LOVE

I began an experiment last year.
With every encounter, every decision, every choice,
I asked myself, “How much more Loving can I be?”

I was feeling and noticing
how I constricted and contracted I was becoming.
My body stiffening up and tightening up, mummifying,
Reflecting the energy I was pulling in, hoarding, keeping for myself.

Filling the cracks, weatherproofing, insulating
Against the fear,
Against the news,
Against the hatred and the horns and the shouting.
Building a barrier against falling into the chasm.

Who do you love best? Hazel asked from the back seat of my car.
Your mama or your dad?

And that threw me,
that at five years old,
she is already rating love
and who deserves it most.

Who do you love best? She asked

I love them both the best, I answered.
And then tossed it back to her,
Who do you love best?

My mama, she says.
Quickly, confidently, with conviction.
Because my daddy always tricks me.

And that’s true, he does, he has a trickster nature,
but it’s wrapped in puppy playfulness, never cruelty

Maybe he’s teaching you discernment, I said
and that’s a very loving thing to do.

And then we talked about that big word,
about judging, about trusting and about betrayal
another big word.

And we talked about curiosity,
about feeling into our hearts,
feeling for the truth, for the love, always the love

And I asked her,
Does your dad love you?
Can you feel his love?

Yes, she said, yes.
He makes me hot chocolate, but not too hot.
And he makes me laugh,
He’s goofy and funny.

Yes, I said, that’s the trickster in him.

He’s a shapeshifter, she said, just like me.
Because she knows about shapeshifting
and she’s learning the language of her soul,

How to rise above and be the witness,
but that it’s also okay to fall into our bodies
and cry and cry and cry sometimes.

Because though we come from the stars
we’re also human.

And a friend called me later that day,
asking me to play Lady MacBeth
In a production coming up soon.

And I looked down at the palms of my hands
to see if there were still flecks of blood on them
from pulling the knife from my back

And for a moment I can feel his fist around my heart,
still squeezing, squeezing, squeezing,
even as he handed her the knife

Does it hurt where you come from?
I asked the knife in my back,
the hand holding the knife,
blood pooling and dripping.

Does it hurt where you come from?
Is it full of sharp edges and sharp words and
Broken glass that cut open your feet
so you can’t trust where you walk?

We are not born knowing how to love,
she answered back to me.

Because the knife was a woman,
a long steel-blade,
a cross-fit champion full of hard edges.

And I wanted to take her hand then,
ice cold as it was,
and wrap it in my heart
and say, here, here, here is where love lives,

You can live inside my heart
until yours warms up,
you can find the love that overflows like blood
from the fist that he is squeezing.

Drops of blood I string together
and wear against my innocence,
Like my grandmother’s pearl necklace
Like a talisman of healing

And then I felt Rumi and Shams
whirling and whirling and whirling
a dervish deep inside my soul

Dancing the song of Love
Elton John’s Tiny Dancer
tap tap tap dancing the love alive

And Hazel laughed and laughed and laughed

And isn’t she made of both of us?
And isn’t that divine perfection?
His fist around my heart and my heart in his hand

Letting go, letting to, letting go
Heartbeat by heartbeat by heartbeat
Mine, his, hers

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Inspired by Betty White

What if,
instead of resolutions
We took vows?

Vows of kindness
of compassion
of empathy

Of lightness
of love
of laughter

Of Caring….

Caring about others
Caring about animals and plants and trees and dirt and worms and snails and slugs

Even mice and rats and bats and spiders
Even those we find scary or repulsive or repugnant

What if each day,
we looked for the moments of wonder,
of awe,
of beauty?

What if we really did live like Betty White?

What if we found a way to laugh
Just once,
If only, just once,
Every day.

Just think….

All those moments,
Each day,
Every day
Added up,

Strung together
like a paper chain we learned to make in school

And what if —

Like the children we once were
we believed
once again
In the possibility of All Things?

If we believed in
the wonder, the magic, the awe, the laughter

Imagine what a year we could live…..

