The Wood Stove: A Poem by Shelley Robinson

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The Wood Stove

by

Shelley Robinson

The hearth of her home

The wood stove

Burns open the piquant smells of farm

Ham, turkey, roast beef

porridge, strong coffee

baby potatoes, rice pudding

 

Each log that stokes the fire

comes from the woodpile outside

Feeding hungry flames

Inspiring perpetual family energy

We eat and drink,

warm our ski socks,

drip dry our pants

 

We tuck ourselves away in the kitchen of steamy windows

Blocking our view of the cold snowy powder falling outside

We follow the script of the cozy kitchen

We cut carrots, shell peas

And add one piece of wood at a time,

An unknown tree

trades its life for ours

 

Each year the woodpile grows smaller

No longer a neatly stacked fortress

Dominating the yard with its importance

Now, only a tiny mound that we can see over as we carry

a few rough and rotted pieces in

to our grandmother

 

The depleting woodpile speaks of mortality

The wood stove will fall cold one day

Without her to rouse it before the light of day

Leaving us to find our own electric ovens somewhere else

In homes far apart from each other

Humility in Relationship

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Humility In Relationship

by

Shelley Robinson

Origins of Humility:  Having humility in relationship which is “the quality of being humble” is the most important way to peel away our hubris and ego, and allow our significant others into our spiritual centre.  It is the ultimate form of emotional availability when we express openly to our partners that I am human and here is why — the good, the bad and the very ugly. Please understand and accept my weaknesses as I work towards being a better person.

In the Buddhist tradition humility is seen as a virtue.  Humility is one of the ten sacred qualities attributed to the Buddha of Compassion. Within that context, it appears to be the path towards the supreme spiritual attainments that transcends the ego (Yu-Hsi, 2007). This utter vulnerability is also considered a profound Christian grace described as a “state of mind well pleasing to God” (1 Pet. 3:4) that “preserves the soul in tranquillity” (Ps. 69:32, 33) and “makes us patient under trials” (Job 1:22).   According to Sikhism, all people in the consideration of humility, equally, “have to bow before God so there ought to be no hierarchies among or between people” (Wikipedia, 2016).

What Humility is Not:  Interestingly, the Latin etymology of the word is not as powerful as its spiritual meanings, referencing it to mean “lowness” and insignificance” (dictionary.com, 2016). How often do we feel lesser than someone when we know in our hearts that something about us has failed to do our best, or the right thing, or the good thing.  We are all very fragile in our day-to-day existence.  Every variable from being tired and hungry to be being insecure and afraid, prevents us from admitting our weaknesses, first to ourselves, and then to the people around us.  We are caught up in the deadly external locus of control explaining away our part in our own experiences, blaming our behaviour on this or that.  This defensiveness creates an enormous fault between people when both parties know intrinsically that something is wrong, but they are too caught up in finding out who is wrong.

With hands on hips, people in relationships make excuses for ourselves, and point fingers instead of doing the most courageous thing instead which is to admit our part.  We are too afraid that any admission of weakness will be held against us.  This sense of then being forever insignificant in the relationship for any perceived inadequacies, hold us back from bettering ourselves, and allowing others to find their way on their journey towards wholeness and enlightenment.  Elizabeth Gilbert expresses this battle with ego in her book Big Magic:  Creative Living Beyond Fear (2015)  “…when I’m being criticized and I notice myself reaching with outrage, heartache, or defensiveness. It’s just my ego, flaring up and testing its power. In such circumstances, I have learned to watch my heated emotions carefully, but I try not to take them too seriously, because I know that it’s merely my ego that has been wounded–never my soul”.  By acknowledging our woundedness in our behaviour and admitting that it does not fit with the world around us very well, we can take the first steps towards letting go of it and moving forward beyond it.

