Archive for the ‘Inside & Out’ Category

I think most Northerners have an affinity for the bush. If you grow up anywhere from Parry Sound upwards, in Ontario anyway, you’ve liking been out hiking, canoeing, fishing, or camping in summer. You have memories of the sound of an outboard motor starting up, kicking at the deep navy blue water on a summer day, and then the smell of gas rising. You’ll recall putting your first worm or minnow on the fishing hook, and those weird puffy red life jackets that we used to wear. (My grandparents used to stick us in ones that were from the 1940s. God knows, they probably didn’t work, but we weren’t smart enough as ‘under 10s’ to know it.) So, you probably also knew how to swim in lakes and feel weeds under your feet, and maybe a fish nip or two. Most Northern Ontario parents stick you in swimming lessons as soon as you can handle water wings because there are lakes everywhere.

You likely also have memories of jumping off rocky shores, never really completely sure that it was safe to do so. You have sat under tall pines, near a shoreline, maybe around a small campfire. And you likely have stood out on a dock, at 1am, under the darkest night sky you could ever imagine, looking at stars. Yeah. We Northerners grow up in the wilderness and we usually, traditionally, escape to the bush on weekends, with beer, wine, cards, a cribbage board, and maybe look forward to crazy games of Monopoly and Scrabble under a yellow camp light and with a mosquito coil burning like some kind of weird Northern Ontario incense stick. We have camps that have been passed down through generations, places (even sometimes) where ashes might have been scattered after the loss of a loved one.

So. Watching the creeping forest fires on social media over the last two weeks has been heartbreaking. Hearing of friends who were out at their camps on Hartley Bay or Alban and then were suddenly evacuated makes me feel sick to my stomach. It’s heartbreaking. There is no other word for it, to be honest. Now, I know that forest fires are ‘natural’ in that they cause regeneration of trees and soil. Some trees and plants require fire to help them germinate. I’m reminded of how farmers will sometimes burn a field and let it stay fallow for a season, to enrich the soil. I know there are benefits. Now, though, after a couple of weeks of it all, you’ll spot someone offering a place for people to stable their horses, if they’ve needed to evacuate. People grow kinder and more compassionate in times of crisis. Now, though, the fire up around Parry Sound (just called “Parry Sound 33”) keeps creeping, expanding. An article from last night’s Sudbury Star says it started on July 18th and it’s now burned more than 100 square kilometres. The Municipality of Killarney has been affected, but not the village itself. The Municipality of French River has issued an evacuation alert, warning people that they should be prepared to leave quickly. The smoke causes visibility issues on Highway 69. Over 500 firefighters are up there working hard, including 200 from Mexico. What makes it all seem more real, though, are the photos and videos on social media. A spark sends the fire across a river, so it ‘jumps’ the water and spreads. The rain isn’t plentiful enough to slow its progress.

There’s no doubt there are going to be horribly sad stories that will emerge once this is over, but there will likely be stories of great compassion and kindness, too. I can only, though, right now, think of friends who live in those at-risk areas, or who have family camps. And, of course, I think of the wildlife and the gorgeous trees that are so much a part of my internal and poetic landscape. You can, as a Northerner, love the land as deeply as you would a human. You can know what it feels like to stand under a tall white pine, on a stretch of rock overlooking some river channel or lake, and smell pine gum on your hands, or feel the needles of that tree. You can squat down and put your hands into the softest moss, or watch a tiny beetle meander across an old fallen tree. You can feel like you’ve been born of a place and space that is sacred to you, and will always be. If you believe in God, or a Creator, you’ll know that creative force exists when you step out into the northern bush and landscape.

I’m sending love to this sacred landscape of mine these days…and hoping things get better. I’ll keep praying for rain, and hoping that everyone stays safe.


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Go figure. My Dad was never at a loss for words. Sometimes, he would drive me crazy, trying to fix everything that was going wrong in my life. (Dads do that, I think, for daughters…or at least that’s what he used to do for me. I haven’t asked my sister about how it worked for her, how their relationship differed, but I know that he used to go to watch football with her at a local watering hole. That never happened with me. I was the cerebral, creative one. She likely had more fun with him, I sometimes think, drinking pints and ‘shooting the shit,’ as he would have called it.)

