Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Going Flat Out?

Work for a writer certainly has an ebb and flow. Most times it's either a dry sea bed or a tidal wave. A colleague told me a story about how busy she had been recently. How every time she talked to this person or that person, she had moaned, "I'm going flat out."

Over and over again, this is what she said.

Then she got a flat tire. Never had one before.

"Right then, I stopped talking about deadlines," she said, straight-faced.

Frankly, so did I. I'm a believer.

I haven't used the 'D' word since.

There is power in a word.

This from Dr. Christiane Northrup:

"Remember: Words are powerful. They matter. The words we choose shape our experience. They create the story we tell ourselves. And the story we tell ourselves becomes our biology. Quite literally, our cells believe the stories we tell ourselves and they respond accordingly. So please. Learn how to monitor your thoughts and words."

What if this week's word was "Relax"?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mayflowers for Perley

All it took was a phone call from L. "We're going to pick mayflowers for Perley. Want to come?" It had been weeks since I had done anything utterly spontaneous, so I leaped at the chance for an outing with friends.

I had never picked them before, but when the pussy willows come out, my mother always thinks of mayflowers. As a girl, she picked them from the patch beside her old one-room schoolhouse. They were the first scent of spring.

Tiny bits of beauty buried deep in last year's debris, mayflowers bring remembrance. For you don't find mayflowers, just by chance or accident. You must know where to look. And if you know where to look, someone must have shown you.

L's first mayflower foray was with Perley, when she was just a young girl. So on this chilled and overcast spring day, we searched for mayflowers in remembrance of him.

Perley was the neighbourhood pharmacist in my growing up years. While I didn't know him well enough to be part of his mayflower hunting, I do remember his bald head and smiling face peering over the high pharmacists' counter. When I was sick, my mother would say, "I must ask Perley what he recommends."

Each spring, even into his eighties, Perley picked mayflowers for the 'seniors'. So, it seems appropriate that he would go to meet his Creator in mayflower season. If we found a patch of these tiny bits of fragrance today, they would adorn the reception table at his funeral and remind those who love him of his special gift.

Mayflowers prefer boggy, damp environments...not places one would normally travel for pleasure. To find a mayflower patch, takes intention and purpose. Patience and rubber boots.

On this day, L. took us to a spot that had few positive attributes. We parked the car alongside a busy highway in an industrial area, slopped through a soggy ditch and followed a power line a short distance, looking for the right mix of vegetation. Then, we waded into the woods, eyes raking the ground.

It is hard work, this foray for mayflowers, pushing through underbrush, kneeling in the damp leaves to sift for hidden flowers. But there is rhythm to the process...and finding a patch brings such pleasure.

With senses and awareness heightened, sometimes there are other treasures to find...

As we searched, L. shared what Perley taught her about mayflowers.

Mayflowers (also known as trailing arbutus) grow on runners. Buried deep in the moist detritus of last year's leaves, usually at the base of a tree, the only telltale sign is a small, innocuous, burgundy-tinged leathery leaf, about an inch or so long, poking through the mat. Carefully clear the dead leaves away and you may find a cluster of tiny star-shaped flowers, miraculously blooming in this hidden dark, safe place. Snip them off the runner, to preserve the patch for future.

I couldn't help but think people are often like mayflowers. Sometimes they hide their most beautiful parts, deep within debris of the past. It takes time and intention, to gently stir that debris, to reach down and carefully coax the beauty to the surface. I wonder if this is why Perley so loved the ritual of mayflower hunting.

Mayflowers remind us that sometimes, what is most treasured - most precious - is found just below the surface of things. Such a delicate and tiny thing, this mayflower, yet hold a cluster to your nose and the fragrance is every bit as intense as that of sweet peas.

April Mayflowers.
Beyond the surprise of scent and beauty is the joy of the ritual
and the sweet remembrance it brings.

"Do this in remembrance of me"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Your original face

A friend of mine always wanted to be a pilot, high in the sky, looking down. She worked hard, went to flying school, earned her license. Soon, she worked her way up the ranks to Captain of a major airline. She felt a source of pride in becoming Captain Diane in what had typically been a man's domain.

Then she lost her job. When her first unemployment cheque arrived in the mail, she looked at the name on the cheque. Just plain Diane. No captain in front of it. "Who am I now?" she asked herself.