What Humility Sounds Like:  It is by listening to the soul that we learn to dialogue with self that sounds something like this in the first person:

Here is how I am weak or insecure or afraid.  As a result, I am not behaving well.  I understand that I must be difficult to be around right now.  I would like your understanding and support.  Even though some of the things that we do as a couple are frustrating to me, how I am acting is not appropriate.  I take responsibility for my part, and I am doing things to get better at things for myself, and for us.  Here is what I am trying, but I would appreciate your input.   

And here is how it can be to respond to someone who has taken this enormous step to come forward in the relationship and to lay their humble cards on the table:

I hear you.  I understand your challenges, and I am here to support you.  What can I do to make things easier for you?  I am also part of this dynamic.  Here is what I know that I could do better as well.  We are in this together.  We are only human, and we can get better at all of this together.  Tell me more.  I am listening.

What Humility Looks Like:  Humility looks like both people holding hands, and looking directly into each others’ eyes as we shed the thick skin that we have worn for so long.  It is cracking holes in the family of origin behaviour that we have defaulted to for our entire lives.  Tears of hope spring out of the wells inside of us that we believed were dry.   Once we know that we are heard without defensiveness (even in the most compelling and complex conversations), we see relief in the other’s posture and gestures that suggest that we are going to be okay.  This admission will not break us.  

It is a powerful revelation to know that we are in charge of our behaviour and not the other way around.  How liberating to know that admitting weakness is finding strength.  Jenn Win challenges us to “…find an area where you can take your humility to another level. Enjoy the looks on people’s faces when you surprise them with one of the rarest finds in mankind these days – true humility. Before you know it, you will have an army of the most loyal friends behind you, and a glow in your heart that outshines the darkest night” (2016, 1).

How to Communicate our Humility:  Like anything that helps us become a better person, communicating humility takes practice.  It is not an easy, nor does it it always feel like a natural experience for people who have avoided doing it.  We are sometimes programmed to protect ourselves, and not to let down our guards that have served to defend us for so long.  This aggressive fight and flight coping pattern in all of us has been given too much free rein in a world where a more thoughtful approach to relating with ourselves and others might afford closer human connections.

  • At the risk of telling people to be mind readers of each other’s feelings, one way to avoid long heart-felt, and sometimes, painful disclosures is to first try to anticipate each others’ needs.  Check in with each other before there is a problem.  Ask questions.  Proactively do things for the other before he or she needs to ask.  Take care to protect someone from being emotionally thirsty before he looks up for water.  Learn her targets.  Hit them.
  • In the course of a day, where a million thoughts and feelings cross our minds, make time for each other.  Sit down at the beginning, middle or end of the day — whatever works, and share our experiences.  Admit our needs.  Talk about what drives us in the right directions, and as well, in the wrong directions.  Say things like I know that I am not making sense right now, but I am afraid of what this might mean.  I don’t know what will happen.  I’m not sure that I am strong enough to handle it by myself.  As a result, I am behaving this way.  I want to do better.  What do you suggest?  And instead of responding with a roll of the eyes that expresses impatience, or counting the number of times that this very same kind of interaction has taken place over the past month, or week or day, open the lines of communication and keep them open.  Don’t leave the room.  Stick around.  Work on it.  Ask those yielding statements that encourage an open heart.  I’m not sure I understand, but tell me more.  What can I do?  How can I help?
  • Follow-up with someone after the disclosure of humility.  Once our partner has laid bear his soul, he has changed somehow.  He needs to know that he is not forgotten after this tender exchange of behaviour that he would like to improve.  He is waiting for something in terms of love and support, and in response, our partner will then blossom with this encouragement.   Take time to ask the essential questions that keep people connected.  There is nothing worse that shuffling an authentic experience under the carpet as fixed or done.  All humility is a journey.

What Next?  What follows any humble experience?  I always tell people that God speaks through honest behaviour.  When we are open and clear, and accept responsibility for our experiences with ourselves and others, life holds new possibilities.  No longer do negative emotions hold us hostage in the habit of defensive interactions.  Instead, we are forced to truly do the hard work of our own lives.  We need to make commitments and be intentional in our next steps on the journey towards an enlightened life.  We can no longer ignore our problems in favour of blaming someone else.  Instead, we have to step up and be the people we always knew that we could be.  However, by expressing our humility openly together as a couple, we can move forward through our humility with the love and support of our significant others.

