Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Reflections

May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace,
The gladness of Christmas give you hope,
The warmth of Christmas grant you love

In looking at the news, I'm happy I'm in California for Christmas Eve. I would have most likely been stranded in Houston if I had flown to Michigan today. There was joy in that I played holiday songs on my 36 string harp for our patients the last two days at work. It was hard to know who enjoyed it more, them or me. One of my older patients who spoke Spanish, would plead, "uno mas", every time I stopped. So yesterday I played three hours and today a total of four.

Tonight I joined with friends for dinner, called several family members and am now enjoy the quiet of the evening.

May your holidays be blessed....

Sarah McLachlan, "What Child Is This?":

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Solstice Reflections

Out of Darkness Light is Re-born. Carry the hope of this moment like a torch in your heart through the coming year. Let it sustain you in your times of darkness, and be a symbol of blessing in your times of joy. Let Peace be with you.

Many people dread the night. They see it as a dangerous time filled with all sorts of negative happenings. I've always loved the night. My natural body clock keeps me up into the late hours of the night whenever possible. Similarly I've never hated winter, I've become familiar with it as a time of rest, coziness, and celebration. As a child I would go to a tree farm with my parents and bring back a fresh pine and decorate it in mid-December. In the weeks after they would find me up in the middle of the night lying next to the tree, contemplating the glow of the lights in the darkness. So it no wonder that as an adult, Winter Solstice and the time surrounding it has become my favorite “holiday period”.

Winter Solstice when the day light fades into twilight and is followed by the longest night of the year. This is my peaceful time of year....Especially now in the midst of the feeding frenzy of shopping, electronic noise and busyness. It is the pause which contemplates possibility. The loudness of my life quiets into the silence of what has been and what could be, centered in the moment of now.

It is the certainty of ending and the uncertainty of new beginnings. It is letting go of the dread and allowing the birth of hope. It is the awareness of your smallness that is connected to the largeness of all that is. It is the allowing of turmoil to quiet and that of insight to emerge. It is the journeying from outer landscapes to that of the inner. It is the connection between the moments of light and dark.

It is sensual and ultimately fecund. The night fire of creation seduces and warms with its glow. And the seeds of genesis are laid into the womb of time and allowed to grow. To be brought into the light when the time is right for the birth.

This year as never before I'm aware of the cycle of death and rebirth. Tonight I will walk into the dark, contemplate, breathe and reflect. I will seek acceptance in the union of seemingly opposites. I will acknowledge both the fragility and strength of life. I will be and rest in the heartbeat of the eternal.

What will your Winter Solstice be?

Katerina El Haj, "Yule Song-Winter Solstice-What Night Is This?":

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reflections on Change

Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender who you are for what you could become.

Change has been on my mind. While I've been writing about making some major changes the last couple of years, I've been dragging my heels about it. As a psychologist I studied under who looks at why people make change would tell us...."People only make change when they become more uncomfortable with who they are or the circumstances they are in then comfortable." Well I've become more uncomfortable so change is upon me. After my mother had the initial diagnosis of cancer, someone I know recommended I read "Refuge" by Terry Tempest Williams. It arrived last week and I finally sat down to begin it. In three paragraphs she captured something I had been feeling since summer....I will share it here:

It's strange to feel change come. It's easy to ignore. An underlying restlessness seems to accompany it like birds flocking before a storm. We go about our business with the usual alacrity, while in the pit of our stomach there is a sense of something tenuous.

These moments of peripheral perceptions are short, sharp flashes of insight we tend to discount like seeing the movement of an animal from the corner of our eye. We turn and there is nothing there. They are the strong and subtle impressions we allow to slip away.

I had been feeling fey for months.

Change is upon me whether I would have it or not. Now the question is how to handle the change and thus reflection, but I think first I will have to ask the questions before I can get to the reflection ...

There have been so many people who have given me support in the last weeks and for their presence in my life as I go through this time of change, I give thanks.

George Winston, "Thanksgiving":

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gifts and Small Miracles

I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as a seed
goes next as a blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
Dawna Markova

The gift of my mother's diagnosis has been to explode my consciousness about the preciousness of the time we have. I've been trying to mold the clay of life into something new over the last couple of years. The diagnosis is the catalyst that is making me stop trying and now began doing.