When it came to our conversations, which were many–especially for the three years after my mum died–he’d sit there, listen to whatever I needed to talk about, nodding seriously, and then start asking questions. Usually the questions were of the ‘leading’ sort. He should’ve been a lawyer or something. He was a master storyteller, but he was even better at getting me to think about alternatives when I was up against a big, scary decision or had to deal with a problem at school, work, with friends, or boys…and later men. He liked being the sage oracle. In his last few years, he became even more philosophical, so that I often called him my ‘little Buddha’ or ‘Yoda.’

Christmas. Yeah. December is always the cruelest month for me. It’s bookended by two major death dates–my mum’s on the 18th and my dad’s on the 28th. I used to try to avoid it, I really did, but that just makes it worse. Better to sink into the ‘I miss you’ vibe than fight it. You can’t fight an emotion that is born of love. And you shouldn’t, I don’t think, so I’ve learned, last year and this one especially, to let myself marinate in the lessons I’ve learned over the last few years. I’ve also learned to be aware of serendipitous happenings…because I know Dad is still around, watching over me and giving me a nudge when I most need one.

Dad loved Christmas. He used to play Santa Claus at the old INCO Club on Frood Road for years, for as far back as I can remember. Even after he stopped working at the Copper Refinery in Copper Cliff, he still dragged us out to the Christmas parties for INCO kids every year. We knew it was him dressed as Santa. He was our dad. We were pretty smart girls. Every year, for a long time, he’d pretend that he didn’t know us, to try to trick us into believing he wasn’t the Santa in the big chair, but we knew. You couldn’t hide Dad…he had a lot of light going on in there. 🙂 So, Dad loved Christmas for as long as I can remember. Until my mum died…and then it was harder. I still remember the year he died, how he told me that he was sure he would die on the same date as she had. I thought that was a bit overly cinematic, and when he didn’t manage to synch the date, when he woke up on the 19th, he was actually kind of disappointed. He’d say, “You know, I saw her last night, and she looked like Judy Garland…so gorgeous. Like, Judy Garland, plus, plus, plus. I don’t understand why she doesn’t come and get me. Maybe she found someone else in heaven.” I assured him she wouldn’t do that, that heaven wasn’t a pick-up joint or an internet dating site; he was too unique…so I just kept telling him that it was obvious that he was for her, and she was for him, and that was part of the reason she was hanging around on the palliative care floor, waiting for him to let go. He took ten more days and then he went. Then, well, after that, Christmas just wasn’t the same anymore for me. It lost its shine.

My friend Brenda’s mum started the Christmas food basket campaign at our church years ago and, for the past few years, Brenda always lets me know which night it’s on. It’s the one thing I look forward to…I think because being of service to others at this time of year makes my losses seem less poignant or something. Packing boxes tonight–stacking up bags of potatoes and carrots, boxes of clementines and eggs, loaves of bread, and blue and gold boxes of Danish cookies–I kept thinking of how many people struggle at this time of year. It took about twelve of us an hour and a bit to organize 137 Christmas boxes. Tomorrow, some of the girls from school will go and help deliver them to families in need around the church. So many families…

Yesterday, in a seemingly unrelated event, I got a little package of essential oils that I had ordered in the mail. Yup. I love to burn lavender and patchouli. It’s part of what I do when I write, I guess…a sort of ritual. Seeing little tea lights brighten up a space, and listening to a bit of Bach or traditional Irish music, puts me in a frame of mind to write. Weird, but true. So, when I was unpacking the little box from the essential oils company, a couple of little Christmas tags fell out onto the counter. One, turned up so I could clearly see it, read “You are my sunshine.” I took a deep breath and shook my head. This was something Dad used to say to my sister and me, but he also loved to sing that song to us when we were little. It was sort of like he knew it was a rough month and showed up in a serendipitous way. Now, some people might not see this as a ‘visit,’ but I do. And, maybe, just maybe, some people would see it as a coincidence, but I don’t. I miss him. He knows it. I know it. We’re still connected. And for that I’m so grateful. Love can transcend distances, time and space. And every so often, well, Dad lets me know…and I wish against all wishes that I could have one more chat and hear just one or two more of those ‘leading’ questions that usually began with, “Okay, Kim…I hear what you’re saying…but what about…” I especially miss the southwestern Ontario accent he had, which always seemed weird when he said certain words, and how certain words or phrases sounded ‘off’ to my northeastern Ontario ears…how he let the words stretch out like pull taffy when they really didn’t need all of those syllables or time to create themselves. He just knew it was a way to keep your attention while he was telling a story, I sometimes thought. 🙂 (My voice takes after my mother’s, which was all sing-songy and wove itself with musicality into sound and language.) Still, these days, I’d give anything to hear his voice again…and those little vocal fingerprints of soul.

