Saturday, 12 January 2019

A timely essay from 2013 on the Landscape of Home and Gretel Ehrlich

For love of Earth

Last night I couldn't get to sleep and so picked up a book of essays in an attempt to bring sleep to me. In doing so I read something I was so moved and unsettled by (an essay on climate change and spirituality) that there was no hope of sleep after reading it. So much for sleep besides, what does one person's sleep one night matter anyway? More importantly the questions that remain with me are what does Gretel Ehrlich's essay from her book entitled The Future of Ice mean for me, for my little Island in the Gulf, and for the floating sphere we all call home?

Born and raised on a small Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, I am an Islander through and through. Like many other young people I left in my twenties  to attempt to expand my universe. Although I did my best while away to try to find landscapes in the interior of Ontario that I could fall in love with, I was constantly heartsick for my Prince Edward Island home. I recall  driving one bleak November day in Ontario and coming unexpectedly upon a lake and almost driving into it I was so happy to see a relatively large body of water. I didn’t realize how desperately I was missing the landscape of home; as much as I was missing the people and familiar routines.

But my little Island home, although wonderful and where we have chosen to raise our own growing up family, doesn't feel so comfortable anymore. The ease of childhood's ignorance has long since worn of and I am left with a grating feeling in my throat when I speak certain words, an inability to get a full breath when certain words are uttered by others. The words I speak about are all related to development and environmental protection, and to the ways we use our land and waters here.

We, as a small Island community, have a responsibility towards the land and air and waters of our home and I do not think we are taking this responsibility seriously enough. As environmentalist David Suzuki says people who live on islands know there are limits to things. He is right in that many of us here have a lived sense of those limits and what we need for our survival. Yet why are we  continuing to allow government to be swayed by investors promising to bring jobs in genetically modified fisheries to our waters, why are we still considering hydraulic fracturing off our coastlines, and why are we not an entirely organic Island when far sighted and reasonable people believe it is a possibility that could become a reality if only the government and people of our land were to speak out, and let their voices be heard?

The essay I read last night was written by Gretel Ehrlich and is entitled The Future of Ice. It is a gorgeous piece of lyrical writing about spirit, place and the role our behaviours play in affecting the landscapes we live in. It was a read that made me want to get up out of my bed late on a wet, cold night and go outside to touch the earth at my own doorstep just so I could remember that I am alive; a living member of the world right now. Ehrlich's writing provides a glimpse into the fragile, changing nature of the North, somewhere we oft think of as the last true frontier, strong and wild and free. The witness she bears to the vulnerabilities the north is facing is startling and sadly too easily translatable to our planet as a whole. The words she uses, poetic. This woman truly loves  Earth and writes about her love in a way that makes you feel as though you've somehow entered into the love as well.

As I age, I am realizing that many of greatest truths I have known in my life I knew intimately as a young child still awed by the sensuousness of the world. Truths which for too many years since I have largley forgotten. Ehrlich's words shook those forgotten truths from me much the way a good hug reminds you that you need to hug people more often. Yet her words rang hauntingly as well, like a rattlesnake's ominous warning entering spaces you'd rather pretend do not exist, rattled and shaken just before it's too late.


     "How fragile we are.’We' being the humans and this mountain. My Inuit friends in Greenland use the word sila to describe weather: the power of nature, landscape, and human consciousness as one and the same. Every scar on the landscape is also a perturbation of the mind." 
Gretel Ehrlich

I have felt the desecration of our sacred lands and waters too oft as a perturbation of my own mind, and more times than I care to recall have felt the scorn of others for being too deep a feeler, too much a fool for the voiceless. Yet still I must ask: what are we doing to this wondrous world, to all its living creatures, to ourselves? Is it still possible for us to take pause, look deeply into the eyes of the world, and fall in love again? 


Over the last few years I have been drawn to writers whose use of language explores both the internal and external lived worlds. A good friend of mine, poet John MacKenzie , does this brilliantly. His imagery pulled from the natural world reminds us that we are passionate, breathing creatures of bone and flesh whose bodies are not separate from the landscapes and mindscapes we inhabit. 
A wonderful example of the intimate precision of his writing is exhibited here in a recent sestina he wrote:
The Winter Wings of Gulls

Perhaps, the greatest thing we could do in terms of slowing the progression of climate change is to slow ourselves, our frantic pace, our shallow breathing, and once again be mindful of our connection to the Earth. We then could be reminded of the wonders of the natural world, of the ways that place infuses spirit. Perhaps if we all recalled  the forgotten truths of our childhood, the long, slow creak of years when we drank time like warm milk and squeezed the breath into and out of our days. Those truths we knew in our bones back then, those truths that I knew so well and let retreat to the shadows for too many years of my own life. Thankfully I have been reminded that we are inextricably a part of a great and wonderful unfolding; a mystery of nature and of spirit that encompasses the whole. 

