Category Archives: spirit

Such good news!

I received intensely good news on Thursday, news that’s galvanizing my revised deadline.

  • (New deadline: January 6).

Are you ready? A friend pitched my book to a friend of hers who happens to be a literary agent, someone legit. The agent is “very interested,” loves the topic. Will read the manuscript when I’m ready — (“she’ll know when she’s ready”). She said, “It’ll all come down to the writing.” Well, yes — I’m ON IT!

The Universe is on notice. No more weeks lost to health issues — please! — mine or anybody else’s! Holidays — gotta be simple this year — for real! No travel til next year.

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Just prior to this incredible news, I’d set up an altar to my ancestors for the first time ever. Interesting, eh? What began as an exercise in learning about African American tradition already lifts my spirits and powerfully furthers my goal.

I’ve always known my parents would root for me and think me up to the task, but this is different. It’s faith-based and operates within non-linear constructs of time.

 

  • That’s me in the B&W. It must be in Rome, Georgia, because I look to be about two?
  • In the second photo (taken at Jones Beach, perhaps?), my mother wears plaid and my father is to the left. I wonder who that guy is to the right? Leaning in like that? This would’ve been some summer in between semesters at Pratt Institute (Brooklyn, NY — where they met).

Redemption and damnation

It’s hard not to think about redemption and damnation these days, almost routinely, like how we used to ponder nest eggs or outfits. Here are two collages that try to capture these extremities.

Redemption collage: “100 Years of Reflecting the Future”. The caption came from an ad in the centennial issue for Women’s Wear Daily —  a subscription purchased with airline miles. Believe it or not, I really enjoyed the industry rag, partly because my mother used to get it, partly because even though I’m a member of the fashion-impaired tribe (and the “I don’t really give a fuck” club), clothing cannot get away from the fact that it’s constructed from cloth, which as you know, I love. Usually, the magazine words I come across are distractions or reductive labels, but these were provocative, so they stayed.


This collage references the anatomical heart and aging and asks some big questions.

The collage asks: who will save us? What will save us? Can anything? What future? Can this moment in our history be redeemed? Are there powerful forces of good in the ethers, and if so, how could they have so badly let the American people down?

Damnation collage. The figure below is damned for so many reasons. For one, she’s ill prepared for the elements. For another, in a landscape of grief and disaster, her concern for her appearance seems particularly superficial. She is stylish for sure, but seemingly ignorant of the rows and rows of graves behind her. And, can’t she smell the molten liquid burning up the landscape behind her? Someone needs to tell her that lava will not be at all impressed with her strappy sandals.

Peace is a Leaf Sent round the World

Peace is muscular and requires postage. Without facts, messages of peace are gauzy and limp and when espoused without action, they might as well serve as tombs to defeat. But peace upheld by informed citizenry and expressed by those willing to place their hearts in the hands of the world, shines and leads. Sinewy and generous, that kind of peace has the capacity to inspire and uplift us, even now when so much else sends us in the other, darker direction.

Liz Ackert of Texas is teaching me these things. One time contributor to the Hearts for Charleston Quilt, creator of the Peace Pin Project and now, the conduit for Peace Objects Extraordinaire, her work to advance world-wide peace is robust and by the way, lovely. Both conduit and creator, she is keeping her friends around the world focused on “Yes” — no easy task.

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This beautiful leaf was crafted in Australia by Barry Smith. You can read more about him and it on Liz’s blog, Mo’s blog and at the artist’s blog.

Liz sent one of these leaves to each of the Hearts for Charleston quilters, reconnecting us in a kind of devotional and aspirational network. It feels good to revive that group specifically. It feels good to be connected, generally. And, as with the Peace Pin project, it feels good to be warmed by Liz’s shining example of what I’ll call ‘aesthetic activism’.
When I think about Naomi Klein’s wise thesis that it is not enough to resist anymore, I’m often stymied. Saying NO takes so much energy! There seems to be more and more to say NO to! Where is the way out or forward and where’s the energy to go there? To define and uphold YES?

Liz reminds me that positivism can begin at home. She reminds me that it can be launched with a simple idea, a sheaf of stamps, and a gift-giving impulse. The way her gestures resonate literally around the globe is testament to the nature of love, to the artistry possible while envisioning a better future, and to the power of connection.

