Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Shining in the Dark

Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save;
they just stand there shining.

ANNE LAMOTT            

Lighthouses are an image that I often took for granted growing up. They were a mainstay to guide ships around a rocky coast.  They ensured the safety of crew and passengers of a ship.  Lighthouses seemed to be a normal part of everyday living and was, I thought, a norm for everyone. Then there was a whole dfferent role of the foghorn with it's long lonely sounds that too played an all important role with the lighthouse to warn of the perils of the sea when it was difficult to navigate by sight because of the weather and reduced visibility. Lighthouses and their keepers played an all improtant role.

Lighthouses also held a bit of mystery. The one that was familiar to me in my childhood could only be observed from a distance and it was not somewhere that one ventured. Located on an island off shore of a small community it was too far away for curious childen to explore. It appeared that only the lighthouse keeper and perhaps his family members had access to the great mystery of the light and the horn. It was such a fixture to the community at large that I am not sure many of us paid it a lot of attention and I know that the foghorn just became a sound that one got used to as a fact of life on a foggy day and the beam of the light was supposed to shine and rotate it s powerful ray!

Lighthouses are fixed. They are not going anywhere, they don't get mired in the need to chase someone or something around, they just are. Solid permanent structures that shine in the darkness and through inclimate weather to offer assurance of safety. Lighthouses project rays of light and hope.

We can learn a lot from the imagery of the lighthouse. I don't mean that we need to be mired in our ways rigid and inflexible but there is somthing to be said for being solidly grounded, confident and comfortable with who we are. Not needing to chase the next idea, jump on the new wagon to see what we will do next or what needs saving. The lighthouse stands solid and firm, shining hope in all the dark corners.

With the increased busyness of life and running around that so many of us get caught up in the imagery offered in the quote by Anne Lamott forces a slow down and encourages time to consider what it is we are up to. What is so vital that we need to run around trying to fix everything? Would we better serve by being a beacon of light and hope solid and comfortable with who we are and focussing on what we are good at so that we do it exceptionally well? Are we more comfortable with a balance of some or all of it? Do we need the thrill of the "chase" or the next "big thing" to feel fulfilled? Remember, the light offers assurance of safety, hope in the darkness and sheds light in the dark corners. Wouldn't you like to play a role, no matter how large or small, in bringing light to dark places?

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Stand Under the Sky

Sometime ago a friend introduced me to a website A Network for Grateful Living.  This website has a word for the day and each morning subscribers receive a daily message. Each message is simple but thought provoking.  Today the message was:

When life feels too big to handle, go outside. Everything looks smaller when you’re standing under the sky.


When I read this message my mind went immediately to several people that I know are dealing with some very difficult struggles in their lives.   Struggles that can be overwhelming and certainly life altering.  This message calls for a pause and a different perspective so that a person can perhaps not feel so overwhelmed and breathe again knowing that whatever happens, where ever our road and our journey takes us it all has a different perspective when we stand under that big beautiful sky and realize that our role in the universe is not as big as the sky and life still holds beauty, hope and potential even if it alters or drastically changes.

This message also reminds me of a Mindfulness Yoga session that I had an opportunity to share in.  The Yoga leader took us through gentle stretches and positions, reminded us to be mindful of our muscles, bodies, breathing.  At the end of the session she handed out note cards and told participants to write down a word or phrase that stood out, take it home and post it somewhere visible.  This was during a particularly stressful period and the stress and anxiety had triggered a bout of asthma and it was incredibly difficult to breathe.  My note reamins on my mirror where I see it every morning, "remember to breathe."  Remember to breathe is an all improtant reminder when life becomes overwhelming but more than that this message today is a good reminder that life is bigger than this moment and as overwhelmed as we feel looking at the vast sky reminds us that this too is small in comparison.  

This message also reminded me of an image that Brother Christian Swayne shared many years ago at an ecumenical gathering.  He asked us to look around us and notice all that was within our immediate eyesight, take note of it.  Then he asked us to look up, see the ceiling and realize that we have become smaller, look further see the sky and the stars and we have become smaller still, look further still and see the vast galaxy that we are a part of but are now only a spec and he said as tiny as we have become God never loses sight of us.  

Our problems and challenges may appear overwhelming, incomprehensible and little daily reminders come to assure us that the creator has not lost sight of us in this vast universe and taking time to appreciate the beauty around can in fact have a calming effect and once again help each of us to breathe.

Monday, 10 April 2017

What's in a Smile

This little message was posted this morning by a friend on facebook and as I read it I thought how true this particular message is.  The universality of the smile lets people know that we are happy, friendly, pleasant.  The other thing that you can note about a smile is that if you see someone and offer them a smile they will almost always automatically smile back.  