“A fear of weakness only strengthens weakness.” Criss Jami

 

 

Break from Reality by Shelley Robinson: Short Story

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Break from Reality

by

Shelley Robinson

It was safer to walk beside, and not float down the Kicking Horse Corridor on this beautiful summer day.  This dangerous river just outside of the town of Golden, British Columbia, tempted many white water rafters to ride its class three and four rapids.  It raced past her heading down to the to the monstrous waves at the midpoint of the famous four-plus rapids of the “Double Trouble Lower Canyon”.  She remembered vividly that when she had rafted at the base of these waves, it was simply impossible to see above the angry foaming water.

“Wild strawberries,” Della spoke above the roar of the water, pointing out the tiny berries.  They were in search of the infamous huckleberries that grew along the banks of this dangerous river.  The wild water felt like the raging conflict inside of her that had been wearing down her empty caverns.  She did not even know who she was anymore as she operated on auto pilot under the weight of a heavy emotional fog.  Today, it lifted just enough for her to remember a major life event.  Della, who was always a good counsellor, had a knack for opening Jill up to share her memories.

They came to where the river climaxed to turbulent white water.  The rafting accident where she and a group of rafters had over-turned, still gripped her chest in retrospect.  It had been unusually high run-off from the mountains, and they had been advised that it would be a tricky run.  “It happened just over there,” Jill pointed to where they had been submerged after eddying into a large rock.  When the raft overturned, the frigid waters shocked her breath away.  Pat who had fallen in behind her, yelled at her to get out of the main current.  His voice was drowned out by the rumble of the water as she lost track of which way was up as she was tugged below.  Her canoe training course came back to her after this initial panic, and she maneuvered herself to float on her back, feet first.  After what seemed like an eternity, she surfaced to a log jutting out from the side of the bank.  It cracked under the weight of her fumbled attempt to seize it as the monster river swallowed her back into its gut.  In the final seconds before the raft turned over, she had been holding on so tightly that her hands had clawed up with numbness, making it difficult for her to grab anything after she fell in.

She felt the descent of the water become steeper and narrower as she spun through it towards the waterfall ahead.  Another rafter floated past her, grasping out at her in desperation before being pulled in another direction.  Again, she heard Pat yelling to her in indiscernible bursts each time she bounced above a wave.  She caught sight of his wet body and helmet out of the corner of her eye running along the bank.  He had escaped, but she could not seem to pull away from the grips of the rapids.  A large boulder confronted her, and she used the opportunity to thrust away from it with all of the power that her legs still provided her.  She became snagged on one of the dead trees.  Pat caught up to her a few minutes later, but could not reach her through the dense fallen timber blocking her from the shore.  “Are you okay?” he yelled.  She was unsure as she spit up water.

“Jill, when did that happen?” Della’s question roused her back to the present, away from the dramatic memory.

Jill shrugged her shoulders.  “A few years ago.”  She did not tell Della about the seed of a baby clinging to life inside of her as she fought the river to stay alive for both of them.  Three of the rafters had been taken to the hospital.  Two had sustained critical injuries.  One had died.  She had been lucky, and chose never to white water raft again.  Della commented with a fond smile, “I never knew you were such a dare devil.  You think you know someone…”  But Della did not know her, Jill confirmed to herself.

Lately, Jill had been discovering new things about herself.  She always felt like she was just on the cusp of figuring things out, but her low energy and disoriented state prevented her from actually getting her land legs.  Her thoughts were often lost to memories and dreams.  On occasion, her dreams from the night before lingered in her daytime consciousness like a heavy jet lag.  The distinctions between wakefulness and sleep were often unclear to her.  ‘Burn-out’, she concluded.  Working as an educator had dominated her life.  It kept her financially viable, but emotionally tired.  Managing students had become her forte where she really only wanted to escape from the responsibility of managing people at all.  Making sense of herself was difficult enough.

