Warp and weft.

So, this thread of thought has been spinning (pun intended) in me since I wrote about it last week (see Weaving a Life) when it came up and out of my pen like Spiderwoman’s silk, unconsciously given as a means of securing the nurture necessary for survival. I’d had no ‘idea’ when I’d sat down that day to sort out my feelings of disjointed belonging that the image of weaving would come with its message of wholeness.  

So, perhaps I should not be surprised, though I continue to be amazed by it, when additional messages surface to be woven into that fabric, thoughts of my own intertwining with conversations with friends or stories I read. Perhaps that is simply what human brains do – process, integrate, make connections – but still it astonishes me.

Last weekend, while scrubbing the camp pots of the soot that accumulates over a season of cooking over a fire, my hands revisiting those memories as my head plugged in to a Ted Talk on “How we Love”,  I listened as the researcher expressed two fundamental human needs as divergent and often conflicting threads. On one hand, the human being NEEDS belonging, security, stability, home. We have evolved to need one another. On the other hand, the human being NEEDS mystery, wonder, journey, newness, adventure, curiosity. We are innately seekers of nurture. The researcher spoke of how difficult it can be for one relationship to support both of these needs.

And I thought of the warp and weft.

I heard another researcher, who is using the new brain imaging sciences to look at the chemistry of romantic love…. which is also now being understood as a human NEED, as it helps us attach and form bonds that we need to survive. She was looking at the various chemical responses in the brain and how ,depending upon the predominant neurotransmitter in our own brains, we will be attracted to someone like us (quiet and stable for instance) or someone opposite us (the intuitive drawn to the logical, for instance)

And I thought of warp and weft.

Then, I read an article compiling the studies of university researchers on the dawning understanding of AWE as a human emotion, as vital and real as joy and sorrow, anger and fear, surprise and disgust. Turns out we DO need moments of wonder and awe. Such experiences elicit psychological and physical healing, inspire art and scientific discovery, induce generosity, and create emotional bonds… to one another and to life itself, as we experience both being small in the face of it (needing one another) and being a part of something phenomenal. More and more studies appear, it seems almost daily, that document nature’s impact on the mind, body and relationships. It appears that we need out-of-ordinary experiences as much as we do mundane ones.

And I thought of warp and weft.

You see, sometimes I judge my need for retreating to nature to bask in its beauty the way that I do, as selfish. I label that desire as frivolous. The culture I grew up in tells me it is not productive, not contributory, or perhaps is not even normal. I worry about myself in relationships when I feel discontent in their day-to-day sameness , even as I care deeply for and cherish the belonging and bonds that I have in them. Then, I fear that our different needs and desires… especially this deep longing, which I have for too long diminished as shallow, in me… will drive us apart.  And I think that I must be broken somehow.

But these studies validated this human need in me as real.

Despite those who have assured me otherwise, I have been woefully uncertain that “Seer of Beauty” is a necessary and needed vocation. With camera or pen or listening ears, is the desire to see –and to share what I see– a good-enough pursuit for a Human Being to expend one’s life?

You see, I am also a seeker of meaning.

Warp and weft.

I think of the seemingly universal (is it?) human desire for journey, for pilgrimage, that seems to manifest at this stage of life. Is it merely because space opens in a human being’s life as the responsibilities of child-rearing and career depart, an emptiness one seeks to fill? Is it merely a symptom of a ‘life of leisure’, only available to retirees and members of a certain privileged class seeking to fill the void of connection and meaning? In a long marriage, is it a way that seasoned couples seek together a sense of newness and mystery, wonder and discovery in a relationship that has grown comfortable and secure ? Is it the laying down of new layers of color and texture, beauty and meaning, over the stable structure of a life-well-lived?

Warp and weft?

Perhaps it is not a modern dis-ease at all. Perhaps it is the nomad, the hunter gatherer in my genes or my reptilian brain, but perhaps it is also a necessary stage in the human journey.

