I am listening to the recording of my grandfather's voice when he was 60 - younger than my own parents are now - tell stories of his childhood and describe where he grew up in rural Saskatchewan. And while listening I was searching for this poem he sent me after the birth of a great grandchild, I don't remember who... maybe he sent it to me after Rhiannon's birth. I kept this poem on my night table for a long time and read it often. When I was little, I was told he was an atheist. But he was not. I wonder how it was for him when he crossed the veil? I love this poem for how it touches so very lightly on the sacred.
I always watch with awe and reverence as newborn babies concentrate their attention on being and listening to the silence.
Our affectionate Angora cat purred quietly as she was dying.
Do newborn babies and some cats intuit something we all forget?
Does a holy essence of being underly everything always and whisper of eternity even when we can't hear it for our noise?
This week has been a whirlwind. What with my dance class performance and the first day of the homeschooling ski program, which I am organizing again, violin and piano lessons and seeing clients it has been action packed from morn until eve on several days this week. Today when I rushed home to pick up Rhiannon and all the stuff for the performance and Drew to help, Dean told me that my dad had called and sometime in the night my Grandfather had slipped away. I didn't have time, then, to stop and feel anything about that. I had families who were counting on seeing their little ballerinas and ballerinas who were counting on performing for their families.
I am glad for my grandpa that he went this way. He had Alzheimer's Disease which had progressed to the point that there was starting to be a discussion about him being in his home. And he loved using his mind, contemplating philosophy and the grand scheme of things. It was hard to see his mental facilities dwindling away. I am glad for him that he left with his wife who loved him at his side, that he was never forced to leave his home, that he was always cared for by those who knew him well and loved him deeply.
My grandpa served in WWII and took advantage of the veteran benefits and got his degree and became a French teacher. His first position was in New Denver. What is remarkable to me is that he became completely bilingual in French as an adult. So that in his old age, he read Zola and other French philosophers in French. He told me that sometimes he dreamed in French. He loved ideas and he loved discussing them.
I always knew that he loved me. I have many letters from him - letters discussing deep ideas, letters sharing his childhood, letters sharing his philosophy and beliefs, letters answering my questions, letters sharing his poetry and other writings, letters discussing my poetry and encouraging me to write more. I have recordings of his own voice telling stories of his childhood in Saskatchewan and of meeting my grandmother and of my mother and her sister and brother as children. I have a recording that he made of me at Christmas when I was 4 on his reel-to-reel. I have copies of autobiographical stories that he never published and I have this book that he did.
My childhood was punctuated with regular visits from my grandparents. I can remember when he walked me and my brother to school when we were 8 and 7 and we lived in Prince George. He taught us mountain climbing techniques on the paved bank going up from the side walk. My childhood is documented mostly with pictures he took of me. This one is one of his typical 'natural' looking staged pictures with the timer set, taken just after my brother Layne was born. I'm the brown curly hair on the far left. He especially like to make it look like he was the one caught unawares by the photo he staged. He liked little ironies like that. When I went from Terrace to Victoria for a ballet summer school when I was 14, he came and took me out for seafood on the Queen Mary 2. It was the first time I ate oysters. I remember that night, he drove me around the campus of UVic where he was working during the summer marking exam papers and suggested that one day I might go there. Of course, he turned out to be prophetic.
When I lived in Sidney, and was attending UVic, he and his wife would drive down at least once a year to see me, bring gifts for Erin and then Kaetlyn and take me for dinner or out to a concert.
I considered it a great blessing to be his granddaughter - to have him as an example. What a gift to have such an articulate grandpa who was not afraid to share himself with me. His words I will treasure always. I shared with him a love of the outdoors. Even Rhiannon has walked around Piper's Lagoon with him and got to have the experience of having him marvel at her. And he did marvel at us all - his progeny. I always got that feeling when I was near him - that he marvelled to see bits of him in all of us. I knew he loved me and accepted me. And I am so glad I told him often how I felt about him. What a gift to be loved so well by him.
