Listening To My Body

My body’s talking to me, and being loud about it.  Tensing up, aching, being off balance.  It’s been doing this for the past week.

I’m listening and I know what’s going on.  It’s all about my Mom.  The first anniversary of her death is nearing, and my body remembers.  It’s calling for her and she no longer answers.

Last year, right from the start, the grief for my Mom was physical.  My body was pain, muscles tensed and cramped, nerves agitated and on fire.  I took medication to help ease and get me through, and it helped, but only time brought relief.

At first I wondered what was happening, then two weeks in I began to remember Mom caring for me through every childhood illness, helping me feel better, memory after memory after memory.

She wasn’t here to make me feel better.

I began to feel how physical my connection to her was.

Of course it was.

Her body created and nourished mine before I was born.  The whole of me relied entirely on her for life after I was born.

Of course my body—I, we—grieved for her.  I grieved for the hands that carried me, for the warmth I rested against, for the voice that soothed and reassured me.

There is no fast track through grief.  It comes and go as it pleases, and I will not, can not, close the door to it.  My grief comes out of the love I carry, and I would never close the door to love.

For me, the only track through grief is patience, kindness, and care.  Though the learning has been hard, I know now to allow my body to feel what it must feel, allow my heart to be broken, healing, scarred. 

This is another face of love, the face of allowing and letting go, giving grace and release to one I love and to myself.  Watching her take her path and branch away, as I remain standing, both loving and bereft, on mine.

I love you Mom.  Safe journey.

7 A.M. Love Letter

I’m having lunch with my sisters today, a fiftieth birthday celebration.

Time can pass so quickly.  I look at us and wonder how we grew to the ages we are. I wonder what carried us all the way to today.

For me, I know what carried me and what always carries me. It’s love, big and small.

Big love is my ground, the necessity I stand upon, the flow I rely upon. It’s presence is a constant. I’m never without big love, even when I forget how to feel it. It waits patiently for me to remember and return.  Big love is life.

Small love is something else altogether.

Small love is the spark that appears all through my day like confetti sprinkled, bits of colour to surprise me, have me pause in my busy-ness and not-paying-attention-ness. Pause and notice, rest for a moment, breathe, feel the world that surrounds me. Connect me back to myself.

Here is small love. The sky brightening outside my window, turning towards day. The greys blues pinks in the clouds shifting shifting till all is light.

Here is small love. The blankets on my bed warming me, and the soft pillows behind my back supporting me as I sit here, watching the sky.

Here is small love. The cat coming up the stairs, walking across the floor and then across my bed to say hello, jumping to the window ledge. She knows warmth sits there on sunny days.

Here is small love. The water from our well, cool in my throat when I drink, warm on my face as I wash.

Here is small love. A turquoise blue turtleneck shirt, red fleece vest, and old wrinkled jeans, comfortable and smooth against my skin, bright colours to delight my eyes. Silly socks to hug my toes and make me laugh.

Here is small love to come. Voices I know, talk and care and laughter shared. Sisters who are friends and family and kindness and hugs.

Here is love. A day of small bright moments and a life built of small bright days. Simple gifts to rest in and gentle blessings to carry me, whispering in my heart, telling me I am loved big and small.

For The Sake Of Love

pastel drawing 'Containers For The Soul' by Cat Fink

I have a two-word mantra that guides my days. Choose love.

This morning I decided to put my blog on ‘pause’ for the next few weeks, or months. I’m not sure how long.

The reason is simple. I’m pausing for the sake of love of the book I’m writing. I love the story, love how the words are coming together, love the structure that is building itself as I write, love what is showing up to be expressed.

Don’t get me wrong. Loving how my book is growing doesn’t mean it isn’t work, because it is, and doesn’t mean it’s easy, because often it definitely isn’t. I want this book to be the best I’m able to create, and the combination of love, work, and not-easy tells me I need to focus my time and energy and creative power on one thing–the book.

It feels odd to think I won’t write my blog for the next few weeks or months. My blog and I have been writing partners for close on five years, and the weekly writing fills my heart. Yet, I know this is the right choice, and I trust what I feel.

I may change my mind and be back here sooner than I think. I really don’t know.

In the meantime, while my blog is on pause, thank you for the past five years, and bless you for reading the words and hearing my heart.

What I Should Be Doing

from the Joy Diary Sketchbook by Cat Fink, held in the Brooklyn Art Library Collection

I think I broke my Writer.

I’m so focused on the book draft lately, I’m not giving time to the things that feed my imagination, aka my Writer.  Big mistake, because here I am ready to write a blog post, and the idea cupboard is bare. 

When I’m empty of ideas, I make lists.  Today’s list is everything I’m not doing to keep my Writer happy and brim full of things to write.