And now, I am remembering the teachings I was exposed to on the Hindu understanding of the 4 stages of life ( again, this thread of awareness coming forth to be woven into the cloth even as I sit down this morning to write) , which includes the movement into the forest at this time in one’s life (traditionally ages 48-72).  After spending the previous stage of life built upon the more concrete realities of getting ‘things’ done in the material world – providing food, structure, support, offspring, engaging in civic responsibilities, contributing ‘wealth’ to society, etc — the forest dwellers leave the householder stage of life (as that identity naturally falls away) , stepping away from the previous external identities that had once been so all-consuming.  They withdraw from those pursuits to strengthen their connection with the deeper dimensions of life and of their own being. Their desire is to ‘know’ the true nature of the invisible (mystery, awe) and perhaps to experience the beauty they were too busy to see during their householder stage (to fill up that drainage and be healed), but the purpose of their journey is not to merely accumulate experiences. They are gathering the tools and means to foster awareness of that ‘luminous field’ that is also the core of our being (being moved getting inspired… filled with breath). Eventually, those forest dwellers returned, their perceptions of life opened to the depths of both their own wisdom and the earth’s (its teachings of profound oneness,  generosity, and interdependence, for instance, that modern researchers are noting in their studies of wilderness experiences). Detached from society’s judgments (modern psychologists might say they ‘individuated’ from their previous roles during their time away) they are able to bring that wisdom and the ideals  revealed and integrated- harmony and justice, beauty and belonging, connection and oneness-  back to their communities. There, at last, perhaps is the marriage of the inward and the outward, seeking meaning AND reaching out with compassion, discovering what we are here both to experience AND to give.

That is my hope anyway. That I also might bring beauty back to that rigid structure.

Warp and weft.

Ps. One night this week, I dreamt I was a superheroine, ted cape and all, like wonderwoman, and I had a flying mobile of some sort. But when I landed, I discovered life here on earth was in shambles and the children weren’t being fed. All at once, I realized that feeding the children was the most needed and heroinic act of all.






Wilderness Within


It is late in the afternoon of our last full day the park, a day of paddling and portaging, which began around 9 am this morning just as the blanket of fog was beginning to break over the still, sleeping ­water surrounding our campsite on Bonnechere Lake.  A morning of pure delight, I had awakened pre dawn, @4:30am, to pull back the tent’s fly to a vision more lovely than any dream that might have seduced me to lie a bit longer in the sleeping bag’s relative warmth. The late rising moon, having waned from her fullness-of-light — so bright in those earlier days of our trip that she cast shadows upon the tent roof as if she were a city streetlamp shining its beam through a canopy of limbs and leaves– now at less than a quarter. Still, though more subtly, she silhouetted those dark pines over the water, her light not at all burning away the fog yet somehow diffusing its heaviness.

Bundled against the frosty air, I walked to the water’s edge with the blackened pot, which has become a vessel of the morning’s awakening warmth, to fill her belly with the crystal water, wading in myself a few feet – as far as my rubber boots will allow. Then, curled into the boulder-backed firepit, feeding sticks to the fire, I sat, my own belly being filled by the quietly unfolding blossom of dawn.  Soon the bog, spread out at the feet of the spruce like a petaled wedding aisle, began to sparkle with the gossamer topped twigs of so many cupped spider webs, capturing the morning dew while also waiting to be fed.

 A lone loon wailed her broken chord over and again, a melody made more mournful than usual somehow by her inability to find the opening tone, her voice seeming to break as mine might also do if I tried to sing my way through some grief.  Broken limbs, caught up in the shallow waters of the inlet, shone like specters in the rising mist, as at last the sun broke over the horizon, culminating the breaking of the day by casting the shadow of the treetops onto the almost opaque screen of fog.

With the light down the path near my friends’ tent and  a rustling nearerby in my own, where my husband was now stirring, at once the stillness of the dawn began to shift and move. Cranberries, picked along yesterday’s portage, were poured into the buckwheat mix, as sleeping bags were stuffed into dry bags. But then, a sudden sound, and all was still again.

A lone wolf howl. We paused and pricked our own ears, even our breath quiet in anticipation. And then it arrived, the chorus of reply, the yips and the whines of the young, the moans and the wails of the old.  We were now moved to stillness, listening deeply, harkening to something old and wild within ourselves….

Their moving chorus accompanied us as we also moved throughout the morning, cleaning pots and pans, loading boats, then paddling softly through the parting blanket of the morning across the mirrored water, on our way.

