Day 21 for me of Effy Wild's blog along through facebook: write a blog a day, share it in the group, visit three other blogs and comment on them. But the last day for the actual blog along.
I came to it late after getting tangled in the site set up which often changes once it's published anyway and looks completely different on the phone. But I'm LOVING blogging. The whole concept of it--choosing topics to write about, taking pictures or choosing links or quotes or YouTube videos to upload to create a theme. Or coming at it blind with no real direction, not even the words yet, just emotions. And of course the richest times are the ones that swerve unexpectedly and take me on a journey to a memory or place I wasn't expecting.
Of course it takes time. And commitment. A certain amount of vulnerability. I've found it's like the dens I used to make on the hills when I was a child. I would spend all day finding a good safe place to make a den, usually starting with a natural alcove, preferably across a ditch (of course it became an impassable moat in my mind, sometimes with hungry crocodiles). Then I would disguise the front with a 'door' of old branches or foliage. Next, bracken and moss (my imagination likes to think I could find soft moss but my bare legs remember prickly bracken) to make a place to sit. Hidden from the world I could relax. And watch the world go by through a barricade of leaves and branches. Shoo any dogs that came by to sniff. Hide safely from bullies although if they walked past I still held my breath and stayed motionless until my legs cramped. If I saw a friend pass (usually Maggie--still dear friends to this day we call each other 'Souley') I could whistle them over, open my door and let them in if they promised to never ever share knowledge of my den with anyone else.
I see my blog as a little like that. A refuge. A safe place. Yet a little like showing someone your den, taking that risk, and trusting that they'll treat it with respect. A tentative puppy roll show of soft underbelly.
So, will I continue to blog daily? I found my new moon vow for April last night.
Until the next new moon (15th May), I will blog daily. After that, who knows. Possibly not daily. Maybe I'll try to expand my readership. You can do that somehow through the virtual world. Lol. Learning new tools is never wasted. Sometimes I feel like I'm typing into a void but always I'm meeting myself on the page. Writing a blog underscores how I feel about writing in general, especially when I'm feeling discouraged: keep writing, keep saying your truth to the world, keep spinning your yarns to the stars, you never know when someone will stumble across your words. And you may never know how those words lift, touch or entertain them. It's okay not to know. Perhaps it's not for you to know. And of course it's not only written words that this pertains to, but your presence, how you show up. Because of that, you have to keep going through this world, one step in front of another, one word at a time.
Pick a room, any room, in our home and you'll discover my friend Linda's presence. Linda and I met at Simon Fraser University in B.C. over 38 years ago and quickly became close friends. A friendship that remains constant and connected to this day despite the physical distance between us. So it's natural that her presence would be so strong in our home. Add to that, she's one of the most generous people I know. On top of that, she's also THE most creative person I have ever met. I could write about Linda and about the strength our friendship until the cows come home, but for this blog today, I really want to concentrate on her beautiful fabric creations.
Again, pick a room, any room, in our home and you'll find at least one of her gorgeous wall hangings. Many parts of our house need attention. The floors aren't finished, some walls need to be repainted, trim needs to be put up and we won't mention the clutter, but so long as I have inspiring, comforting, lovely things on the walls, our home is complete.
The following quilted wall hangings from Linda in this blog are a few of the many I have from her (some of my favourites). Please enjoy them.
By far the biggest thing Linda has ever made for me is a full sized quilt for my double bed. It took her ages to match my room colours (purple and teal) and on one visit to see her, she had me sort through a pile of fabric and pick out every piece that I considered to be teal. A year or two later, she sent me the gorgeous quilt. And told me, with some glee and satisfaction, that some of the teal wasn't necessarily what I had chosen as teal. But you can see how stunning the end result is.
Every fabric creation Linda has made for me has a little square on the back with its title and date. Similarly with the quilt. So every night, I fall asleep "Beneath Winter Stars" no matter what season it is. And I fall asleep feeling loved, comforted and cherished from one of the dearest people in my life.