I’m not reading enough.  I haven’t stopped reading, but I’m shorting myself on how often and how long.  My stack of unread books is lonely; it might even be whimpering quietly like a sad puppy.

I’m not playing enough.  I need to go out to play every day, get a change of scenery, have long, loving, occasionally silly conversations with friends and family and kind strangers, play a board game or card game.

I’m not laughing enough.  Self-explanatory, as my book is a tough topic.  Balancing it out, choosing to experience its opposite when I’m not writing would be a happy idea.

I’m not wasting enough time daydreaming and doing nothing.

A short list, and it’s given me a plan to repair my Writer.

Today I’m going for a long, lazy dinner with my husband and son.  No special occasion.  Just because.  If the weather is good, we’ll go for a walk as well, and if the weather is lousy, we’ll play board games.

Tomorrow my sister and I are going to a matinee movie, and our lunch will be popcorn and pop. Then, I’ll read all evening as long as I wish, and go to bed late.

Saturday there’s a family birthday party for my nephew, who is now thirteen and terrorizing his parents via the adolescent emotion roller-coaster.  Very very glad my son is far beyond those years.

Sunday I’ll visit my Mom.  We’ll eat cookies straight from the package and forget to count how many. When I come home, I’ll sit on the porch swing and day dream, or sit on the couch and and do nothing but look out the window.

And next weekend I’m visiting with friends for the entire weekend.  A sleepover, with wine and chocolate, walks along the beach, and talking way past midnight.

There.  Play time all set.  My Writer feels better already.

Recalling Love

pastel drawing 'Love, Joy, Friendship, and Other Complications' by Cat Fink

I have, on my studio couch, a teddy bear.  He is small, about the size of my two hands laid side by side.  He smells like dust, and he is old, older than me.

I don’t know who gave him to me.  All I know is he has always been with me.

I used to think he was my sister’s bear, her toy that had somehow ended up in my collection of childhood memories.  One day I mentioned him to my Mom, and she told me with certainty that the small fuzzy purple teddy who now smells like dust was absolutely, definitely mine, a gift at my birth.

Here is a memory I do not remember, yet it exists.  The physical proof sits here in my studio, this bear who I should know.

How strange that I can have memories I do not recall.  Do I remember this tiny bear on my bed in our home, when I was not yet old enough to go to school?  Sort of, yet I am not sure if this is a manufactured memory, or something true.  I know his feel against my hands and face, and I know he did not always smell like dust.  He smelled like someone’s perfume at one point in my childhood.  I can smell it now, as I write.

Yes, my Nana’s perfume.  I feel like this bear was with me at my Nana and Papa’s house, when I was very young.  I was staying with them.  I don’t know where my Mom and Dad were.  Maybe visiting friends, maybe at a dance and coming home very late.  My parents loved to dance.

The only thing I am completely sure of here is this bear, who I didn’t remember was mine, smelled like my Nana’s perfume.  How odd.

Memories are such strange things.  That I can recall with clarity this one small detail out of what must have been a thousand details lost to me.

This bear is now faded to the colour of lilacs at the end of their life.  I can see in the creases of his arms and legs and neck that his fur was once bright, more like the colour of the amethyst I have on the shelf behind me.  A colour carrying light and love.  Bright, deep, true purple, a joy to behold.

Why can I not recall anything else about my purple teddy?

He must have been precious to me once, if he came with me to my grandparents’ home to stay overnight.  I must have taken him to bed with me, slept with him at my side or in the bend of my arm, warm under the blankets.

My Mom must have packed him carefully in my bag.  Or maybe he stayed in my arms, or sat next to me, or on my lap as we travelled to Nana and Papa’s house.

I am imagining this ride in the car to my grandparents, imagining staying overnight.  Imagining the smell of my Nana’s perfume, which I know was Chanel No. 5, ending up on my teddy bear.  Did my Nana hold him, hug him, and her perfume moved from her body to his?  Or maybe we dabbed a little on him because I told my Nana she smelled good and I liked how she smelled.

It always made me feel good, the smell of my Nana’s perfume.  It makes me feel good now as I recall it, smelling her presence even though she does not stand before me here in my studio.

Maybe this wondrous, mysterious old bear was a gift from my Nana and Papa.  Likely my Nana who loved to shop and find perfect, joyful things for herself and those she loved.  She loved me, unconditionally.  I remember this with certainty.

There is joy in playing with this fraction of a memory about my old, small, purple bear.  There is love in this imagining, too.

I see now I have claimed teddy as my own.  He is no longer the bear, he is my bear.

With one word, I shift this fraction of a memory and, with love, claim it as mine.

It is a gift, taking this piece of memory and the physical object that began it, and making something whole and perfect.  Something that feels like love.

It is love, no doubt of it.  As real as my bear who sits on the studio couch.

The Library In My Home

I’ve heard it said the kitchen is the heart of the home.

