transformation listens for what life itself wants

“Julie Daydreaming” by Berthe Morisot

Self-improvement is rigid and perfectionistic, driven by beliefs, expectations and old answers, while genuine transformation is flexible, open to new discoveries and rooted in not-knowing. Genuine transformation listens for what life itself wants, while self-improvement imagines that “I” know how everything “should” be. Self-improvement is judgmental, self-righteous and narrow-minded, while happiness and real change are the release of all that.
~ Joan Tollifson
(Death: The End of Self-Improvement)

It was probably inevitable, but we have just learned we now have a positive COVID-19 case in our condo complex. The news sent a chill down my spine. No doubt Dr. Fauci is right, we best prepare to hunker down for the fall and winter.

healing

5.21.20 ~ garter snake
Fennerswood Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

Some animals are archetypal symbols of healing. The snake is one such animal. It sheds the old skin and moves into the new. It is a symbol of leaving the old behind for the new. As a symbol of transformation, meditating and focusing on the snake during times of illness will help accelerate the healing process. Animals that appear to us at times of illness, provide clues as to the best way to focus our healing energies.
~ Ted Andrews
(The Intercession of Spirits)

For the second time in a little over a month a garter snake has slithered across the path in front of me and then stopped in the leaves right beside me. The first time the snake kept its head hidden but this second snake lifted its head up and looked at me.

Rod of Asclepius

At first I was excited about the photo opportunity but after I got home I started wondering about the significance snake encounters might hold. In Greek mythology, Asclepius is a deity associated with healing and medicine. The Rod of Asclepius features a snake.

So what meaning did meeting these snakes hold for me? Since November I’ve been struggling to cope with radiation proctitis/colitis, which is incurable, but with the help of a wonderful gastroenterologist I’ve been figuring out how to manage the symptoms. It involves medication and strictly avoiding certain foods. Too many foods!

When I got my official diagnosis in January I highly doubted I would ever be able to take a long walk again. And there are still days when I’ve eaten the wrong thing and cannot leave the house.

My goal is to take a walk in the woods one of these days. And to have supper at the beach with my gull friend this summer.
~ my blog post, 8 January 2020

At first we made tentative little visits to local cemeteries to find the graves of more ancestors. I learned that three of my ancestors lost their lives in the winter of 1711-1712, probably victims of a ‘malignant distemper’ epidemic that swept through Connecticut. I had no idea our own lives would soon be turned upside down by a pandemic just two short months later. But then, on March 21, mostly because of self-quarantine and having nowhere else safe to go, it finally happened. We took a walk in the woods! And we have continued walking!

Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic we probably won’t have supper at the beach with my gull friend this summer, which was my second goal. But we’ve decided to make the best of the situation so we put our outdoor dining set out on the balcony and plan to get some flowers from the nursery so we can enjoy eating outside. Who knows? Maybe we will make a new bird friend.

Our lives have definitely been transformed and I’ve experienced more healing than expected. I also started taking bioflavonoids because they are supposed to help with radiation damage, tinnitus, and allergies. It does feel like the chance meetings of two snakes in the woods highlighted us leaving the old behind for the new.

On Monday I fell. I was weeding my garden (a little plot in front of our condo), bending over at the hip. One weed resisted and I pulled harder. It let go and so I fell on my side on top of the stones bordering the garden. Nothing broken but my right shoulder, arm and leg are aching quite a lot. And I have a huge bruise on my hip! But it still felt satisfying getting the garden tidied up for the summer.

an ancient, magnetic language

1.31.19 ~ starling tracks and winter shadows on the balcony

Tracks are an ancient, magnetic language — pulling us in with possibility. The elusive poetry of a print, unlike the muscular certainty of a border line inked in an atlas, reveals details of a life being lived. A tracery of passing impressions, tracks can be as delicate as the brushstroke of a bird’s wings, as bold as a hunting fox. They speak a mutable tongue, transforming from the moment they appear before finally vanishing, to be eventually overlaid by another script. But if you happen upon a set of tracks in their brief and fragile time, they can tell you things you never knew. They can take you places you’ve never been, and lend form to a fleeting world.
~ Julian Hoffman
(The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World)

1.31.19 ~ 3°F (-16°C)

I’ve been waiting a long time to take a photograph to pair with this lovely quote. At first I imagined gull tracks in the sand at the beach. One day in North Carolina I found deer tracks in the mud on my way to the community compost pile, and then saw a deer enjoying some newly deposited vegetable scraps. No camera on me, though. But this morning we discovered these tracks on the balcony.

Starling tracks, no doubt. Not my favorite bird, but they spend a lot of time on the balcony, walking around, trying to figure out how to get to the woodpecker feeder. After a few hours of sunshine, the tracks and the thin layer of snow have now vanished.

This may be our winter of no snow. It snowed here in November when we were in North Carolina. It snowed in North Carolina in December when we were here in Connecticut. While we’ve had flurries now and then there has been nothing to shovel!

After nursing our terrible colds for more than a week we’re starting to get back to normal. I finally got a good start on the boxes of family history stuff and hope to keep going all winter and spring. Maybe things have settled down enough and I can actually get through this!!!


1.31.19 ~ wondering why for some step paths the feet are closer together

Heddal Stavkyrkje

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scenery on the road between Skien and Notodden, Norway

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more scenery

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one of countless food storage houses (stabbur) we saw everywhere

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when I dream of Norway I see many birch trees

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Heddal Stave Church in Notodden

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memorial to Olea Crøger

Olea Crøger (1801-1855) was the daughter of a pastor from Heddal Stave Church, known for collecting Norwegian folk music and folklore.