Sometimes you hear what you need to hear at the exact time you need to hear it. Aka an 'aha!' moment. I had one of those with my son Dane recently. Dane was listening to me vent about a particular situation with someone where my feelings didn't feel validated--I didn't feel heard. Dane listened and understood then simply said:
"Some people listen to reply.
Some people listen to understand."
Aha! How true! It was all I needed to hear to let the feelings go. And to understand that the other person was simply cueing up their response. It still hurt that they seemed to talk over me or gloss over my feelings but it made sense. Knowing that, almost expecting that, allowed me to change my expectations, gave me more power and more choice.
May you hear what you need to hear at the exact time you need to hear it today. And may you be receptive to the changes it brings.
Tai chi and qigong are two of the major grounding sources in my life. I've been practising tai chi for well over a decade now. That's what it's called: tai chi practice. Always something more to learn, always something more to explore whether in honing the physical movements or in the inner journey of sensations or emotional states.
Our instructor Hu tells newcomers to think of it as 'Chinese yoga.'
Tai chi and qigong promote health, strength and balance yet are easily adaptable for everyone and can be done in a chair, for instance. The series of hand exercises alone benefit the whole body by stimulating meridians (pathways) to enhance the flow of qi (energy) throughout the body. And that is the bottom line of practising tai chi and qigong, for me at least and especially in our western culture, to increase and positively direct the flow of qi.
Tai chi refers to a sequence of movements generated to move qi whereas qigong is a repetitive movement more designed to cultivate qi. I find both meditative and extremely beneficial. Originally I turned to tai chi when I thought I was losing my memory. I thought having to remember a set of movements would help. Whenever I tried to learn by video, I ended up falling over or contorting myself into a pretzel so turned to a local community hall group. No mirrors. Hu was our mirror. I'm very grateful to have learned this way as I had to truly internalise the movements. Plus I didn't have to face the other-worldliness sensation of adjusting to seeing myself moving around in front of a full length mirror. I could concentrate only on the postures.
I soon realised that tai chi worked for me.
I could feel the energy, see it in the increased blood flow to my hands and enjoyed the challenge of remembering the postures and the sequence. Qigong soothed me. The combination became increasingly meditative and grounding.
In 2009, my husband had a sudden massive heart attack at work. I was a wreck as they worked on him at the hospital and tried to stablise his heart. I couldn't stop crying. Finally they were able to stabilise him enough to put three stents in his arteries. Part of the procedure involved 'chilling' him for at least several hours, almost to the point of hypothermia. (I'm sure there's a technical term for this but I have no idea what it is) This allowed his heart to not work as hard as it didn't have to pump blood all through his body.
As you can imagine, the day had been extremely traumatic. Eventually all the family left. One of my step daughters was coming back to stay overnight with me. Alone in the empty waiting room late at night, I dimmed the lights and practised tai chi and qigong. Their familiarity and the steady rocking rhythm of one qigong in particular, comforted and calmed me like nothing else could that day. At one point, a janitor came in to clean the garbage. He apologised for disturbing me then when he saw what I was doing gave me a thumbs up.
I practise tai chi anytime and anywhere. Sometimes at work on my midnight shift, I tai chi walk down the hallway. Off view of the security camera!
Despite knowing how much tai chi and qigong benefit me, I sometimes find it difficult to get myself moving, to make myself practise even though my body may be craving it. It doesn't have to take very long. Three cycles of International Eight Form takes about 9 minutes. But I feel better, more centred, more grounded and simply healthier every single time. And stronger, physically and mentally. As such, tai chi and qigong are indispensable tools for me. Worth pushing through resistance.
