Gratitude

I used to be bogged down in lack. I was always wishing for what I did not have, and feeling as if I were not enough in myself. I felt I was always found lacking. What that thinking did was create endless lack. I never had enough time, enough money, and I felt always that I was not pretty enough, not good enough.

Lack created more lack. Years of failure in finding a good paying job, failure in relationships including the most important ones with God and myself, because I’d get angry at God for all the hardship I experienced, and I have to tell you, this negative thought pattern makes a person depressed, tired all of the time and even despairing.

I think going through bad times for what feels like endless spans of time did bring me closer to God so there was purpose in it I did not see. I don’t know what brought my mind around to a position of gratitude. I hope it was God. I think it may be God. I got one of those free gratitude journal apps, and every day I had to write down three things that happened I was grateful for.

Change your story from lack to abundance! Change your thinking!

Then my life started to change for the better. Little by little abundance started flowing in. Not money necessarily. More love for God translated to more caring for others and more love for myself in that I started caring about taking care of me physically, mentally and spiritually. Exercise. Doing little nice things for me. I started doing more to be of service to others while setting firm boundaries so that people might respect me. The ones who respected me respected my boundaries. This curious thing happened where people who no longer served my highest good, friends who weren’t really friends, who did not respect my boundaries or me, started showing themselves for who they were and gradually fell away. In so doing I felt sad and disillusioned, but over a short time I began to understand I felt better mentally not having these people around to drag me down and make me codependent and an enabler as a result of codependency. I felt less taken advantage of and more self confident in my own decision making and in voicing my needs and desires, which had not happened consistently before. Because I felt better in myself I felt ever more grateful to God for feeling better, and even though materially nothing had changed, I began to feel content with what I had. I stopped wanting more stuff. I started praying differently too. I used to ask God for this and that and please could You fix this and that. I found myself spending a lot of time thanking Him for all I had and for my kids, my health, my mom, my family, for whatever blessings I’d received that day whether it be the ten bucks my mom sent me or the free turkey from work. God wants us to live in gratitude and in abundance. Abundant peace, abundant joy, love, kindness, gentleness, faith. He supplies our needs and He starts us out with little so that we might grow to be thankful for much. No matter how little you have, be grateful. Someone is always worse off than you. Even they have much to be thankful for. Look for the blessings. They are there always, the silver lining during our darkest hours.

Get a gratitude app!

I keep doing the gratitude journal app. If you do nothing else for yourself please download one. Most are free and it trains your mind to be more thankful and more positive. Thankfulness changes your entire outlook and perception to one of plenty instead of one of lack. It makes every day more sacred to be thankful to God for all you have no matter how poor or rich you may be.

Gratitude will change your life. I promise.

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Reimagining my life

At the bottom of her heart, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like shipwrecked sailors, she turned despairing eyes upon the solitude of her life, seeking afar off some white sail in the mists of the horizon. She did not know what this chance would be, what wind would bring it her, towards what shore it would drive her, if it would be a shallop or a three-decker, laden with anguish or full of bliss to the portholes. But each morning, as she awoke, she hoped it would come that day; she listened to every sound, sprang up with a start, wondered that it did not come; then at sunset, always more saddened, she longed for the morrow.

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

  • I will go back home to my lake.
  • I will not dwell on the failures of the past.
  • I forgive all those who hurt me and I pray I am forgiven by those I hurt.
  • I will earn an apartment. With wood floors and a lake view and bookshelves built into the walls. A nice old house.
  • I will play classical music in the evenings and have a nice wine rack with a good selection of wines.
  • I will hang art I love
  • I will have oriental rugs for the floors.
  • I will not allow the failed loves of the past to dictate failure in love in the future. I will love another and be loved truly by someone before I die.
  • I will have a good job and earn plenty of money.
  • I will collect used books for my used bookstore that I will have lakeside.
  • I will keep running and walking and do it beside the lake daily and live in hope, not despair or disappointment.

Love does not conquer all

This has been a season of all too brief hellos and all too soon goodbyes of friends who were friends for years and years. One I was reunited with. The reuniting was wonderful and a love long dormant in Me was expressed but to the tune of the wrong place and still the wrong time.