Zen asks, 'What was your original face? Before you were born?'.

This thought has been on my mind in the past weeks, as I've been immersed in structural edits of my biographical book. It's a tremendous challenge to order a life that has many facets - many faces - in a manner that creates resonance with the reader.

So I've been thinking about faces. The face we are born with, the faces we grow into, the faces we hide behind, the faces we show to the world. How can just one of them define us?

I led a journal writing workshop a couple weeks ago. At the beginning of the day, I talked about how we all have an inner need to know essentially who we are at the core. Certainly self-analysis, self-improvement, self-awareness has become a national pastime.

But it cannot stop there or we become obsessed with 'self'. Because once we find that original face...the one we had before we were born...then we must understand what that face was designed to give to the world. We each have an inherent gift or gifts, and it is this gift that gives our life meaning. But a gift is not a gift, unless it is given away.

I think I understand my original face now...but it has taken a long time to get here. This is one that says, this is who I am, regardless whether you like me or not.

Of course, understanding is only the first step...I may understand it, but I also admit it still remains tucked away most days.

However, I do seem to be airing it out more often.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cute as a mouse's ear

Last night, I was telling an Easter gathering of friends and family a story about finding little Miss Mouse in our barbeque the night before. She had built a warm, soft, little nest out of Callie-dog fur, chewed bits of birch bark and paper. The fur had been expertly teased into useful shape, like a spinner preparing wool for the wheel, and the bits of bark woven in for support.

(I know there are hundreds of wonderful photographer friends who could have made this
nest look like a work of art, but I'm not one of them!)

I talked glowingly about her endearing big mouse ears, black eyes, twitching nose and long wiskers (sorry, she wouldn't stay still for a photo). I felt terrible evicting her...she had taken such time to prepare her home, was probably now on the lookout for a mate and ready to start a family. I hoped she wasn't pregnant already.

Even after I removed the nest and placed it in a sheltered spot close by, thinking she might drag it somewhere else or at least use the building materials for another, she seemed reluctant to leave. I saw this as another sign that she was female. I gently prodded her and eventually she made her escape. Suffice to say, I was feeling rather like the wicked witch of the north.

At this point in the story, one of the guests looked at me with a small smile. "What does it take to learn mouse psychology?" he teased.

I stopped and thought a moment. "Surprisingly," I said, "it isn't that big a leap."

I think Words have led me into mouse psychology...When I began writing, I became more aware of the nature of my surroundings. The reason for things. I take in details, make connections, look for the obscure. This has been the greatest gift my writing has brought me. It allowed me to resurrect my childhood curiousity. To look outward, seek patterns and threads, then to use my imagination to weave the details into stories.

I'm not nearly as far along as I want to be - I'm certainly not always right (maybe she was a he), but every day brings new sights and sounds and smells...and new ways to express them.


Sunday, April 4, 2010


As I sat in church this Easter morning, I was thinking about the theme of Death, Burial, Resurrection and how this is such an apt metaphor for life.

The seasons, certainly, follow this theme. After autumn's death, we are then buried beneath snow, hibernating in our homes for three long months. Then, daylight. sunshine. Warmth. I saw coltsfoot - our first flower of spring - blooming in the ditch yesterday. Resurrection. Following this, growth.

I see the pattern, again, in the way I handle stress. The past 6 months have been a difficult season in my life. I've soldiered through as much s possible - and thought I was doing a bang-up job - but there came a point when, as much as I tried to reason and jolly my way through it, I crashed. It was literally like running into a brick wall and afterwards, I buried myself in the house, grieving, trying to find a way through tears of disappointment, disillusionment and worry to the other side. Curiously, it took about three days.

Suddenly, I felt strong again. I found new hope and a strengthened, revived spirit. I began to see a glimmer of light through the shadows.

Now I'm seeing this pattern in my has been through editing... yes, most remains intact, but other parts have been cut, reordered, buried, reborn. But I can trust the process.

I'm realizing that try as I might, I cannot avoid or ignore or grin my way through all such times. I have to allow these three to go hand in hand. And trust that they do go hand in hand...that one will follow the other. It allows me to walk through the valleys of shadow, knowing I will come out on the other side of light...wiser, stronger, filled with hope..

Happy Easter.
I'm glad I am not alone.