Running out of time to blog today, so this is a previously published blog I wrote for the NOWW (Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop) website:
Old Friend from Far Away : The Practice of Writing Memoir
by Natalie Goldberg
Book review by Sue Blott
I recall a jump rope chant. I’m six again in the alley beside my house, rope slapping against cobblestones; my red leather shoes with perforated edges tapping the slippery stones; the stones themselves, steely blue grey at their best like ice cubes from a North Sea storm. Aloud I chant as I skip:
Sausage in the pan
sausage in the pan
sizzly sizzly sizzly
sausage in the pan
Something spectacular happens at the ‘sizzly sizzly’ part, something which sets this verse apart from the other verses of the chant. Perhaps a sideways jump, feet to the left, feet to the right, to emulate the zeds in sizzle. I forget. No matter. The memory is what counts...a memory captured by this book, Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg. The memory is as rich as the rhyme itself, unearthing sounds and smells and the rhythm of life. I’m glad to have uncovered it because it can take me places in my writing, any form of writing, not necessarily only creative non-fiction.
Such is the beauty of Goldberg’s book—her explanations and exercises act like fish hooks snagging unsuspecting memories and dragging them to the surface. I bought the book last fall at Banyen Books in Vancouver along with some Tibetan hand-rolled incense and a deep red glass heart. Before I had finished the book’s introduction (entitled “Read This Introduction”) I knew it would fast become another writing book staple.
I read it as a bedtime book first, anxious to bask in her words, skipping from mood to mood, exercise to exercise, perhaps cautious of murky memories. If I merely read the book instead of working through it, all those circling shark-like feelings would remain below the calm surface of my consciousness, right? Not so! Several times after I put the book down and began to drift to sleep, a fresh insistent memory or a powerful emotion stirred by the book made me drag myself back from sleep to quickly write it down and snatch its essence. Not necessarily a relaxing bedtime read!
Imagine the magic of working through the book, committing to her exercises, absorbing her words. Already I have several poems inspired by a simple read through.
Old Friend From Far Away is divided into ten sections. Each section contains an eclectic mixture of short explanations or anecdotes, often from Goldberg’s own life, and exercises.
Dip into any section, let her words ignite: “Writing has to move us. Writing is alive, a living process...Whatever is hidden or secretive will look for a way out. You’ll write about a grilled cheese sandwich and bubbling up in the middle of the cheese will be incest, deception, and adultery.”
Do any exercise, prepare for surprise:
“When did you pretend not to care? Go. Ten minutes.”
“Write a last letter to someone...Allow truth, like an open bowl—don’t try to put a lid on it or a bow.”
Natalie Goldberg’s first writing book, Writing Down the Bones, is one of my all time favourites, one I refer back to time and time again, one I regularly recommend to other writers. Old Friend From Far Away is now another steadfast favourite. As I read it, I find one hand turning the skipping rope all those years ago and the other hand holding a pen:
Pen across the page
pen across the page
sizzly sizzly sizzly sizzly
pen across the page
Something spectacular has happened. I’ve touched the raw nerve of an old memory and ignited it, if only for a book review. But don’t just take my word for it. Read the book and, in Goldberg’s own words, “...let’s pick up the pen, and kick some ass.” Go. I double dog dare you!
Today seems like a good day to write a short blog on the joy of pets. Dad's little dog, Tally, had an ultrasound and x-ray yesterday. She has a growth/mass inside her, close to her anal glands, that needs monitoring. But she is happy and active and eating and drinking as usual and has responded well to antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. A good time to remember the joy, happiness and comfort that pets bring us. As well as the worry sometimes.
My elderly dog, Rogue, had had diarrhea overnight last night. Several times across the kitchen floor. This morning I stepped in it before I noticed it. He's fine now. Just something he ate. I give him dog biscuits later to help his digestion. He licks my hand in his characteristic thank you whether it's treats, din-din or water that I'm giving him. Another good time to remember the joy, happiness and comfort that pets bring us. As well as the occasional, accidental mess.
Last night while I was on the computer, my big grey cat, Kaden, sat beside me on my painting table making it vibrate with his heartfelt purrs. He headbutted my shoulder, lowered his head for kisses and rested his paw on my arm as I worked. Wonderful company. Of course he really wanted the nice warm chair I was sitting in. He finally gave up and went to sleep on my bed instead. But I take his loving any way I can get it.