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Pondering Faith

This weekend my brother came for tea, and when he had tipped the last of it into his mouth, he took the pruning shears from my hands – the new red-handled ones – and began to cut and snip and prune the dead branches from the blue spruce that grew up behind the deck.

Then he began to cut through the thicker branches, the ones with needles still growing on them. And he pruned and he cut and he pruned and he cut and he pruned and he cut, reaching higher and higher, dragging the fallen branches into a pile near the back gate.

Until after he stepped back, the red shears hanging by his side, all that was left was a tall tree trunk crowned with a perfect Christmas tree at the top.

And suddenly, the deck was bathed in sunlight. Sunlight that had been trapped and blocked by the branches of the blue spruce.

And isn’t that what faith is? The sunlight behind the branches? The hands that took up the shears? The sister who handed him the shears?

And the next day I sat on a bench by the ocean. The one in front of the community gardens, full of kale trees, and the heads of sunflowers, and the last of the rainbow swiss chard. And I watched the paddleboarder and the woman who scrambled over the boulders in front of me because it was low tide and the beach now uncovered.

And isn’t that faith? To know the boulders are there even when the sea rises high above them.
To know the sun is behind my back, even as the rain clouds dance their way across the strait in front of me.

Isn’t faith the bird with the wings of hope that dances in Emily Dickinson’s heart? Or is it her soul?  
Is it Faith that sings Hope alive, or is it the song that transmutes Hope into Faith?

The edges of my life are outlined in Faith, painted by the brush held by Death.
Like a cashmere blanket that greets me at the end of a long day, She wraps Herself around me,
Even now.

And isn’t Faith like Love? Ephemeral, gossamer and always there, even when I forget.
Especially when I forget.

And Faith is knowing that you are there, reading these words, feeling my love,
Knowing that time and space are constructs
That can never keep us apart.

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Curiosity Saved the Cat

Curiosity, I think, is the antidote to so much of the fear and hatred we see around us.

~ Mira Jacob ~

“Is that a castle?” My almost five-year old granddaughter asks from the backseat, her voice riding waves of wonder and awe.

I’m driving her to a weekly art class at Arts Umbrella and we’re stopped on Nelson Street waiting to turn right onto Burrard. Right outside her window is St. Andrew’s United Church. With its huge stone construction and towering turrets, it does look like a castle.

Hazel is heavy into Princesses, and so far, castles have existed only in books, Disney movies and her imagination. Until now. Until one magically appeared right outside her car window.

“Is that a castle?” She repeats, louder this time. Incredulous.

“That looks like a castle,” I agree, “But that’s a church.”

“What’s a church?”

This is a big question. One that brings an entire worldview into her life.

And we talked about the energy that makes our bodies move and breath, and how prayers are like wishing good things for people, and how Hazel would wish for there to be no bullies in the world. And we both agreed that that was a really great wish.

And we talked about myths and fairy tales and how truth is sometimes wrapped up in the telling of a story.

And we talked about imagination. And curiosity. And asking lots and lots and lots of questions.

Because curiosity didn’t kill the cat. That’s a myth. A myth told to keep us small and contained and following the rules of a society that was built on lies. Lies told to stop the questions from being asked. To stop the pushing, the prodding, the poking holes in the fabric of a confined existence.

Curiosity freed the cat. Allowed the cat to live nine lives.

Imagine what might happen if we nourished the natural curiosity that kids inhabit? If we never stopped asking, “What if?”

If we imagined living lives other than our own.

If we imagined churches were castles, and castles were churches, and we were all just pretending, playing a game of make-believe? What then?

What if we stopped assuming we knew everything? What if questions were the windows into compassion? Into a life filled with kindness and generosity and inclusion.

Just imagine…

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Doing What We Can, Where We Can – With Love

I’ve been thinking about this quote for a while, which got me contemplating Sacred Activism….and then I began writing. I do my best figuring out while writing…..

I’m told that planning is underway for another round of protests outside of hospitals.

