It's Easier than I Think

Walking today in Jericho Park, the path was easier than I thought it would be. The rain has melted most of the week’s snow, but I was there bundled up prepared for the worst, clunky boots and all. I was too hot. It wasn’t very icy and I couldn’t have prepared for the muck on the path. There’s a parallel with this issue of the newsletter. (Bear with me.) Before leaving for the walk, I sketched out a few topics to go into but none really grabbed my attention. They seemed forced. As if I had to write something of value, or an article with research behind it. Something maybe important, or worthy of your attention. It felt too much like an assignment. Definitely NOT a walk in the park!

Then I got it: this is easier than I think. After all, I’m writing to you for our own shared enjoyment, right? There are plenty of sources of information that you can google as well as I can! Plus we all have access to so many read-worthy articles, by phenomenal writers. I remind myself that I named this newsletter Personal Papers.

A writer friend once told me the process was actually very hard for her. It was a chore that was time-consuming, difficult, and demanding. I wonder if I missed the memo somehow. The only time I CAN write is when I open out and allow whatever to come through. Fast. I can’t do painstaking. Should I? Not at the start. Even if I fear my unedited ramblings might be meaningless to anyone else, I can’t even think that way if I want to begin to write anything at all. That is a barrier-thought and it stops the voice.

Of course the voice’s expression can be refined and that’s when the editor brain comes in. But not until I’ve had that swoosh of the first draft. And you, dear readers, are mostly getting one-pass articles here - checked for spelling and super-convolution thinking, but otherwise guaranteed free-range and organic. All natural. No additives.

I’m sure other things are easier than I think they are, too. I’m going to look at that.

I want to get better at selecting as I go, then editing as needed. I’m talking about learning when to stop, learning how to discern in process, whether it is editing in camera, framing the shot, or writing from the heart.

In the week to come I’ll remember this idea of relaxation: letting that voice take the lead in a simple spontaneous dance or duet between thought and the form of its expression.


Snow photo by James K-M

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A New Shape of Things

As the Wolf Moon wanes, I’m sensing a new shape of things, and my place in it. Like the visions of sugarplums dancing in the heads of sleeping children on Xmas eve, I see things I could or should do, ideas I could or should make happen. But these are all based in my past, and let me be the first to say they are super-great ideas for my former self.

Now, in my deepest listening to a deep new inner heartbeat, I think I discern a code for what is actually to come, what is truly to be. I put aside those colourful dancing sugarplums. I can tell that each is a whole world or enterprise that would take a lot of time and energy to make into a reality. The transition from idea into physical form takes energy from all the human beings who want the idea to become real in the world, in matter.

We want to see what really matters!

For me, I can’t select and sort from a large menu; the mix and match at the make-your-own-poke cafe has too many options. And if I don’t want what’s on the suggested menus? That’s where I was this past week.

What am I supposed to do?

It has something to do with an exhausted heart. The Australian fires. The actions of Trump in Iran, the tragic loss of life in the Ukrainian plane shot down, the fog of all the misinformation. The fear of escalating war. Twice last week, for brief moments, nothing mattered. I was done. Empty. The game closed down. This never happens to me. I can let down, be sad, feel deeply, all that. I can angrily “not care”. But this was not that. It was empty nothing + mortal exhaustion.

Like everything, that didn’t last. Whew!

Today, I sense something new is coming into that gap in the continuum. It’s waiting in the wings, gathering molecules and setting up vibrations to open a new direction. I’m watching, still, thinking.


Mrs. Moore

When I was in university, I wrote papers on E.M.Forster’s Passage to India. At the time you’d think it was the story that got me - all about racism, colonial politics, British cruelty and hypocrisy, suppressed sexuality, the silly goose Adela Quested, and the mystery held in the caves. But it was Mrs. Moore who compelled me to return again and again to that novel. The crowd chanting her name, Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Moore. The inner character of Mrs. Moore and her deep detachment while all the drama was escalating around her. I’d never seen a character like that in any book.

In Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, the grandmother, Helena Ekdahl, also has some of that quality. Sitting late at night with her brandy, looking through the family photobooks.

Shirley

Ruth Sheen’s performance in Mike Leigh’s High Hopes has stayed with me for days. Her character Shirley’s soft genuine simplicity was so luminous and optimistic, kind and natural - an earth-mother-to-be. Also I was uplifted by the extraordinary moment of reveal, at the very end, the last line spoken by Mrs. Bender, played by Edna Doré.

Those four (mostly old) gals: Mrs. Moore, Fanny and Alexander’s grandmother, Shirley, and Mrs. Bender come to mind just now, singing snappy harmonies together like a WWII sister act. Caring or distant, holding the world together like goddesses or letting it just fall apart, each takes a solo with a little tap dance or turn. How I love the rich world of these women from the imagination, keeping up their spirits, and mine, with a cup of tea, a sip of brandy. It helps.