Each stroke of the paddle, each step of the boot, carried us into the day and away from the morning, as with each lake we traversed, each trail we carried, we were brought back from the edge of that great wild silence. We watched two eagles circling and soaring in it, far overhead, near the south end of Big Porcupine before passing a campsite, upon which we’d stayed in earlier in the trip (a rain-soaked day) on the point where the lake turns in great C curve, and needling our way through the shallow narrows. The lake’s campsites were populated with weekenders, likely arrived late last evening (Friday), curled up next to morning fires. Indeed, the chill of the morning was still evident when we stopped by an empty north-facing campsite for lunch, the shade inland beseeching me to seek the patch of sun near the water’s edge. The second portage of the day was brimming with seekers of wilderness, like us, lining the trail and the shoreline alike (to be clear, I am talking about a dozen, not a hundred here). By the time we entered the southern end of this lake, where we now have set up our final evening’s tents, the calm of the morning waters was replaced by a wind-whipped passage through the graveyard of treestumps and sunken logs and a seeming armada of canoes making its way toward us from the north.

But now I have made my way around to the rear of our campsite. Late afternoons have become a time of solitude and renewal for me. After a day’s worth of paddling and the busy-ness of making camp, I am ready. Early in the trip, on one such late afternoon, I’d followed a trail of mushrooms, a myriad of colors and sizes and shapes, far back into the hemlock grove, slipped into a crevasse between the clinging-to-boulders roots of two giants, down over the granite embankment to a silvered gray log perched out over the boggy water.  Yesterday afternoon, around this same time, I found myself atop a great granite cliff overlooking Cradle Lake, where I’d actually howled aloud myself with the pure joy of having bushwhacked and hauled myself by my fingertips to that great outlook. (hmm, now that seems like an interesting metaphor. I wonder, is it possible to bushwhack through the overgrowth of our own selves and haul ourselves to a great outlook?). The freedom of being up there alone, literally stripped of the clothing I’d worn throughout the day before adding a fresh base layer, made me realize there is something profoundly liberating and necessary about such a stripping, about such a howling to a sky that would later that evening be ablaze with its own fire, as the setting sun hovered beneath the light-catching tinder of low-lying clouds.

This afternoon, I find myself far away from camp, having trudged and crunched my way across the sandy marsh that lies between the lake and the isolated pond that lies some distance behind it, hidden from view unless one makes the short journey over the hassock and hole laden thicket, clamoring over the graying skeletons of once-great trunks, as the streambed that once fed it is now a bog, created when the beavers dammed this passageway from the main body of the lake.  I wonder about the way I am drawn like this, away and away, further inward and into, behind and beneath. I wonder about the way that it satisfies so deeply some urge in me to go deeper, and deeper yet, to follow the uncharted over and under, to slip quietly through a passageway, hidden, that opens out into wonder.

Of course, a part of me knows it is the introvert in me, seeking renewal, seeking that ‘room of her own’ even out here in this vastness, retreating to find a place to tuck herself away for awhile, to breathe, to play, and to dream. But a part of me also wonders at this Great Wildness-Untrammeled, that I seek in these afternoon forays or when rising early to bask in the Great Aloneness.  Is it also that within myself that I seek? This Untrammeled Wildness, this Hidden Jewel , to and from which I return. “I Am that which I seek”, it is said.

I have had the feeling for some time now that there is some piece of myself with which I lost touch somewhere along the way from there to here, some part cut off from the main body of my life when the water levels were lowered, something fresh-and-wild, dammed up, separated from the day-to-day of my life, something hidden to which I can no longer seem to find the way.  I miss living from those sacred depths, from that rich source of aliveness, from that Presence of Something within.

You know how it is, don’t you?  

And so, I take myself by the hand, and show her the way back, the way forward, the way into… Wonder. And Beauty, And Silence. ….where she howls her joy and her grief into that Vast Wilderness.




weaving a life


So life rolls on… hotels, craft booths and doctor’s offices with my husband, rehab facility room with my mother, indoor swimming pools with the women in my exercise class, cell phone calls with my sister, my daughter. Facebook. Of course, then there was my granddaughter’s 3rd birthday with the whole gang en masse, my friend’s leather sofa with a glass of white wine, a walk around the ‘lake’, a visit on the porch with my son and his girlfriend, 24 hurried hours in the cabin with my soul-sisters, and 2 actual letters at the post office. I still have some connections to be made… I missed one son’s birthday while I was in the bush.

Reconnecting in the course of a week feels a bit like plugging in so many dangling cords, or perhaps tying them down, each one grounding me here in this place.

