Thursday, March 31, 2011

pay attention: a river of stones

A few days before my darling dad passed away, he said to me, "Pay attention day by day."

And like a good daughter, I've been trying.

During the month of January, I participated in a river of stones, International Small Stones Writing Month.  A small stone is a polished moment of paying proper attention.  People all across this wide world participated in writing and recording their own small stones for one month.  Seasoned poets, beginning writers, and all those willing to give up a moment of their day to pay attention, participated.

Following Small Stones Writing month, Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita, the creators of the river of stones project,complied an anthology of small stones in the book, pay attention: a river or stones.

I wasn't sure if I should submit something for publishing in the book. But a few nights before the cutoff, I was on the phone with my brother, Scott, who encouraged me to take the leap and just do it.  With any risk, there is fear, and I had grown to admire not only the wisdom of the editors, Fiona and Kaspalita, but also their kindness and encouragement.  What if I didn't make the cut?

The river of stones book

Only an inner ear infection could have suppressed the shouting of joy (and then bragging) that followed after finding out that the small stone I had submitted was going to be included in the book.  For days, everything that came out of my mouth to my husband and kids sounded something like this:

"Hey, could you please set the table for dinner?  The soon-to-be published-poet desires it."
"Hey, would you please take out the rubbish? Her highness, the soon-to-be-published-poet wishes it."
"Sweetheart, could you switch off the light?  The brightness is bothering the soon-to-be-published-poet's eyes."

I know.
How annoying.

But there's nothing that encourages a writer more than some of their very own words on paper, printed there by someone else.

My dad's advice, not only echoed the imminent things to come in my own life, but is just wise.  Everyday, we have a choice to glide through our experience, or to notice, ponder, attention to the little things that make up our lives.  The wise and devilishly good looking actor, Richard Chamberlain once wrote:
Preceeding any creation or discovery is attention.  It is giving our attention that opens the peepholes and great doors of discovery.  When I watch the workings of my mind, including those moments of intuitive, inner knowing that we all experience, I see that my attention is, in fact, who I am.  My attention is where I am.  To the extent that I give anything or anyone my attention, to that extent I am giving them myself.  I think attention is our primary power, perhaps our only power.  Giving someone or something our entire attention, with no preconceived ideas or agendas whatever, is the essence of love.
Paying attention is, sometimes, just plain hard.
But I'll tell you, stone by stone, there is is joy to be found simply in trying.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Letters to My Father

I came across a box last week at my Dad's house, filled with letters written to him from his children. Apparently, we shared the same passion for collecting letters.  As I read the thoughts I had written to my dad over the years, I found in them remembrances of life, and joy in living.

Here's a taste:

"Dear Dad,
     Remember when you bought this paper for me at the University Bookstore?  I do.  In fact, I am quite convinced that it is the reason I'm going here instead of the University at home.  You probably planted some deep subliminal idea in my brain at a very young age to go to your alma mater!"

     Yes, I made it here, the plane didn't crash~Tam and I have spent every moment in this pub--just kidding!  Actually, I'm having an incredible experience soaking in the culture.  I just can't believe I'm here!  Tomorrow we're headed for Paris...and don't worry, I'm not planning to bore you all with 50 million photos...that's what slides are for!"

"Dear Dad,
     Thank you for your letters each week, it's always nice to be reminded of home. Thanksgiving in Canada was yesterday, it wasn't like Thanksgiving at home; there was no Uncle Dave throwing rolls across the table, no incessant picture taking, and no one making me drag out dining room chairs from the highest room in the tallest tower.  I've never spoken French at Thanksgiving dinner or been surrounded by such crazy and wonderful people...oh wait, yes I have!"  

"Dearest Dad,
      In reflecting on my plans for the evening, I came to the realization that I forgot to tell you something.  Jack and I have decided to wed.  It was all decided a week ago, after I found out that I am going to the mother of Jack's baby!  Dear Jack has taken care of all the arrangements.  We are headed to Las Vegas where we plan to be married by an Hungarian priest named Raoul.  We are leaving tonight, and I'm so sorry I forgot to tell you before you and Mom left for the evening.
     Anyway, take care, and know that Jack and I can take care of ourselves.  We've taken employment at a nearby 24 hour "guns and medieval weaponry" shop, so there's no need to worry about our financial situation.

P.S. I'll be home by 12h30 or shortly thereafter, Jack and I have gone to a bonfire...puts my being late into perspective, doesn't it??"

"Dear Dad,
     I want you to know how very much I love you.  I am so grateful for everything you have done for me and my little family.  I am also grateful for all the things you have taught me--namely, to work (to always, always work), to persist in any endeavor that is worthwhile, to have a sense of humor about life and especially about myself.  And also, to value family and cherish them always."

I love you, Dad.

Monday, March 21, 2011

He Collected Friends

Losing a parent is one of life's strangest experiences.

Even though I knew it was coming, no amount of preparation could have braced me to lose my dad.  I keep thinking that the phone will ring and he will be on the other end asking, "What are you up to!?"

Somehow, there is a disconnect in my head:  I know he is gone.  I saw his body.  I sat through his funeral and eulogy, and yet, I just can't quite believe it.  How was this shell related to the man who spent countless hours at my piano recitals with his video camera recording every single moment for posterity? 