I was not the choice. As painful as that is sometimes you just have to accept it and move on. While the reason was all too clear in my situation, sometimes goodbyes are based on situations that are inexplicable and you don’t ever get to know why.

The door, after a goodbye or many opens. Sometimes we trap ourselves in situations because we feel it’s what we deserve and most of the time this choice is unconscious based on what has happened to us in life and what kind of protections we have developed. Even when we don’t need them anymore those same protection mechanisms can become a prison keeping us from growth and new experiences.

For me the goodbye was hard and unwanted but necessary so I didn’t live a lie and also to remain honest, even to a person who didn’t know I was around, who I personally can’t stand but who still as a person deserved my honesty. I was angry at the injustice of things and how the time is never right and I took my anger and frustration out on the one I said goodbye to a little bit. I am not proud of this and I tried to make amends but I leave with silence for an answer and a bittersweet taste in my mouth. Maybe one day in time, we can come around again in the right time and the right place, with understanding and love.

I am weary of goodbye. I am sad and drained and aged. I am now leaving my whole past behind while returning to the place my past occurred. The place has changed, as have the people who populated it…some have moved away, some have died and most have simply grown older. Enough has changed I think that restoration and a new life may take root and I can make my home my own and lay down deep roots, forge new friendships and find a love of my own unfettered by emotional baggage and closed doors and dead ends. Love does not conquer all: it often means, if we are honest, if we are true, that if we really love somebody we have to honor their choices enough to walk away and allow them the freedom to live their choices while sacrificing our own desires. I really loved him in the right way and when I am sad, as I am now, I am comforted by knowing I’ve grown enough to learn that letting go is an act of faith in doors that will open, other opportunities that will come, new people, new possibilities and new growth opportunities.

So I sit in the coffee shop and think of the movie Begin Again:

Coffee shop

This is the Daily Planet in Buffalo, NY. I go there to relax and listen to live music…today it was a young man playing Spanish guitar music. I wrote and observed people and had dark coffee with a giant chocolate chip cookie. I like to observe without being observed. Especially when I am planning out the next major move in my life accompanied by the smell of coffee beans and panini.

Someone was well meaning doing the chalk board. See if you can find the mistake.

Help your local independent coffee shop. These folks work hard to make your stay comfortable and the food is gorgeously fantastic, homemade. And the decor is wonderfully kitschy and makes me and a whole lot of other folks feel right at home.

Bright star, he

In my night there lives a man who is the sun burning the mist from my morning slumber

In unfocused half-wakefulness I see him truly and listen for the melody that is his and his alone bending my soul towards his

I hear

he

is the rain gently falling on parched grass the mist that gathers at evenings end and his spirit soars with the bird-flock who arch upwards into the clouds wings outstretched he

Carpets my world in green and puts the blue in the sea dolphins dance and the silent songs of mornings are his songs

he is the fish that leaps joyfully breaking the surface of the still, deep pond rippling outwards and he is the shy deer that stands at the edge of the forest at sunset

music moves with him drawing the world somehow nearer to listen to the melodies of his soul-song

he is the bright star of my morning travel ever north, compass point home. All that is good follows him softly for his way is not brash but gently his artistry shines

the silken webs of spiders creating beauty holding the beaded shining morning dew his is the bird song lilting up to the clear blue sky

He is himself and inside his soul-light

beautiful

Snow

Tonight a snow is falling that calls for stillness. There is no wind so it is falling straight down. I stand outside in it looking up feeling soft flakes caress my face and noting as I stand that the flakes that land on my gloved hands are tiny miracles of fractal art. No two are alike. They stay on my glove for a moment then the warmth of my hand melts the snowflake and it is as if it never was. Yet it was and its temporary presence made a difference to me; I experienced beauty and it taught me that something quiet and still contains a lifetime within it in which we fully are present or can be if we are willing to be still.

I have a tendency to react in a fear based way to situations which are really out of my control. As I have grown older I have learned and still learn the virtue of stepping back, disengaging and allowing the difficulty to dissipate and myself to flex around it instead of fighting change or trying to control whatever it is.