The universe sends you little gifts, if you are open to seeing them. My friend Sarah, a fellow ‘unicorn’ and playwright, has taken to calling me the “white Oprah.” I don’t know about that. I know I’ve learned a lot through being witness to life and its endings. It keeps teaching me lessons, this life, when I least expect it. Whether those lessons come in packing boxes for Christmas dinners, or in tiny tags with bits of string and words printed on them, I’ll keep my eyes open for them…and leave my heart open. When I’m most missing him, he sends me a little sign, just a tiny one, a ripple in the universal fabric of time and space, and I can almost imagine him sitting in his chair and saying, in the last week of his time here, “You know, life is too short, Kim. You need to travel, write poems, and love. That’s what I’m telling you. It just goes so fast. Too fast.” And then I can hear his voice, singing that song…

Thanks for the note, Dad. Thanks for the note.

peace, friends.

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I’ve had two friends tell me this week that returning to a regular day-to-day existence after being in a super creative space like the Banff Centre, with like minded people and kindred spirits, can be a bit challenging. Both Danielle, who is an author and artist, and Duncan, who is a musician, mentioned the notion of “decompressing.” They both used the same word. It should have been a cosmic warning of sorts. I took the word in, thought about it, and tried to prepare myself for how the return home would sit in my head and heart. The reality of it, this re-entry, though, hasn’t been simple.

I came home on Tuesday night, fairly exhausted and my head full of thoughts and new ideas. Wednesday was a day of laundry and rest, along with the token trip to the local grocery store to buy things like milk, yogurt, and fruit. Basics, really. These last few weeks, I’ve been so over-excited that my appetite is almost down to nil. It’s like my head has taken over my body in some kind of illegal coup. Again, not always the most simple or comfortable of situations, but a reminder, certainly, that the creativity is more often in charge of me these days than I’ve known in previous years. I’m not used to how intense it can feel; I feel a bit like someone riding one of those mechanical bulls, out of control and holding on for dear life.

I feel as if my body is vibrating at a different level of energy. Sparkles of energy shoot up my legs, but, more often than not, they shoot down my arms, into my hands, and that is when I feel the need to write. If I ignore that drive to write, it never ends well. (When it needs shifting, you need to shift it out of yourself….to make room for more of it, I sometimes think!) There is so much of this writing thing that is the more practical, disciplined, business side of sitting down at the table and then working through the next part of a play, poem, or story whether you want to or not. There is also another sort of mystical part, though, that really feels otherworldly. I love it, but it also sort of frightens me in its intensity. It’s the latter one that’s been haunting me these last three days. It’s a bit frenzied, to be honest, so that sleep doesn’t come, so that food doesn’t really play into the equation, so that you feel you’re almost shedding your skin in some weird soul molting session. These last two days, well, it’s freaked me out a bit.

So, at three this morning, I padded out to the kitchen on cold bare feet to boil water, fill my hot water bottle, and make some variation of valerian root tea. It’s from David’s Teas. It’s weirdly named “Mother’s Little Helper,” or something sinister sounding like that. It works surprisingly well, but then I end up just sleeping for a few hours, dreaming weird dreams with dead relatives in them, and then waking even less rested. So, I slept for maybe two scattered hours last night, waking at five and then showering, trying to dislodge the sludge from my head. It’s creatively busy in there these days, but my physical body is pretty spent from not being able to calm down my thoughts. I even tried meditation and a sea salt and lavender oil bath last night, but all to no avail. 😦

