Category Archives: spirituality
In The Philosopher’s Kiss, a historical novel about the French philosophers who created the first encyclopedia, author Peter Prange describes an 18th Century Paris shrouded in impenetrable fog. The fog, mixed with the sooty smoke of that period, hung dense and unmoving between the buildings.
With the city sounds muted and their sight blinded, people bumped against each other in open squares or walked up to the door of the wrong house. Coach men felt for curbs with their hands.
In those circumstances the magistrates called on the blind for assistance. The ones who usually passed their days huddled on the stones crying out for alms were paid to guide citizens safely through the city. In those circumstances Paris was a city that only the blind could see.
The passage in Prange’s book turns the old expression “the blind leading the blind” on its head. That phrase, based on a Bible passage: “Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?” (Luke 6:39) portrays the blind as less able, less than others.
In fact, the blind can lead the blinded. In fact they are the best candidates to lead others who have become over-dependent on only one of their senses.
The passage prompted me to wonder, on what senses have I become over-dependent? What am I missing?
What unexpected resource have I been overlooking?
Some days I barely manage to thole the Twitter experience. Other days, it sends wonderful gifts.
Last week, @RobGMacfarlane sent this gift:
Word of the day: “thole” – to endure with fortitude, to cope with suffering or challenge patiently & with dignity (Scots).
This is one of my favourite Scots verbs; quietly, toughly inspiring. If a situation is “tholeable” it is, in the end, with courage & support, survivable. pic.twitter.com/mv3U7x0OPD
— Robert Macfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane) September 5, 2018
Fantastic word, that.
Quietly, toughly inspiring, as he says. The simple act of reading the definition fills my “thole” with a renewed vigour.
Sometimes we feel like this lone twig on a barren tree.
Other days nothing can hold us back, like these robust colourful blossoms.
Lonely twig or robust blossom, I thole, you thole, we all thole together.
This colourful flower bursting out from between its constricting fence border captured my eye.
To me, the brilliant red blossom represents . . .
. . . beauty that wants to be shared and appreciated and not hidden away . . .
. . . natural gifts that should never be wasted . . .
. . . bright optimism in grey times . . .
What does the picture bring to your mind?
I will be stepping away for a few weeks of down time in the Ottawa summer sun.
May you also enjoy a time of respite wherever you are and whatever season you are in. Carry this thought with you into that respite. I will.
“When is the last time you physically hurt yourself? What did you do to get the pain to stop? And how long did you wait to do something about it? When we’re in physical pain, we’re usually extremely proactive about figuring out how to make it go away immediately because, you know, it hurts . . .
When it comes to our emotional pain, however, we’re apparently way more game for seeing just how much torture we can endure, wallowing in our guilt, shame, resentment, and self-loathing, sometimes for our entire lifetimes . . .
Forgiveness is about taking care of you, not the person you need to forgive.”
—Jen Sincero from You Are a Bad Ass”
On a trail, an ordinary trail . . .
. . .through the National Capital Commission Greenbelt near my home, we encountered an unexpected surprise.
The trail is popular with cross-country skiers in the winter, so I imagine the trees got decorated by someone in the festive spirit last December. Theirs was the gift that keeps on giving, because I enjoyed the happy surprise in July.
After I had soaked up the gift and carried on, I took about two steps before I was brought up short by the next “gift” on my path: a garter snake. I was too busy going into a full-body shudder to take a picture, but if I had, it would have looked something like this.
That’s what a full-body shudder looks like.
I like snakes—far away from me. I know they are good for my garden and nature and all that, and that’s wonderful—far away from me.
While I was shuddering and peering into the undergrowth to make sure the snake was well and truly gone, a jogger happened along. To explain why I was standing still and looking creeped out, I used one word.
The jogger broke into a big smile. “Sometimes you just get lucky like that,” he said, and carried on.
I had to laugh. I hadn’t considered myself lucky to have seen a snake before he changed my perspective. He made me think. I remembered that snakes represent transformation and creative life force. I remembered that they are part of the medical symbol, a symbol of healing. For me personally, they are a symbol of unnecessary fear. That is, fear of something that is NO BIG DEAL, and how I conquer that fear simply by recognizing it.
Come to think of it, those ideas are tied into what Christmas is all about too.
I like these Christmas gifts. They didn’t cost a penny, I didn’t have to wrap them, and there was no baking involved.
If only the real Christmas were a little more like that.
In my earlier post I wrote about a weekend when time slowed down. I relaxed at a friend’s cottage, and the leisurely dawdle in time allowed me to notice images of wings that came to me.
Immediately after that weekend, time accelerated from dawdle to flash and I rushed from activity to activity: social events, my daughter’s graduation from university, travel to the Canadian Writers’ Summit in Toronto and the launch of an anthology that includes one of my short stories. Whoosh.
I did my best to stay in the moment for all those fun and meaningful moments, but I had little time to luxuriate in noticing. Except once.
During a writers’ summit poetry session held in a marquis tent at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, one of the leaders asked us to notice something in our immediate surroundings: one unusual or interesting aspect of the setting. I looked up, around and then down. On the paving stones beneath my feet I noticed something that would have escaped me otherwise: bright platters of colourful paint. The stones beneath my feet were the setting for poetry at that moment, but in the not-too-distant past children had played and created with paint there. I imagined their laughter and playful shouts.
The workshop leader gave me the gift of time to notice.
I’ll pay it forward. Take some time to notice. What gift is there for you that you might not have appreciated otherwise?
The Blood Is Thicker anthology, published by Iguana Books, includes my short story, “Beating the Odds.” Available here: Blood Is Thicker