I stand in the falling snow in the silence of the night and in those moments the world is quiet and time expands encapsulating the silence as a balm to my soul. The world moves too quickly and we think we control it all. We do not; control is an illusion and we reap the disservice the illusion portrays: disease related to stress, heart problems, anxiety.

I take the time to meditate and I see a place by a still pond in my mind. He leadeth me beside the still water.

(Photo taken by author Allegheny Reservoir, Allegheny National Park)

Religious ideas have the same advice: Be still.

  • Be still and know that I am God (God is in control)
  • Too many words cause exhaustion

[In the mind or from the mouth]

Better to abide in stillness.

Lao Tzu

  • If we sit with an increasing stillness of the body, and attune our mind to the sky or to the ocean or to the myriad stars at night, or any other indicators of vastness, the mind gradually stills and the heart is filled with quiet joy. Also recalling our own experiences in which we acted generously or with compassion for the simple delight of it without expectation of any gain can give us more confidence in the existence of a deeper goodness from which we may deviate. (39)

Ravi Ravindra, The Wisdom of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: A New Translation and Guide by Ravi Ravindra

  • If ever you do go back, what is it you want of Evesham?”

“Do I know? […] The silence, it might be … or the stillness. To have no more running to do … to have arrived, and have no more need to run. The appetite changes. Now I think it would be a beautiful thing to be still. Ellis Peters, A Rare Benedictine (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, prequel stories 0.1-0.3)

God lives in the stillness. Listen and you will hear His still, small voice.

The hawk and the King

Look back with longing eyes and know that I will follow,

Lift me up in your love as a light wind lifts a swallow,

Let our flight be far in sun or blowing rain–

But what if I heard my first love calling me again?

Hold me on your heart as the brave sea holds the foam,

Take me far away to the hills that hide your home;

Peace shall thatch the roof and love shall latch the door–

But what if I heard my first love calling me once more?

Sara Teasdale, The Collected Poems

I dream endlessly in the arms of the night.

First that hawk flying into my life announcing you two days

before

I tied a message to the bird’s feet and it came back with your exultant reply

Rainbows pour into my black and white existence and Music explodes trumpets and stringed instruments surprising me

this was my heart singing

I am home with you right and present and correct. Years and obstacles mean nothing and there is just us in that large soft landing strip

our world where nothing bad can happen and we inseparable

Then a hole in the sky opened up sweeping you into it and I left here alone again wanting perpetual sleep but

Even my dreams are haunted with you in them

I with a strange family in a large rich house with your two blonde nieces who catch us kissing and you telling them there is no need to tell their aunt anything while you touch me in secret places and leave me wanting and I wake up body responsive and electric

This is the third dream. The first was when we were young and at the end of the runway at home you kissing me endlessly I can feel the smooth roughness if your face under my hands and smell you as I drink you into me

Desire is red and pink and uplifting and I fly upwards upon it wanting you to lift me higher and claim me in upward thrusts at airspeed

The second was last night.

no words only the silence of years apart and we

speaking in the still fraught language of looks caresses and desire

my heart caught hold of my soul as we held each other tightly and burst into flames

Your hand held tightly to mine.

I awoke still feeling the pressure of it

Alone

tearful hard lumps of sorrow liquefying and rushing out of eyes no longer unseeing

I have dreamed three days and plus the last fourteen nights with you a hawk in the first dreams alighting finally in front of me sharp eyes searching

Trusting.

Jesses hanging from your feet no longer tied and captive

Slowly and tenderly I take them off your feet entirely and you allow me to fling you exultantly up into the air and you fly as you always were meant to

you are a speck disappearing then

You are gone. I then sadly scan the empty blue one more time and turn to go back inside exulting in your freedom accepting what is

but no.