I understand that.  When my family gathers, no matter how inviting and comfortable the living room couches and chairs, we always gravitate to the kitchen.  Here we find nourishment for both body and heart.

However, my home has a secret.  It has a second heart, a library.  In my home, these two places feed us whole—body, heart, mind, and spirit.

I am in love with libraries, and having one of my very own tickles me completely.  I take great delight in saying, “I have a library in my home.”

My library is a small room, no more than ten feet by ten feet square.  Three walls of books and a window in the fourth wall.  The light coming in is gold and green, the result of summer sun filtering through layers of grape leaves.  It’s cool in here right now, despite the noon heat outside.

Besides books, my library holds an old couch, extra pillows, and an afghan.  There’s a narrow, wood table with two leaves that fold out if you need more space for important things like mugs of tea and a teapot, paper to write on, and pencils. 

My library might be small but, like all libraries, it contains worlds, immense and uncountable, in each book that stands on the shelves around me.  Here is treasure, beyond abundant, as endless as every imagination of every writer whose name shines on these beloved books.

My heart thrives in my library, just as surely as it thrives in my family kitchen.  If home is where the heart is, I am doubly blessed and doubly home.

_____________________

In this post:

The image at the top of this post is from the accordion fold sketchbook I created for the Brooklyn Art Library. The sketchbook is a secret garden, rather like my library, and if you’re curious about it you can find all the images at my art site. https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/gallery/the_sketchbook_project_the_secre/

Receiving Everything Most Loved

April was a writing month for me. I pushed myself. Pushing was the right thing to do, because now I am exactly where I wish to be, deep into my book draft.

Today I am changing my creative routine, receiving rather than giving. It’s a reward for all the creative work, and it’s one of the things I love most. I’m having a reading weekend, beginning today.

Julia Cameron would say I am replenishing my creative well. Yes, I am and with great pleasure.

My book list contains one mystery novel and three non-fiction. The non-fiction include one on energy work, one on creativity, and one a melding of memoir and creative writing. Here is my list:

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear. This is a murder mystery set in 1930’s London, and the detective is Maisie Dobbs. She searches and solves with both heart and head.

The Answer Is Energy by Jarrad Hewett. Everything is energy, including thought, belief, and emotion. Jarrad’s work helped me to heal fibromyalgia.

Keep Going by Austin Kleon. This is Austin’s new book. Yayyyyyyy!

Tomorrow I’m adding one more book to the weekend reading pile. The staff are saving it for me at the local bookstore–Where The Past Begins: Memory And Imagination by Amy Tan. I read her previous book on writing, The Opposite Of Fate: Memories Of A Writing Life, and completely enjoyed it. There is fourteen years between these books, so I am curious to see what Amy has to say now.

I haven’t decided if I will read through one book before moving on to the next, or if I will hop back and forth. The choice is mine, whatever I feel like in the moment.

A stack of books. Hot milky coffee. Background music by George Winston and Joe Hisaishi. My comfy studio couch. Four days of receiving something I love most–good writing.

_____________________

In this post:

Jacqueline Winspear http://jacquelinewinspear.com/

Jarrad Hewett https://jarradhewett.com/

Austin Kleon https://austinkleon.com/

Amy Tan http://www.amytan.net/

Everything Matters

A few months ago I listened to a webcast.  The speaker compared life’s experiences to climbing a ladder.

“Every rung is important,” he said, “Every rung is equal.”

At first, the idea of “everything matters equally” felt paralyzing.  Taking even the simplest of actions could be life-or-death in a world where all is so completely important. I might do it wrong.

Then I heard the words differently.

Everything in life has equal meaning. 

At first, this didn’t seem logical.  Holding a door open for someone and saving someone’s life has equal meaning? 

Yes, it does. 

Last Fall I was deep in grief over the deaths of my Dad and my cousin.  The feelings came and went, unpredictable tides that left me feeling helpless and lost.  On a day when things were especially colourless and I desperately needed to feel better, I took myself to the library.

As I walked towards the door, it swung open and someone came out.  Their arms were loaded with books, a balancing act, but when they saw me they paused and waited, holding the door open wide.  They looked me in the eyes and smiled.  I thanked them and walked through. 

Holding the door open for someone and smiling, a momentary gesture frequently repeated, nothing really in the larger movements of life. Except this someone, a stranger, smiled for me as if we knew and loved each other well.

That brief action was pure kindness, a connection that gave me light and space and breath.  I was offered a moment of love that buoyed me for the rest of the day.

I don’t know what happens as my actions and choices ripple outwards.  I don’t know who I affect every day in my life.

I do know I want my life’s touch to be as kind and loving as the gift I received that day.

If everything is important and equal, if everything has meaning, I choose to do my days with kindness and love for the people around me and for myself.