One of my Mother’s Day gifts was a bottle of perfume from Powell’s bookstore called “Eau de bookstore”.
I’ve missed being in bookstores. Browsing them is one of my favorite things to do and with the pandemic, that was out, so there the books were shut up inside, and I, on the outside looking in.
Of course my house is filled with books but there’s something about a bookstore, the arrangement, exploration, discovery, and excitement that I’ve missed.
Before I opened the bottle, we discussed what the smell would be. Would it be musty or filled with light? I sprayed the scent, and yum. The smell was pure delight.
The blurb says: “The riveting scent of books, with subtle hints of wood and violet, come together in Powell’s by Powell’s. Wherever you are, experience the comfort and nostalgia of Portland’s most iconic bookstore. You won’t be able to put it down.”
It’s true. I inhale and exhale the enchanting smell of wisdom and connection shared over the years!!
When I went through chemotherapy, I learned that in receiving, I was giving. I didn’t have the energetic resources to give anything but reception and I saw the gift in that, the beauty of completing a circle of exchange.
Gracious acceptance is an art – an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about receiving things, which can be much harder than giving. – Alexander McCall Smith.
The sun has officially announced that it’s spring thanks to our planet’s revolving and tilt on its axis. Though it’s spring, it’s 39 degrees here this morning and yet the birds are happily singing and looking for mates and places to build their nests. The shift is clear.
Yesterday I was on a Zoom call where the woman leading was alone in a beautiful landscape in Canada. She sat by a wood fire she kept feeding with sticks of wood. Wrapped in a parka, she was next to a snow-covered frozen lake that was lined with evergreen trees. I, and others, felt we smelled the smoke as it wafted up into the air, and I thought what is imagination and memory in our lives. I felt cold as though I, too, was in a frozen landscape. People mentioned hot chocolate and s’mores.I wondered what signals the smoke was sending, what message the logs were giving as they gave warmth and light and changed form.
I found myself with trees and space. I wondered how it was for the trees to watch a wood fire, and then, I wondered if that’s what we’re always doing as we see others and ourselves age. I shifted into a different landscape of transformation and change.
There was, and is, a oneness to the feel, trees, landscape, frozen lake, wood, snow, and sun that gives burning energy and warm assurance to our lives. Now, today, I look out on the sun-kissed sky as I welcome what this new day offers and brings.
Friends are going through chemotherapy right now which may be why I’ve wondered what to post. My experience comes back, and I remember the beauty of connection, the clarity and gratitude that we are all one and we do a great deal to save the life of another.
Lately I’ve been with the uniqueness of each one of us, the uniqueness of our experience and perception.
Recently I read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. As reading does, it allows one entry into the mind of another, a man with Aspergers. It’s laugh out loud funny in places and yet there’s a deeper stream of compassion and strength holding it all together. Though it’s a trilogy, I only read the first book. It was enough, and I’m with enough these days, knowing enough.
I’m grateful to be alive and well and able to feel the reverberations of all we create and share as we balance the tides and embrace and release with care.
This morning I rise and realize I’ve made 47 Thanksgiving dinners, 41 of them in this house. This day honors tradition so I use my father’s recipes and the pans my mother-in-law gave us almost fifty years ago.
Two onions and a bunch of celery simmer in two sticks of butter. Giblets and the neck simmer also. They’ll come together in the dressing and gravy. One kitty and I will split the liver, a once a year treat. When my mother was alive, that was hers.
The day is exquisite with blue sky and a high of 65 predicted.
In Heather Cox Richardson, I learn that Thanksgiving as we know it was introduced by Abraham Lincoln to heal the wounds of the American Civil War.
Thanksgiving is about unity, about coming together, though this year we are advised to do it virtually, and we will. I read that people who serve and have served in the military are upset with people whining over not being able to gather when they were often overseas for the holidays, many times year after year. This year we’re asked to come together, separately for the health and well-being of us all.
Heather Cox Richardson:
Lincoln established our national Thanksgiving to celebrate the survival of our democratic government.
Today, more than 150 years later, President-Elect Joe Biden addressed Americans, noting that we are in our own war, this one against the novel coronavirus, that has already taken the grim toll of at least 260,000 Americans. Like Lincoln before him, he urged us to persevere, promising that vaccines really do appear to be on their way by late December or early January. “There is real hope, tangible hope. So hang on,” he said. “Don’t let yourself surrender to the fatigue…. [W]e can and we will beat this virus. America is not going to lose this war. You will get your lives back. Life is going to return to normal. That will happen. This will not last forever.”
“Think of what we’ve come through,” Biden said, “centuries of human enslavement; a cataclysmic Civil War; the exclusion of women from the ballot box; World Wars; Jim Crow; a long twilight struggle against Soviet tyranny that could have ended not with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but in nuclear Armageddon.” “It’s been in the most difficult of circumstances that the soul of our nation has been forged,” he said. “Faith, courage, sacrifice, service to country, service to each other, and gratitude even in the face of suffering, have long been part of what Thanksgiving means in America.”
“America has never been perfect,” Biden said. “But we’ve always tried to fulfill the aspiration of the Declaration of Independence: that all people are created equal….”