My tortoiseshell cat, Spook, 'little cat' in my haiku although she's getting bigger daily, is a bundle of affection. My heart sings when I feed her and she pprrrtts at me. My world is a happy place when a cat pprrrtts. Maybe only other cat lovers know the sound of a true pprrrtt but it transcends all deciphering and just lands as a ping! in my heart.
Following is a poem I wrote about the comfort of pets. Although it's a Christmas poem, the sentiment seems appropriate today. It was part of a cycle of my poetry which won first place in the annual NOWW contest in 2015.
So many things to do today
but my cat climbed in my lap.
She stretched and kneaded,
snuggled and snoozed,
wrapped her paw around my arm;
I hugged her right back.
Christmas cards to write and mail,
presents to sort and wrap;
the house to dust and clean,
and pets to feed after that.
A gauzy scrap of sunshine
slipped through snow-dense clouds
and draped across the stairs;
warmth trickled out.
With a sigh, my dog sank in a heap,
his head heavy across my feet.
As my cat purred deeply,
I drifted off to sleep.
So many things to do today
but my cat climbed in my lap.
~Sue Blott, 2015
Spring might have finally sprung here. Yay! At the same time, spring makes me restless, squirmy in my skin, forcing me to look to outside at things to do. So I need to do something. Move forward. Anything but practical, I decide to dust off the three 'word' rocks on my front deck. These rocks materialised at a time of change and transition in my life over 18 years ago. Every so often the words fade and I have to refresh them with a Sharpie.
Which words would you choose to print on rocks by your door?
Dream is a no-brainer for a triple Pisces like myself. But as I dust off 'dream', ready it for the marker, I realise that I still have my dreams but that I've let them get dusty, shoved them aside on high-up shelves to gather dust.
Believe is another go-to power word for me. I think it's important to believe in something, not necessarily anything spiritual. It could simply be that tomorrow is a new day, that spring will follow winter, that growth is happening deep in the soil, even when and, perhaps especially when, we are least aware of it. Believe and hope are good chums but for me, believe is a step more solid.
The other rock is chunkier, more angular and less symmetrical than the other rocks and I wanted it to be a word that challenged me. Dream and believe are beautiful, inspirational words and reminders but they are also second nature to me. So I chose 'dare'. It makes me a little edgy, a bit uncomfortable to come home or leave the house with 'dare' staring me in the face, forcing me to ask, what risks did I take today? What chances will I take? Can I step out of my comfort zone? Ironically, 'dare' is the word that fades first. Could it be the kind of rock? Or the colour? I can't pretend that this doesn't relieve me or please me to see it fading away. But it doesn't help anything either.
So I clean off my 'dare' rock. I can't even see that there once was writing on there! I make the letters bold as I always do. Bold and angular. But today I trace them with silver glitter nail polish. I doubt it will stay. But I know in my heart that if I need to refresh it often throughout the year, then that's a good way to do it, a good way to really grab my attention and push its way into my subconscious until daring becomes as second nature as dreaming and believing.
What is daring for you? What is one step you can take towards that dare today?
Inspired by Effy Wild's Moonshine group, I've been pulling a daily tarot card for a couple of months now. A fun way to enter the day. And to embrace it or brace myself depending on what cards I pull! I'm very familiar with the Rider Waite cards and, although I'm using the Wildwood Tarot and a version of the Celtic Tarot for Moonshine, I still find myself referring back to the corresponding Rider Waite cards. To follow up, I use an oracle deck, The Gentle Wisdom of the Faerie Realm. Below is my reading for today, taken this morning after a midnight shift and before a couple of hours of sleep on what I call my 'turn-around day'.
A strong reading. A positive one. I had mistakenly mixed the Seer with the Shaman on occasion when 'translating' to the Rider Waite deck so thought of the Seer as the Magician when she is in fact the High Priestess. Oh! Of course. For me, the Seer represents a secret revealed. A knowledge and power, a balance to be obtained by looking within and trusting myself and the process. All the elements and suits of the minor arcana are present and she stands in front of the tree of knowledge. She scries using the water in the stone vessel before her, but her eyes are closed showing she trusts herself to intuit its meanings and messages. Along with the delightfully grounding Queen of Pentacles whose throne is a tree and the beautiful Faerie card of Confidence, today promises to be a day of entering into and claiming my own power, perhaps some good news financially (pentacles represent money although more broadly for me, simply riches), but basically a message to trust myself and my intuition, to trust in a process that is revealing itself to me.