In a particular wintertime childhood memory of mine, I am lying in a snowbank outside of my house, alone on a blustery, snowy day. I was outside by myself as I was oft given to, but I knew in my heart that I wasn’t really alone, that in the great loneliness there was room for all.  I knew all of this and more at age five, lying well bundled in snow deep enough to mold around my little form, the wind blowing, lifting eddies and currents of crystalline snowflakes all around me. My breath, soft little exhales, made clouds above my face which disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared, The sharp catch of cold in my little chest as I breathed the air back in reminded me to breath slowly, gently. I can still recall that feeling of being tucked in by the snow. The cold assurance that this was winter I was lying in, but the secure feeling that there was room for me in it. 

Ehrlich in her essay on The Future of Ice says:
“The sky borrows its radiance from ice, its adamantine clarity, and we spend lifetimes tracking down those elements within ourselves.”

Her essay speaks volumes about our need to make tracking down those elements that re-connect us with the living earth, with the spark of life inherent in all, a more urgent necessity in our lives. Her words an almost silent plea for us to care for each other and this planet with the same loving attention and awe with which we care for those we call our lovers. After all, the separateness we presume to be reality is only an illusion and the cost of being fooled by this is far, far too great. There is, after all, room for the whole of it.
Jill MacCormack

I am re-posting this essay from 2013 as it seems as timely now as it was then--perhaps more so. 
May love be your guidepost, and kindness, always kindness.
Jill

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Naming, Blaming and the Smallness of Such Politicing--Maybe 2019 Could be Different

I am writing in response to Alan Holman’s Dec first, 2018 Guardian opinion piece questioning David Weale’s supposed naming and blaming over land ownership on PEI.

Mr Holman is trodding into naming and blaming territory himself when he says that most Islanders in his personal opinion are either content or disinterested in who owns the land. I am not sure what he bases this opinion on but it certainly is not a reliable refute to the passivity he accuses David of accusing Islander's of.
Rather, it is perhaps the perfect definition of passivity.

As per the Oxford dictionary, passivity is defined as: 
Acceptance of what happens, without active response or resistance.


And although David is a personal friend of mine, I feel no need to defend David Weale, the person. I know David can handle an unpleasant review or opinion on him or his personal choices. He is fully able to turn the other cheek or speak up for himself, need be. Or reflect, perhaps, on whether he might need to reconsider things. He is a grown up after all.

But the land and the waters of which we have a shared love and deep concern for; they need us to speak up for them.  I do not believe that Mr. Holman did a good job recognizing that the intent behind David's waxing poetic about 'them times" is to urgently call to attention how far we have strayed from the ideals of stewardship of the land our ancestors and the Mi'kmaq people's lived. After all they were the first to recognize and honour the land and waters which bestowed them with the basic necessities of life, nourishing their spirits as well as their bodies.

The land today bears silent witness to the unwholesome desires of large land holders and must be spoken for by those who love it deeply and see it being shown such little regard. I am speaking up not in defense of David, rather in defense of David’s defense of the land and waters here on PEI.

And while David might pine for a simpler time when seemingly those who farmed did so for the love of the occupation, he is not off the mark when he “rhapsodizes” for an era which saw a multitude of small sized, self sustainable rural land holdings doing well for themselves and their families while respecting the limits nature imposes.This is of course rather than the forced “go big or go home” mentality that capitalism's green revolution wrought on  small scale farmers and agriculture in the 1960’s and hence fore ward.

I hazard a guess that David harbour's no ill will toward either Mr. Irving or any of the orange robed GEBIS monks. I believe instead that he is deeply concerned about the larger forces at work behind  the Irving's and potentially GEBIS' land interests as well.
The PEI Lands Protection Act has been discussed at length regarding the spirit of the act and its intention towards discouraging the amassing of large tracts of land by any one land holder. Somehow the spirit of the act is being disregarded by these groups.  So too with the Irving’s imposition on the Water Act and implicit desire to see the moratorium on deep water wells lifted.