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And of course, getting gifts in the mail is nice!


The leaf came wrapped in silk that Liz hand dyed with Brazilwood (true to form, I can’t locate it at this very second — it’s probably lounging & gossiping somewhere with the white silk sent to me by Mo).

A beautiful letterpress piece by Fiona Dempster of Australia was also enclosed. It speaks to the energetic nature of peace. Liz’s cover card, itself a work of art, offers inspiring words and a sense of occasion.

Liz is literally and figuratively ‘loosely binding us in silken ties of love’. How powerful a gift this is! Thank you, Liz — please continue!

One of these days, one of us will be the 100th monkey…

 

A Temporary Guest

“Landscape has a secret and silent memory, a narrative of presence where nothing is ever forgotten.”  John O’Donohue (this and all following quotes from “Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom”).


According to the ancient Celts, “Landscape is not matter nor merely nature, rather it enjoys luminosity. Landscape is numinous”.

To “consider yourself as a complete stranger … who has just stepped ashore in your life” is to realize that you are not “the helpless owner of a deadened life but rather a temporary guest gifted with blessing and possibilities you could neither invent nor earn”.

Have a great weekend! I am off to the garden center with a friend and not likely to have clean fingernails for awhile.

Anam Cara is Gaelic for ‘soul friend’.

Rabbit holes and labyrinths

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Two weeks ago, I was going down various paths on the internet which sometimes feels like going down a rabbit hole. Down and down you go! Poof! There goes the morning.

Some of the search terms: charms, voodoo, voodun, sigils, veves, Celtic knots, hemlock, protection. Remarkably enough, at some point using the query “veve, protection,” I came to a site with information about Yoruban cosmology that included a picture of the walking labyrinth at Boston College. It is particularly remarkable when you consider that by then I was specifically hoping to find a symbol from my own (Irish) tradition.

And there it was: not only my tradition, but my neighborhood, and even, my alma mater (which a friend reminded me means, “nurturing mother”) (BCLS ’89). This labyrinth is less than two miles from my home. So, of course I went.
IMG_2878IMG_2890IMG_2895Based on a pattern found at Chartres Cathedral, it is a unicursal — meaning that there is only one way in and one way out. The labyrinth was built as a memorial, dedicated to the twenty-two Boston College alumni who were killed in the 9/11 attacks.
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The design was an aid to meditation because no choices needed to be made about what direction to pursue. As I walked it, I prayed for my sons, for the descendants of the enslaved, for justice and peace and healing for our country — the usual, urgent things. But braided in and around those other things, was the prayer that I could somehow come to more regularly believe in my own essential goodness. It took about an hour. Afterwards, I felt grounded and renewed.
IMG_2896I went into the library and found more lovely and potent Celtic images — I’ll save those for another time perhaps.

Here is the charm I came up with. It’s a first pass and not original.

I like how the photo on the right crops the door molding into a crucifix.

Before the labyrinth walk, we went to Montreal. After, Schenectady. This weekend we will lay down compost and mulch and I will cook chicken and wilt greens with loads of garlic and we will figure out where to put some of my son’s things.

And: I will finish the Hearts for Charleston quilt (she said, but really meaning it). The front has been done for weeks but the labeling continues. Liz Ackert helped out generously by supplying some very beautifully stitched names. I am writing up the cover letter and ‘legend’ and will photograph the piece as soon as the last labels are on. My goal — by Friday of next week.

The first anniversary of the Emanuel AME murders in Charleston is only five weeks away.

Doing his job

Now I am applying Byron Katie’s inquiry process to my thoughts about the dog  (we have not abandoned training or expert help). For example, “Finn shouldn’t still be so reactive toward other dogs.”    Is this true? Can I absolutely know it’s true? Of course not. The fact that I wish he’d settle down doesn’t make it so.

How do I feel when I think the thought, “Finn should be over this by now”? The usual: discouraged.

Is there a stress free reason to hang onto the thought? No. There isn’t.

Turn it around: Finn shouldn’t be over this. Finn is doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing. What if it’s his job to be the way he is? Or, by the way, for my sister to be the way she is?