The poem above came to me last week as another gift and I ordered the book that about the poem. Today the book arrived. When I had gone to my PO Box, there was a slip telling me I I had to go into the main body of the post office to retrieve it. It had been a long day and I was debating whether to go into get it as there were long lines. A postal employee opened a door saw me standing there with yellow pick up slip in hand and she if she could get the package for me. Gratefully I surrendered the slip to her. When she came back I told her she was my gift and little miracle today. In six years of having my PO Box, I have never had anyone open that door during business hours. She look startled and then thanked me saying that I had made her day on a tough day.

So gifts and miracles do happen, we just have to be accessible for them to arrive.

Jim Brickman and Martina McBride, "The Gift":

Monday, December 14, 2009

Balance and Breathe

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.
Albert Einstein

I returned to work today. It was harder in some ways then I thought. But as I told several people, my mantra is balance and breathe. The hardest thing about balance today was I had hoped to arrange to go to Michigan at the last minute for the holidays. I got the Christmas schedule to work out, but tickets from Northern California to Detroit, not doable at this late date due to the astronomical cost and my limited budget. So I took a deep breath and reminded myself I'll be going out in a little over three weeks to spend a week then. It's amazing that I can buy 3 tickets at this point for the cost of what one is going for now. However, I'm working to get my Mom set up with a webcam and I'm hoping I can "spend" the day with her and my siblings via that.

When I spoke to people today about my mother's diagnosis, there was usually a look of helplessness and a I'm so sorry response. The best response was from a woman I've worked with off and on for the last two years. She just looked at me, pulled me into her arms and hugged me tight. That said and helped more then anything so far.

This star came from a trip I took with my Mom a couple of years ago. I look at it and hope that the light of stars shine for her in this season....

For my Mom because she loves singers from this era:

Tennessee Ernie Ford, "The Star Carol":

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Traveling This Wilderness

Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit
Edward Abbey

People have offered me several opinions on how to handle my mother's diagnosis spiritually. I don't practice any one belief system, but I do know when I go to the wilderness, there I find my "church". It's where I was last weekend and soon as the weather clears where I will be again with my camera. Sitting on the rocks and listening to the wind blow, stillness comes and for awhile I'll find my center and can return to travel the paths that are in front of me.

Handel's Messiah, "Comfort...Every Valley":

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ending and Beginning

Every end is a new beginning

This week brought the news that my mother has terminal lung cancer. The hope is that she will have six months to a year. It's a strange place to be. I've worked in hospice and I know what it will mean intellectually, but now I'm making this journey emotionally and spiritually. It's been a week of a variety of emotions.

I had taken the week off, because I had a sense that this was coming. I went to a remote area of the Eastern Sierra Nevadas. It seemed appropriate to be in what is considered a high desert valley. And there I found peace to begin this new journey. The one thing that I know is that I have to say yes to this process as passionately as any that I have experienced before. That may seem strange, but what I mean is that to deny that death is part of what life is, is to be a naive child. You must embrace the reality and deal with it as much as you would any part of being alive. So this week I have worked on setting up a routine which involves journaling, yoga, walking with my dog even more, talking with friends, loving and most of all being open with my mother/siblings about how we are doing on this journey that we are now on together.

I'll be returning to work next week. It will be strange to be working with others emotional needs at a time when I must more than at any other time in my life understand my own so as to be able to do said work.

The solstice is approaching and this year I understand more then ever a poem that I read every year.

Winter Solstice

when you startle awake in the dark morning
heart pounding breathing fast
sitting bolt upright staring into
dark whirlpool black hole
feeling its suction

get out of bed
knock at the door of your nearest friend
ask to lie down beside ask to be held

listen while whispered words
turn the hole into deep night sky
stars close together
winter moon rising over white fields
nearby a wren rustling dry leaves
distant owl echoing
two people walking up the road laughing

let your soul laugh
let your heart sigh out
that long held breath so hollow in your stomach
so swollen in your throat

already light is returning pairs of wings
lift softly off your eyelids one by one
each feathered edge clearer between you
and the pearl veil of day

you have nothing to do but live

Jody Aliesan
Grief Sweat

Mediaeval Baebes, "The Holly and the Ivy":

Friday, November 20, 2009

And Then The Clouds Appeared....

Hope is faith holding it's hand out in the darkness.
George Ils

I didn't think I would be posting this soon. Today I got a call that every adult dreads about an aging parent. I found out my mother has adenocarcinoma. More commonly known as lung cancer. They still have to do another biopsy to find out what stage it is in before the prognosis is certain. I'd known about the possibility of this for over a month, but the shock is still there.