(Oh, I know its much more complicated than that, but I’ll stay here for a while anyways.)


This week’s photo is of a poster from the gift shop of the Alhambra, in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. Inspiring me to write next about the confluence of forces in Andalusia, the beautiful intertwining of mystic paths and knowledge when Jews, Muslims, and Christians shared and studied together in harmony.


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Everything a Year Can Bring

The new year rolled in with a global bang and shudder as we further face the realities of the climate crisis, the war-action of the US president, adding to all the other planetary and human urgencies now upon us.

Steadily and with single focus we each choose our action and go forward. Some might turn off social media for a time to bring back a little breathing room. Others will ramp it up, amplifying causes. Some plan to tune out the news cycle to tend a garden, write a novel, or develop new on-the-ground skills. Others look to deepen discovery of the news behind the news. I started this newsletter last August as a voice outside of social media, hoping to bring in something new, to cultivate my imagination, to communicate with you in a deeper way. I plan to keep it up throughout the year and follow where it leads me.

I’m trying and learning. The “audience stats” are not what I’m after. It’s a bit of a dance. We know each other, or we have at least met in person, so this isn’t a public message like a blog post. It is a letter to you.

As we go into the darker days to January and February, I’m listening. Some of you have been facing physical health issues, some big ones. Some of you are coping with grief and loss. I’m thinking of you. We are all facing the inevitability of change and its growing pains. I used to be so afraid of change I would wall it out if I could. I thought change = danger. The unexpected was not to be trusted. I learned this tension from my English mother, my often-disappointed mother.

My perspective changed for the better, though. Once, walking along a beach with friends, roses washed up on the shore. Roses! Long-stemmed, still alive, beautiful! As if they were telling me that the unexpected could also be good. Right to my feet, a gift of roses carried by the sea. My mythic magical thinking was in full force. Hope. Gratitude. Roses.

Years later, and further north, other friends tossed funerary roses down a cliff into that same sea. Then I clicked into understanding. Those magic roses from the beach that had given me such delightful happiness were no doubt mixed with ash - roses from a memorial. A mythic balance.

These are some thoughts I am putting aside and not writing about here: the parallels and the easy patterns of ebb and flow, give and take, blessing and loss; or the dead feeding the living with depth; or the self-centred idea that all I experience is about me, for me, when it is actually a much more interdependent inter-causal activity that I’m lucky to pick up even a tiny portion of.

Back to the real-time metaphor of the roses in the sea foam, coming to shore at the exact time people happen to be walking to find and receive them… A contact, or connection.

These roses were like a message in a bottle. There’s a romance to the bottle with a message in it, washing ashore. Even if the message is desperate and dire, even if the action we need to take because of that message involves a difficult quest or rescue. Today the romance of charming debris tossed to the seashore has turned into a nightmare story of plastic contamination. The message now is delivered in a plastic bottle that itself is the horror tale. The power of magical thinking and esoteric charms are not enough to clear this up and save the sender of the message. We need technology, legislation, education, and public will.

Meanwhile, in another romance, newly-weds cast their wedding roses into the sea, then they slip out of their finery, and dive off the pier. The moon is full. Roses float on the water. The couple swims out from the pier a ways before coming back. They vow that when one dies, the other will toss roses in that very spot.

The imagination, our poetic birthright, our access to the world’s past and future, gives vision, scope, and comfort. It is not just making things up but it is actually making things, just not with the dense material of the earth - but with “the stuff that dreams are made of.” Shakespearean stuff, known by Mirabai and Joyce, Milton and Hafiz, Blake and Rumi, and any child hearing a bedtime story or fairy tale.

Answers to our problems and quests come down those same corridors, as instantaneous flashes of insight.

The open mind is available. If guidance comes, we are to act on it. That is all. (And it is everything.)

They say the Zen mind is an open field watching for lightning.


  • The image at the top of this newsletter is a still from the amazing animation work of Suzan Pitt. We’ve just subscribed to the Criterion Channel, and watched 7 of her films there. Highly recommended.


  • And the bushfire smoke turned Australian sunrise into an image of the Aboriginal flag. Read more: Daily Mail, photo by Rose Fletcher, New Year’s Day.


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Time to Reset

The year 2020 peeks over the horizon and gets a few glimpses of the daunting task ahead.

Meanwhile Best of…Worst of… lists are everywhere, gathering bouquets of the year’s media and events. All amplified and further pumped up since it’s not just one year, but the whole decade! It’s far too much to pay attention to, so I save for later.

The lists fill this sweet unfocused time before the New Year, when ideas, plans, and goals are sleepily shifting (maybe dancing) or drifting in and out of focus. Soon to be deployed, they are all now on holiday, raising a margarita glass with a laugh, or smiling and nodding to me holding a fine teacup, or just waving a hand to let me know they are in the room but in full relaxation mode. Present, but not yet ready to engage.