This morning I read a few short chapters in an old favorite of mine, Holdfast, by Kathleen Dean Moore. I had gifted the book to my friend at the lodge and wanted to stay connected with her in the reading of it, if I couldn’t be with her physically in the body. I remembered that I had FELT so much in my first reading of the book years ago, that the philosopher’s love of the natural world and love of her people were interconnected, woven into each essay, touched something tender in me.  Indeed, each time I go to my wild places… within or without… there is a similar weaving in me that I long to compose.  In my heart-alive places, all that I love are embraced, simply, without pulling and tugging (or the guilt of not-enoughness)

As I paddle around the next bend in the lake, to take in the sweep of a granite ledged shoreline, so frequently my heart brings to mind someone back home with whom I want to share this heart-full space. Indeed, all 5 of my trips in the water and the wilds this year were with such persons, whom I’d invited to come with me there. However, when I come face-to-face with the silent invitation tendered by pine-studded island, something intimate and sacred there, though I paddle close, I never seem to disembark there, no matter if  the waters surrounding her are battering or still. Afraid? Or simply respecting her untouchable need for solitude in the middle of that vastness.

So, which is the warp and which is the weft? And does it matter at all.

I don’t know much about weaving, indeed I had to look up which was which as far as warp and weft are concerned. What I learned is that the warp, stretched taut on the frame, is made up of the stronger fiber, providing the structure for the fabric, offering both strength and form. It is pulled taut to the point that it cannot stretch any further. The weft, on the other hand is what gives to the weaving its beauty, filling in the body of the fabric with color and texture.

As Anne Morrow Lindbergh noted over half a century ago, in her now-classic, Gift from the Sea, women’s lives continue to be fragmented and divided, pulled apart at the seams.  At least mine does. Or does it? Is my heart truly pulled apart, in too many directions, or am I simply pulled taut, the structure of my heart resilient and strong.

“In the myriad pulls of a woman’s life, which run counter to a contemplative life, a creative life, how to remain whole in the midst of distraction, how to remain balanced and strong no matter what forces pull one off-center”  (sic)

The solution for Lindbergh lay in either alternating the pendulum swing between the 2 extremes of community and solitude (this feels more like an accordian to me stretching and being compressed) or finding a balance somehow.  Her question was how to bring back the lessons she’d learned in the solitude of retreat to her life back home? Her lessons of simplicity are one place I can begin. Certainly that is a gift of my time in the wilderness, too. Like her, I have only the barest of essentials while out there.. the simple shelter of a tent, a simple diet with little choice but what is next in the food barrel, cooked over a simple fire in one pot, a simple map with the route for the day prescribed, the simple presence of being there, undivided. Back home, the choices each day are much less bounded….

“Only love can be divided endlessly and still not diminish.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Back to my untangling the threads in the warp and the weft of my life, I wonder if, instead of weaving my loved ones into those wild places with me (taking them physically/literally to the water and wood with me), the invitation might be to bring the wild opened spaces of my heart – deepened by beauty and full of joy– back home to my loved ones. (Or perhaps it is a both/and even here….being very careful not to fall into the trap of having to somehow ‘do it all’. In my quest to share those wild spaces with my loved ones, I may have inadvertently filled it with too much to-do, leaving no solitude-space for its own filling up).

I wonder, what does one do with a heart still full of longing? Where does that fit in the weaving?

I have noted often the ways that I feel more whole in places and times when my own rhythms have space to emerge. What are the rhythms of weaving a life? The comings and goings, the risings and fallings, the still moments to ponder the next colored thread, the hours when the shuttle flies, flowing.

Later this morning, over coffee, I opened the new book of poetry I’d received in the mail yesterday.(Life in the Holocene Extinction, by Kristin Berkey Abbott) For some reason, I opened it to the last poem, “Horarium”, the name given to the schedule of those living in religious community. The poet deftly and poignantly contrasted a life of natural rhythms (of a different sort than the ones I experience, but attuned just the same) – rising with the light, tending to the earth, ending the day with the blessing of water – with that of our driven and distracted existence. Here as there, lay the unspoken invitation to bring the peace of that quiet into crafting a life of real meaning, so difficult to do in our fragmented world. I am not alone in this feeling, it seems.