So, this morning, restless and feeling as if something big is coming my way, a creative tsunami likely, I wandered down to the edge of Lake Ramsey and walked my ass off. An hour long walk, with two sniffing shih tzus, the sun rising, and not another soul for the first forty-five minutes. It did me some good, it did….but the restlessness is still here and it’s driving me a bit bonkers. I figured maybe writing this blog would help, get the energy out through my fingers, and it is to some extent…but that frenzy is still there underneath it all. It’s the creative buzzing…and there’s no avoiding it. It makes me feel like walking up to the first person I see on my street and saying, “Okay, could you just hug me? Hold me? I feel like I’m shattering apart inside with creative energy and thoughts….” It’s not a despairing feeling, but definitely a real one. Obviously, you can’t just grab at strangers in the street. It’s not acceptable. It’s just that there is a feeling of needing to find a root of sorts, a place to plant yourself and let the energy come out creatively. (One thing I liked about the mountains at Banff was that they circled up around me, so I felt safe and ‘held’ by the landscape.)

This morning, chatting with Marnie online, I’m setting myself a new goal of finishing the first draft of this novel by June 1st. Setting a goal makes me shiver and shake a bit, on top of all the energy running through my body already today. Still, I know I’m dawdling about finishing this story. I think, on some level, I’ve grown to love the characters and the world I’ve created. I dread finishing the story, letting them go. It’s hard when you live alone sometimes, and when imagined characters are people who speak in your head. Putting them down on paper, letting them speak their story, has been such a joy for me this last year or so. Coming into the last eighty pages, well, maybe my body is rebelling, not wanting to see it all end…and maybe fearful of the next (?) story that might pop into my headspace. Who knows….I only know the words need to come, so, for today, I’ll let this energy move them through me and spider across a page.

And a quick thanks to Duncan and Jane, who heard a bit of the frenzied energy earlier last evening, via text and phone….but especially to my soul sister, Laura, who saw me online late last night and let me talk it out with her on Facebook; she’s a gypsy soul, too, intuitive and druidic, so I know she doesn’t mind when I need to vent. I feel less bizarre when someone is on the other end, understanding how sometimes this creative surge/decompression thing can be overwhelming.

So….here’s to another day, full of words, shadows of images, people beginning to find their endings on my pages. Glad I’m scheduled to have a wee drink with my playwright friend Sarah tonight. Hopefully, by then, I’ll have this all sorted out, or maybe have had time for an afternoon nap to rest my body and soul. We’ll see. It’s all part of this process, I think, and as I give it more space in my life, while I’m off from teaching, it’s beginning to take a bigger role in my being…and, until I sort out that balance, well, I’m going to be a bit at odds. (Apologies to those friends who get to be witness to this creative whirlwind this week. I will owe you drinks, or poems, or walks and talks…or tea…)

So, I’m off now to damp mop the floors, work on a couple of poems for the Poet Laureate things coming up in later April, and jack up some traditional Irish music. The spinning sounds of that music always makes me feel more myself. My ancestors must’ve liked jigs and reels, I think…for the energy that moves down through your body and out into the earth. Suits me these days.

….and this….well, this is kind of how it feels to be inside my skin right now. There are worse ways to feel! 🙂


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I love yoga. I’ve written this before, in much earlier postings on this blog. Just when I think I’ve sorted it out, in terms of how yoga has changed my life, I’m surprised to see how it makes me learn new things about myself.

Tonight, my favourite yoga teacher and guru, Willa, had us start by pairing off with someone. We had to sit back to back and then be focused on our breathing. It wasn’t as bad as I initially thought it would be, which was good, but it made me think about things…. You see….I’m used to being solitary. I don’t have a big family, don’t very often get hugs, and I’m used to being strong and independent. Put me back-to-back with a fellow yogi and I’m like “Oooohhhh, crap. I have to support someone and they have to support me.” This ia a hard thing to do when you are only ever used to supporting yourself if you live a solitary life. Sometimes, you ask people for help, which takes a lot of you being vulnerable, and they try their best….or maybe they say ‘no’….or maybe they convey ‘no’ in their actions. As an intuitive person, I get it, whichever way it comes to me. So, leaning up against someone, or leaning forward and then supporting their back on your back, is a bit unsettling for someone who has to be strong for themselves all the time. It’s tiring, being strong. I’m not used to having that physical support….so feeling it, tangibly, makes me sad. I started getting weepy in yoga class. How weird is that?! I’ve had strange, out-of-body experiences during yoga before, but none of this weepy stuff. It surprised me, but it also interested me on an intellectual level.