Last week, her field trip to the Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench with her grade nine students had brought about a similar type of flash back.  During the tour of this grand ‘place of law’, a building that she thought she had never visited before, she found herself knowing more about it than she could explain.  There was a marked déjà vu as they walked over the aging red carpets.  She guessed that perhaps she had gone on a field trip to this location when she had been a student which might account for her vivid understanding of the building and its functions.  For example, she knew exactly where morning chambers were held, and where the process of putting a claim forward happened.  The offices were also eerily familiar.  She described the roles of the clerk, judge and lawyers, to her students, despite her inexperience with the legal system.  She had been part of all of this before, but she could not quite figure out when that might have been.  She tried to explain this experience to Della when they met again.  Della asked, “Did you see any people that you knew?”  Jill shook her head wondering why Della would ask this question.

Jill caught herself looking out of the office window across the street to the bar with the neon light blinking out “Abanico”.  She smiled to herself about this special Salsa night club.  It had been a crazy night of dancing that had continued into the bedroom of her handsome dance partner.  “Where have you been all my life?” he repeated to her in the heat of passion and then during the much unexpected tenderness that followed.  He had confided to her his profession.  He was a doctor with a bad habit of dancing Salsa on Friday nights. He explained that he worked with children in paediatrics.  His father, had also been a doctor.

“I’m a teacher,” she let slip out some discontentment about her profession.

“And if you could do something else, what would it be?” he asked in a smooth baritone voice.

She admitted her dream.  “I’ve always wanted to study law.”

“Then why don’t you?” he dangled his fingers over her body, caressing her skin delicately.

“Time,” she paused, “Money.”

“What if a crazy doctor who had fallen instantly in love with you, offered to pay for your tuition?”

“He offered to pay for your tuition?!”  Della said in shock, snapping them both out of the story.  Jill nodded.  “Unbelievable.” Della gasped.  “I had no idea.”

Jill shrugged her shoulders, “It was a ridiculous offer, don’t you think?  He didn’t even know me.”

“It is pretty generous,” Della took off her glasses and looked at her closely.  “What happened after that?”

Jill had difficulty remembering what happened next.  Time had a way of hiding details from her.  “I don’t know,” Jill was disconcerted.  “I just know that I am super tired.  I should probably go home.  I’m not very good company.”  Della mused over this sudden departure that Jill usually made near the end of their visits.  “Call me, Jill.”  They hugged, and Jill left the building quickly.

That night she found it more difficult to respond to her boyfriend Gavin’s affection.  He was her first love and was the one that had gotten away.  However, she could not shake the memories of that magical night of passion with the doctor all those years ago. “What’s wrong?”  Gavin asked when she was more tentative to his touch than normal.

“Nothing.  Tired, probably,” and she made a point of rolling over and kissing him deeply.  He was always there when she needed him.  However, being with him always seemed a bit surreal to her.  His ageless curly dark hair and ocean blue eyes made her shiver with love and excitement.

“You seem distracted,” he noticed.  She confided to Gavin about her recent memory of Pat, leaving out the details.

“Did you love him?”

“I think so,” she was genuinely confused.

“Do you still love him?”  She could not answer him because she was not entirely sure.  This fatal hesitation to reply to Gavin right away, filled the room with a difficult pause.  He got up to leave the room.  She called after him. “I’m sorry, Gavin.  Please come back.”  She coerced him to return to her open arms.  He removed the space between them and held her tightly.  “It was just a weird memory of my past coming back through the years.” His quick forgiveness of her confirmed that he was just a little too good to be real.

He touched her cheek gently, and whispered, “I love you.”  He sometimes had no limits as to what he would accept from her, even her telling him memories of past lovers like Pat.  Gavin’s tolerance for almost everything about her was truly remarkable.  But lately, there was a disconnect between them that pushed her further away from him into her dreams and fantasies.