It is always that finality of death that surprises me. That there won't be a time I will see him again in this life. That there won't be another letter, another phone call. The last time I talked to him was when I was in PG at my aunt's house. I am so grateful that my memories of him are so rich and that he was able to share so much of himself with me.
Its not another woman, drugs, gambling, sports on TV or race car driving. Its guitars. My husband is obsessed with guitars. Leisure time for him is reading about guitars and other people's opinions about guitars on Harmony Central or thumbing through his well-thumbed guitar catalogues. What bothers him most is people who barely play guitar and own several expensive models. I have been encouraging him to make a plan and get another guitar. This fall after extensive research and driving me crazy asking for my most uneducated opinion, he started making payments on a Reverend Volcano. All he wanted for Christmas and his birthday (Jan 14) was money on his guitar and it is what we all gave him. It is almost all paid for now.
We went down to Kelowna today to make another payment. He started by making payments on the honeybrown one but is now thinking that he wants the white one. Hanging on the wall I think the wood one is by far prettier but after seeing them both on him today, I have to say (although I haven't admitted it to him yet) that the white one does actually look better on him. I won't say it because I already have to listen interminably to how this guitar looks on him. Good grief! He is worse than a girl! (does this guitar make my butt look big?)
Anyways, today I amused myself by taking pictures. I might have just brought the obsession closer to home, though. Now all he wants to do is sit at the computer and disect each picture. Which guitar?!?
The honeybrown one.
The white one.
The honeybrown one?
Or the white one?
I took 50 pictures today. I had to amuse myself somehow! I tried different settings and doing different things like twisting the camera while I was taking a picture. Here are my two favourites.
While at a friend's house recently, I picked up a book off of her bookshelf while she was busy with something else. The title of the book was "Cure for Death By Lightening" by Gail Anderson-Dergatz. Who, as it turns out lives on the Shuswap near Salmon Arm, which is where most of her novels are set. She calls it Turtle Valley. It didn't take long to draw me entirely into the book and I sadly placed back on the bookshelf. But I went home and ordered it from the library. The story is a modern myth that draws on both European and Native traditions. I had to remind myself of this as I got into reading it and so many bad things happened to the main character, Beth Weeks. I almost took it back to the library but then I remembered that it was symbolic. Then I could handle reading it. And I loved it. So many archetypal themes running through the book so beautifully woven.
I went on to read "Recipe for Bees" by her as well (Amy, you would love this one - all the honey and bees). This one is not a myth - just a great novel. I have a few more of her novels out of the library and stacked by my bed for reading. I love discovering an author I didn't know about and love and I love that the landscape in her novels is so familiar to me. She tells a wonderful, rich, meaningful story.
I love to read novels in the middle of winter and the middle of summer. I found a great source for book suggestions here. It is a blog for the Phillipsburg Public Library. I don't actually know where Phillipsburg is - somewhere in the US. So there aren't Canadian Authors mentioned very often but still lots of good novels. I've enjoyed some of their suggestions over Christmas, too, like "Nice to Come Home To" by Rebecca Flowers - not as deep as Gail Anderson-Dergatz but a well-told, light, entertaining story - similar to Jennifer Weiner.
I started dreaming about the colour of sage green I would paint Kaetlyn's room when she left and what a great sewing room and seedling room it would make... And just when I started to wonder about what it would be like to live with only two of my children and how empty the house would seem.... Just then it would seem that our house is again bursting at the seams. Erin came back home to stay for awhile. She is sharing a room with Andrew which is working remarkably well. They are very similar and well suited to each other. Who knows how long she will be here? Its all fine with me. For too short a time in the long run, I'm sure. But right now, my mother's heart is full. All 4 of my children under my roof. I have been a mother long enough to know how elusive that really is. I'll take what I can get!
Such a dumb saying, eh? And when Dean uttered it over dinner last night, it had to be the 1000th time I had heard it. I remember hearing it as a kid. I think it is from some movie like "Trouble right in in River City". But anyways, my chili is a real favourite around here (except with my nephew Caleb who told me it wasn't even food!). It is based on a WW recipe but I have adjusted it so much I can consider it my own now.
