Je T’aime

Now, I must say good bye to you, though you are already gone. And I do not know why I must write this: this, the most difficult of all things to put into words. It is not within my powers of expression to write the words that would be a fitting eulogy, though perhaps I might be able to capture something of how I find myself wanting to live in that deep certainty of joy that you taught me. That joy lives in me, viscerally; that even as I weep, I feel its call to experience deeply and fully with no reserve. This is the gift you have given me, which is beyond words.

Still, I shall write some more words. That you once told me that simply to hold my hand was your idea of happiness. That when I fell asleep in your arms, you would not move for fear of disturbing my rest. That in those moments of fine rapture we murmured ‘babe’ to each other in tone and feeling that echoed the great love language of English poets. That your delight in loving me was the greatest compliment I have ever been paid.

That you told me you would try to find a million ways in which to tell me that you loved me. That every time you told me that you loved me I was thrilled and moved to the centre of my being. That you will never again tell me that you love me; even so, it lies here in my heart and cannot be dislodged or shaken.

We do not get to the final movement of our symphony, you and I. I shall always envision you in the glorious, heat-soaked foothills landscape; the sky, and the possibilities, endless. Some echo of our music shall linger there forever, I believe. Our human hearts grapple with the mysteries of love and life and death and loss…perhaps it is simply to comfort myself that I write these words inadequate to tell of my love, and my desolation. But this, this I feel with a certainty – that within this cauldron of swirling memories lies the promise of rebirth, for to love another is to immortalize some part of ourselves.

I find I cannot say good bye, and words of love spoken to empty air bring no consolation. To return to the beginning is perhaps to honour the spiral of life and death – I shall live with the joy of having been loved by you. Je t’aime.

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Symphony

She gazes out the window at the long stretch of sandy beach – luscious even in the rain – and wonders where he is. She wonders, too, at how he has won her heart, for she knows she gives herself to him…Oh, not in the archaic notion of woman gives herself to man, rather, in the most beautiful sense of all: to be open to another human being in every way possible.

She knows, in some unfathomable way, that these are merely the opening chords of the cosmic symphony of love. The quick and bright notes that form the first movement: shared laughter. Lying in soft, musty hay in an old barn. Watching how he sits his horse, and moves with the animal. How he looks at her, and how he speaks to her. Late nights and early dawns and rainy days of adventures. Want and desire…

The second movement is slower, more at ease – dinners at home. Movies and popcorn, and storm-watching from the warmth of inside and the warmth of together. Long, lazy breakfasts. Work that takes them apart, and the fierce joy of coming home to him. Coming home – oh, such joy!

Always, there is play, and humour and warmth are the theme of the third movement. He can move her to tears, but more often she is laughing out loud. His presence never fails to fill her with the wonder and grace of it all…And he plays like a boy, and she, like a girl.

The fourth movement is vivacious: full of the love of life and each other. It is not an ending, for the echoes of this symphony will reverberate in quiet meadows, and in lush canyons of the tallest mountains. Some faint sound shall emanate from the stars to bear witness to this earthly love: in all the quiet, beautiful places they have shared some fragment of the music shall soar briefly aloft in memory.

This is for you, cowboy. I send you kisses, and this, my prose version of the symphony of love we shall play together.

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Forest Alchemy

Late afternoon as I sit in my favourite library chair to write, and there is some wistfulness in watching the gathering darkness, for the day has been sunny. While it is mild in January, on Vancouver Island, it can also be grey, and even the weak sun dispersed through clouds enough to bring heightened pleasure, and a sense of lightening, if not quite the friskiness of spring. The forest that I hiked this particular day was thronged with people, in contrast to its usual vast emptiness, and I confess that the experience that I go to seek was somewhat lacking. I find myself pondering the meaning of that experience, for me.

I encountered only one other solitary hiker, a man I see often enough to recognize and we share only nods and smiles, nothing more. Every other group is noisy and talkative and somewhat overwhelming with their questions and chit chat and neon-bright human presence that seems to shout a spastic greeting at me. I’ve been known to hike with selected friends: friends selected for their quiet conversation, and enjoyment of the forest sights and smells and sounds. I also prefer hiking companions who don’t wear neon colours, but this may be a prejudice I should strive to overcome. Perhaps neon would be disquieting to a bear or other wildlife, and surely it would help in not getting lost. And rather mean of me to poke fun at neon-wearing, smelly-with-fragrance, shouting humans. But clearly the experience they seek is socially constructed, whereas I – hmmmmm, I seek other.