That night, the large king-sized bed and their large comforter was not big enough to prevent Gavin’s restless tossing from keeping her awake.  She eventually dozed off in the early morning light after he left for work.  Her morning dream was vivid, leaving her with an unconscious emotional hangover in the wake of it.

She dreamed that she was having dinner with a large family of about ten people around a beautifully sanded cedar plank table. The tall windows of this dining room had elegant stained glass flowers at the top of each panel.  This family had probably had hundreds of family dinners together in this very room.  Everyone was laughing.  Even though the faces of the people were foggy, they were familiar enough for her to know that they were her family.  The youngest boy who looked to be in his early teens was joking and doing impressions of his grandfather while everyone was egging him on.  The cow lick on the front of his hair line was distinctly Jill’s cow lick.  Was it her nephew or perhaps her son?  The grandmother of the group came in with a large plump turkey glistening with a butter glaze.  She could smell the mashed potatoes and gravy.  At this point, she felt the hand on her leg of the man who she assumed to be her husband.  His presence was reassuring.

The alarm clock startled her awake, ripping her out of the dream.  The family faces and conversations evaporated into the light of day.  She rehearsed the faces of the boy, the grandmother, the grandfather and a husband before she fully awoke. She tried to memorize each one of them before she drifted into focus of her bedroom with the flower pot of lilies on the window sill; her dream catcher pinned to the mirror; the picture of the Westminster Abbey on the wall; Gavin’s pants on the floor.  She shut her eyes.  The family of her dreams slowly disappeared the harder that she tried to retrieve them into consciousness.

Today, after a full teaching day, walking through the motions of teaching five different high school English classes, she left school as soon as the final bell rang at 3:15 PM.  Her years of teaching had established a survival cycle that carried her through to the very last second of the school day until the last student waved good-bye.  She would then shut the window blinds, organize the room, and behind closed doors, take off her cheerful teacher masque.  It was not uncommon for her to leave school to go home and sleep for a couple of hours—exhausted.  Then she would begin her routine of making food and participating in conversation with Gavin about her seemingly interesting, but relatively meaningless day teaching reading and writing skills to students who would likely never read another book, let alone write anything interesting after graduating.

Today, she decided to go to the mall.  Her wardrobe would benefit from a couple of new dresses.  However, despite her good intentions of retail therapy, the mall quickly overwhelmed her and she realized that she did not have the energy to undress and redress into different garments to see if they suited her.  Instead, she sat in the food court while hundreds of people roamed around her carrying shopping bags, or holding the hands of noisy toddlers.  Senior gentlemen played cards on one of the tables in the corner.  Rap music lured teenagers into clothing stores.  Some of these teenagers were her students, but they did not seem to recognize her.  A few store employees were hanging Halloween decorations.

Then she saw his face.  It was the same freckled adolescent face from her dream.  Her heart constricted inside of her in recognition, and she stood up to see him more clearly around the people blocking her view.  He was perusing the newest software titles in the window of a technology store.  She started to walk towards him, and then at the last minute, hung back.  His loose skater T-shirt hung over his jeans which he wore low on his hips.  He slouched as he walked, and met up with a couple of his friends who all looked to be about fourteen years old.

She discreetly watched him discussing and pointing at some of the products in the store, until he waved good bye to the boys to leave them.  She decided to follow him and reasoned that by doing so, she might be able to find the family in her dream—her family.  She ran to her car to park near the bus stop where he sat waiting a few meters away.  He was plugged into his phone, oblivious to her watching him.  He eventually boarded the bus, and she easily followed the cumbersome white whale as it made its way in and out of traffic.