I agree with Mr Weale that the Irving’s don’t like potato farmers, they use them. The agricultural monopoly that the Irving’s have on rural PEI in their pursuit of what Holman describes as "long, flavorful french fries" for a North American fast food market is real and it falls under the term predatory capitalism (loosely defined as capitalism ignoring social and environmental concerns to attain its primary goals).

Even Holman admits that the Irving's, like an ill tempered child,  will take their ball and bat and go home if Island farmers and the governing elite do not want to play ball according to their rules. Capitalism, especially predatory capitalism, is not based on liking and being liked. It is based on winning at all costs. Profits are the measure of the win for the corporations and jobs (and therefore votes) are the measure in local politics. Hence the pandering by our gov't.

It is difficult for any thoughtful Islander to take a look at the soils and waters of this Island and not bear witness to what they are enduring in the name of corporate profits. Fish kills, topsoil degradation, and the increasing ownership of the land by off island enterprises such as the Irving’s and GEBIS (even if GEBIS is at least locally kind and better stewards of the land than the Irving's) are all troubling progressions.

I find no fault in David asking us to consider our role in the destruction of rural life on PEI and in the destruction of Island soils and waters too. We have become so accustomed to seeking comfort and avoiding discomfort that even when the evidence is clear we still want to avoid implicating ourselves in the equation.

Our collective failure to acknowledge ourselves as accomplices allows us to sit back and finger point rather than take the necessary, wise and compassionate action required to address the situation. If we fail to acknowledge what is going on then our passivity could be wrongfully perceived as contentment or disinterest by someone such as Alan Holman.

And so I am speaking out.

David knows Islanders well. We are a passive lot by and large. We don’t want to rock the boat because we know what sinking, even drowning feels like. And that sinking, drowning feeling began with the green revolution and the perception so many Islanders bought into that our rural way of life was not good enough. Big and shiny and new is better was the mentality underpinning it all.
The same mentality drives so much of  modern excessive consumption— that and the belief that there is something inherently wrong with how we are and that goods can make us better, even normal if we consume enough of them. These are widely shared and faulty beliefs but these beliefs are not our birthright; being an Islander is.

And so there is all the more reason for average Islanders to speak up about what is happening to the land and waters here in the name of progress, and profit. For not being willing to wade into the waters when they are becoming increasingly murky and abused is foolhardy.

In fact, we all need to be less afraid to wade out and let our voices and opinions be heard.  We were not always trapped in a culture of dependency. Our very survival in an era of climate change, increasingly right wing governing ideologies and the infringement on local culture by neo-liberal economics will depend on our ability to stand on our own two feet and create an economy based on scale like in Schumacher's Small is Beautiful rather than dependency on the export of mono culture agriculture or questionable farmed sea products. Or the export of young Islanders too for that matter. For the PNP immigration scandal here is tied in with this all as well.

Our parents generation taught us to "vote with our feet" when they saw how hard it was to raise us on two incomes in the suburbs.  Head for Ontario or the tar sands to feed your families they told a generation of Island youth. But you can only deal in rubber or tar or chemical pesticides for so long before it begins to eat at you.   

The refrain is all too common.
So who then is to blame for the mess we have found ourselves in?

In short, we all are.

But in reality it is all far more complicated than either David or Mr. Holman or myself have space or time to explicate. 
But the one thing I do know deep in my heart is that the blame game gets us no where fast and so I am betting hard on a future which can see beyond the smallness of such politicing. 
Personal or otherwise.

Sincerely,
Jill M. MacCormack 
devoted lover of Island soils and waters and kindness (let us not forget kindness)
A short list of Island Organizations run by very active amazing Islanders devoted to protecting Island soils and waters : 
https://www.facebook.com/ecopei/  
http://saveourseasandshores.ca/category/blog/pei-chapter-of-soss-blog/

Small Ponderings on New Year's Day 2019

Yesterday, a brilliant New Year's eve afternoon, my husband  and our oldest daughter and our son went for a walk in a nearby woodland. 

I did not take part in the walk. Too much Christmas coupled with the cumulative exhaustion of the travails of 2018 left me with no other choice but to seek the refuge of my own bed and a couple of good books for company. As much as I wanted to be out walking, resting was not optional.

When they came back they shared with me some sustaining images from their outing.
The walking trail was narrowed by ice and snow and took them from a declining snowy softwood stand to an old pit and a then a farmer's field.