And so I have whiled the morning away. It is already noon and I have done no thing but sit here, wondering how such a life might be woven onto the warp of my existence. Even now, as I type the word, warp, I wonder, is my warp warped somehow? Pulled too tightly in one direction at the expense of the other? What might I loosen then, relieving the pressure I alone give to it, before something within me breaks.

Ah, but my beautiful heart is much stronger than that.

In searching out an image to attach here, I am brought face to face with another teacher of weaving, Spider, whose webs so delight me when laden with morning dew in the fog of the dawn. Cupped like a basket of flowers, or strung like a garland of them, each morning her webs reappear, seemingly crafted anew, blossoming from the very body of Spider, herself. Each day bringing its battering, she begins again her evening weaving, tying down the threads and leaping across chasms. Perhaps, just perhaps, life is this simple, beginning again moment by moment weaving a rhythm to capture the nurture one needs to survive.

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Crossing the threshold

DSCF0083.JPGHalf-heartedly, I return to the place I call home, uncertain that the whole of my heart has caught up with the time travel (which is entirely too far and too fast for a human body to possibly comprehend anyway).  It seems that surely I have lost pieces of my heart along the way, left behind bits of it on the lake where the howl of the wolves parts the thick morning mists, dropped other pieces amongst the wild cranberries I gathered at the boggy end of a portage trail (leaving some behind some of those for the others… bears or birds…who might also delight in their juicy tartness), while still more bits of it are likely lingering in the hull of my boat next to the beaver lodge, listening to the beavers mewl inside. The rhythms that my body fell so seamlessly into… rising before daybreak to unfold with the dawn, walking down to the water’s edge to draw water from the lake for the morning pot, making fire and waiting for the boil as the loon patiently called for her chick…. are out of sync with squared off walls that block the light and muffle the sounds of traffic.  There, I listened to the body… my own and the earth’s, it’s turning telling me when to rise and when to retire, it’s temperature and rainfall telling me when to move and when to be still. Here, I feel out of sync with artificial schedules and priorities that feel like they belong to some foreign body, not my own.

For weeks, I lived wild in those wide open spaces, so full of sky and land that I felt their expansiveness in my very body, as if my hair had become the wisps of cloud, my legs the flowing water, my voice carried by the canoe to join in the song of the land. How does one make oneself small again after that? I’ve been feeling a bit like Alice, wondering what I might have to eat (stuff?) in order to make myself fit back into my old life.

Out there, I’d become enamored by the plethora of mushrooms, blooming, overnight it seemed, pushing up a clump of soil and moss to emerge in the light of a dawn where they hadn’t shown signs just the night before. Of course, I knew that they had a vast underground growth that had been developing for years, the more obvious blossoms just the tip of that iceberg.  Perhaps nibbling a morsel of one of those might be “fitting’, so to speak.  Indeed, I have felt myself withdraw, down deep into the soil of myself these past days … for protection perhaps. Even the noise of conversation seems too great a demand, as if something is being asked of me that is too great. Can the bloom be so quickly gone?

When I returned to the lodge, those final days after my last trip into the backcountry, I wondered if it was Ok for me to cross the threshold into the inner sanctum of the lodge’s main kitchen, which had been so welcoming during the weeks I was there earlier in the summer, earning my keep between canoe trips. There, I had been fed in so many ways. There was a place of belonging and nurture for my body and soul, where conversations ran deep as the masks that are donned in the roles of hostess or guest or leader or guide or mother or daughter or wife were removed.

I had thought often during those particular weeks at the lodge of the exercise in the book, “Imagine a Woman in Love with Herself’ in which the reader is invited to imagine her life as a house, the center of which contains  the proverbial ‘Room of Her Own’. How might such a room be furnished in ways that are not proscribed or prescribed, not with mass-produced pieces that the culture deems appropriate, but with a life that feels authentic? In the other cluttered rooms of our houses, we may be forced to wear the masks of certain roles, but in this room we are full of ourselves, filled from within.

Between backcountry trips, I’d lived in a sparse little cabin at the back of the lodge’s property.. a kitchen counter with ‘vintage’ appliances perched atop an old, peeling vinyl floor, a paneled bedroom, a freestanding fiberglass shower stall, a small screened porch with a broken door…a hermitage, if you will. There, I was disconnected, inaccessible to the world outside of the lodge. As such, my days were simple and present to the tasks at hand…. often physical labor (which my hostess joked was like that of Cinderella)….but uncluttered and undivided (no running about like the White Rabbit)  Though often quite long and full, there was a certain simplicity to my days there, as well as a strange sense of autonomous interdependence in my aloneness that I don’t often experience in life at home. My days-off were filled with quiet hours alone, setting off to explore by foot or canoe or into the park to fill my heart with wonder. There was solitude and community, interdependence and self agency, belonging and freedom.