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the church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary in 1242

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on a headstone in the churchyard

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in the cemetery

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the west side of the church, and main entrance

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altarpiece

After the Reformation alterations to the church were slowly made. The date of the painting showing the crucifixion of Jesus by an unknown artist is 1667. The one above it, of Christ rising from his tomb, was painted by Lars Osa about 1908.

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above the altar

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The Heddal portals are a mixture of fauna and floral ornamentation. The western portal is dominated by leaf carvings but the vines transform into snake shapes with poisonous heads. Other animal bodies can also be seen. … These motifs were renown in Norse religion and superstition but were reinterpreted in Christian art. They did of course provide a sense of familiarity for churchgoers who found it difficult to let go of their old heathen faith. At the same time these wild depictions became a symbol of the battle between good and evil in the world. This was a central topic both in the new and old faith.
~ Heddal Stavechurch guidebook

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I noticed that most of the columns inside the church had a simple carving at the bottom of the arches, but on either side of the southern entrance portal columns there was a carving of a creature of some sort (above). In the picture below you can see the simple carvings of three oval leaves (?) on the bottom of the arches, about the same level as the lights.

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So I asked the docent about it. She explained that men used to enter the church from the southern portal and were thought to be more likely to bring corruption into the church, so the gargoyle was needed to scare off the evil. The women, on the other hand, used the northern portal and were already protected by the Virgin Mary.

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based on “Soria Moria Castle” by Theodor Kittelsen

It was chilly that day and we appreciated a cup of hot cocoa in the visitor center. I was delighted to find these copies of paintings on the backs of a couple of chairs. I’ve been using Theodor Kittelsen’s calendar art in my posts on the 15th of each month since August.

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based on “White Bear King Valemon” by Theodor Kittelsen

Next stop: Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.

effulgent

8.27.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina
dragonfly ~ 8.27.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina

Is it a mistake to look to the world to tell us the meaning of our plummeting lives? Maybe we all have the power to shape our own structure, the structure of our metaphoric wings, what lifts us — our character maybe, call it our spirit. We all in our own ways catch the light of the world and reflect it back, and this is what is bright and surprising about a person, this rainbow shimmer created from colorless structure. Maybe there is no meaning in the world itself – no sorrow. In fact, no good or bad, beginning or end. Maybe what there is, is the individual way each of us has of transforming the world, ways to refract it, to create of it something that shimmers from our spread wings. This is our work, creating these wings and giving them color.
~ Kathleen Dean Moore
(Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature)

Time seems to fly by so quickly, and yet, each day seems so long in the living. Especially in August. Please! One crisis at a time!!!

8.27.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina
8.27.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina

Near the end of August my sister and I finally and reluctantly decided that our aunt, who is 98, required more care than we could reasonably provide for her. The family doctor pulled some strings and found her a place in a “good” nursing home, much to our relief. She is now “settled in” there.

Our father, who is 91, is doing a little better, but is still on oxygen and remains very weak. So far my sister and brother-in-law feel they can manage him at home. He will probably never walk again, even with his walker… But I have to keep a watchful eye on my sister’s well-being – she has done more for the ancient ones than most people, including myself, would have or could have done.

8.31.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina
8.27.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina

At the end of the month I spread my wings and accepted my daughter’s invitation to fly to North Carolina to visit her and my son-in-law in their new digs. It was the first time I flew by myself, although I had a flash of insight on the plane – I wasn’t flying by myself at all – there were many other people on board, fellow humans all with their own ways of transforming the world. All of us one. The flights there and back were spiritual highs for me!

8.27.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina
Larisa at Sarah P. Duke Gardens ~ 8.27.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina

Visiting Dima & Larisa for five days was wonderful! Very humid weather put something of a damper on outdoor adventures, but we had fun gardening in the early morning hours and decorating the living room and kitchen together one fun afternoon. We explored Durham in the air-conditioned car and talked and talked and talked. And had some great meals out and even better meals from their kitchen and grill. Had loads of fun taking pictures! I also came home with a lot of spider and mosquito bites for souvenirs. 🙂

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tropical quail (?), Magic Wings Butterfly House at the Museum of Life & Science ~ 8.31.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina

The trip did me a world of good – thank you so much for your gracious hospitality and welcoming arms, my wonderful kids!

8.31.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina
8.31.13 ~ Durham, North Carolina

a sacred zone

shell by Keith Shannon ~ Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Not a day goes by that I don’t take a walk on the beach. The beach is truly home, its broad expanse of sand as welcoming as a mother’s open arms. What’s more, this landscape which extends as far as the eye can see, always reminds me of possibility. It is here I can listen to my inner voice, shed inhibitions, move to the rhythm of the waves, and ask the universe unanswerable questions. That is why when I found myself at a crossroads in my marriage and my life, I ran away to Cape Cod and spent a year by the sea, I was sure this place, so full of my personal history, would offer clarity.

The beach to me is a sacred zone between the earth and the sea, one of those in-between places where transitions can be experienced – where endings can be mourned and beginnings birthed. A walk along the beach offers the gift of the unexpected. Scan the horizon and glimpse the endless possibilities. Stroll head down and encounter one natural treasure after another. Tease the tides and feel a sense of adventure. Dive into the surf and experience the rush of risk.

~ Joan Anderson
(A Walk on the Beach)