Then I thought I should do a google search about what is in a smile.  There I discovered a number of articles and studies about what a smile means, there was even an atricle on how to learn to smile more.  I am easily entertained when I am looking for distractions from work  so I took a peek into what some of the "experts" are saying.  Apparently each smile is different and has a variety of interpretations....who knew that a cheeky grin was different than a smirk?  Do tell I thought and read on!  Well there are crooked smiles,...apparently the sign of a strong leader, the Mona Lisa smile which is discribed not as a serene smile but tight lipped and a " I wonder what she is hiding smile."   My education is increasing in leaps and bound here!  Laws of attraction also come into go for smiley women but women tend to be attacted to unsmiling men, something to do with testerone levels!  And of course there is the importance of noting whether the smile reaches the eyes...that's how you tell if it is a genuine smile!  There are whole psychological studies with more to come on happiness and what is in a smile.

The articles that are available are definitely fun to read, the interpretation and conclusions were interesting as well.  As a distaction from finishing some required work it was a success...the work is still waiting and I am sitting here typing and smiling at just how successful this virtual smile that was sent this morning turned out to be!  So what is in a smile?  What does a smile mean to you?  Do you like to give smiles and conversely how do you feel to be the recipient?  What is in your smile...are you conveying happiness, love, compassion, friendliness?  

I think about the numerous journeys that my DH and I have shared.  Often times we do not speak the lanuage or have a limited vocabulary but a smile is understood and although we can not communicate in words we are able to convey the message in our body language and our smiles.  I remember an occasion at a small cafe/bar in France where few people spoke any english.  We ordered drinks and sat at a table outside on the sidewalk.  A local man came and sat next to us, tried to strike up a conversantion but we were unable to keep up!!!  so we settled for gestures and was a lovely conversation, discovered how limited our french was and yet we shared the "happy hour" together while he smoked a cigarette, DH a cigar, I  inhaled the fumes (cough, cough) and we all had an evening drink together.  There is a universality in the smile that conveys a whole conversation.  So go ahead, practice, practice, practice and share those smiles!

A smile cost nothing, but gives much. 
It enriches those who receive, 
without making poorer those who give. 
It takes but a moment, 
but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. 
None is so rich or mighty that he can get along without it,
and none is so poor but that he can be made rich by it. 

A smile creates happiness in the home, 
fosters good will in business, 
and is the countersign of friendship. 
It brings rest to the weary, 
cheer to the discouraged, 
sunshine to the sad, 
and is nature's best antidote for trouble. 
Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, 
for it is something that is of no value to anyone 
until it is given away. 
Some people are too tired to give you a smile. 
Give them one of yours, 
as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give.
Author Unknown

Saturday, 1 April 2017


In a recently acquired book from the Amazon second hand pickings, which barely looks to have been opened, there is a lovely, quite personalized message on the front cover which contains the quote

“Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito's wing that falls on the rails.”

I thought about this quote and have shared it with a couple of people and while we reflected on the beauty of the words we did not give a lot of thought to the meaning that might lie behind them.  So I started to wonder where the quote came from and what it might mean.

Given the context, that it is quoted in a book gifted to a cousin that had spent what I presume is holiday time with extended family,I would guess that it was intended to remind the person to take time out of the busy life schedule to which so many people adhere.  A schedule that is rarely consistent except for that very fact it is inconsistent.  It seems to be a reminder about the consistency of nature, deliberate and focused and not distracted by the events that can unfold like the dropping of a pine cone, nutshell or something as tiny as the mosquito's wing.    Life as we know is rarely like that.  It may have peaceful interludes.  Life, for most, is generally filled with a multitude of tasks and  we may sometimes find ourselves wishing that we did not have to get back on the merry go round of life and work and commitments once we step off for a brief reprieve.  

More than any of that though I believe it is a reminder, a timely reminder that it is important to take the time out to focus, give intentionality to our day and purpose.  It calls us to go with the flow a little less so that when the inevitable distractions that so easily come are upon us they will merely be a distraction and not throw us off completley.  Life is filled with distractions, with events that completely throw us off our place, with joys and sorrows that change us in a multitude of ways.  Life is never stagnant but with a grounding, a focus it can become easier to stay on or get back on the tracks of life. 

Nature, we are reminded in this quote by Thoreau, is very deliberate, very focused and all of the events that occur in nature change the landscape, even the view but it remains constant and returns to its peaceful presence.   Changed, refocused but not completely derailed.  Nature reminds us of many constants, shows us how to weather storms and celebrate the beautiful days.  Life's lessons exist all around us, sometimes all that is required is the time to stop, to look, to appreciate.  To deliberately deliberate.


Saturday, 25 March 2017

Where do you find your Lean to?

A few weeks ago at a prayer breakfast one of the participants shared part of a reading from the book  May I Have this Dance? by Joyce Rupp.  The writing that she shared piqued  my interest so I took the information about the book along with the author's name and found a lovely second hand copy at the Amazon book store.  It arrived last week just in time for my meditation group meeting.  I shared the March reflection with the members present.