And I said, when I found out —
that I can’t imagine the moral depravity,
the completely empty space where their hearts must surely be beating.

A friend calls them “COVIDIOTS who live in an alternate reality.”
He says that 87% of the population believe in the vaccines and masks and measures that keep each other safe…
And that society is broken, broken, broken

And I am struck again and again and again
That in this alternate reality where those other 23% live,
That it’s a reality clearly without love.

Because —
If they felt love
If their hearts were whole,
then surely they wouldn’t,
they couldn’t…..

And then I remember about the Universe,
And her calling me to Love,
to love even the Taliban

And, somehow, somehow,
weirdly somehow
The Taliban are easier to Love
because they’re in a far-away land.

Not just down the street from me,
gathering under the windows
of people who are suffering
of people who are dying

Mother of God
Why?

Please tell me why my heart hardens so quickly
Why I’m so quick to judge,
to condemn,
to leap to anger and rage and despair.

And I know the answer,
even as I type the question,
because all of the Mary’s live inside of me.
Live through me

Although,
sometimes,
oftentimes,
many times,
I live in the forgetfulness of my humanity

And I’m quick to swim in the ocean of fear
fed by my own rivers of hopelessness,
My mind running the never-ending film of apocalyptic
horrors

And yet,
and even so,
I know the only way out of this mess
we have created,
is to Love.

Nourish,
Nurture,
Cultivate,
Love

When I want to hate,
When I want to rail against the lies, the injustice, the depravation
When I see grown adults behaving
like bullies in a schoolyard,
chasing, mocking and
coughing in the faces
of those who are masked

When I want to curl up and weep
or
Run outside and rage

God and Her Mother
find a way to remind me,
Always, always, always

To bring me back to Love,
Back to a practice of Loving Kindness,
One deep breath at a time,
One small step at a time,
One small action at a time.

I remind myself that I can
Condemn the Action
AND
Love the Being.

(And if you don’t believe in
God,
If even seeing that word causes you to cringe
As it once did me,
Tied up so tightly in a book I hadn’t read
Painted in patriarchy
Then leave it behind,
and take just the message.)

When I feel the stirrings of unrest in my heart
I ask myself,
What is the most loving action I can take?
How can I love more?

With strength
With compassion
With ferocity

And I write this all
as a reminder to ME,
Fear exists only,
where Love isn’t present

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The Call of The Universe

Forest Night Shot with Many twinkling stars.

The smoke has finally cleared, the air cooled, and the lake is no longer bathwater warm. Finally, once again, I can look up in the night sky and see the stars that call me home. I can see the moon as she rises over the spruce and cedar trees standing sentry by the narrow dirt road.

They are backlit, for a time, my beloved Ladies, those Queens, my Grandmothers in Green, so tall they seem to pierce the blackness, to make the stars with their needle tips.

I can breathe once more now that I can see Beyond. Now that I can trace my way back to the Beginning.

I lie down on the lawn that is more clover and dandelion than grass, and already damp with evening dew. There is no looking up at the stars without first laying my whole body flat onto the earth, as if to reach down and hold tightly the roots of the spruce and cedar trees that surround me. As if to stop myself from flying away.

My sister stands beside me, her neck craned backwards. How do you do that? I wonder, how can you stand there so simply, and not loose your body? Not drift out of your body and float, float, float upwards towards the stars?

And so, I press my hands into the grass and feel the earth under my bare legs. Hold me, Grandmother, hold me, I whisper as I gaze upwards at my home in the sky.

I can hear the Universe calling me, calling me, calling me, and she sometimes scares me with the power of her voice. I can feel the hard boundaries of my body begin to soften, and it’s only when I’m cradled by Mother Earth that I feel safe enough to let go, to surrender to the tension of the pull from above and the pull from below. When I can settle into the Temple of my own Being and let my heart once more become a  receiver. A receiver for the knowing of the Divine Heart.

