Poems, like prayer flags

This way of being continues to call me forward…


This week I was reminded that not all is good, and not all is good for me. I want to un-see what I saw, erase forever the images that popped up on my computer screen immediately after an opera video I was watching on Youtube. No warning, and there it was, cruel, shocking, and cutting through my soul like a knife. I didn’t know what to do. I gasped. I turned it off. But my mind played the images over and over again. I was hooked into darkness for a time.

And then, serendipitously and providentially, I was invited into a soul healing activity that is beginning to help me forget what I saw, not that I saw it, but take the edge of pain of it away.

A friend invited me to join a social media love challenge, posting only good messages. I’ve always tried to be that kind…

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Song of the season

As I consider the things I’m reading in a restorative book of spiritual practice, I’m drawn to walk more, notice more, seek the meaning hidden in more.

Today that meant a neighbourhood walk that drew me to a lake edge, and there, as I allowed the breeze to chill me and the sun to warm me, I noticed…leaves. Yes, it is fall. Yes, they were yellow against the lake stones and rather obvious. And yes, I was looking for colour somewhere in my subconscious. But there was more.

A memory stirred up of a piece I once wrote, and what led up to it when I found myself years ago, surrounded by leaves just like this one… and felt a love bestowed on me through thousands of heart shaped leaves…

DSC_0647.JPGThis morning it happened again, the heart shapes echoing love, but there was more. Because the leaves were in various stages of being themselves, still clinging to the tree, newly fallen to the ground, and in process of becoming humus…that sweet and necessary process of dying and decay…I considered more.

dsc_0658Some leaves were more transparent than the freshly fallen. Their veins stood out as sunshine backlit them and they were oddly beautiful too, edges cracked, parts missing, and glorious in transition from bud to leaf to something else entirely.

I thought of the seasons of my life, the desires I have to do something big, something that matters, and the words of my husband so lovingly meeting me there and saying, yes, of course you do, and one day you will go from this earth and people will forget who you were…and what you did. The truth in those words.

What if I never publish a book of poetry, what if I don’t do anything wonderfully lasting, what if…can I be OK in who I am in this place, in this season of mid-life and launches of young adult children, in the angst and questions and tension of being a spiritual being…and just be?

dsc_0646There is a loveliness in how the leaves lay on the beach stones, in the sunshine, in their season of glory, and what I notice now is how they hold, tentatively, for such a short time, water left over from yesterday’s rain.

Look, how the small droplets reflect the light. Look, how beautiful, how momentary, and for what greater purpose? Perhaps a bird will drink there. Perhaps the leaf will blow away and the water disperse into the ground? And the leaf will continue on in its process and final purpose of becoming earth itself.

Perhaps a woman, walking, will stop for a moment, take a photograph, and consider again what it means to be enough.

Sabbath rest

Re-reading Sabbath, by Wayne Muller…deep sigh. Paying heed to the longing for more than one day a week.

Spending several mornings in a row by the lake, poetry, paper, pen and bible by my side…yes. Be still. Listen. Know. Learn how to do this again…lean in, see, hear. It is good.

Spending golden hour in pursuit of the light, camera, eyes, heart seeking ordinary beauty…yes…weeds, but not really…


And then this morning by the lake a poem comes trickling, flooding through me…just when I think I have passed writing the last one, when I’m convinced it has all been a cruel trick of nature, that I actually can’t write a jot, that my work is shite, that the combinations of words will definitely NOT flow this time around…what was I thinking…and then…a poem…a draft poem…appears (she says carefully, not wanting to sound as if she thinks it is any good.)

A friend once scolded me…you are a poet…you write…HOW DARE YOU NOT SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD!!! Whoa, it bothered me to be spoken to like that. Who was she to say that? I stuttered out excuses, like these ones I still push down every single time;

I’m nervous

It feels self-serving doesn’t it, a bit boastful

There are many poets so much better than I

It seems inappropriate to ask if I may read, silence is just easier

Um…I don’t think it’s that good yet, maybe a few more edits

Edie looked at me straight on and said it again…How dare you! It’s your gift! It’s your voice! So you’d do good at getting over yourself and sharing your work. (Well, maybe she didn’t say it precisely like that, but I remember clearly her emotion, her gentle yet persistent tone. I often share those words with young emerging and nervous poets I spend time with.)

It’s been a while. The last few days as described above have included solitude, silence and the joy of allowing my heart to free up my fingers and journal some thoughts and some poems. Here is one of them. For you, Edie.

Praise the Mutilated and Aching World

after Adam Zagajewski’s ‘Try to Praise the Mutilated World’


Praise the mutilated and aching world.

Praise civil rights activists and pamphlet propaganda,

praise the moment after

you watch the Youtube video and can no longer say

I did not know. Praise your confusion. Praise your disbelief.

Praise the ones who call it evidence, or conspiracy,

and sleep soundly with both points of view.

Praise each pair of opposites, the terror and the beauty,

disgust and delight, the wildness within us

and the sea, sky, and expansive forests

that swallow men and their wives.