I am conscious of my body in the sense of its pleasure in movement, and, at times, super-conscious if I must cross steep terrain or ford a stream. But mostly, my body, like my thoughts, settles to a background song to the delight and joys of the forest – the fifty shades of green of the temperate rain forest, the creak of the forest canopy, the rustlings that tell of foraging birds or squirrels or what have you. The moist and fragrant air – the fragrance of loam, and branch, and decaying vegetation that builds the forest anew. The sights that unfold slowly, at a walking pace, slowly enough to take it all in and to find new details even on a well-familiar trail.

Often, when I return to my truck at the end of the trail, I must sit for a few moments to awaken to my return to the busy world. My consciousness needs to shift into doing, instead of being – which seems paradoxical, as hiking is doing of some sort. Nevertheless, too abrupt a transition is disquieting to me. It may be that my ramblings have given you the impression, my imaginary friend, that I am just an introvert seeking solitude. But truthfully, I sit squarely in the middle of the introversion/extroversion scale, being a seeker of solitude while enjoying the social immensely; indeed, with a need for both in my life. I find I can come up with only one word to describe what I seek – which is intimacy. I become intimate with my body, my thoughts, and my place in the wider surroundings in a way that seldom happens elsewhere, and which also seems to be a kind of alchemy. To become, for a time, truly wild and free.

I am left with this last reflection: that this thrilling wildness and freedom I seek comes through a deep intimacy… which strikes me as a lovely metaphor for both life and love.

Forest Alchemy of Another Day

Forest Alchemy of Another Day

Santa Claus, North Pole H0H 0H0 (2014)

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Dear Santa,

I have made several attempts at this letter to you, which is rather unlike me, so I shall try to keep it simpler. I suppose I should tell you that I have been a good girl this year. I am happier in the mornings now that I eat breakfast, and more patient, mostly, and always, I try to be kind. True, there have been some naughty bits, best skipped over.

What I would like, Santa, is more. More of my new understandings of myself, my sense that life gets ever sweeter, and oh, my delight in living it. For this is how life is meant to be, is it not? Enough simple happiness to know deep in one’s bones that one can live through the trying times…I see very clearly that asking for something for myself is hard, so very hard, and I should like to change that. So yes, please, a little more.

Also you might sprinkle a little extra magic dust on the house of my love, for he is very special. Not only is he special to me, but to many others, and he makes the world a more magical place. Delight, wonder, joy, and visions of sugar plums for my love.

I love you, Santa, and there is cake here for you. I never tire of your magic, and I shall endeavour to hold it in my heart all year round.

Wishing you a splendid journey, kisses for the reindeer,

VivianLea

Unrequited Love

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“The Rowan tree is the tree of psychic protection, and discrimination. …the rowan is about integrity and personal sovereignty.”  The Witches Book of Days




It is the month of Rowan, and what better time to write on the theme of personal boundaries? ‘Womens’ stories endlessly resound with the question of how to nourish others, without losing ourselves. From the baby at the breast, to the care and nurturing of relationships, to the petty drudgery of household tasks repeated ad nauseam, these are women’s duties, women’s concerns, and women’s agonies.

While it is tempting to delve into the question of how much this is women’s nature, and how much is enculturation, it seems pointless, for of a certainty, it is the way it is in my culture and many others. This is not to denigrate men; to deny real, loving men. It is simply to acknowledge this:

“…feminist Germaine Greer described something she sees with increasing frequency: the weeping woman, the woman stopped at a traffic light with tears streaming down her face, or exiting a stall in the ladies room with red-rimmed eyes, or slumped in her seat at the movie theatre, clutching a handful of Kleenex. The weeping is always private, indulged on the sly, and Greer sees the sorrow behind it as a cultural phenomenon as well as an individual one, a reaction to the lingering understanding among women that despite several decades of social change, the world remains largely indifferent, disdainful, even hostile to their most defining qualities and concerns.”

Greer goes on to say that women weep in frustration, at being overworked and underpaid, at attending to the needs of others before themselves. At the men who find it difficult to be intimate, at the continued requirement to always be lowering their expectations, or their standards. “…the power and strength of a woman’s emotions considered pathological or hysterical or sloppy, her interest in connection considered trivial, her core being never quite seen or known or fully appreciated, her true self out of alignment with so much that is valued and recognized and worshipped in the world around her, her love, in a word, unrequited.” (Greer quoted from the book “Appetites”, by Caroline Knapp.)

Does this idea of unrequited love strike you, my imaginary friend, as forcefully as it does me? That the warmth of kindness and generosity should have so little value when pitted against accumulation and power? That for love to be genuine, each must value the essential nature of each other?

This is the season to look deeply within ourselves, to understand what we value and why we value it. It is not a simplistic question of individual setting of boundaries, it is a conscious decision to live with integrity: to say I value family, friends, community – connection.  That I affirm their value by living them, no matter how the world may scoff. That I affirm that love is not unrequited by acknowledging that your efforts to make the world – your world – kinder, more generous, more loving is a hero’s quest. Love and strength to my sisters and brothers who share this quest.