They came upon several different piles of snowshoe hare droppings numbering in the hundreds (and evidencing a small snowshoe hare population there) with the most being spotted at the edge of a snowy field of abandoned green cabbages. A veritable Mr McGregor's garden of Eden to the hare's, minus Mr McGregor but likely frequented by enough predators' to keep the rabbit's tail short.

Another note was the sighting of coyote (or perhaps coywolf as my son has photographed one in the area) tracks in the snow and a third and final nature note was finding a dead bird which had been ravaged most likely by a sharp-shinned hawk. 

Before they left for home they heard a rumbling sound and saw a person on a four wheeler coming towards them.

My husband wondered if the land owner might not like someone tearing around on his property near the gentleman's new home because in the autumn he had complained to my husband about being bothered by some kids on ATV's on his property. He was very surprised to see that the person driving the  ATV was in fact the land owner himself. He paused and spoke with him for a moment. The driver is a friend of my husband's, a man in his seventies who was extremely ill and had been hospitalized with cancer a few short months ago. He responded well to his treatment and decided that there was no time like the present to be having some fun and living his life. He and his two children all had cancer treatments in the past year. He gifted himself the ATV and tore around in the snow like a little kid. What is there to say to that but Happy New Year and que sera sera?

 So much of life and death right there in one short outing.

New Years are funny times. They can feel ominous or filled with potentiates. They represent many different things to so many different people. Maybe a time of new beginnings for some. Same old, same old for others. 

Like this morning for example.

I was the first asleep in our home last night (no rah, rah, sis boom bah for me) and the first awake today. After completing my happy early morning chores for our two dear pet rabbits I made myself a pot of green tea and sat in my little dining room looking out our window to the snowy New Year's morning. 

There was nary a track in the yard near our garden or the stump by the old Maple out front which our oldest daughter keeps well stocked with black oil sunflower seeds in the colder months.

No greater perfection can there be to begin the year with but a woodland scene enveloped in a smattering of fresh snow.

Our resident squirrel (Snap-pea) keeper of the stump and general yard defender was still in his little nest in our back woods. First, two crows swooped in from their night time roost and they headed for the stump. They were quickly followed by three others. They rooted around the stump and one found a bit of bread the squirrel had buried in the seed. Another dug up some bread he had hid in the leaves which had gathered in the corners of the sandstone bordering our front garden. They all chomped a few seeds before the ruler of the roost, little wild red Snap-pea,  zoomed in with a defiance that seems to border on evil (but is simply  the ways of a dominant and very territorial squirrel). It swooped in and managed, as it does several times daily, to scare off all the crows and two blue jays by seeming to be in many places at one time--and it isn't even an actual, biological flying squirrel. 

This scene will play out many, many times in the days and weeks to come so long as something doesn't take the rascally squirrel the way of the bird on the walk yesterday.

Today I welcome the quiet of a deep snowfall to ponder how and where my feet might fall in the year to come. This evening there will be a New Year's potluck at my sister's place if the roads are clear enough to travel. Tomorrow I will make fresh footprints of my own.

Happy New Year!

May 2019 be a year filled with more and more people connecting deeply with nature and dissolving those stories that separate us!

In Peace and Goodwill,
Jill

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

All I Want for Christmas...

I have been done with Christmas for a long while now. 

I can't help it. 

For too long I was a willing participant and far too long an unwilling participant in a cultural charade that perpetuates the capitalistic enterprise and tells a twisted version of a story whose time is long past.

As my sense of dis-ease with our consumer culture increased in my early to middle parenting years I found myself questioning my own role in Christmas. We decided as a household back then that we would continue decorating, baking, shopping but do so more mindfully. 

Many years have passed since that early decision to practice a more mindful Christmas but still the consumer excess grows madly around us. And with no apparent stopping mechanism beyond the tipping points of environmental collapse and an economy in which the rich get richer and the poor get increasingly poorer.

I simply see no place in my life for what Christmas has become. Nor do I believe we are living in a world that can afford for us to continue to celebrate this (and many other time honoured traditions still held sacred) in the manner in which we collectively do so.

I am done with Christmas in all its mindless excess.

Yet please do not be misconstrued.

The heart of Christmas I still hold dear within me. 

I adored Christmas as a child and a young woman. It represented the joy and sense of connection I found in the faith tradition I practiced at the time. I welcomed my prayer vigil I held for myself each advent evening as a time of quiet reflection on the first Christmas and its relevance to my own life. I continue to value the depth of a December evening and its call to quiet and honouring what the darkness offers. I realize how contradictory the consumer culture of Christmas and its inherent busyness is to this call I feel on early winter nights.