Indeed, a sense of  my own rhythms had also emerged while I was living there and I was also feeling the loss of that upon my return, when I’d asked my friend that question, “Is it ok for me to cross this threshold now that I am a mere guest again”?  The disconnection that I felt at not entering that inner space was palpable.

I do not wish to be a guest in my own life, but to fully inhabit it, to move freely into the inner places and back rooms that nurture me, where the language of the heart is spoken and honored, to live openly as well in a heart-full and wide-alive space. There is a vast difference between moving freely into and within that heart space and shrinking into it for protection because the outer space one is in feels unsafe and unwelcome, or closing the door on the heart to don the mask of a role you must play.

There is a vast, almost quantifiable energy that I feel, alone in those wild places where my real and wild self feels strong and empowered to dance and to sing without judgment and negativity. (Indeed, I notice even that taking persons with me into those wild places can sometimes impede that sense of aliveness considerably, dampening my energy and my joy, for it is the times that I rise early to be alone with the unfolding dawn, or go off by myself to climb to the top of a granite lichen covered ledge or down into the mossy roots of a great old tree, or take the canoe out for a solo spin in the waning light, that I feel most free and alive… Dance like no one is watching then?)

My new friend suggested the old film title ‘When Worlds Collide” to describe this home-going feeling in me, and asked if it might not be appropriate at all for Alice to be asked to become small, or to close her eyes to what she has seen in that new world? Perhaps she might instead let herself be SEEN, revealing her true self. (thank you, Erin) Another friend invited me to escort the wildness I uncovered home with me, to never lose sight of the real and wild woman I have always been. (thank you, Cheri) .

And so, as best I can in this place, I will try to keep myself awake… awakening with the dawn, if you will…. and keep myself in touch with my aliveness however I can, letting myself feel the vastness I felt in that land and the nurture I felt in that kitchen. I will go back in my mind to gather those left-behind bits of my heart, tuck them safely into this beautiful body of mine, filling it with love and joy.

caught in the mystery

Our last morning in camp, we awoke to a clear, cloudless sky, though the air was so heavy with moisture that the trees – standing there in the near freezing cold, unable to hold any more in their outstretched limbs – dripped and dropped…upon our tents, then our shoulders, pocking the sandy soil at our feet. The sun had not yet broken over the horizon as we arose to break camp. We’d wanted to set out across the large lake while the waters were calm and still, before the certain winds of the day whipped it up.

The fog lay heavy over the water as we set off , so we paddled within view of the shoreline, about 20 feet or so from our boats, in order to keep our bearings, for we would’ve quickly become disoriented had we lost sight of the land. Beyond those muted edges, the water and earth were obscured by a blanket of white, impenetrable. It made me think of being lost at sea, with no identifiable features in sight, by which to gain one’s bearing.  Navigational methods other than landmarks are required in such places as that.

Perhaps I too am in a necessary cloud at this time in my life, my own outstretched limbs unable to hold it all anymore. This evening, thinking upon that morning fog as I am about to embark in tomorrow’s dawn on the journey back home, I wonder which direction to go from here? Do I keep the safe but known shoreline within my vision, even as I long for these deeper waters? Where are my landmarks for such a time as this?

Some part of me understands that there is something particular  in the landscape here that draws me. Its forms and its beauty -those sweeping curves and spires- interplay so gracefully with the water, both evoking and remembering me to a similar harmony within myself and my life.  I too am made up of both. Water and Earth. How to hold the truth of that within my vision? Hold gracefully the tension between these two in me?

What navigational tools do I have for a place such as this?

As we came out of the portage trail onto the larger lake, the sun was just gaining enough strength to begin clearing the fog. Beauty gradually opened upon us, liquid ribbons flowing across the blue water, autumn colors just beginning to kiss the hillsides.

Perhaps something will clear in the warmth for me too… the shroud will unfold and open the way for me .

For tonight, I will just keep paddling on before the winds of tomorrow whip.



