Gratitude

Greetings all,

Today, in the United States, many of us celebrate Thanksgiving. For our family, it is not about celebrating the traditional story told of coming to America, conquering the land and its people, then sitting down for a shared meal. 

For us, it is a day to come together with family and friends, express gratitude, eat not only turkey and the favorite childhood dishes but also lentil balls, vegan gravy and mashed potatoes, and of course pie. Always, pie.

Some years it might be more challenging to open our hearts to gratitude as we experience our losses and challenges in life, but there are invariably people and things that we find we can lift up. Today, I acknowledge and thank you, the reader. Thank you for taking the time to read, comment, and like, however it is you interact with me, throughout the year and years that I have been offering my thoughts and reflections. It truly becomes a shared journey between us.

Good wishes to you in this day, wherever you are, whatever you find in your gratitude list, whomever you find in your day who offers you kindness and compassion.

I offer you a poem, a bit of my expressed gratitude. As I have been absorbed in the writing of my El Camino journey with my sister, a little poem floated in one day while I was waiting for my client to appear on Zoom. I hurriedly wrote it out and laughed out loud when I came to the last line.

One Marvelous Big Toe


Little self learns to walk following
her sister’s lead. Up on two legs,
one foot, one foot, plop.

It looks so easy, now up, fall,
up, fall. Then, one day, she
pulls herself up with strength
and determination. 

She does it! with pride, a smile,
looking around for approval,
seeing clapping hands, laughter,
and happy delight. 

What a fun trick. She can do this
and make others happy—until,
one day she will recognize 
making herself happy with:
run, skip, walk, bike, and kick.

Sometimes a kick in anger.
Sometimes a dance with joy.
Sometimes a run with fear.
And sometimes, a bike ride with abandon.

There is so much to express
with legs and feet making her
own vehicle of transportation.

For now, little self plops down on the floor
rocking onto her back, feet flying in the air, with
her foot coming to her mouth.

She finds comfort and peace
in a sloppy, happy kiss to her 
one marvelous big toe.

@Janis Dehler

On Empty Feeling Full

Words are the most powerful thing in the universe… Words are containers. They contain faith, or fear, and they produce after their kind.”

—Charles Capps

I sit and stare at a blank screen trying to conjure up words, craft a sentence, develop a theme. I find nothing new arises, except the awareness that I have used so very many words in my writing over these past days.

Early in the week, my words wove into a tribute to my mother on the 100th anniversary of her birth, followed by my El Camino memories crafting into a broader memoir, then continuing the arduous task of writing my life and complicated ancestry into a more developed timeline in story form for my kids and grandkids.

I realize that within this feeling of empty there resides a deep satisfaction in the artistry of words, flowing like a rhythmic dance, whether they mean anything to anyone else does not intrude. It is the feeling when I am lost in painting and it all connects, when the spices are just right in the dish crafted for dinner, or the tree, the sun, and the shadow align in perfect symmetry for the photo I snap.

Then, there is a moment of empty, a day of rest, or possibly the eternity hidden within the pause between each breath­­—a long moment to take it in, deep within, and ready myself for the next flash of inspiration. We can’t consume so fully every day. We need rest, contemplation, review, as a time to pull it all together and see the whole.

The truth of this comes to me as it has been a span of four years since I walked El Camino and the full review of my blogs, journal, and post trip review, reveal to me what I could not see then. They point to where I am today. They beg me to go deeper into an event revealing something in me or other that I could not see before. The pause has deepened my experience. The space of time has opened my heart.

Today, empty is a feeling of full.

Where There is Despair, Hope.

Where There is Despair, Hope
18 x 24 Acrylic by Janis Dehler

All Hallows Eve is upon us. The veil between the physical realm and the spirit realm is thin, as I experienced it upon my mother’s death. A sacred and holy time when we feel the presence of all that is beyond our finite sense of reality. It is the eve before the day of the saints; those who have now become the ancestors; those who we look to for their inspiration and guidance; those who we will become as we in turn decay into food for the soil in a mutual exchange from walking this earth feasting on its abundance. The children dress as goblins and ghouls as they stand up to the dread and anxiety held for this final transformation. We bring laughter to this day as we allow the child within to face her fear. 

In this covid time, dying feels closer as we witness the illness, the deaths, the fires burning across the world. Where do we find hope? Where do we find peace for our tender hearts? What do we bring to the alchemy we conjure in turning fear and divisiveness into kindness and caring? 

Like the seed that sprouts in the crevasse of rock, the green of will and desire rises and flows, weaving and connecting, bringing the persistence of the living to this momentous time. Let us not shy away from remembering, acknowledging, and honoring all that dies while deciding carefully what we wish to carry forward. It is choice at its finest. Not through the idle movement of habit but through conscious awareness of all that we are and wish to become. Not against something but with, not away from but towards. Knowing that each moment of life is a moment of death as everything changes, cells die off, and memories fade. Forgiveness transforms resentment, love envelopes hate, kindness covers cynicism. Growth and beauty strive forward from the depth of darkness to the brilliance of a new dawn.

And so it is.

The Colors of Autumn

“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love—that makes life and nature harmonize.”

George Elliot

On Tuesday the sun shone brightly, the shadows creating a sharp contrast to the bright yellows, reds, and oranges of the maples I passed along my walk. I stopped to photograph a tree and thought of a painting this might inspire. The smile arising on my face was delight and on I went to the next beauty.