While she drove behind him, the memory of a baby came back to her.  In her mind now there was a baby that had survived the rafting accident.  Several months after the incident, the baby had slowly and painfully emerged from her body with the assistance of the doctor’s forceps after a thirty-four hour labour.  Each hour of the delivery was vivid:  the water breaking; the back labour, and then finally his dramatic entrance into her life with a large head, and a big cry.  Her recent dreams always involved a son.  However, these memories of motherhood did not align with her present reality.  The war of what was the truth or fantasy raged inside of her, but the tangible facts broke through her psyche in large staccato bursts.  There was no child in her life!

She continued to navigate behind the bus as it slowed and started again with people loading and disembarking.   It headed out of town into the suburbs where the houses and the yards increased in size and price.  She drove past a large sub-urban school of the rich and famous where the public “haves” were considerably more than the “have-nots” of her school.  Next she drove past golfers warming up on the driving range in the foreground of the Rocky Mountains.

When he finally did jump off of the bus, they were in one of the wealthiest sub-divisions on the westside of town.  The houses were no longer the bungalows of the city that she knew from her childhood.  These were five and ten thousand square foot mansions that were owned by the city’s wealthy doctors, lawyers and politicians.  As he walked through his neighbourhood, he waved to people he recognized on the street.  He did not notice her following him discretely from a block away.

He made his way to a large well-established brown sandstone mansion that was on the peak of this hillside community.  It was a heritage home that had been here long before the newer community below it had developed.  The old turrets on the corners of the house made a grand architectural statement.  Large picture windows looked out to the foothills beyond, and welcomed the setting sun this evening.  She drove closer to confirm that the glass was topped with the beautiful designs of irises and pansies that she remembered from the house in her dream.  It was the same house.

She realized that to follow him any further to the crest of this cul de sac might reveal her presence to the boy and his family, but she decided to take this risk rationalizing that she was doing nothing wrong.  The boy continued to be unaware of her as he walked through the elegant metal gateway and up to a man on the front lawn who had been inspecting the garden with clippers in hand.  Their postures and mannerisms were the same.  Their mutual affection was obvious even from this distance as the father patted his son’s back.

The tall grey-hared man pulled up his glasses and she could see his eyes and dark eyebrows.  They were the same eyes that had looked through her as they danced the night away all those years ago.  They were the eyes of the doctor who had offered her a future.  It was the Pat who had frantically run along the banks of the river helping to save her when their raft had overturned.  He was the husband in her dreams and the father of the little being within her.  In a rash decision to understand this story completely, she got out of the car.  It was still difficult to see his face, and when he saw her standing beside the car, he gave no sign of recognition.

She reached into her memories trying to pummel them to life.  What was happening?  A snake of trepidation suddenly bit her with reality.  Maybe she had never really met this guy.  Perhaps this was all just a crazy dream.   Maybe his promises to make all of her dreams come true had not really happened.  Almost as if on cue, a beautiful woman stepped out onto the enormous covered veranda and called out to him.  “Pat!” She suspected that it was his wife.  The boy waved at the woman and then turned to peer out at Jill.  The truth socked her in the stomach.  If she had not actually met Pat, then where did all of these memories and dreams come from?  They were such believable stories with details that had pointed her here towards something so tangible.

Suddenly afraid, she got back into the car.  She was certain that she and Pat had a connection, but she was no longer confident that it was a link with reality.  Perhaps she was living on the cusp of two realities—one real and the other in her dreams.  She was paralyzed with confusion, unable to start the ignition and put the car into gear to go home to Gavin.

Tears leaked from her eyes as she willed herself to drive away from the house that housed the family that had loved her so openly in her dream.  She had always wanted a family like that.  She looked out at Pat and found that he was now looking at her inquiringly, shielding his eyes from the sun.  He was probably asking himself who this crazy woman was casing his house.  She let out a despairing sigh.  The memory of the frozen currents of that long ago river made her hands go numb on the steering wheel as she fought to hold on.

Regaining her composure, she thought about Gavin and the wonderful future that lay ahead of them if she could only let go of this ridiculous fantasy.   He was her best friend from her childhood, and he made sense to her.  He never aged.  He never changed.  Anything else was simply too confusing.  She finally found the courage to leave.