Every Cliché of Love Ever Written

What are you doing, my love?

I walk the aisles of the store, and more joyfully, the familiar paths of the forest…I make the bed and sweep the floor and prepare soup for dinner: my homely little tasks serve only to remind me I am not doing them for you. The time passes happily and usefully enough, but when I am with you, oh, with you – then I am fully alive and engaged and the great mystery of the cosmos is ticking over. And I do not understand, save I want to step into the mystery and let its currents take me where they will. Bravery? Stupidity? Naiveté?

“What matter”, says my imaginary friend, rather crossly, “for it is every cliché of love ever written.” Perhaps so, my friend, perhaps so. Though having tested the waters; being willing to step into the stream and see where it takes one would seem to be a fine metaphor for many of life’s endeavours. I try not to speak of trite romanticism here, though, but more about purpose and meaning. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speaks of what he calls ‘flow’ – being fully present and immersed enough in an activity to lose sense of time, in an intensely pleasurable way. (Wikipedia has a fine piece on Csikszentmihalyi and his research linked here.) I am captured by the idea, although perhaps I see it in more mystical terms – after all, do not the fairy tales begin with ‘once upon a time’? Is not this sense of time outside of time a part of where mystery and magic reside? Do we step into this time, or step out of our own prosaic earth time?

That’s a question I best leave for now, but I do say this: that the rhythm of our lives can perhaps really only be satisfying when it has its moments of leaving behind human concepts of time and clock and calendar. When sun guides us through our days, and moon lights our evenings, and star fire bears witness to our love and longing. Take my hand, and we shall play in the great wheeling dance of the stars, my love…

I promise.

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Metaphor

How...You Make Me Feel

How…You Make Me Feel

 

Blank canvas. Unlimited possibilities…

The petals of a hundred roses, pressed one by one into the medium. Layer after layer, chosen for shape and size and colour – for texture. Blossoming from the centre a full-blown rose. Flakes of pure gold cradled by softness of petal; pink of health; blue of brilliant mystery and potential. Stars over all, circles of connection anchoring.

Words. Shimmering, golden words echoing in the ether, bridging time and distance and dimension. Love.

On Love, In Love

I have written much on the theme of love these past few months, which I think has been leading to this. I do believe I should like to begin with an image of my view of love as the centre of the lovely deliciousness that is life, the cherry, if you will.         cherry-chocolate

My business consultant said to me, many years ago: “You really love your employees.” Given the context of our conversation, it took me a minute or two to respond to him, but the short answer was – yes, and perhaps this was when my inner journey to expand my thoughts and beliefs on love began. Recently my blogger friend Teenage Introvert also wrote a post which contained the line: “Now the struggle is not about ‘trying to love’, it’s more like ‘allowing Love to pour out’, something I cannot explain.”  Between these two points of time lies an immense ocean of immersing myself in the ethos of love.

For all its endless portrayals of happy-ever-after love, western culture decidedly does not celebrate love so much as objectify it…this kind of love, that looks this way, is acceptable; others: suspect. The range of templates for love is narrow…and then there are those of us who believe that love pours out of us, and that this is a natural and desired state of being. The idea does defy explanation, and my attempts to illuminate it will necessarily fall short, but I shall take up the challenge.

As infants, our love begins with parents, and physical reality – being warm, cuddled, soothed, fed, engaged – and expands outwards, slowly but surely, to siblings, home, playmates, teachers, and on. We recognize that not all infants are born into loving circumstances, and this is problematic for learning love; but most of us experience enough, if not ideal love. Does love stop expanding outward for some people, or is it merely the expression of love in the wider world that is curtailed? Perhaps a bit of both.

I find it easy enough to imagine a world where work and work places are so much more satisfying and creative because love imbues co-workers for one another, and for the recipients of their goods and/or services…yes, I hear the sneers and snickers back there. I can easily imagine a world where hospitals and clinics are true healing places because love informs the practice and practitioners of medicine. I can easily imagine a world where friends and acquaintances are not a closed set of like-minded people, but an ever-expanding group of many, because love is the principle of listening and respect for difference. I can easily imagine a world that is more civil, because love acknowledges that people make mistakes, or lack courtesy, but have not lost all value as human beings. I do so hope, my imaginary friend, that you will not construe this as some new age cult of positivism: Be Happy!!!!! , said with too many exclamation marks, and often no acknowledgement that people must grieve, sometimes. Or that it is some version of “turn the other cheek”, for we must stand up to wrongs strongly and ensure our voices are heard. Or that we must accept some boorish behaviour, for the sake of social niceties. I think, I believe that we are born to put love at the centre of our lives, not the periphery, and that this love will pour out of us if we let it. That it is, in fact, the most powerful force in the universe, by whichever name you should wish to call it…

If our love be clouded, or contained, if it does not reach to the stars and beyond, if our love does not shine as surely as the glory of the night skies; why, some integral, essential piece of our human nature is muted. There are other truths about human nature, of course, but it seems to me that this piece, the ability to live in love is the piece most lacking in the puzzle of our current lives. It is not the form and outline of our loves that define us: it is that love pours out of us. To be in love is to be, to really be, at the heart of the deliciousness of life. Romantic notions of love say that some special ‘other’ completes us, makes us whole…I say that the love that completes us and makes us whole is already there, waiting to be let out.