On Wednesday, the sky was gray and overcast the entire day moving into rain in the afternoon. On my return from an errand, I turned down Central Avenue and noticed the stately red maple to my left as it stood out in size and color among many. The size of the tree spoke of longevity while the depth of color drew me into my heart. As I looked further down the hill the deep rusts, golds, and reds almost into purple did not thrill me as on a sunny day but brought me to a moment of peace. I began to notice that in this light on this day the colors took on more depth as if I could enter them and rest in them, be held in them for this moment. These colors did not tantalize but beckoned, did not scream but whispered.

As the day moved on in my chores my eyes would alight on the mums in display at my front door that on a sunny day would draw my attention with their stunning color. Today, I experienced the color in my body as warm, solid, and enduring.

At the end of the day along towards sunset, I gazed out our windows to the river. I chuckled to see the wild turkeys running through the yard after stopping to graze on the seeds dropped from the bird feeder. As I sat at the dinner table my vision moved along the rust colored table cloth to the greens, golds, oranges and reds of the mums in the centerpiece, out the sliding doors to the red/purples of the Amur Maple toward the river. The sky was soft and darkening and I felt the desire to pause, to weep, to enter a place that draws us into the soul.

In the season of autumn we are moved into our natural rhythm, from spirited sun dappled joy to the soul depth color of being, allowing the need to open to as we move from bright lights to inner darkness. In quiet, deep, listening and inquiry, we draw life from the stillness. In this place, grief is attended to, sorrow is transformed, compassion soothes our pain. We become one with rather than the one stepping out of the moment to photograph.

We do not stay long in these depths. It is a journey we flow in and out of in a moment, an hour, or a day. Today the sun shines brightly again and I long to walk amongst the color.

Notice that autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Tears From The Heart

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.                                                                          Karen Blixen

A friend recently asked if it is okay not to cry as others do. I have encountered this question in the past from clients and at times from myself. Tears are curious things. They can come unexpectedly, unwanted, in torrents, or gently and softly, and not at all. And then we wonder, why? 

Tears might come as a simple moistening in the eyes, or gently fall while experiencing another’s pain. They might come quite suddenly in a joyful moment, and we feel our heart burst open. We can feel cleansed after a deep cry. Our body relaxes, softens, and as we breathe and quiet, we might become aware of a larger space within. There are tears after a profound loss that can feel as if we will drown. There are also the tears after humiliation, betrayal, standing up for yourself when all you want is to be angry and confront, and then out pour the tears. Then that feels humiliating. Sometimes tears come after prolonged laugher, the kissin’ cousin of tears, with at times moving into the weeping of deep pain that had been buried or ignored. It can feel as if we have no control, and we don’t. Not really. We can make ourselves cry but that takes some practice and may be a surface experience only. We can at times hold our tears back, bite them back, but then everything else gets all scrunched up and we tighten around the tears or the loss. We can feel like we have not cried at the appropriate time, like at a funeral. Then, a few weeks later, we are watching a Hallmark commercial or a movie or listening to a song and the tears flow, sometimes gently and at times into a sob. We may not find tears at all in a loss experience as our primary feeling might be gratitude or relief.

The tears after profound loss don’t necessarily flow freely. Not for me anyway. After I learned that my baby had birth defects and would not live, I was in shock and numb. I was brought to her in the NICU and on the way there had a panic attack. I could not breathe. Then I saw her in all the wires and machines, and she was beautiful. It was only later, back in my room, away from it all, during our priest’s prayer and blessing, as he placed his hand on my head, that the tears arrived. Even then they were painful but gentle. This loss contained a well of tears that took many tear sessions over a length of time to get to the depth of the well. 

After my dad’s death, I went into action. There was funeral planning, a eulogy to write, family arrangements, making sure mom was attended to. It took a few weeks, and seeing I was starting to snap at my husband, for me to realize and own that the pain was being held in too long and I needed to take the time to go to the well. It was the same after my mom’s death except the first tears came in torrents soon after her critical stroke when I knew to my core where this was headed with the difficult decisions needing to be made. 

Not having tears does not have to mean one is numb. It does not necessarily mean the heart is closed. The mantra from my childhood goes, “If you are going to cry, go to your room.” It has been hard for me to fully cry in another’s presence. I have had to learn to trust that experience as it does not come naturally. My daughter is my teacher. I marveled since she was young how tears could flow naturally and freely in pain or joy. I treasured her free open expression and realized how the witnessing of her tears opened my heart. Some cultures encourage and live out a very natural robust expression. For others it is stoic. We are a melting pot of an array of expressions, and we cannot judge one against the other. And certainly, we cannot judge ourselves in our experience. At best we bring compassion and curiosity. 

My response to my friend’s question? It is all okay. Tears are not required. Rather than, why am I not crying, I might ask; Is there something I am not expressing? What do I wish to express? In what way now do I want to express myself? Create? Build? Write? Sing? Laugh?  In what way do I best express myself? Then, after the question, return to the heart and listen.

Tears are healing because they flow from the heart and there is a myriad of ways to express from the heart. When we do allow expression, we feel not only a deeper connection to self but to the greening world around us, to the collective whole, to sacred Oneness. In our honest open expression, we come to an inner silence, the doorway to the Divine. 

 

The Moment of Uncertainty

One World: On the Journey
Janis Dehler
In the teen years, life calls her forward, 
Stepping out from home, family, childhood.

Not that she won’t someday return
but that she needs to scratch the itch of curiosity.

As many before, she walks out, alone among many, 
challenging habits, ways of thinking, learned perceptions.

She asks: who sees me? Who acknowledges me? 
What is here for me?
One day in the seeking future,
She sits in quiet, she listens to her heart,
In that moment of uncertainty, a voice is heard,
I see you. I know you. I believe in you.

Then the knowing arises,
I am seen as I see.
I am known as I know.
I am loved as I love.

I am home.

@Janis Dehler