And yet, taking the time to honour the return of the son/sun as a means of walking from darkness to the light has brought me to an new understanding of the birth story and what it means to me.


Celebrating the birth of a radical whose life demanded we choose terrifically inclusive love and the beauty of simplicity over amassing possessions is something I am all for. So too with opening our hearts and minds with a childlike sense of wonder to the natural world and all its offerings. But what might that honouring truly look like? Do you think it would honestly look anything like the madness that we have turned Christmas into in our modern lives?

A few years ago when I first noticed the local flyers in mid November announcing their upcoming Black Friday sales I knew that the takeover of our hearts and minds towards full scale American capitalism was underway. Black Friday, Cyber Monday , even Giving Tuesday-- all American terms entering our Canadian lexicon. And to my dismay I saw people all around me seeming to adopt them without question.

It was then that I really felt the scream enlarge within me.

"I want out!"

I am tired of paying homage to a tradition which generates so much waste and wanton greed.

I am tired of seeing the same scenes play out over and over, year after year in the stores and online retailers.

I want an equalizing factor to emerge from our collective hearts and minds. I want to envision a radical new way to more justly secure objects to meet our basic needs for food and clothing and shelter. 

I want to crack my heart wide open to the suffering of this beautiful fractured world of fear and wonder. I want release from the ties that bind me to old ways so that the more beautiful world I know is possible can become real. 

I want this for my children and their children and all the creatures, soil and waters of this world more than I want a world of Santa Claus and consumer make believe.

All I truly want for Christmas is a real, living and breathing healthy earth. A world that we live in harmony with and whose support systems we choose to recognize and honour. I want to co-create a world freed from reckless inequalities and the desperate suffering of children and animals. I want peace.

When I close my eyes and settle my heart and mind I can already see a new world emerging from the dust of the collapse of our modern lifestyles. I can see it in the willingness of others to begin to craft that world from the precious clay of their own living.

But what am I truly willing to give up in order to help birth a new era? How can I celebrate Christmas with my dear family in a way that honours the truth of what I feel within and what I see before us?

A few starting points to consider regarding celebrating Christmas in this era of climate change:

Love is greater than fear. Christmas can be a time to remember that Jesus was the King of Love. He welcomed the suffering and marginalized and asked that those who were to follow in his footsteps do the same. Practice an act of radical lovingkindness for self and other and for this broken world. And remember to love the earth!

Consider the well being of the environment in all your purchases. Do you need to buy processed food wrapped in single use plastic, or wrapped in plastic at all? Has the food you have in your cart been ethically sourced? Have you considered adding a vegetarian or better yet, *vegan dish to your holiday meal? Rethink whether a gift item is truly of benefit to you or your family or friends? Can you purchase second hand goods as gifts, craft from homemade or support local artisans in their craft? Can you support a local farmers market or CSA for your Christmas celebration?

Who are the disenfranchised, the marginalized in your community? Can you give to a local charity, food bank , environmental group or women's shelter? Can you welcome to your table those in need of food and warmth and friendship?

Give the gift of presence. Practice the act of engaging in presence with those whom you love, with nature, and watch as your world beautifully expands.

Joy can be found in so very many places beyond what the sales flyers and endless ads try to sell us. In caring for the earth, for self and finding room in our hearts for welcoming others we can bring a simplicity back to our lives which is so lacking in this modern age. 

Happy Winter Solstice! Happy Mindful Christmas!
Much Peace and Joy to you and may the darkness help you better appreciate the Light.
Love Jill

*We are living in a world which holds the real potential of seeing the extinction of large mammals in the wild in the very near future given current rate of demise as per the WWF Living Planet Index.  Going vegan is considered to be quite possibly the sanest response to this massively difficult to compute extrapolation. 
https://www.preventyearzero.org/take-action



Sending out a huge tip of my hat and my heart to my favourite vegan, my oldest daughter Maria. Her incredible love of animals and desire to nurture all life inspired her own shift from vegetarianism to veganism. Her dietician declared that she should write a book on how to properly, healthfully be a vegan or teach classes at least. She has chosen to create an instagram account  called thisnourishedvegan which she has her brother Lucas do food photography for. Her cooking and baking is wildly delicious and always inspiring. Kudos to you dear Maria for leading our family in the direction of veganism through your quiet and beautiful dedication to your craft.