Like the elderly man, axle deep in snow

at the end of a logging road, who suggested his wife

stay right here, stay warm, and I will go for help.

Praise his half-frozen body

and the wolves who received his offering.

Praise her waiting, for days.

Praise the sway of nighttime hydrangea bouquets

and dead black stares of roof rats chirping

like beautiful birds. Praise their goings out

and comings in for seed and vegetables.

Praise their diseased droppings.

Praise copulations of wet salmon

over gravel substrated shallows, praise

their slick fins and gaping gills.

Praise homefires in our wood stoves

and firestorms in our neighbourhoods,

praise the smoke, the candled trees,

the displaced and crispened wildlife.

Praise equally the ash smothered front lawns

and ash crossed over foreheads in remembrance.

Praise each fickle choice and self-righteous justification.

Praise lonely and never alone.

Praise here and hereafter.

Praise Him whom you have not seen but believe may be who he says he is.

Praise Him. Praise Her. Praise Us.

Praise the mutilated and aching world.



Benjamin’s real story…

holding out hope

Benjamin, 38.

He has a sense of joy and laughter!

We all go through trials and hardships in life. We have our ups and downs. These life experiences are just dealt with differently by each person. Some people may become engulfed in their work, others may become closed off, some may reach out to find comfort and some may get lost in addictions…a different story for each.

Now Benjamin is someone I met many years ago. He has a rough exterior that might make others misconstrue him for someone he is not. This is because after years of trials and hardships, experiencing times where he felt judged by the “outside world”, he had to create this persona. But Benjamin is genuinely a kind hearted guy.

Benjamin’s birth mother put him up for adoption when he was just a baby…so the Lord placed him in a good Christian family where he was…

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holding out hope

Today is my birthday. I am choosing to spend this part of my day alone and writing. It is good for me.

People might be surprised to know I was excommunicated from my church for marrying my husband, over 29 years ago. I have denied my pain, making light of it whenever it came up in conversation. I made it about my husband’s woundedness, rather than my own.

Oh, I knew what would happen. I grew up in a fundamentalist church, and knew their stand on being “unequally yoked.” When the elders contacted me about my engagement to a Catholic, I agreed to meet with them. No big deal, really. A formal letter was read to the church announcing my “outside place.” Friends and family I had grown up with, shunned us. My finance never understood why the church would turn against us, rather than rally around us. But I always knew why. I chose him. I still do.

Years later…

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Sometimes stories are shockingly painful to hear. This beautiful woman went through a lot in her formative years. Dear Eyvonne, may your life continue now in love and in peace.

holding out hope


Eyvonne is a compassionate woman with a special place in her heart for dogs. She carries dog treats with her everywhere she goes. Last Christmas, Eyvonne brought several boxes of dog treats to me in the art studio. She asked if I might deliver them to the SPCA along with a card thanking them for taking care of the animals. Yvonne says once Metro Arts finds a home she would like us to make a poster filled with all the animal pictures we can find. She wants me to write this on the poster,

Save the animals, and find good homes for them. Save all the wild creatures too!”

When I asked Eyvonne to share her story, she said she had a long, long, history and that it was already written down. So I met with her and she showed me a large crinkled piece of blue paper, and on it was a poem. This is a poem, I said. It is the…

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Sometimes I shake my head in disbelief, not knowing the whole story but knowing the weight of some details that are almost unbearable to hear. There is such resilience to the human spirit, and I pray that Jackie does not give up, but God continues to bring enough, just enough, to her. The sacred trust of story. Thank you, Jackie.

holding out hope

Jackie, 30

I feel like I’m a thousand years old some days. People come to me for help and someone to talk to, but they pass by and don’t seem to notice when I’m crying. I don’t get a break. Some days it feels like it goes from bad to catastrophic. I don’t want to wake up some days. I go to bed crying and wake up crying.

There have been some good times. Until last year I had a home for three years. Once I was clean for 4 1/2 years. I worked for a long time as a dishwasher in the Leon drop-in centre before it closed. There’s not many times I can say I was genuinely happy, but when I remember back to when I was living with my adopted Dad in Penticton, I was really happy then.

I started using when I was 13 and having…

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Each story is a privilege to hear and to write down. What a sacred trust this is. “Hope is not a feeling. It’s a choice; an act of faith.” Laurence East.

Please read, and if you feel compelled to, please share.


holding out hope

Nick, almost 50

My story goes from being like everyone else to being trapped on the street and trapped in the government health care system. My parents divorced when I was 8 and I went into foster care. My childhood was marred by insanity. I beat up my teachers because they wouldn’t teach me, so I was caned daily.

They thought I was unteachable. They labeled me, then ignored me.

I knew I wanted to be something. Someone told me I needed an education, so at 14, for two years I sat in a closet in the classroom and taught myself so I could join the army and escape. I struggle with PTSD from military trauma and schizophrenia.

I came to Vancouver and met a Korean Rev. through his daughter. She took me to church and I met Jesus. At this time, I had a mental lapse and he kept me for two…

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