I’ve been doing some research on hip openers, which I think is what we were also doing tonight. It sure as hell felt like that to me, and I have a wonky left hip with a staple in there somewhere. (Thanks, Sick Kids, circa 1982!) Anyway, apparently it has to do with the mind-body connection, which is why I love yoga in the first place. It helped me navigate my way through depression about four and a half years ago….and has been my companion ever since. Put back-to-back-with-a-stranger yoga moves, and hip openers together….and well….you have a perfect emotional storm.

I also find that the same thing happens when people try to hug me. I like hugs. Always have. 🙂 It’s just weird that a hug can garner such a visceral, physical response….that you can feel as if you are less strong somehow. It’s as if you are okay, all together and solid, if you build up your walls and can manage to be independent. Tonight’s yoga class made me realize that we are meant to be co-dependent. Yes, we can manage if we’re on our own. We can flourish. We can have rich lives. I do! 🙂 (But…..we must also recognize that we are souls meeting with other souls. Willa said that tonight: “Feel your partner’s back supporting you. Feel your partner’s breath. This is soul to soul connection.”)

The other thing it made me think about is how, when you’ve been depressed in the past and are well now, you can be stigmatized much too often. (People say stigma is reduced, but I haven’t seen it yet, either in my personal or professional spheres of existence.) Anyway, when you’ve been ill with depression, and you’ve struggled to get well, and you are well, it still amazes me that people will say, when you speak up for yourself, or stand your ground, that it’s (hushed voices) “because she’s sick.” No, she is not sick. She is a stronger, newer, more vocal person. People may not be used to the new, healthier person. It’s easier for them to brand you as still being ‘sick’….even when you aren’t. It’s a brutal, hopeless battle….so I have given up fighting it. If a person is that daft, then why is it my role to educate and try to make them see that recovery from mental illness is possible….even if it means that you’ve evolved into someone they don’t recognize any more?)

This all leads, strangely, and very tangentially, to my raccoon mess. I have two in my garage roof. I’m hoping they are siblings….and not mates. I am praying that they don’t have babies. I’ve been in denial about having raccoons…until last week…when I saw them. My neighbour kept telling me I had them, as they scale the fence between our two yards, and I trust him, but I was also in denial. After all, denial is an easier thing, isn’t it?! 🙂 This week, I had to ask someone for help. I felt guilty having to ask, feeling as if I was bothering someone….it’s ridiculous and it makes no logical sense…and it probably has to do something with how I was raised by my parents, who are now both dead. It’s funny how your parents imprint themselves on your life, in ways you hardly ever could imagine, both positive and negative.) So, now I have help dealing with the raccoons (in a fine, legal, kind way, I might add) but it took me a lot to ask for that help, perhaps because I have asked for help many times before and been let down. I’m pretty sure that is it….but what do I know. I’m just a writer….not a psychologist. I do know, though, that these raccoons of mine look a lot like a re-play of the old “Gremlins” movie. Next up: swinging from the crab apple tree in the front yard and terrorizing the neighbourhood dogs. 🙂

So….what have we learned here? Back-to-back yoga is key. It makes me feel unsettled. That’s not a bad thing; being out of your comfort zone during this life time is a good thing, even if you feel you haven’t got your sea legs. 🙂 The other thing I’ve learned is that hip openers are killer for cracking you open emotionally, especially if you’re overtired or exhausted by trying to get raccoons to leave your garage! So….the lesson is….do the back-to-back yoga and hip opening poses at home, where it doesn’t matter if you leak tears for no apparent reason. It’s a release of some sort, for sure….and that can’t be a bad thing. 🙂

peace out, yogi friends. k.

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In case you weren’t aware, February 1st is St. Brigid’s Day. She’s an Irish saint, the patron saint of poetry, and is known for having founded a number of convents in Ireland. She actually started the first double monastery, where monks and nuns studied together. Brigid has a number of names, including Mary of the Gael, which always strikes me as interesting. A lot of saints in Ireland have roots in a druidic and Celtic past. The Catholic stuff is always built on top of (or very near) holy wells. One thing I love about Ireland is how, as you’re driving down the twisty roadways, you’ll come across a statue of Mary, with fresh flowers at her feet, snuggled in amidst a tuft of wild green grass or tucked into a little cluster of rocks. Mary happens to be my home girl and one of the reasons I like being Catholic. It may not be “hip” for most people my age, but I pray to Mary a lot. I love saying the rosary before I go to sleep at night and I often ask her for help when I’m in dire straits.