My dad's passing has been bitter and sweet.  A time to celebrate his life, and a time for sorrow.  As my brothers and I have sorted through my dad's personal posessions we've had time to reflect on his life through what he collected.

Collections are funny things.  I am a collector of books.  I have friends who collect clothes, or coins, or vinyl records.  It is amazing to look into someone closet and find out what really lights the path for them.   

Before Lady Gaga ever sang about "Paparazzi", Dad was well on his way to being, not the photographer with the greatest pictures, but the photographer with the greatest number of pictures. 

As we sorted through stacks of photographs of us as kids, of friends, reunions, cousins, vacations and just about every other moment of life, we decided one thing:  Dad didn't collect things, he collected people.

Dad was a fierce and loyal friend.  He never met a stranger.  He was kind, generous, and had a great sense of humor that would light up a room.  He loved people, and his friends were a great joy to him throughout his life.  He always said he was "lucky" to have so many wonderful friends, but it wasn't luck; because he was a wonderful friend, he had wonderful friends.  He extended his love and acceptance and friendship to all, and in turn, he treasured their love and affection all the days of his life.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011

Walking in Circles

I am walking in circles.

I am waiting.

Tick. Tick. Tick.  The clock is a cruel reminder that time is slipping away from me.  And yet, miraculously, life and living goes on.

Utterly unbelievable.

How to bring my self back from the brink and pay attention to the present moment?

I find weird comfort in quotes.  Feel free to disregard my blog for a while if your are not a quote lover, others always say things so much better than I.  Words keep me tethered to the present moment.  And I fear there will be more than a few quotes in the coming days.

Bear with me.

For for today, for this moment, in these words, I find comfort:

 "Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.  And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.  And how else can it be?  The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.  Is it not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?  And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?  
When you are sorrowful look into your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."
Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

A thought for Monday

The conditioning, shattering, heart stopping, amazing truth about divine love is that in all its sublime magnificence, it is absolutely, totally free.  Like sunlight, like the air, love is within and around each of us at all time without any exceptions or conditions whatever.  We have only to open our hears (awareness) to it to know that love is already there.  There is no distance between us and love, ever.
Richard Chamberlain, Shattered Love 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Quote of the Day

What is at each moment, no matter how magnificent, boring, or devastating, is where divinity lies.  Every atom of existence is sacred.  We'd like to pick and choose our moments, finding God in some and the devil in others.  But each moment, without exception, is a manifestation of the divine. We simply haven't expanded our awareness enough to feel the sacred everywhere.                        
Richard Chamberlain, Shattered Love  

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Catching Up, Walking & Sun

Thursday's Three Beautiful Things:

1. Catching Up.  Today I had lunch with a dear friend who I hadn't seen in a while.  Spending time with her feels like being reset to see the opportunities that life provides, if we simply pay attention.

2.  Walking.  If you've read here long, you know that walking is my coping mechanism for just about everything.  The more stressful the day, the longer the walk.  Today's walk was right on time.

3.  Sun.  After a long stretch of grey skies, the sun shined brightly, washing away all the dim memories of Winter.

What are your three beautiful things today?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Three Beautiful Things

You know how there are ups and downs in life?  I find myself in a down--I'm not down, just in the 'down' phase of things right now.  You see, my darling dad is dying.

And it totally sucks.

The last 6 weeks or so have been some of the most trying of my adult life. This situation is beyond my control to influence, but I do have one choice:  that is how I act right here, right now.

One of the blogs I follow is called Three Beautiful Things.  If you haven't checked it out, it is filled with small moments of gratitude, that, at first glance seem insignificant and unimportant, but when examined with sincerity and and open heart, are actual miracles.  Since I am a firm believer that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I am going to pay tribute to the author today and share with you a few things I am grateful for today.

And these don't necessarily have to do with my dad's inevitable passing, (which I'm sure I'll write more of later...or not...) but just three beautiful things I am grateful for that make today seem a little lighter and a little brighter.

Three Beautiful Things:  Saying Goodbye, Small Stones and Thank You.

One: A chance to say goodbye. I have had a chance to say goodbye.  I'm acutely aware that there countless numbers of people who never get the chance to say goodbye.  I have.  And my gratitude for this one, simple thing, fills my heart with such loving kindness to the Divine that even for a blather-er like me, there just aren't enough words.

Two:  Small Stones.  I am a funny girl, with square teeth.  I have always written.  Always.  Usually it was just funny perspectives on motherhood, student-hood, teenage-hood, childhood--you get the idea.  Anyway, I write poetry too--off and on--(what writer doesn't?)  but have always considered myself  'the funny girl' who writes funny things and people like to read them because they are funny.  Well, dear readers, I reached outside myself and submitted one of my small stones to be published and is!  This is one small step for writer-kind, and one gigantic leap for Square Toothed Funny Girls everywhere!!

Three: Thank You.  On a long car ride home this weekend, I received a phone call (from someone whom I just adore,) thanking me for something I was doing for them.  It was said with such sincerity, kindness and tenderness that the weight of love behind his words flew to me in an instant.

Those are my three beautiful things today.

What are yours?