Thursday, 22 November 2018

To Love this World

Mount Herbert
November 21st, 2018

The air is blinking thick with flurries so we pull our hoods up to  ease the worst of it, the best of it we breathe in, a freshness too soon, although strangely welcome.

It is only November 21st and we are walking on a trail covered with a six inch depth of snow, third snowfall this week and each a measure to be reckoned with.

At winter's height last year the trail was never worse to walk than this and yet we do not mind
because we are back walking a trail we love  so well  and after too long a time away--we can't help but feel so alive!

Interestingly the last time we were here it was too sweltering to make it far.

Mid summer's heat had lingered late, the sun ablaze and air as humid as the tropics 
threatened to send us back to the air conditioned comfort of our car--
but in the car, windows up we deny so much more than heat.
We deny connection to the buzz of insect wing and drum of amphibian's song,
we deny the fragrant scent of sweet meadow grass and tender sway of roadside wildflowers
and in doing so we deny ourselves.


Instead, that fiercely hot day we chose to linger and we noted Bobolink's of quite a number busy in the meadow--their total flock unusually large and so despite the heat we stopped a moment to take it in before we continued languid but soul-heartened back to the car.

Now, in the snow squall so thick we cast our eyes downward, we know full well we could have chosen the warmth and comfort of our cozy home but instead we walk downcast
and stumble as almost underfoot wooly bear caterpillars leap out at us from the pure white snow.

Their tiny black and orange bodies so delicate and still we think they are dead but upon closer inspection realize they are indeed still alive. Curled in a tiny ball on my gloved hand I move them to the bushes near the ditch.

What resilience in the face of unpredictable weather--we could do so well.

Further along we turn off the trail and are stopped in our snowy tracks by a deafening thunderous cacophony of geese as a flock of thousands lifts off from a field a distance beyond the trail.

Breathtaking, 
the power of their wings, their voice, their unison centers and connects us in the beautifully lyrical way that nature, like music and art, and poetry, mystically can.

We leave the trail as their flock parts way, half heading east and the other west, and as we walk down to the pond  we find it swelled to overflowing while two muskrats make themselves known with their busy attentiveness to their own lives--such graceful, playful, fluid creatures.

We pause and be still in our own silence,
feeling the briskness of the snowy air, flakes landing, fleeting, on our faces as we
listen to the rush of pond waters flowing over a dam to the brook below us.

Standing in the power of such awareness we know we are being graced. 
And in this graciousness we are filled with something you simply cannot buy... the contentment of true presence...and the beauty, peace and joy and love it so generously affords us.

The economics of this world demand that we rush onward and pay little heed to the natural world of which we are an intrinsic part. Walking in the quietude of a snowy wooded brook side trail feels like an act of rebellion against the digitization and commercialization of human life. With our attentiveness we forge a rebellion in our own hearts  towards re-connection with all we know to be right and true and worthy. 

The desire to be well and a part of the living wildness of the soil and air and waters of this little Island we adore, swells large within us not unlike the swelling of the pond waters and the song of the wild geese who gather and sing despite the hunter's season.

The hurting of the world demands our song.

Time is passing and we can choose to pay attention. Future generations depend on our willingness to reconsider our lifestyles and model re- conciliation with self and other, with constructed and natural environs. With heart and soul and body and the Earth.

There is a whole entire world whose delicate balance is being challenged by the disruptive and greedy ways of human enterprise. Courageous hearts and minds can choose to bear witness to the truths as they are seen before us. In doing so we tell the story of the world as it is and with leaps of faith as it might be imagined to be. Whole and well and loved.

I want to tell my children that the future looks bright for them, as they are bright young people with hearts wide opened to art, music, love and nature. But it is a difficult time to be growing up in the world. It is a difficult time to be an adult in this tumultuous era too. 

The one truth I hold fast to is that their willingness to love this world, broken and fragmented and disappearing as it is, will never be a wasted effort. 

For to love this world is its own reward. Love is rather beautiful like that.

Happy sixteenth birthday Nov 21st to my son Lucas--cherished child adored by his mom and dad and two loving sisters for his kind and gentle ways, his humour and his willingness to always lend a helping hand. 

A keen eyed nature observer with an artistic touch in all he does, Lucas is a storyteller who uses photographs and canvasses to show us how things are in his mind's eye. I have a faith in his art that I do not have in the dominant capitalistic system which overlords itself onto our lives at every turn. His ability to utilize art to convey what so many seem to miss on their daily rounds absorbed in the minutiae of their own lives is a gift to the world. 