A time to reset

This is the gap time when whatever we do has little effect. Everyone seems to be in the spell of what’s been called “dead week”.

We can’t act, but only look back on the past year, or skry for the new. As the news pours in on what worked in the past decade, and what were foolish idiotic trends that we’re glad to do without, I may look, but I don’t really apply it to myself. I’m in my own rhythm, maybe it’s lunar. More likely it’s part of the mass consciousness, but with my own secret sauce. (Or do we not say secret sauce anymore? It’s so last decade.)

Best of = climate action. Worst of = climate crisis.

I’m thinking that tracking minor social shifts and changes is becoming a luxury we can no longer afford. Our lives are much more than workshops for superficial self-improvement resolutions. We are needed for bigger plans than the personal. What are we concerning ourselves with here? I keep thinking there must be some way I can take the strongest ideas and break them into tiny bite-sized daily bits that I can do in the year to come.

With my own shifting ideas, plans and goals, I want to build a pattern that can hold strong through the unexpected in the year to come, and make a sort of framework for whatever the following years may bring.

Here’s how I envision it. My focus makes a circle of these goals and plans, so they can all work together. Right now, the ideas are fading in and out, moving slowly, coming in and out of the room. They’ll just walk around together, in an easy and unforced circle at different rhythms, but moving in the same direction. Later, they’ll find their natural places to stand and be, but not yet. They’re still gathering round, coming in and out the door, some still finishing their wine, others taking an afternoon nap, some laughing in a corner before reluctantly joining the others.

It will probably be like this for another couple of days. Then at the outset of 2020, all together in their circle, they will start the decade on the right foot, with the right intention. It will be my New Year’s Revolution!

Let’s make 2020 the year it all turns around.


No words

I’m saddened and shocked to realize that hundreds of millions of animals have been lost in Australian fires. The true scope of the disaster is emerging, with ecologists reporting a heartbreaking mass loss of animals.

Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate some 480 million mammals, birds & reptiles have been lost by the devastating bushfires in 2019. There are now fears entire species of animals and plant life may be lost forever, with scientists moving to understand the full scope of destruction. - Sydney News


James comments on his photo of a serving bowl on its matching plate. “What can I say about it? A kind of calendar, a pattern watching over us, something that defies our interpretation and keeps it that way, something that provokes our criticism because it is cheaply made? All of the above, and life goes on.”


I want to write more to you, but this is a time of reset. I’m getting ready for what’s next, in ways I don’t recognize or fully understand yet. See you next week, or as the old joke goes, “See you next year!”

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All Light Greetings

Point of view vs point of awareness

Everything goes by so fast. In these days of instantaneous immediacy there isn’t a solid footing to create any single point of view. So I have to come from a single point of awareness if I want to make sense of it all, or at least not close down the inputs. Besides, it’s all just a big distraction when my main question is “Where is Narnia and how do I get there?” I feel like I’ve been pushing the back of the wardrobe for some time now and nothing seems to budge. Do you think it was just a poetic metaphor?

Let’s go anyways

My parallel life, the one I write into existence, had been far from me the last few days. I was like the reed cut off from its place by the stream, but not yet turned into a flute. Still, I daydreamed mightily about all the tender and meaningful letters I would write to people who are important to me. But this sort of thing doesn’t mesh well with time and the requirements of daily living. I’ve left all those letters in Narnia, I suppose. They’ll likely be sent from there.

The winter shaman who leaps across the globe flying in the night sky may deliver them for me if you leave an offering of sweets. I can’t do it here on your screen - this is a different sort of sorcery.

Hitting the dark on the shortest day, then I turn upside down

I’m relieved to be turning with the earth and all the cosmic universe toward the return of the light. Yesterday I hit the dark pretty hard, feeling something in myself that winter solstice holds. Not a gleam of light to be found, I was trapped, scraping the bottom and sides of the old well. Did I fall, was I pushed, or did I jump in? That dark well couldn’t be my Narnia, could it? Somehow I returned - not rescued, just changed, back in time to light candles for the longest night.

I realized that I’d had a completely upside down point of view! I thought I was helplessly stuck in the well looking up for a glimpse of the stars shining down into it. But at the same time, I was a star like a searchlight, peering down into the well, looking for contact.

When the big hand shook the snowglobe and turned it over, I fell out of the well so easily. I flew with the dizzy snow swirls before gently landing flat on my back to watch the sparkles dancing above me.

Somewhere far outside my bubble globe, above the walls and the rooftop, there are big stars that continually emit their complex pulsating signals. All night long, we feel their radiant illumined formations, unseen and unregistered, beyond any known spectrum, telling us of the future.

Star of wonder. Star of night. Star of royal beauty bright.


Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Good Yule, Blessed Solstice, and all good wishes for the time of light!


Photo from Unsplash

Thanks for being here and reading my random thoughts. I’m thrilled to say this is weekly Issue # 19. If you like what you read here, please click the heart so the internet likes it, too.


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