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
Proverb

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":

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