The imagery for March is all about the lean to.  Depending on your understanding and use of a lean to then you can appreciate that it is attached to another building or trees.  It can provide cover for wood piles or shelter for people and animals out of doors.  A lean to is dependable. If you search for a definition of the leanto  it is described as a shack or shed with a slanted roof.  It is also described as a most popular dwelling for survival.  It is not a permanent haven.  The reflection went on to ask us to consider the lean tos in our lives and how God has been a lean to for us.

As with much of this kind of imagery I had to let it live in my thoughts and imagination for some time. Despite the fact that I am not a camper and most unlikely ever to avail of such an outdoor dwelling for the purposes of finding shelter I find this imagery quite beautiful.  I can imagine the rustic image, the excitement of coming upon such a dwelling while in the great outdoors and it forces me to reflect on how the lean to has been availed of, when it has been used, the frequency of use and the resultant changes.   The beauty is in the simplicity of the structure.  Dependable, enables survival, has a definite purpose.  When we apply that same imagery and description to our lives we realize that we all avail of the lean to.  We find it in relationships with people and in relationship with God.  We find it in areas that we like to go such as a park, beach or shady tree.  We all have a lean to and suddenly with the beautiful description that Rupp gave you can see the lean to all around and in various forms, it all depends on what or where you need to lean.  We all need that lean to, whether it is a person or creator or place to go in our lives for comfort and safety.   Where do you find your lean to?

Monday, 20 March 2017

Trinkets, Momemtos, Memories

This weekend some time was spent in an effort to catch up on  recorded TV programs.  One of the programs NCIS ( I have no idea which episode) did the story line of a young officer dying from cancer who needed closure to an unanswered question.  The story plays out and some characters are okay being in the presence of one who is dying, others struggle.  Towards the end of the program the NCIS agent who struggled being with this dying officer comes to see her and they have a wonderful conversation.  It is during this conversation that the young officer gives the NCIS agent a momento.  "This" she says "is not to remember me by when I am dead, this is so I will remember you."

This line has remained lodged in my mind since watching this program and while I mull it over and over I can't help but think of the beauty of that statement and sentiment.  It means that those momentos that once seemed so cumbersome to have to keep (but that I can't give away because so and so gave it to me) have a new meaning.  Each of the items that have been gifted by people, some living and some dead, have a significance attached to them already but to look at them in a whole new light seems to make the item even more of a treasure.

This reference as also made me a bit melancholy as I think about one of the last conversations I had with my Dad before he died.  We were sitting together in the ICU unit and talking about his immiment death.  I told him that the worst part was that I would miss him so very much,  He reached out and patted my hand and then tapped my hand so I would look to read his lips as he mouthed the words that he would always be with me, I will be no further away than your heart.  Yes, we also cried together and has difficult as that conversation was it still gives me great comfort nearly twenty years later.  Are there momentos?  Yes of course there are! and until this weekend I lived under the impression that it was a token to remember him by (and others) but now maybe, just maybe it might be so that he will also remember me!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Dear Friend . . .

Many years ago, in fact when I was a high school student, it was quite popular to have penpals. These penpals could be in the same province or they might be a world away.  It was always incredibably exciting to receive a letter.  The person writing might share something about their culture, stories of their life and family or what the current news of their life was,  Sadly, they were friendships that did not endure beyond highschool.

The letters and relationships that were built for that period of time were interesting ones.  My penpals were all across the globe.  Carol lived in Birmingham, England and had planned to be a nurse. Sophia lived in  Greece and always included hearts and drawings in the letters and Chiaria lived in India, was Hindu and had very different customs.  Each one added a different dimension to my life from the stories and descriptions that they included in the letters that we shared.

Writing letters is a lost art. It is rare to receive a letter in the mail, but when a letter does come it is still an exciting event.  My DH and I rarely write letters but we are known for sending postcards to a select few people when we travel and include the news of what we are doing and what we saw at this particular place.  As we pack up the house that we currently live in in preparation to move to our new home I packed a memory box that contains the handwritten letters of my DH from our dating years in the early 1990's, before the convenience of email and texting and free calling.

Today I received a rare treat.  I was on the receiving end of a letter in the mailbox.  I eagerly opened it and sat back with a cup of coffee to read the words of my friend, to hear her news and just catch up.  The discripton of her area and the lovely things to see are a temptation and it was easy to feel as if you were there in her living room  sitting across from each other and visiting.

Although I rarely sit and write letters anymore, unless we are travelling,  I do still greatly appreciate them and the excitement of pulling that envelope out of the mailbox and even more I appreciate the person who takes time to sit, put pen to paper and write.

In an age like ours which is not given to letter writing, we forget what an important part in played in people's lives
Anatole Broyard