To change or not to change, there is really no question

This afternoon, overlooking the rain-and-windswept lake while cocooned in the safe harbor that has been this lodge, my mind swirls with the currents back around to thoughts of transformation… of becoming. As I ponder how it is that this blowing rain, being slurped up so thirstily by the earth, is made of the same substance as that charcoal water, which is being whipped into whitecaps even as it flows full and deep in the lake, I marvel at the vast myriad of ways this essence of life is expressed. And  realize that I too am made of that substance. Like the water, I am both ancient and new, the elements and essences that make up my body have also been here in one form or another for ages.


Why do you bring me such comfort my friend?  Why is it that dipping my paddle into your silken depths brings me such peace?  Or sitting here with your agitation, stirs something quiet in me awake?  What exactly is it that I draw forth to drink of so deeply from you?   Oh yes, there is your pervasive constancy… so visible, palpable, and easily discernable, especially today in this blanket of heavy clouds, in those perpetual waves of the lake, and these streams that pour from the roof and drench the land. You are always present, always beckoning, always reminding and remembering me.  Yet, even moreso than the serenity in your stillness, the life-giving energy of your turbulence, and the persistence of your presence, it is your unspoken mystery – your unknowable depths, your unfathomable past, and impenetrable future- that strangely soothes me. Where have you been? Where are you going? What form will you embody next?


The longing in me to follow you remains , to follow your mists as you rise and you roll from the lake and into that distanct notch, drawn from the coolness of night into the warmth of the beckoning sun., to follow your flowing rivers around the next bend, and into the unseeable, on the way to becoming who- knows-what next?


I wonder why I am here, next to this lake in this north country, on this paradoxically quiet afternoon. Though the wind rushing through the trees at times fills this entire space with the quickening sounds of a womb, my heart/mind is tranquil somehow.  Is this place a womb for me, then, a place I have come to be born? How am I being formed into something new? And how will my life look different when I emerge from this time and this space?


I am being changed in this time and place.  I am being picked up by the warmth of this sun, separated out from this particular body of water that I have inhabited for so very long,  transported by these unseen-but-felt currents.  Will the Love-that-I-am be condensed in some place around the bend where I might pour myself out? Though I cannot conceive it all, I trust it, sensing only this-something-shifting in me, and, in this moment, I feel comforted alone by the mystery of that… my own unknowable becoming just a small measure of wonder in life’s unknowable depths.



Ps. This was written yesterday, before the window rattling night that blustered its way into dawn, a morning without electricity until now. As I walked this morning, along the path through the woods, gathering along the way some early changing leaves, I was enchanted by the ones with green, yellow, and red on the same leaf… and so it was that the title of this blogpost came to me.

Hay Lake morning reprise


I am writing from Hay Lake Lodge, where I have been staying between trips into the Park (Algonquin). I was there for a week with 3 women the last week of August and will be going back into the park on the 14th for 10 days more. This last trip will be my fifth of this season. I am blessed, indeed.

 It is a rainy morning, the first such day since I arrived in Algonquin with the 3 women on the 24th of August. I am grateful for the invitation that the rain extends to me this day to be still at last ( I am also grateful that Erin, the lodge owner, did not need me to help out until this afternoon). It was not until Tuesday this week, after the women left on Thursday morning, that I felt like I had a moment to myself (that is, when I was not sleeping!. Erin did indeed need some help around here, moreso when the weekend woman called off sick for the ‘hectic’ holiday weekend.  I was in bed most nights by 8:30, exhausted. Running a Canadian lodge on a lake is not so glamourous a life, after all, but Erin does it so graciously.  She has a gift for hospitality that I can learn from.


Still, I am grateful, always grateful to be here. Life next to the water is so revelatory for me, making what is so often invisible or unnoticed, more perceptible somehow. Not only the mists that rise and roll from the waters each morning, revealing the unseen but always present currents and gradients, but the surface of the lake itself, which can go from mirror-like to windswept in the span of 15 minutes time, from reflecting the clouds in their depths to being stirred awake by them… not unlike my experience of the Sacred, who is reflected in our own depths and then stirs us awake when we least expect it.