The knock at her window startled her as the boy beckoned her to open it.  After fumbling to do so, he sounded exasperated, “Mom, what are you doing?  Aunty Marie has supper ready and I’m hungry too.  Dad’s been waiting for both of us for a while.  Why are you sitting out here in the car?”

She froze and fell forward onto the hot steering wheel.  And then what might have been became her new reality.

Coast to Coast Calling: Poem by Shelley Robinson

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Coast to Coast Calling

by

Shelley Robinson

 

Impenetrable darkness

The Pacific bonfire questions the night sky

“How bright am I?”

 

Aurora’s luminescent spirits

hiss at the stars

 

Thunderbird’s wings

slash open the skies

 

Forest’s wild flames

scratch the night awake

 

Cygnus’ crystals in milky galaxies

flicker and fall

 

Light wars

Merely distractions

The Atlantic waters

quietly phosphorescent

reply

 

“I see you”

Full Moon Madness in Thailand by Shelley Robinson

 

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Thailand has a wonderful tradition at New Years.  I happened to stumble across it at a time when I was making regular prison breaks from the grid of my everyday life.  More and more regularly, I was taking off somewhere interesting and especially at Christmas time.  Like the all-consuming undertows of work, I found the commercialism of the North American Christmas an even more difficult current to swim against.  I decided to spend every second of my two week holiday exploring Bangkok, Chang Mai, Chang Rai and then the mountains along the Miramar border.

2013 came to me on the city streets of Chang Mai along with a group of travellers from all over the world.  We were curious about the Thai traditions that welcomed absolutely everyone out onto the streets lighting fire crackers, and singing into the night sky.  Vendors sold rice paper balloon lanterns.  The seller who sold me mine, told me to write three things that I hoped to let go of from 2012 on the thin white rice paper.  He smiled when he watched me do this as he could sense my hesitation.  He then encouraged me to choose three things that I wanted to have happen to me in the new year, and write it on the other side of the lantern.

Words came our easily for me in the negative:  “fear, fatigue, and regret”.  What was a bit trickier was for me to find renewed happy inspiration for my next earth orbit around the sun.  I felt a bit of pressure from others as they waited for my black marker to write on their lanterns.  I took a stab and wrote, “new love, writing and travel”.  He then helped me open my fragile lantern so that the candle that he lit could breathe life into it.  We raised it higher and released it upwards until a gentle breeze grabbed it and lifted it away from us.  It continued up into the atmosphere amidst the thousands of others that were doing the same thing on this night of full moon madness.  I kept my arms opened wide while it rose higher and higher becoming a small speck of light floating up towards the stars.

The magic of a million firefly lanterns twinkled the feelings of everyone around me.  Tonight was a pyromaniac’s paradise as some lanterns rose easily, and others faltered and fell into the trees.  I was happy that mine had not fallen.  What compassion the 2012 night sky had for us as it swallowed up all of our woes and wishes.  The slow motion fireworks of this societal tradition exploded outside and inside of me until I burst wide open.  And then, rather unexpectedly on my solo Christmas journey to be lost in another country, I found myself again.

 

Our Days: Poem by Shelley Robinson

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Our Days

Our days

float in one at a time

entering with the cat scratching

Sometimes funny moments sprinkle

over toast and coffee

 

Our family runs in the front door and then out the back

They stumble over the morning paper

on the stoop

which we read and then later use to line garbages

 

The sun rises

Then it sets

And suddenly we have achieved a series of them

These days and nights

that sketch out memories,

the only sustainable resource

of a lifetime

 

Watercolour washes

layer upon layer

a vibrant canvass

 

We mat and frame it

Hang it on our walls

Call it a lifetime

The masterpiece of a million breaths

 

*Note:

This poem is in honour of Vera Beattie who, in my mind, was a masterpiece of a human being, and the dear mother of my good friend Heather Beattie.