What shall I know? I ask, What shall I know? For my Highest Good and Well-Being, what shall I know?

Just Love, just Love, just Love, She answers back. Love them all, Love Everything.

Love Everything? Love them all?
ALL of them? I ask,
Even, Even, even…..
Even the Taliban? I ask

Even the Taliban, she answers.

How? How? How, how how? I ask,
How can I love the Taliban?

Ahhh, She says,
Start with the Taliban within you.

Ohhh, ohhh, ohhh, and my heart burns like the wildfires
that burned all around me this summer,
and the Spruce and the Cedar stand sentry,
bowing their branches before me.
Listen, listen listen they whisper,
Listen

Find the Taliban within me
the one who wants
to control, to control, to control,
to judge and diminish

Love even that part of myself.
Forgive even that part of myself.

Let the Earth take that part of myself,
take the shadow and
transmute, transmute, transmute

What is in the One is in the whole

I look up at my Sister Stars and they dance that mystical law alive
drawing gossamer lines of light between them,
until the entire sky becomes a mystical, magical web of interconnection.

What is in the Whole is in the One

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Cheerios From Heaven

My shaman friend Lucy came to me last night
And whispered in my ear,
Mary, it’s always been Mary.

And even though her wild woman hair
Was smoothed down into a 60’s flip,
I knew she spoke the Truth.

And even though I’m not Catholic,
Have never been Catholic,
Can’t even call myself Christian,

I wake in the night with
Ave Maria singing through my soul,
As if She herself woke me.
As if to say, I’m here, always here.

And if that’s not a sign from beyond,
I don’t know what is.

When I was looking for a house to buy,
After the tsunami washed away my old life,
I prayed to my dead father.

And by praying, I meant spoke to him
As if he were sitting at the table,
Right beside me.
As if he were eating a big bowl of cheerios
Just waiting for my questions to come.

Dad, I said, if this house is right for me
Send me a sign,
And make it clear.
No white feathers in this land of seagulls.

I parked in the back,
On the expanse of grease-stained cement
That led from the house
To the lane.

I toured through the house
Where three families once lived.
Are you my home?
I asked the air
Dad? I asked, Dad?

I pushed open the sliding glass door
To the view of the sea,
To the view of the cement parking lot below me.

I toed a quarter on the peeling-paint-balcony.
Not a penny, not a dime.
A hole in a pocket sign.
A fumbling hand sign.

Until one quarter led to another, and another and another
Nickles, dimes, quarters
A pigg-bank pile,
Too many for a pocket to hold.

This is not your house,
My dad said,
This is a money pit.
And he went back to eating Cheerios in the land of Beyond.

Last night I dreamt of my shaman friend Lucy,
Who whispers the truth of Mary in my ear.
And Lucy is my own shaman self
Whispering my own Truth alive.

And Mary is the feminine within all of us.
She is the Wisdom of the Wild Woman.
And that Wild Woman is me,
Dancing Fierce Love alive.

The Fierce Love I need for today
To keep my heart open,
Amidst headline after headline after headline.
And a world that pushes and pushes and pushes
To constrict the Fullness of the Female.
The Female in all of us.

She is the one within me who holds the door open
For those in mourning,
For those grieving,
For those swimming in the sea of loss, of longing, of despair.

Whose doors are shut against the tide of tears,
That threaten, that threaten, that threaten.

She is my father’s breast I can no longer lean against.
She is my father showering coins.
She is the All of We,
The We of Me and the We of You.

She is Seven in front of me,
And Seven behind.

And who am I not to believe
That coins dropped on a rotten balcony
Are not cheerios from Heaven? 

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Raising Dragon Slayers

Loïc was throwing rocks off the dock with two of his uncles, a favourite activity for a five-year old boy, when suddenly he stopped, arms full of newly gathered rocks, and studied the trees standing sentry high on the bank.

“What is that?” He asked, looking westward.

“That’s the sun,” His Uncle Jared responded.