You return to me a man, sauntering jauntily up my porch stairs as you do catching hold of me once more

my body breaks out into song

Miracles happen I hear whispered in the breeze

I wait on the porch eyes scanning the horizon

We are connected

Awaiting

Contact

awaiting

Flight

Future

A single candle flickers as I walk the path wending round bends in the dark while hidden figures block entrances

of places I am not meant to explore

The wind shifts suddenly and I find myself on the shore of an endless sea, waves agitating upon the sands shifting and I struggle feet sinking so I stop

and build sand castles

Birds wheel overhead.

A song drifts upon the night on the shore and returns me back to childhood when I felt safe and warm

I pause momentarily sand castle forgotten while a hawk peers at me knowingly from a log of dry driftwood

You are not the master of your destiny it says and flaps its wings as it waits as I wait I am carried forward to the same place returned by sand and sea and tide to the past-present

I look out over horizons as I shift flying over beginnings and endings and see a great hand writing something I cannot read

Perhaps that was the answer and I crane my head desperate to read and understand but I am carried by crosswinds back to the log, the sand castle and the sea no more a bird than a fish

A boat comes for me

I rise to meet it walking on still water.

Wisconsin Point, Superior, Wisconsin

Photo Credit Philip Schwarz Photography

There it is. The turn off Highway 53. The long winding narrow road through the trees that seems to go on and on without a hint that a beach and the wide expanse of the lake lay just beyond. There is a Native burial ground almost at the break in the trees to the right where people have left mementoes.

From CatholicDos.org:

“Wisconsin Point (three miles in length) and Minnesota Point (seven miles) located in Superior, Wisconsin make up the largest freshwater sandbar in the world. They were formed by two rivers. The French traders who approached the west end of Lake Superior would eventually start calling the larger river on the right the St. Louis River (after the King of France) although the Ojibwe’s name for it was “Gichigami-ziibi” meaning “Great Lake River.” The stream on the left was called the Nemadji River (after the Ojibwe word “ne-madji-tic-guay-och” for “Left Hand River”). The Nemadji River marks the boundary between the parishes of St. Francis Xavier and St. Anthony.

Fr. Claude Jean Allouez, S.J. (1622-1689) camped on the shore of Wisconsin Point in 1666 while ministering to the Ojibwe. The following year, he would establish a mission along Bluff Creek near the shore of the bay. Frustrated though with few Ojibwe willing to join the Catholic faith, he abandoned his evangelization efforts in about 1669.

Today, near the Superior entry lighthouse at Wisconsin Point, a stone marker states:

Here was the burial ground of the Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa people dating from the 17th century. It was removed in 1919 to St. Francis cemetery, Superior.”

Actually, only about 180 remains from the most identifiable graves were moved (including at least one chief– Chief Joseph Osaugie (1802-1876). Sadly though, once placed in a mass grave at St. Francis Xavier cemetery, they were improperly cared for over the years. For example, when the slope of land on which they were reburied had been undercut by construction of a road, bones and decayed clothing could be seen spilling toward the river. As far as what happened to the 100 unidentified graves that were left on Wisconsin point? Some say Chief Osaugie’s descendants know their location, but they are not about to give up their dead.”

I spent many a somber moment pausing there, listening to the whispers of the trees and the quiet breeze until I could almost see the days when no white person had set foot on that land. From here you can smell the water. A quick walk up brings you to the golden beach which stretches for a fair ways until it curves round out of sight.

I lay here nights on the soft sand watching the aurora borealis while the waves washed up on the sand. I walked barefoot in the wash, my footsteps disappearing in the waves as if I had never trod there. I loved the feeling of the cold water on my feet and I would gaze over the water to the blue line on the horizon wondering what lay on the other side of the blue line. Now I am on the other side of the blue line looking homewards, missing the sight of great red ore oats with their distinctive long shape and white trim cruising out to the wide lake beyond.

The lighthouse lies on the end of s great long break wall that is really a long pile of rocks; precarious to walk on when the weather is wet and with a little effort it is well worth it to achieve the lighthouse at last on its concrete block. My soul wanders when I lean up against the short wall on the other side of the lighthouse; across that endless expanse of blue something in me rears up, this sense of wandering and possibility, wildness and passion. I love this great inland sea that is beautiful in its calm and unpredictability; where I went agate hunting on its beach as a young woman and sat on the great driftwood logs with a little fire going at night listening to the fire pop and hiss, smoke floating upwards, while the water and the waves sliding forever in and out spoke to me in their languages speaking of time and eternity and ages long past when no human being was there, and when the first humans to live there fished and lived and loved.