The sky, too, continues to be my companion and guide these last weeks, teaching me about transformation and change. The sky is so much a part of the landscape here, and is as changeable as the water, the relationship between the two so  very apparent here.  From early morning blankets of gray , to breaking blues and clouds of every shape and hue, to stars so deep and vast your mind’s eye can’t seem to process them at all, the sky becomes from moment to moment something new. Last fall, it was those deep stellar reaches that stirred me to wonder, but this year the changeable and transformative lower reaches of the sky have been most potent for me, the way in which in the midst of that deep constancy, closer to home and our human experience, life is constantly shifting and moving and becoming and departing. I feel as if this transitional period of my life has been that way too as I have sought out a new way of being.


One morning in the park with the women, I read from a litany of facts to ponder about water… the way it is constantly being transformed and recycled, becoming ice in one place, then part of an animal in the desert in another, for instance, across time and space… which was so suddenly illuminating for me it was like the sun breaking through in a blaze of color at dusk. The canoeing quotes that I later read spoke of the way that it feels to be in the flow of life on a canoe trip, moving with the water and through the currents in a sort of dance in which one is a part of the natural flow, not simply a witness along the shoreline, but becoming one with the water and the natural order of things.  I have been through quite a long season of transformation, it is the way of water after all – the way that it changes forms itself but also the way it carries life along with it, cleansing it, fueling it, carving and transforming it, becoming cloud for a time, bearing its passengers into a new landscape.


I recalled that for years as I would explore the turtle totem… which had always been a land animal for me, teaching me about carrying my home with me, and finding that place of safety within, as I journeyed through life’s changing terrains….  I would find written thoughts about the aspect of the turtle that really flows when she gets into the water and into her natural element, and I did not understand nor connect with those ideas, could not find that particular feeling within me. I understand that feeling of flow, of aliveness now.


 In some ways I feel as if it has been like a long pregnancy and birthing process for me, not knowing what was being birthed within and from those amniotic waters (Though at times it felt both painful and powerful, growthfull and constrictive -alternately requiring of me resilience and patience, forcefulness, assertiveness, breath and endurance- what has gushed forth  suddenly from this long labor has been a new life) In other ways, it has felt like a long pilgrimage through many kilometers of water and portage trails, not knowing what was around the next bend but being ever drawn to discover, placing one paddle stroke after the other, one footfall after the other, on some sort of sacred quest/journey…..

 The past 2 mornings, I was able to be on the water again, leaving from the dock at the lodge where I am staying. On Tuesday, I had the day to myself and I took off in my canoe down to the spillway at the far end of Lower Hay Lake.  Along the way, next to a rock face, I met an otter, who I would have missed entirely had he not risen to hiss behind me. I also followed a northern Harrier for a time along the shoreline of a small marshy area, and a kingfisher came chattering across the water there, too. Still, that paddle felt noisy somehow to me. There were a few motorboats and cottages here and there on the upper half, and I could hear the logging traffic somewhere along the ridges, near the powerline…then there were the 2 military planes who swept around the corner, evidently practicing flying beneath the radar. I think my heart stopped for a moment as I felt my body instinctively duck in the canoe.

 Yesterday though… oh my oh my. I paddled the opposite direction through bogs and marshes on the way to Drizzle Lake. It was quiet and the sun in its heavy blanket of early morning grey was barely lighting the water and the ridge, which are showing hints of autumn on the treetops. I paddled through the bog,  up close to some beaver lodges, where I could hear the beavers mewling inside, which felt so terribly intimate to me.  Beavers have long spoken to me intimately, of crafting a personal environment of safety and nurture, one which transforms the landscape around you to one of blessing, while creating abundant habitat where others might also thrive.


Into the cranberry bog I poked my boat, stirring up some mergansers at one point. So many trails to follow, but I followed the flow around the bend and into a more open marshland, where again a pair of Northern Harriers hunted, while flashing their white tail band. I noted some Pitcher plants, with their reddened stems and leaves, rising up from the bog, attracting the insects they capture in their cupped leaves for food.  So many lessons here to integrate….perhaps another post, or perhaps not. At last, I turned back, my own need for food stirring me, knowing I had a long paddle back.


Being on the water like this is prayer for me. I can explain it no other way. There I am stilled and quieted, like that babe at her mother’s breast, attentive and present to life in a way that brings me to stillness and wonder, gratitude and faith. The motion of the paddle is like a mantra that stills my heart/mind and ‘I am’, simply, in the presence of the sacred. When I rise from the water, as from the mat, I am somehow transformed…. like the water itself, by the water itself, and by the spirit hovering  within it all.




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