So, when I had to chance to attend an event that would celebrate Brigid’s spirit and essence, I was all in for it. I wasn’t sure completely what I was in for, but I was willing to honour the woman with whom I have always felt connected. In my 20s, when I lived in Ottawa, I found a copy of Danta Ban: Poems of Irish Women in one of those quirky bookshops in the Glebe. I come from a family of strong Irish women. It was all matriarchal magic, storytelling, and no nonsense Irish Catholic, on my mum’s side. Really, it sort of makes sense that I’d be drawn to Irish goddesses and saints. My own great aunts, the Kelly Girls, were strong and feisty. My grandmother and my mum had both been women to reckon with if you ticked them off, or if you crossed them. For both of them, well, family was everything. I miss that a lot these days. My grandma, in particular, was the glue that kept everyone together. Her going was a loss and I think of her almost every day, even though she died over seventeen years ago.

When I first started teaching, the art teacher in my school had an art show. I looked at a variety of paintings, but found one that spoke to me. I knew right away it was a likeness of a goddess, all female fire and fury. I bought it from the artist and it’s still a cherished piece. Then, later in life, a friend gifted me with Bridget Mary Meehan and Regina Madonna’s book, Praying with Celtic Holy Women. I’ve read about Irish legends and lore, know a lot about traditional Irish music, and just generally love storytelling of all sorts (but especially poetry).

Anne Kathleen McLaughlin has written and now performs her one-woman play, “Wooing of the Soul,” which is set on Tara Hill, in Ireland. I’ve been to Tara Hill, so seeing a play that was set there appealed to me on a basic level of curiosity that needed to be satisfied. When I visited there in the summer of 2012, I had just lost my dad a few months earlier, was climbing up out of a depression, and was searching for some kind of origin so that I could move forward in my life. I’d spent years being dutiful and loving, taking care of ill parents, but leaving myself aside too thoughtlessly. Now I had begun to reclaim my true self. Tara Hill resonated with me. It shivered. And then I shivered. (I know it sounds nuts, but if you go to these ancient sacred sites in Ireland, well, tell me you don’t feel that the land and air shivers!) The faery tree off to the base of the hill had ribbons that rippled in the wind, offerings left by local people asking for the faeries’ intervention. It’s a space in place where the veil is thin, and I love how the soul shivers in a such a place. That same day I visited Newgrange and, as I journeyed into the dark centre of that passage tomb, I felt I’d been there before. None of it is logical, but a lot of it is intense. I’m still working out that day in my head and heart, using memory and mind to make sense of it all.

Anne Kathleen’s play is about one woman’s journey to Tara Hill, but it really speaks to how a woman finds herself while she journeys. I often find that traveling, the physical journey, cracks me open in a creative and soulful way. The woman in the play journeys to Tara and ends up finding out that the old Irish female storyteller is likely the sacred feminine part of herself, as represented by (I think) the essence of Brigid herself. What struck me most about the play was that, in the morning introduction, when Anne Kathleen spoke of Irish history and lore, she also spoke about how we might feel we are at a juncture in our own lives as women. There were many different women in attendance that day, of a variety of faiths, philosophies, ages, and experiences. We all, though, were journeying inwards. Anne Kathleen said that, when we are growing and evolving, we feel uncomfortable. It is as if we are inside a womb, as if we are growing, ready to be born in a new way. That spoke to me. These days, I’m more and more dedicated to my path as a writer, but my day job is demanding and draining. It pulls energy away from the reading and writing that I need to do for myself, as I strengthen my own writing skills. She spoke about us pressing up against the womb, of the discomfort, and of the need to end one kind of existence to begin another. That resonated with me. It does still a week and a half later.  It isn’t easy being a creative person in this too busy world, trying to balance what you are called to do, through your art, with what you do in society, to work in a field that may not be solely creative.  (There are always creative aspects that you can bring to your work each day, but it differs from the time you spend in your passion, whether that be writing or painting or dancing or playing an instrument or singing….)