The cards seem dramatic. Especially when the day dawns ordinary and nothing monumental seems to happen.
But today is a gentle day for me, one I can mould to suit myself. After a solid sleep, I had homemade turkey soup with my husband, caught up on 'Coronation Street', fed the birds and cleaned and filled the bird bath for the first time this year, chatted with Dad over the phone a couple of times, Now I'm writing this blog. Later I'll finish some ATCs and edit a chapter in my novel. Maybe, if time allows, I can squeeze in some painting. Another phone chat with my son. He called while I was writing this. I helped with some family information.
Nothing huge or life-altering on the horizon for my today. Or at least nothing that I forsee. :-)
But I believe these days of gently moving forward in the life we've chosen and moulded are the most magical and self-affirming of all. They represent a solid grounding and a slow reveal of our true selves. What do we choose to do with our more malleable time? Perhaps it is on these days, these seemingly ordinary days, that we strengthen the self trust and self knowledge we need for more challenging times.
Dirty dishes clutter the sink. My kitchen floor needs sweeping. The dust bunnies have formed armies. But the pink geranium blooms in the window. Entranced, I'm drawn towards it, fully open in morning sunlight. Beyond, in the yard, melting snow has uncovered a myriad of messes to deal with. But at the moment all I can see is the geranium in all its pink beauty. As I turn the plant so the bloom faces the kitchen, I notice that the African violet beneath has also flowered. A delicate white flower. I rotate that too. So pretty in its delicacy.
A red flower placed in a window may expand its influence over all the area of your sight. -- Robert Henri, The Art Spirit
This particular geranium grows spindly and all to one side. Many people might have thrown it out already but I love it. It's well over 5 years old and was the centrepiece from a friend's birthday celebration. And it just keeps right on blooming and growing in its meandering way. Lighting up my kitchen window. Lighting up my world. Making the chores of cleaning dishes, sweeping floors and tidying the yard much more manageable and tolerable.
A catchy song often played on the radio these days is "Hey Ya!" by Outkast. One of the lines in the song, "Shake it, shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture," reminds me of one of the most precious and thoughtful gifts I ever received. It was a Christmas gift from my boyfriend, John, when I was 17. I had emigrated to Canada from Britain 18 months previously and the Christmas I was 17, I was heading back to England for a holiday with my parents. John gave me my gift and insisted that I open it early so I could take it with me. It was a Kodak instant camera which, like its Polaroid competitor, developed photos immediately so you could tell straight away if the picture hadn't come out properly. Then you could retake it. Today, with our digital cameras and phones, we take this for granted but back in the late 70s this was revolutionary. It saved much disappointment when the photos were finally developed and you discovered they were blurry or too dark. Especially when retakes involved expensive and lengthy trips across an ocean!
What a sweetheart John was. And how thoughtful. I got lots of great shots with the camera and did have to do a couple of retakes but could take them immediately. The film was expensive but I much preferred the glossy, smooth finish to the papery Polaroid ones. And no shaking involved with the Kodak photos. Just set it down and watch the picture develop in front of your eyes like magic!
But my camera was recalled. I can't remember exactly when or what I got in return for sending it back. Something about a patent issue with Polaroid. I remember being very disappointed, especially as I loved the camera and thought it the better of the two. However, I still had all the treasured pictures it took. A visual portal to my treasured memories and people thanks to a kind and thoughtful young man all those years ago.
Think back, what were your first cameras like? And what was one of the most thoughtful gifts you ever received?
Welcome! I'm Sue Blott: a writer of all things, a poet at heart, mom, wife, daughter, step-mom, grandma, tea drinker, tai chi-er, mystic, artist, dreamer...and now a blogger! This is my world.