Biden could stand firmly on the Declaration of Independence because in 1861, Americans went to war to keep a cabal of slave owners from taking control of the government and turning it into an oligarchy. The fight against that rebellion seemed at first to be too much for the nation to survive. But Americans rallied and threw their hearts into the cause on the battlefields even as they continued to work on the home front for a government that promoted the common good.
I wake with elves dancing in my chest and stars twinkling in my ears. I believe in Santa Claus, in love, giving, receiving, and peace. We can have this when we pause for a moment, and before we know it, each pause is fully aired with love, gratitude, and peace.
May we each radiate in ourown precious and only in this moment, startling and momentous ways.
I learned about Commonweal years ago when a good friend had cancer. I’ve loved Rachel Naomi Remen’s books for years. Today I quote from an interview with her in the Commonweal newsletter on A Life with Purpose.
She says, “My grandfather believed that each of us has a holy purpose and that we fulfill this purpose in many ways – through our relationships, our families, our careers, or just on some street corner somewhere. We may fulfill our life purpose simply by something we say to some stranger on a bus.”
She continues on speaking of collective purpose which has a Hebrew name, Tikkun Olam, which translates as the word service.
“One of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, writes about this in his book Cat’s Cradle. According to Vonnegut, God has organized the world into working units called Karasses. A Karass is a group of people who have been born to serve one of God’s holy purposes without ever knowing. Their lives and their work may bear no outward relationship to one another. No matter. They serve their holy purpose together perfectly. Vonnegut says the members of a Karass circle around their holy purpose like electrons circle the nucleus of an atom. Some orbit very close to the nucleus. Others orbit at a great distance. But all are bound to their holy purpose by spiritual bonds, bonds of the soul. Those who orbit very close to the nucleus may be friends or even a married couple. But most others are total strangers: people whose lives and work seems to bear no relationship to one another, people of all ages who speak different languages and have different religions, people who will never meet or have any awareness of one another. Yet their lives fit together in service to their holy purpose. Vonnegut contrasts this to the Grandfaloon, the way human beings organize the world. The people in a Grandfaloon think they are related to one another but actually have no relationship to one another at all; for example, the Yale class of 2003 or any professional sports team anywhere.”
She continues: “According to Vonnegut, should you have the good fortune to meet a member of your Karass, you feel a sort of deep recognition that you can’t explain, a sense of bondedness, a feeling that this other person is truly family.”
This is the third Sunday of Advent and that has meaning for some. The day is softly coming to light.
I look up the meaning of advent, and come to “coming”. I find myself coming to the word adventure, a place we come to explore and discover. We each have our own way to worship. For me, it’s something deeply inner I’ve always felt and known.
I watch the sun rise and feel that rising in my chest. It’s a new day.
I’m reading The Power of an Open Question by Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel. She begins the book with her experience of rock-climbing in Colorado. She quickly learns rock-climbing forces her to pay attention. She has to notice “shallow patterns and textures in the rocks”.
She says “Hanging off a rock is an exaggerated experience of facing the unknown.” “When we can’t find a foothold, the mind falls into an open stillness – the same-open stillness we encounter in any situation in which we lose our familiar points. If we have the wherewithal to relax, we find our way.”
Knowing one can’t hang there forever, “we work with our own fear and slowly soften. Now, this is the fascinating part: as we soften, we notice all kinds of new patterns and shapes emerging from the rock. We see places to balance we didn’t see before. We’re not doomed after all. As we soften and open, we access a special intelligence, unimpeded by habitual, reactive mind.”
For me, this time of year allows that. It’s a time to notice and receive.
Softening like wax warmed by flickering flame, I look for new patterns and textures to open and touch like treasure chests.What invites me now?
I wake aware of feeling like a pillow of silk sewn together to hold fine sand that’s been lifted to fall and fill with air between each beautiful and powerfully contained grain.
It’s the time of year to even more gently and tenderly allow the particles and waves of gratitude to coalesce and flow through.
On Saturday I learned a friend was ill, very ill, and I was struck, penetrated by daggers of sorrow. My web of connection had a tear, but it wasn’t a tear. It was a re-weaving and she is fine now but even so it comes back to how we meet what comes, how we come together and apart all the time. I’m feeling even more clearly how the point is to receive, balance, and in healing, radiate our own powerful and unique force.
Yesterday I was in a larger grocery store than my usual one. I stood still in awe, over and over again. Piles of apples and pears. Rows of cooked food, prepared, a bakery, lines of meat, fish, chicken. The back row of this huge store is lined with dairy products, different kinds of milk, eggnog, eggs, sour cream, butter, cheese, cottage cheese. I’m not sure why it struck me so clearly yesterday but it did. Perhaps it was because I’ve been reading of walking the Camino in Spain and food is not guaranteed. One must allow the stomach to rumble and contract, and here I was in a place of gathering where food, wine, and decorations are abundant in offering and display.
I had come from meeting a friend for breakfast, so was full, full in all ways of fullness, and perhaps that allowed a deeper appreciation for what is here.
We are connected, and again, perhaps the emphasis is deeper now as the days come to darkness, and we celebrate each in our own way, together or apart.
Blessings bind us when we feel the grains of sand we are, as we come together and part, like sand in silk.