Andrea's Chili 2 cups of dried beans. I use 1 cup of black beans and 1 cup of fava beans because those are mine and Rhiannon's favourites. Soak the beans overnight. Rinse and simmer in a large pot for 4 - 6 hours or until they are soft before you start cooking the chili. Now, start cooking the chili: 1 onion - cut up in medium pieces. 3 cloves of garlic 1 package of Yves Veggie Ground Round. The original recipe called for lean ground turkey. I have never made it with that. You could use real meat but I actually prefer the veggie ground round in this recipe. Fry up the onion and garlic in a little olive oil in the pot you are going to make the chili in. I make it in my largest pot (which is not super large - just an ordinary big pot). Add the veggie ground round when the onions start to be translucent. It only takes a couple of minutes to fry up veggie ground round. Season it with basil and oregano, chilli powder and cumin. I don't measure. I dump them in. Once the veggie ground round is seasoned and mixed well with the onion mixture, add all other ingredients, including the beans you have simmered. Make sure to drain the beans first. 2 quart jars of diced canned tomatoes. I don't add any salt to my tomatoes when I can them so I always have to add some salt when I am cooking something like this. 1 cup of sliced celery 2 cups of summer squash peeled and cubed. 2 cups of winter squash peeled and cubed. 1 large green pepper if I have more peppers available, I might add another one. If they are small I would use 2 or 3. 2 - 4 cups of broth I use my own chicken broth but you can use veggie broth (if you wanted to keep it vegetarian) or even just water. Add enough so that the chili is not too thick. It will thicken more as you cook it so you might need to add a bit more. I have never added more than 4 cups total. Season to taste with more basil, oregano, chili powder and cumin. I use a lot. I never use those piddly little herb bags when I buy my chili powder in bulk, I use the biggest bag they have and I keep it in my second largest spice container which fits more than 4 cups. The chili is cooked when the squash is cooked.
In Clarke fashion eat the chili over a torn up bun with cheese. I usually eat it on its own but I sometimes make my french bread to go a long with it.
Well, not quite midnight... Looking after my husband's dog while he was out playing guitar got me outside late at night. (don't tell Dean as I was supposed to have fed him hours earlier...) Again I am grateful for these chores that get me out of doors when I otherwise wouldn't be.
The light was magical. One evening short of a full moon, it was blazing above the clouds. I couldn't see it but it lit up the clouds like the sun had just set. The sky had pale blue and pink in it and I had no need of a flashlight to find my way to the gate. The trees in the apple orchard were stark against the dim white with their dusting of fresh snow and the evergreens (okay, I can't tell the difference between pines, firs and spruce but I think these are not pines as they are not dying from beetle infestation) looked very dramatic. Of course an ordinary camera cannot do this dark scene justice but I like these pictures just the same.
Last night I had another dream. This one had more angst in it. In this dream my grandmother (who has already died) had just passed away. I was very sad about this and I missed her tremendously. I was going with my family to the funeral (which I didn't do in real life). The funeral was at a huge mormon church - kind of an amalgamation of many such churches so there were several chapels and several gyms. I got there with my sister, Laura (interestingly named for this grandmother). There were already hundreds of people there and I was wandering around looking for a good seat. Because there were already so many people there, I didn't even bother going into the main room as I assumed all the good seats would be taken. Laura found a place that she wanted to be so I left my family with her but kept looking myself for a better place. I started to get annoyed. I thought that they should have reserved seats near the front for the family. I went into the main room, feeling annoyed and huffy and angry that there hadn't been seats reserved only to find that there were a whole lot of empty reserved seats for the family. I ran back to get Dean and Laura and my kids and tell them the good news.
Perhaps a silly little dream full of angst and loss, searching and misunderstanding. But to me (who, I admit sees symbolism in everything) I see it as a little parable for myself (who else?). Often what I am striving towards and struggling after is easily accessible and better than I imagined. I just have to look in the right place.
I love this time of year. It is so epic. Profound dreams and big plans. It all feels magical to me.
