness of the past.

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Installation somewhere in New York – I didn’t note the artist #apologies

 

 

Sparks will fly #32 #shrapnel

The fragments of shrapnel, fly loose after the bomb has exploded and continue on a trajectory to hit their target. The pieces of metal arrive through the cylinder that has contained them and with the force of the explosion breaking the casing, separating what was bound together, each piece finding its target and lodging to cause pain and destruction. Often lethal, always hard to dislodge, sometimes almost impossible to detect, sometimes becoming visible though in an infection caused by the puncture, shrapnel is designed to destroy.  There are a few ways to get out of the way of shrapnel, run, hide, protect, not being around where the bombs are likely to go off – all very good and effective strategies. In acts of terrorism, part of the power of that process, you don’t know when those bombs are going to go off, you are completely caught unawares and that is the whole point of it being a terrorist act and not an experience of being at war where the usual rules of engagement apply.

Grief is a terrorist with shrapnel at its disposal.  Just when you think you in safe territory, and have fled to a place where you won’t be under attack or even subject to friendly fire, you are mistaken as the terrorist arrives uninvited, and you have left your amour at home.  I find myself caught out more than once and despite well executed plans, I may well end up in a place or a time or have a thought that will paralyse me leaving me in the path of shrapnel that finds it way to me.

Protective clothing is not enough, not travelling to the places where I might be at risk, following directions to lead me out of unsafe locations, still leave me exposed. It seems so unfair but this is not about fairness, it is about revolution. I am freedom fighter and this is a revolutionary struggle. I need to have my own shrapnel to blast Grief and bring my  own acts of terrorism and show up when Grief least expects me too. To lodge myself into Grief’s body.

I am channeling Banksy.

I am bringing my revolution to life and sparks will fly.

Banksy flower thrower

Banksy’s Flower Thrower