But then again I am just his mother.

Wishing you a deep sense of your own connectedness to this blessed Earth.
XO
Jill

 Thank you Lucas for the bobolink photo and the idea and act of yesterday's Mount Herbert walk.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

All Hallow's Eve--A Heart's Transformation from Fear and Confusion

In Oct 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) released its most recent report on the state of the climate globally. Its prognosis was startling in its immediacy. Human societies must act now in order to stall the most grievous effects of increased warming of our planet. And urgently so. They gave us a timeline of 10-12 years to get our collective acts together. 

But how when we are hapless victims and perpetrators both?And what is there to do in the face of such overwhelming and urgent news? 

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this sort of thing and personally had no idea where to begin beyond those measures my family and I had already put in place.


I was beginning to be given to despair.


I mentioned this despair to a person I admire greatly and who marches gracefully to the tune of his own heart, his very life work a lovesong to trees and the natural world as a whole. He said to me that for him, hope is prerequisite to breathing. It is what keeps him moving forward. And he trusts in the goodness of others. And he can't help but bear witness to the beauty all around


And I understood his words as though they were my own. Beauty of the natural world exists to sustain us so that we can protect the earth. A kind of symbiosis beyond the obvious life supports systems the earth affords us with—it is a symbiosis of the heart. 


And so I took a breath and held it all lightly trusting that a shift in my own heart would occur.

And then last night this awakening happened:


I knew to wait for this moment, trusting that it would arrive without even being certain how exactly it would present itself but that I would somehow know when it did.


Tenderhearted awareness--that is how I choose to respond to the immense suffering of the world. With the tenderness I offer my own children in their times of suffering and confusion. 

This too I offer the world. 


I have been lost as of late in the uncertainty and confusion I see around me. In the midst of dire climate change warnings and painful and confusing political and social upheaval I have been drifting like an un-moored boat from unknown shore to unknown shore in search of a sheltered harbour. I have identified too deeply with the confusion and pain of the world, internalizing it to the point of becoming it.


But tonight on my yoga mat I arrived at the harbour I had been searching for in vain as though it was outside my bones and breath. My bones and breath. And all I had to do was lay them down prostrate before the world, on my own living room floor in order to find what I had been looking for.

I arrived back home in myself with the same sense of being received as my own little two year old self did at my grandparent's upon my announcing I AM HERE...I arrived at a place of  humility and acceptance and welcoming and love. 

This world is swirling and twirling about in a vast sea of space with room enough for all possibilities to unfold. Mine and yours included.


In my own fear and confusion I had not allowed any of the immensity of that vast sea of possibility to truly permeate my thoughts and actions. 

Space---and time---those strange companions that my unusual brain has struggled with for so long came together within me last evening in a dance of joy so profound that I realized that I do not have to do or be anything or anyone other than  who I already am. 

Nor do you.

The simple act of being, of existing and bearing witness to this world is all that is asked of me and any of us.


Be and bear witness. That simple.


And I came to realize once again that when I fall open-hearted into the arms of that vast expanse of universe I can trust that my very existence contains the fullness which I so earnestly seek. 


I need look no further, it is there--here-- in the moment of my relinquishing from the stranglehold of self. The very act of trusting in the larger processes at work and bearing witness to the unfolding is all that is asked of me. 

Of any of us.


Compassion, non judging, a field of love so wide that even to call it a field is restricting.To call it love restricting too. That field of awareness which the poet Rumi so beautifully spoke of is where I found myself. Conjoined inseparably to the nameless void containing all is what I had become.

When I fall into that place of trust I fall out of all the things in life which hold me back--fear, judgement, a sense of lack, resentment, exhaustion and I fall open-heartedly into an awareness so spacious that there is room for everything to unfold. 

Falling into the unknown can be a life changing experience.

There are endless parallels and portals into my yoga mat experience in the natural world if only we have the hearts and minds to see them.


Over the past several days I have had the great pleasure of watching the hardwoods near our house release their leaves. The way they swirl off the tree is an ecstasy itself. 

The first day I noticed our Maple letting go there was nary a breath of wind to incite the riot of leaves as they took leave and fell. I watched rather breathless, knowing that this was their moment--that the urge to fall had grown so huge within them that nothing could hold them back. 


