Monday, November 1, 2010

Seeing Patterns in the Rain

Yellow leaves slide underfoot as my body falls into a natural rhythm. I forgot how good this feels – walking in the rain as moisture trickles down my face.

I drink in the brilliance of foliage still clinging to trees and the tranquility of empty streets as night settles into the neighborhood. Villeray is an older section of the city where narrow staircases wind outside brick buildings, leading to flats on upper floors, and corner stores offer beer, cigarettes and a chance at this week’s lottery.

I just visited an 89-year-old aunt who survived two strokes and is almost blind. As we sat in her kitchen, a canary dozed in a cage. He has surpassed his normal life span and is also blind. When my aunt recovered from her strokes, the bird grew back all his feathers after a complete molt. Interesting, isn’t it, how the world can reflect our experiences?

I notice these connections more often these days.

After an argument with a friend, I hear a song on the air about the pain of breaking up. Or I leave the mall in frustration because of not finding what I need and a car suddenly careens around the bend and races down the street, tires screeching. It seems to echo my feelings.

I believe our outer reality often mirrors not only our experiences but our state of mind. It’s worth paying attention, even on a rainy night like this.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Drumming for a Better World

Twenty of us sit in a circle with Indian drums at the foot of Mount Royal. Middle-aged or young, black or white – none of that matters. We are here to participate in a world event. Our facilitator, Sabrina, is a vision in white, her long, blond hair flying around her. She leads us through a meditation and a few powerful Earth songs, including:

“We are the ancestors of the ones yet to be
And we are the paper of the previous tree
May everything we think and do
Make it all come out right, for we…” (repeat)

We are at a crucial moment in our history, she says and must choose what we want to see in the world – more fear and upheaval or a future based on love. We will put out our intentions as we drum.

I focus on peace and harmony. Others choose respect and equality for all, enough food for the planet’s inhabitants, kindness to animals… or alternative energy sources instead of fossil fuel.

At 2:00 p.m. EST, we join drum circles around the globe. For 8 full minutes, we replicate the “heart beat” of Mother Earth, which is also our own. Under Sabrina’s guidance we visualize a green ribbon linking all our hearts and also connect to the earth and to the heavens. As we drum, our vision for a new planet is channeled through our hands.

I shut my eyes and get into the rhythm. Ba-boom, Ba-boom. The beat is strong, constant. I feel the Oneness, the peace and harmony which I call upon. When I finally make my way home, the beat still echoes in my mind.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Writer's Retreat in the Woods

We trade stories around the fireplace as darkness swiftly gathers – a group of six women writers in a log cabin far from home.

There is NO electricity in the cabin and NO roads around this starkly beautiful lake atop Mont Tremblant, a well known mountainous resort area in Quebec. We arrived here by boat, meandering our way around the twists and turns of the 32-mile lake.

Yesterday I went swimming in the lake, mindful of the rocks below the surface. They remind me of the obstacles we all face as writers. The rocks were never a problem, I realize, it’s finding the will and ways to get around them.

As logs crackle and shoot up flames, we talk about works in progress, books we read and loved (or hated), even movies. And trade whatever we feel like passing along – tips on storytelling, inside information on agents, publishers and the marketplace or conferences we enjoyed.

Some of us are farther on the novelist’s path – multi-published or recently agented. Others still struggle with their stories and are taking different courses to address their weaknesses in writing. Our different experiences don't seem to matter; there is a spirit of camaraderie and sharing here, a feeling of wanting each other's success.

“Congratulations on finishing!” one woman says, referring to the novel I finally sent off to an interested publisher after months of revisions. “It’s a great accomplishment.”

Yes, I suppose it is. In the writer’s organization to which we all belong (Romance Writers of America), only 15% of members actually complete their novels and send them off to reputable agents or publishers. When they do this, they achieve “professional” status in the organization’s ranks and can network with others with similar skills and knowledge. It's great to now be part of such a dedicated group.

Writing can be a solitary occupation but here in this cabin, as we share our triumphs and challenges, I no longer feel alone. And as I look around the room, the glow on the other women’s faces tells me they feel the same way.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Living on the Edge

A seagull ruffles its feathers and nestles on the grass, preparing to nap in the July sunshine. What strikes me is where the bird has chosen to hunker down – right next to a busy bike path. It’s a popular route that follows the twists and turns of the St. Lawrence River. On such a fine Sunday, it will be crowded with skaters and cyclists; there are always a few who veer off the pavement on occasion. That gull has put himself in a potentially dangerous situation.

I think of all the people who live on the edge. They may face financial crises, marital woes or even trouble with the law. No one likes to be in difficulty for too long – it’s stressful – but there’s no denying the aliveness we feel as we try to regain control over our lives. It has to do with using all our resources to survive. Do these situations happen to us or do we, like the seagull, put ourselves at risk by our choices?

Maybe we get involved with unstable partners or friends or must deal with the consequences of our own reckless acts. It’s exciting on the edge but it’s not sustainable. Eventually we want peace and calm in our lives.

The seagull can always move. We, too, can decide to seek safer ground.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fast Track to Nowhere

April in Montreal this year is unusually warm. I take advantage of the mild weather by jogging around a high school track, counting laps. Other people join me, some running, some walking. The more adventurous are bare-legged and short-sleeved. We all go in circles as we tally minutes or kilometers.

My completed laps remind me of some of the milestones in my life - getting married and then divorced, buying my first house, selling stories and articles to magazines, learning to speak in public and giving motivational talks. Years rushed by as I squeezed more activities into less time.

Now my pace has slowed, enough for me to notice the crows watching from the top of lamp posts and see the rays of sunshine shrink behind a row of trees.

Going around this track, there's no destination, no purpose except to appreciate my feelings of well-being and breathe in the cool evening air.

The journey is all that matters.