I stand on Erie’s shore sometimes, in Hamburg, New York. I fulfilled the wanderlust of my younger years; I know what is on the other side of that far blue horizon line and 30 years on the other side I hear the great water that lives further northwest calling to me. It is the song of home.

The lake

(Image by TripAdvisor.ie)

In my mind I can see her; endless and blue, blue expanse to the horizon where the pale blue of the water meets the sky in a darker navy blue line. She is placid when I think of her, still and clear like a mirror. On the day I think of her I am hundreds of miles away to the east of her looking over what to me is a smaller, tamer inland sea, that called Erie. The Iroquois called Erie erielhonan, meaning “long tail.” The French fur traders who traded with the Iroquois shortened the name to Lac Erie, and Erie is how we know the name today. It is smaller and shallower than Superior, called by the Ojibwe Gitchee gumee, or “shining big sea water.” As I stand here on Erie’s shore, in Buffalo,NY, I feel as if Buffalo is the garrulous old ex-steelworker biker sitting at the bar while Superior is the wild woman ever tumultuous. This sense of wildness is something that never leaves me no matter where in the world I have travelled. I have seen the great Pacific, and the older seeming mighty Atlantic. We have met in passing, and while both oceans are to be respected and are majestic in their own right, it is Superior who sings to me when I feel far away from home. It is Superior who is mysterious to me, so many legends permeate her name. She has claimed many, many ships and has thousands of untold stories. No matter how long I have been gone, it is Lake Superior who calls me home. In the subsequent essays to come, as I write I can feel the wind coming off of her in a long ago summer night when the world was sleeping and I was alone on Park Point beach. The wind was whipping up the waves into five foot swells and I, I felt wild with her. I fearlessly stripped down and entered the water, and felt so alive in the cold, mercilessly cold water that rarely reaches any kind of a warm temperature even in the summer, so alive that I remember that moonless night 26 years later. I was a young fool. I should have known better than to get in the water with waves coming up that high. That night, I felt a kinship with the lake; never did it enter my mind that my lake would ever hurt me–would want to hurt me–and so I let it baptize me and cradle me in its watery arms. It was like being in the womb of Mother Earth; it was primeval and it was safe and I safe in it. As I swam the waters calmed and gently one last gentle wave deposited me back on shore. I lay there in the warm night watching the sudden appearance of the Northern Lights–its scientific name the aurora borealis–known as wanagi wacipi (ghost dance) by the Lakota, and also by the Salteaux of eastern Canada and Tlingit and Kwakiutl in the north in their respective languages. The lights danced overhead in shades of green and blue and yellow and I reached up with my hand and tried to touch them. Here I belonged; not a traveler of the world but a citizen. Here my heart is complete. Here is home.

I belonged here.

I belong here.

There is much more to tell. My heart is full of her this night. I have long felt I had a story but it took 26 years, six countries, and the failure of the most important love relationship of my life to identify and perhaps uncover, what that story was; the one that was too close, but yearned to be told. This and the essays to come see that story. Superieur–Superior.

I saw that I had forgotten how beautiful the drive to Thunder Bay was; the towering sighing groves of fragrant Norway pines, the broad expanses of clean white sand, the sea gulls, always the endlessly wheeling sea gulls; an occasional bald eagle seeming bent on soaring straight up to heaven; the intermittent craggy and pine-clad granite or sandstone hills, sometimes rising gauntly to the dignity of small mountains, then again, sudden stretches of sand or more majestic Norway pines — and always, of course, the vast glittering heaving lake, the world’s largest inland sea, as treacherous and deceitful as a spurned woman, either caressing or raging at the shore, more often turbulent than not, but today on its best company manners, presenting the falsely placid aspect of a mill pond.

Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Murder

(Photo by C Scherer)