“No, it’s not,” Loïc furrowed his brow. He was five and a half and knew what the sun looked like, and it didn’t look like that strange orange thing glowing through the trees.

Jared reminded him of the wildfires that are burning our part of the world and pointed to the smoky haze that shrouded the lake, and talked of the ash we had just washed off our cars.

We’re well into the fourth wave of Covid, driven by an ever-changing, never-ending virus, and too many unvaccinated people. Loïc has stopped talking about ‘the end of the malady’ and readily slips his mask on over his ears. Rather than a book at Chapters, he instead chose a rainbow-coloured hand-sanitizer to clip to his backpack. This is his normal – we’re raising our children in an apocalyptic world.

A world in crisis
A worldwide reckoning
Long overdue

We don’t push the truth away from our children.

We talk to them about the little pairs of shoes lining the steps of the cenotaph in Hope, where we stopped on our way to the lake. We explain to Hazel why she can’t play with the sparkly unicorn and stuffed bear set amongst them. She takes it in, as much as a four-year old can.

I came across this quote on twitter.

“Never feel sorry for raising dragon slayers in a time where there are actual dragons.”

Dragons that we are growing and feeding –
With our reluctance and refusal to vaccinate.
With our continued use of fossil fuels.

By valuing bigger and better,
And more, more, more
instead of the
trees that are burning and
the ice that is melting.

Instead of the land we walk on and the air we breathe.

And my job is to foster their faith.
To infuse their little hearts with
the belief in the possible and
the love of the unknown


Of the magical mystery,
of the maybes,
of the who knows,
of the what if’s

We need to nurture our Dragon Slayers in the realm of possibilities, where Hope grows in abundance, if they’re to stand a chance against the Darkness we’re leaving behind.

Let them know the horrific truth of the world into which they are born, yes,

But let them also dream of the possibilities of unicorns and faeries and sprites that dance in dimensions simply unseen.

Let them skirt along the edges of the imperceptible
Balance the weight of Truth and Reality
With the infinity of imagination

Who are we to say that unicorns don’t exist, simply because we haven’t seen any?

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Used To Be

**take a hard right at the narrows and go all the way to the end of the arm – there you’ll find Salmon Arm**

“What is ‘used to’..?” my grandson interrupts, strapped in his seat in the back of the car. He’s been listening to my conversation with his mom while we’ve been stuck in traffic heading into town from our place at the lake.

‘Stuck in traffic’ should be an oxymoron, but instead, now defines my hometown. The place I want to get back to, the small town of my youth, of my childhood. The place we moved to when I was eight years old.

A small farming community then, before it became a tourist destination and retirement haven. Before the discovery of the lake and the mountains and the valley that sweeps between, as if God herself tipped over her glass of awe and seeded it with wonder and beauty.

Back then, in the world of ‘used to be’, when summers meant no shoes and living in bathing suits and making horses out of hay bales and then dunking hot, itchy bodies into the slimey coolness of the horse trough, the one the real horses drank from as their tails swished away the ever-present flies.

As we creep along the never-ending road construction, I been point out landmarks that are no longer there. Telling stories about each one as we pass.

That’s where Gruck’s (aka Grandma) gift shop used to be.
That’s where the motel with the bumper boats used to be.
That’s where there used to be a wooden bridge.

“What does ‘used to’ mean?” My grandson asks.

I point down the long road, the one with a traffic light, with the cement plant just past one corner and Dollarama on the other.

“See waaay down that road? Do you see a long white building? That’s a chicken barn, and that’s where I used to live when I was little. Used to means a long time ago. Back in the days of before.

Before yesterday and yesterday and yesterday. Before all of the tomorrows lined up in a row in front of you. Before all of the days, is where Used To lives.”

Back when this was a two-lane road masquerading as the Transcanada Highway, not a four-lane  super-highway-wannabe, Used-To-Be was quietly growing inside of me.  It lives In the Land of Before.

 I tell Loïc, “Used To Be lives inside of me, like you live inside of me when you’re not with me.”