Well, not really (I wish!). I am talking in the symbolic sense. I had a great dream last night. I dream that I was moving to Australia. I was filled with excitement and joy. Most of my things were packed already. I was ready to go. I was especially excited because I was taking all the things for the Inner World School and I was going to start fresh there - opening a school and offering classes. I was bursting with enthusiasm and plans. I was thinking of people that I know who live in Australia who would be glad to see me, too.
I woke up filled with the same enthusiasm and joy even though I'm not going to Australia just now. In my dream Australia symbolized a new start, a release of old patterns and disappointments - it was a fresh, warm start. Australia was the land of opportunity for many a long time ago. (I've been watching a lot of Dickens dramatizations lately while I knit.)
What was it triggered by? (besides Dickens) The massive re-organizing and cleaning I have been doing of 'my studio'? I have unpacked boxes that have been packed for 5 years. I have sorted through papers that have been unsorted for far too long. I have been releasing old patterns and disappointments. I have been dreaming up new plans. Or maybe it is because last night before going to bed I scrubbed and scrubbed my kitchen floor. Housework is always symbolic to me. Last night I washed away the dirt of the past year. And went to bed and had a great dream! I am still excited. Australia here I come!
My week between Christmas and New Years has been full of rituals to release 2008 and welcome 2009 as I contemplate what this year has been to me, what I have learned. Then last night I danced in 2009 to my husband's music. His creativity and his confidence in it is my inspiration. I would like to be more like him and I am so grateful for him in my life.
Last year I said that my word for 2008 was 'Effort'. But as I contemplate 2008, it is not the word that comes to mind although it was something I pondered and strove towards. The word for last year should have been 'Connection'. It was a year of epic connections and reconnections - a year of completion, of coming full circle.
My family moved alot while I was growing up - from city to city and within cities. There was a lot of dramatic changes - a lot of disconnect as I left old friends, old schools, old parks and neighbourhoods and found new ones. Until I was 9 and we moved to Cranbrook, the longest we generally lived in one place was a year. Some were a bit longer and many were shorter.
In in my life as an adult I have had several dramatic changes and big moves and sometimes it has meant losing touch with people.
This year was a year of reconnections. When my childhood friend from Cranbrook found me through facebook it was an epic reconnection for me. When I returned to Prince George, Smithers and Terrace and the Fraser, Bulkley and Skeena rivers with my children, it was a pilgrammage. A renewed relationship with my mother's only sister who was such a big part of my childhood has been deeply rewarding. And meeting my two favourite aunts from my dad's side of the family at Thanksgiving and reconnecting with my cousin who had been my best friend since birth it was a journey back to myself. And then reconnecting with my Morrow cousins through the death of my cousin David and talking to my 'Uncle' Mel, I was again returned to myself.
There was something cosmic going on - a deep healing, a retrieval of lost pieces, a remembering of myself. Even reflected here on this land I live on as I once again have sheep and chickens that actually lay eggs. My life feels restored.
And as my first born returned from Calgary to live at home for a short time and all my children are once again under my roof, my family was restored and reconnected.
Shortly before Christmas I went to visit my dear friend Bozenka and exchange Christmas gifts along with another gentle, dear friend, Gabriel. Gabriel is an expert in the Enneagram and has studied it for more than 20 years. My knowledge of it is pretty superficial at best. She told me that I was a 6 and went on to tell me the characteristics of a 6 (you can find a description here which describe me eerily well). I could identify with most of what she said - I have always been a non-conformist and I definitely have dramatic issues with authoritarian institutions! But she told me that I lacked confidence. Now most who know me, would never, in my whole life, describe me as lacking confidence. But in her gentle way, she showed me how I lack confidence in my own creativity. I was struck to my core. It is so true and instantly showed me the answer to the conundrum I have often had when it comes to my deepest, truest creativity. This was the final connection of 2008.
And last night as I danced in 2009, I was lost in the music, in my husband's creativity as I danced with abandon. And all of these thoughts swirled around me and there I was dancing with joy as I have danced my whole life and it was all connected in a sparkling trail, weaving and swirling around me.