I felt honoured to watch their little copper faces catch the morning sun as they downturned swirling towards the still green grass. And I felt a little heartsick too. 

Time passing before my very eyes and almost frantically so. 

I tried for a few minutes to choose a leaf and watch it make its way to the ground but I kept being interrupted by another and then another leaf. I noticed my heart rate beginning to increase to match the madness of the swirling and had to pause to catch my own breath.


Each departure so singularly beautiful I felt as though I just might cry.


All of a sudden these leaves were my beloveds; dear friends whose life span I had witnessed from bud to leaf and whose season of life was waning, dry and muted now in late October. 

A fullness come to pass.


And it came to me upon my mat this evening after my own dry patch of soulless disconnection to my life that I must hold it all with tenderhearted awareness. 


The suffering in my own household, the pain, the uncertainty and confusion. The tiredness, the fear, the forgetting to be kind to self before all else so that I can be kind to others.


And in that moment my heart grew to accommodate the whole world and all the suffering parts with such a measure of compassion and clarity and purity that despite my tiredness and the late hour I knew I had to write this out to share with you.


The paths through the darkness of this era in which we live are there before us if only we have hearts that are brave and willing enough to trust in their very existence.


The paths will show their way through our very willingness to act out of kindness and open-heartedness. They will be revealed to the degree in which we are willing to look with truly open eyes of awareness and hearts and  minds of acceptance.


We are victims and perpetrators both but there is no one person to blame for where we have found ourselves. Multitudes and eons have brought us to this moment in the universes' expression. 


But we are here and this is the truth before us and so we must bear witness and act accordingly with a loving responsiveness we would offer our own beloveds in their time of need. 

After all, we are all of the same flesh and breath and sea and bark and bone and petal and rock and crawl and dance and slither and swoosh of falling leaf. 

There is no separation. 

We are one.


And so I've come to the conclusion that there is nothing to fear and everything to gain from our willingness to tend to this world with a mother's tenderness for her suffering child, with the graciousness and humility of the wise, with the kindness and urgency we would wish for our own healing and wellness.

The task before us is a large one but I know we are up to it-- otherwise we would not have been called to do so.

In love and beauty.
Thanks for reading,
Jill






Friday, 31 August 2018

Late August Clouds

I suppose there are any number of things I could prattle on about this last August day but I choose what has chosen me; clouds.



I must confess that it is difficult for me to even sit here for these few moments to compose this brief piece as the sky is calling to me in whispers of azure and cyan with brilliant, slow moving grey-white clouds like pearly everlasting drifting on the cliff edge breeze.

I am planning on driving east today to Monticello where my parents spend the summer on their shore frontage of my grandparents old farm. I will drop our son off to spend the weekend birding with my parents and my uncle and visiting with other relatives keen to savour the long weekend's offerings.

We will likely scope out blackberries to pick and take a stroll on the sandstone beach below the cape before the girls, and my husband and I return home this evening.

But in order to do any of this, if I am to drive an hour east, I must first write out my strange intoxication with the sky on this last day of August. It feels as though it is calling me to honour the truths of my present by being in the present and witnessing how even the clouds upon the sky are ever changing. Breathe with me, breathe with this.

My dear sister Janice has returned to her family on the west coast after spending the bulk of the summer here with us. Bidding her farewell is always a difficult thing for me. Our relationship has often been a complicated one--we are sisters after all--but I have always adored her and she has always adored me. Being the two oldest with two children the same age we share similar life experiences even though we live a continent apart for most of the year. This summer our hearts crossed a lot of bridges to meet each other in a place of openness and acceptance. We witnessed firsthand the fabulous reality that we can become anew in each new moment so long as we grant each other that breathing, growing heart space.

Yesterday she spent most of her day flying across the sky, through clouds not unlike those which I am gazing upon today. I am gazing this morning as though bewitched by their splendour and I am reminded that we ourselves are like the clouds. Far too often we think of ourselves as fixed entities--I am Jill and you are You-- but really we are fluid like the ocean and the sky. We are waves of light and love, we are shape shifters in our mind's eye and co creators of the world in which we live. The beauty of the clouds is not unlike you. It is you.

Miss you already dear Janice but welcoming September into my heart one cloud moving breath at at time.

Thank you Janice! Thank you August. Thank you sky--for being You!

xoxo 
Intoxicated by clouds, but now ready to let them go...
Jill

Photo taken by Lucas MacCormack
Monticello, PEI 2017