“I used to be four years old,” Loic intones seriously, “Now I’m five years old.”

“That’s right.”

“Five and a half,” he corrects himself.

“And before that you were three years old” —

“And before that I was two years old,” he takes over. “And one years old!”

“That’s right – all the used to be you’s.”

He returns his attention out the window, smiling with his new knowing.

I have a friend who paints galaxies we’ve never seen. Planets and stars with streaks of energy pulsating through them. Deep blues and purples and greens. Sparks of white. He wakes in the night with visions of where he’s been and births a world onto canvases.

He thrums with the awakening of lifetimes of Used To Be’s.

Of the births of stars
Of the journey of souls.

Used-to-be is a place that lives inside all of us.

As we walk towards our tomorrows we carry our yesterdays with us.
The coalescence of all that was and all that will be.

Where all of our hometowns live.

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Matriarch

I look at my hands as they type these words and I see my mother’s hands. Same with my feet, I have my mother’s feet, and for that I’m thankful. They are strong and healthy, with straight toes and not a bunion or corn in sight. They are summer feet, in that they look good bare and in strappy, barely-there sandals.

My mom starts wearing her sandals as soon as the snow leaves the ground, and by the time July rolls around the sun has already tanned her feet a dark brown. She carries the tattooed memory of her sandals long into the dark winter months.

She grew up on a farm in northern Alberta, the daughter of two home-steading pioneers – a school-teacher and a champion oat-grower.  I grew up hearing the stories she told of her childhood, until they became mythical, my mind filling in the pictures to go with the words of her life.

 Of how she could walk along the barbed-wire fence, barefoot, arms out-stretched, balancing along the sharp-edged tightrope.

Of how she and her best friend, Elisabeth, rode Dinah along the narrow country lane to their piano lessons each week. Doubling bareback, Elisabeth’s arms threading around my mom’s waist, they’d yell a warning as they approached a corner, “Two girls on a white horse!”

Of summers spent swimming in the river, of boxed lunches at church socials, of everyone drinking out of the same bucket of water at school and using the same metal scoop and no one got sick.

Story after story after story, until her father died suddenly from a heart attack when she was fourteen-years old. The same time her older brother left home to go to college.

Then, suddenly, it was just the two of them living in the city of Grande Prairie, my mother and her own, schoolteacher, widowed mother. The beloved farm sold, the equipment auctioned off.

A heroine’s journey begun at the transection of teenage angst and the grief of loss.

Today that fourteen-year-old girl turned 83 years old. On a wall in her den hangs five large photographs, one for each of her five children on the day they married. The grooms in suits and the brides in various styles of wedding dresses. I’m the one wearing my mother’s wedding dress – the one she designed and wore when she married my father when she was eighteen and he was twenty-one.

On a narrow shelf under the tableau of photos, is a train of smaller pictures of her thirteen grandchildren, the youngest one fourteen-years old.

In the living room is the ever-evolving arrangement of her growing brood of seven (so far) great-grandchildren.

Her most prized accomplishments are the branches of her family tree, the ones growing from the roots and trunk of her own DNA.

My mother is adopted, and that single fact has informed her life perhaps more than any other. More than anyone who wasn’t adopted can imagine or fathom. More than I knew growing up.

My mother grew up surrounded by love, and at the same time, she grew up with the wound that adoption unintentionally inflicts. Of abandonment, and shame, and guilt, and secrets, secrets, secrets.

At 83years old, she knows she can carry both at the same time – Love and Loss. One does not negate the other, but Love can ease and soothe and help carry the weight of Loss.

Which brings me back to my mother’s feet. And my own.

I look at her strong feet and think of the millions of steps they have taken. The worlds they have walked through, the babies they have carried, the work they have done.

The imprint of love they have left behind.

I look at my feet and see her feet. I walk in the wisdom of her footsteps.

Happy Birthday Mom.

The Matriarch of our family.

Want to know where I got my writing gene?…My mom wrote a memoir called The Book of Mom

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