I've gone through many emotions today as I've talked to my mother, siblings and friends. Numbness, denial, anger...all the classics. But I found some light and hope. The light was that originally I was supposed to be away this weekend. And I've worked the last several Fridays. I've had the space today to process this and I've had wonderful loving support from people around me. The hope is that despite the fact they cannot operate to remove the tumors due to my mother's other health issues, that they will be able to treat it successfully through other means.

It's been tough though. I've been both a professional educating my siblings about how people react to the news, the stages of grieving (I used to work for hospice programs) and a daughter scared to my core at the possibility of losing my mother. I've encouraged my sisters to find balance, to accept the support of those around and to most of all just take it one moment at a time. They've given me their love and care in return. Again the light in the clouds of this event, I'm not alone...I have so many people who care for me and I give thanks for that.


Loreena McKennitt, "In the Bleak Midwinter":

Monday, November 9, 2009

No Cares.....

A happy woman is one who has no cares at all; a cheerful woman is one who has cares but doesn't let them get her down.
Beverly Sills

The last few weeks have been a challenge (aging parents, relationships, work etc), but I've been facing them with a surprising level of insight, hope and some laughter at life's absurdities. It's admitting that there are cares, but not letting them pull you into a sea of despair and drown you that make all the difference. Life is full of possibilities and if you see the challenges as a way of teaching about these possibilities, then you'll make it through. My harp playing and photography are growing by leaps and bounds as I use them to help work through the cares. Not to mention I've been doing comfort food recipes out of magazines. Roasted root veggies, fall stews, spiced cider anyone?

I'm going to see Great Big Sea this Sunday. Cannot believe it's been 12 years since I encountered their music when I was doing a charity bike ride in Nova Scotia (one of the most gorgeous spots on the earth). I was able to change my ticket as the first venue decided to do primarily "stand up" seating. Don't mind getting out of my seat to dance, but I like to have a seat. Besides that because everyone wants to see the band up close and personal, I've ended up being close and personal with peoples body parts that I'd rather not have been. At least not without having an introduction and drink first . Anyway, I opted to see them in Santa Cruz instead. In all my time in California I've never made it to there, so will be poking around for the day before the concert.

Great Big Sea, "Sea of No Cares":

Monday, November 2, 2009


In my end is my beginning.
T. S. Eliot

It's sometimes hard to admit a need for an ending. This trip to Michigan has been about ending a long time pattern of behavior in relation to one of my family members. I've done what I can and can only do what the individual will accept. It is time to admit this and move on with the beginnings of some new things in my life.....

Time to go back to California, rock on and celebrate saying yes to life...

Samba Squad, "Rock Me in the Cradle":

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Reflections Morro Bay

Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.
Peter F. Drucker

I picked up the harp earlier this week. My teacher went with me and we stayed overnight in Morro Bay. Beautiful area. The morning was misty and the bird calls rang out over the water as we walked in the early light. Our time there was very brief so it's a location I hope to return to in a few months.

Michigan is next on the travel agenda. I'll leave for there in a couple of days. Will post more from there if I have time. Still groovin on Jesse Cook, so here is some more from him.

Jesse Cook, "Europa":

Friday, October 16, 2009

October Road Trip 4...Manzanar Part 2

There are stars who's light only reaches the earth long after they have fallen apart. There are people who's remembrance gives light in this world, long after they have passed away. This light shines in our darkest nights on the road we must follow.

The stark beauty and remembrance of Manzanar remains two weeks later. I will be going back and learning more. I encourage anyone who is in that area to visit and remain unchanged....

I will be going on another road trip this weekend. I hope you have a good one and enjoy the richness of life....

Nickelback, "If Today Was Your Last Day":

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October Road Trip 3...Manzanar Part 1

Papa’s life ended at Manzanar... Until this trip I had not been able to admit that my own life really began there
Farewell to Manzanar

Something about Manzanar compels me. I have been drawn to it twice and plan to return yet again. It's not that there are enormous ruins, or that they have significant beauty....perhaps it is a spiritual resonance about the place. Perhaps it is the lessons that it has to teach that aren't immediately visible, but only come from spending some time there, perhaps in hope you can reach across the generations and only by touching on some aspect of their life there one began to understand something of the aforementioned lessons...

Perhaps it doesn't matter and it's simply bearing witness to what was.....