It doesn’t matter, I thought, as I listened that day in honour of Brigid, which country or continent you speak of… there are examples of the sacred feminine in all world cultures. Whether you think of Mary in Catholicism, or Brigid in Celtic lore, or of the First Nations peoples of Canada, or of New Zealand’s Maori people…it doesn’t matter. We are all rooted, as women, in a strong matrilineal lineage that we cannot deny or ignore. Anne Kathleen’s story of searching inside ourselves, in finding out how to woo our own souls, is to learn how to find our own goddesses within.

I’m still searching for her, but I’m getting a better and clearer sense of my higher self. I know there’s a goddess in here somewhere….I catch glimpses of her soul fire on occasion and am impressed by her passion. She’s rising up now, so I’m looking forward to meeting her, to meeting myself, as I evolve.

I wish the same for all of you.


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My heart is too soft. It is too broken. Words spoken, and even unspoken, wound me too easily. When I’m tired and ‘overdone,’ I am my own worst enemy. This week, I have been feeling what I like to call “crunchy” inside. It’s a discomfort, a niggling, painful, ache of a ripple that sits in my heart and makes me restless. All week, I have felt rubbed raw, as if my skin were not covering my bones. The world seems too big most days. Last week, I was good. What, I wondered, made the difference?

I’m sure, to my colleagues and friends, I might seem stand-offish (is that even a word?) or distant or grumpy. Inside, though, there is an anger that simmers and cannot be dampened. It rips me apart from the inside out. What is it and where does it come from? Why has everything irritated me? Noise, harsh or condescending words, a misplaced comment or question that makes me doubt myself (yet again). . .all of it piles up inside. Why this week, and not another? Why the sudden tidal pull or sea shift?

Ironically, it was sister Stacy who helped me figure it out tonight. We had supper together and she said. “It’s that time of year again. It affects you even when you don’t think it does, or when you think that enough time has passed to forget about it….” I almost started to weep. Of course. I had thought I had ‘beaten’ grief. No. It seems that, despite my intention to spend this Christmas season surrounded in more light than darkness, grief has had other plans. All week, my emotions have raged inside….so that I’ve pulled myself inwards like a turtle, listening to classical music at lunch in my office to re-centre myself between parts of the day. No point being around people when you’re so raw. Tears spring from nowhere, and then people wonder if you’re depressed or out of your tree. Nope. Just sad. Just missing people I loved….and dreading the empty space of two weeks off, without a routine to distract me from memory.

Driving home after supper, I wondered why today was the hardest day thus far this week….there have been other hard days over the past years, but today seemed harsher than most. It was the date. December 11th. I had forgotten. It marked the beginning of my mum’s final decline. It marked her departure from her life and her entrance into a palliative ending in hospital. It really marked the end of her being able to converse with us. She died on December 18th, but the week leading up to it is seared into my heart and mind. It seems, even though I had forgotten the date’s importance in terms of bookmarking the season, my body had not. It’s been presenting me with ittle sleep, a restless mind, and sharp stomach pains. Not the flu, as I’d imagined or rationalized, but grief rising up.

I think of C. S. Lewis’s lovely “A Grief Observed,” which helped me through both of my parents’ deaths. Maybe I need to re-read that this week. I’m not sure where the anger comes from. It’s not directed at anyone else but me. I wonder if it means that I wish I’d had more time with her, or that I feel angry that I can’t recall the sound of her voice or her mannerisms, or maybe I blame myself for something I can’t understand. My friend, a poet, says that grief is sometimes like a ‘wavelet,’ while at other times it’s a tsunami. There is no rationalizing it. Letting go of that expectation might help too. You’d think six years would be time enough to move forward. I have, but the words we didn’t speak likely haunt me when I don’t even think they do.

Maybe I just need to be quiet inside and try to find Mum again in a new way, where I can forgive myself and her. Maybe, as my sister wisely said tonight, I just need to be kinder to myself….to realize that none of this has to make sense, but that it must need walking through, to air out the memory, to dispatch it outwards so that I can gather up stars again….

Remember to hug your loved ones during this holy season, friends…

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