My Imaginary Friend

 

Why yes, this is about you, my imaginary friend, yes, you. Strictly speaking, you are real; you have a physical presence, you exist in space and time – but you exist in my imagination, too.

I know some things about you. You are kind. You are private. You take pride in doing things well, and you have good friends with strong bonds. You take infinite care with my feelings, and you are protective, a little bit. You are funny, and the honest expression of your feelings leaves me breathless, at times. You choose to try to please me, and could there be anything more endearing?

My friend, you are beside me much of the day and through the night, too, though you are not actually here. Your hand in mine, the touch of your cheek, your arms reaching out for me are a constant presence. Your laughter echoes through these empty rooms, your care and attention walk the forest with me, your regard gives me a sureness that radiates. I want to share with you everything of beauty …

I expect I must get it wrong, sometimes. For my imagination has been shaped and coloured by its experiences and wanderings and reveries, just as yours. But no two imaginations are alike, and perhaps the wavelength swings awry, a time or two. Know this: I will be open to you, always. Always will I want to know what that keen mind of yours is thinking, what your heart is overflowing with, how you are planning to tease me next…

Yes, I love you. Though those are not the important words, these are: you shall always be my friend, and I shall always be curious about you, the deep inside you.

Be well, dear one.

Red-Heart

Dad

“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night…”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

 

“Dad” is a very special word in my lexicon, though I think perhaps my sense and attributions and nuanced feelings of the word carry few of the common cultural stereotypes. For my dad was not the breadwinner, or the head of the household, or the fearful patriarch. Never did he mete out punishment, raise his voice, or lay down the law.

My earliest memories of dad…He is building my playhouse, and I help. He is putting up my swing set, and filling the big pool. He is taking us to the lake to swim on a very hot summers’ day. Always, always, when he comes home from work he plays with me. On Saturdays, we go to the Crown Point hotel for orange floats – was there ever anything so delicious? We hike, and explore, and bash rocks. (He liked to prospect in his spare time.) He makes me a hot drink every night before bed: brewer’s yeast, molasses, and boiling water. His best friend Les is always at our house, and he is as kind and funny as my dad.

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Even when I was very young, I understood that my dad was different. For at my best friend’s house, we were told  to be quiet and stay out of the living room when her dad came home. At another friend’s house for dinner, her dad helped himself first and everyone else  waited. (At my house, my dad made sure his kids ate first.)  Dads were a little distant, and a little fearful in those days, and often reflected the privilege of being male. In fact, my only remembrance of my dad raising his voice was to a male houseguest of ours: “Don’t yell at my daughter!” I was eleven, and it was the first time I remember him angry at a person.

My dad was political, though in a distinctly non-partisan way – he spoke of the cruelty and injustices of the economic system, and the failures and foibles of the politicians, of the way that things might change for the better. When he spoke of these things, we understood that he was speaking of a more egalitarian, democratic society, a culture and an economy that was built around the needs of all people. At the age of ten, we listened together to the federal election results on the car radio – even while on a family vacation – and the importance of thinking about, and participating in the political ideas of the country was forever ingrained in me, along with a love of CBC Radio. Even when he was deeply serious, however, humour and playfulness were never absent.

I am not sure how old my dad was when he built his model railroad village in his basement – somewhere around the age of retirement, anyway. He said he’d always wanted a train set as a kid, and so he built an elaborate one, complete with tunnel through the adjoining pantry storage, and incredibly detailed  village, town, and scenery – a model of whimsy and creativity and play that I hold in my heart with a smile. Of course, us kids were all adults then, but we all remember playing trains with dad. When my dad died, among other things he left a carefully collected library of some five thousand books, and I remember looking over and choosing books with a visceral imprint of the intellectual legacy I’d been left: the greatest authors of five decades, fiction and  non-fiction, but above all, the world’s great thinkers. As time passed, however, I came to see my dad’s legacy in an even more tangible way: my brothers’ kindness, humour, and patience with their kids, love shining out of their faces.

Above all else, dad, I remember you laughing, and I do look at the stars at night and hear you laughing. I am grateful for the love of learning, the love of the wild places, and the teaching of kindness in everything…my heartbreak remembers your laughter, and is comforted. See you over there.

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