Alison Krauss, "It Doesn't Matter":

Monday, October 12, 2009

October Road Trip 2...Bodie and Fragments

When you have come to the edge Of all light that you know And are about to drop off into the darkness Of the unknown, Faith is knowing One of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or You will be taught to fly
Patrick Overton

Finally I found myself in Bodie again. As always the question becomes what to photograph as there is so much. What intrigued me was the fragments that were everywhere and so although I did some panoramic shots, I set out to take some photos of the fragments. As I looked at them, I considered what lead people to Bodie, to settle in an area so desolate. Yes, gold was the obvious motivator, but there were also more subtle reasons. And then what kept them there, what were their life's like? Bodie was known as a den of iniquity, but significant relationships developed and were part of life there...the fragments of these life's exposed themselves when you looked...Who knew that my mind set around relationship would lead to the unexpected factor of the weekend that happened.

I'll share more photos of what I found at Manzanar next post. As for the rest, we'll see.

Deborah Henson-Conant and the Grand Rapids Symphony, "Baroque Flamenco":

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jesse Cook Rumbas Through Part Two

One last post on Jesse Cook and I'll return to the road trip. As I indicated yesterday, one of the delights of the concert is the rapport between Jesse and his band. Also the rapport the band members have with each other. You can tell they've been on the road together as there is an ease and familiarity that can only come from that long time association. However familiarity doesn't keep the music from being fresh. You get the sense for them, they're able to play it as if it were the first time. However there was an interesting first of sorts. Jesse takes and seeks fusion with another musician(s) for inspiration with each album he produces. This time he ended up in Columbia with a very special group. As part of that an accordion was needed. Since the group couldn't tour, Chris Church learned to play the accordion in two weeks. You'd never know, it seemed like he was born with the instrument in his hands.

So again if Jesse and his band comes anywhere near your town, seek him out. Especially on this tour, as he terms it, "a rumba party" will be yours.

I'll share one of his remakes of a Crowded House tune. It is the best version I've ever heard and it resonates for me as a result of a very special meeting on my trip last weekend (I'll share more next post).

Jesse Cook, "Fall At Your Feet":

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jesse Cook Rumbas Through Part One

I'm breaking format for a couple of days. Last night Jesse Cook was in town. Luck was with me and I was able combine my two passions photography and music. The concert was even better then last year and I lucked out with a second row left orchestra seat that was perfect for shooting. The music was phenomenal. As a musician I love to watch the interplay between band members and you could tell these guys loved being together. It was intimate, sensual and stirring. He played several tunes from his new CD, "The Rumba Foundation" which I've had on my Walkman since it was released last week. If anyone left the concert disappointed last night they weren't at the same one I was.

I took a good deal of photos and did a few in black and white. I'll do some color tomorrow. He is out on tour for the next several months and I would encourage anyone to see him. It will be one of the best concerts you ever attend.

I'll include one of the tunes (again) that brought me to attention about him as an artist oh so many years ago.

Jesse Cook, "Tempest":

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

October Road Trip 1...Mono Lake and Moonlight Madness

The loveliest faces are to be seen by moonlight
Persian saying

My trip this weekend ended up something that I didn't expect. Something wonderful, life changing and I'm still processing it, so will let that clue be all for the moment. All I can say is moonlight madness was part of the trip. I did several photos taken this weekend, but not all I had planned.

I was at Mono Lake later then I planned, but still got a few good shots of the moon and happier about this set of shots, then the ones I had taken a year ago. The weather was clear and several photographers were out and about.

More in the next few days....

Toploader, "Dancing In The Moonlight":

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Summer Then Fall

Just before the death of flowers,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow.
Author Unknown

Last week Fall arrived officially. Not for us. It was 100 degrees. Today Fall arrived. It dropped down to the 70s. But it is the kind of day (even though it will get summer warm again here) that let's you know that sweaters can come out soon, you think of pumpkin pie (bought the ice cream flavor at the store tonight), you smell smoke wafting out from fireplaces and you know the change is really coming.

Getting ready to go on my photo trip this weekend, I realized I had some others photos I hadn't really worked with and found the contrast between summer beginning to end and fall beginning. So here they are. Also spent some time listening to an incredible woman who plays a Camac Baby Blue Electric Harp. I know what harp I want next. I'll be including some of her stuff from some work she did with the Grand Rapids Symphony a few years ago....

Deborah Henson-Conant with the Grand Rapids Symphony, "The Nightingale":

Beginning Yet Again

  "Never feel guilty for starting again." -Rupi Kaur These days being a flaneuse has been more mental than physical. I moved to Ar...