Sending Out My Book to Publishers!

Dear Friends,

Greetings to you on this New Moon of November! The above image is a sample page from my Studio Notebook, where my intention is to invest about 20 minutes a day in playing around with color and image. The above colors are not typical choices for me, but I quite like the effect. It reminds me of my visits to my favorite place on the planet — the American Southwest.

MY BIG NEWS: I just finished the Proposal for my book, Developing Your Inner Life is a Political Act! I have to tell you the truth — it was almost harder than writing the book in the first place! After reading a couple of books and lots of guidelines as to how to pitch your book to publishers, I set to the task of explaining why this book should be published now, and how it will appeal to audiences. The publishing world has significantly changed in the past 30 years, and proposals now need to have a complete marketing plan plus how you will promote your book on Social Media. Well, I’m not used to thinking that way, and it took me a few weeks to get my mind around it all. Finally, I’ve written the proposal, including what potential publishers will need in order to make a decision whether to take it up or not, while also keeping true to who I am and what I honestly have to offer.

Instead of thinking that I have to do all sorts of things I don’t want to do (i.e., be on social media a lot) just in order to sell my book, I’ve reframed it. I realize that I have lots of things to share that would help people live a more reflective life, identify their authentic desires and values, and then have the motivation to take those passions out into the world to create a better life, a better world that can be a home for all of us. If I focus more attention to talking about those things on the internet and on social media, I will not only reach more people, but will also be letting people know that if they’re interested, I also have a book that expands on all of those things! And so, in a month or two I will be blogging more, and setting up a mailing list for a regular newsletter as well.

I finished the Proposal, but I still need to send it out to the 6 or so publishers I’ve selected. I’m hoping to do that tomorrow. Please send some good energy that my book find its right home in order to get out into the world. Open to any helpful advice you might have. If, after a few months, I get no nibbles, I will probably go ahead and publish it myself on amazon publishing. We shall see!!!

In other news, I was able to attend Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ first in-person training in three years: The Wounded Healer Master Training in late October in Colorado. As she had had a very intense case of covid that had lasted weeks and weeks, I was delighted to see her looking stronger, powerful, and more vibrant than I’d ever seen her! When she came into the room at our first gathering, the whole room of about 70 of us spontaneously, as one, stood up and applauded her into the room. Almost all of us were in tears, knowing how much covid has taken from us, and so grateful to be able to once again learn from Dr. Estes and be with each other. The people who are regulars at her trainings are some of the finest people I’ve met in my life, and I gather strength from knowing that we are all out in our corners of the world, doing our work for the benefit of all. I am so grateful to have been able to go.

In the next two months I have two surgeries scheduled for carpal tunnel syndrome. I have no idea how difficult the surgeries and recovery will be for me (another reason I’m so pleased to be getting out the proposal before then!). Yet the CTS affects me pretty badly now, and if successful, the surgeries will be so welcomed. Other chronic pain, especially in my rotator cuffs, can’t be fixed through surgery. I’ll take any relief I can find! Your prayers and intentions for safe surgeries are received gratefully.

May we all have what we need in this quiet, reflective time of winter and its attendant festivities! I’ll be home, quiet, recovering and reading books that have long been put aside while I’ve worked on my own book.

With candlelight, warm drinks, comfy chairs, and great books or videos, I wish you treasures of winter,

With love and blessings,

Cat

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“Mission Statement” and “Strategic Plan”

Painting/Collage from Sept. 9, 2022 Retreat for Spiritual Directors, Watercolor on paper, Cat Charissage (c) 2022

Dear Friends,

Happy New Moon, just two days after the Equinox. Here in North America, the light signals that fall is in the air. I love the way the light in September makes the leaves and the trees glow golden.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the fall retreat of the Lethbridge Spiritual Directors’ Peer Support Group, and I led a portion of the day with this art activity. I invited us to think of some of the “worlds” we live in, then to look at them, peer between them, and think of what is ours to do in this season of life. My four “worlds” were Family (including Chosen family), Sharing my Enquiry and Wisdom, Intentional Creativity, and Transformative Connections:

I painted a cross between a medicine circle and a Celtic cross, the purple circle to represent my life at this time, with the large yellow crossbars representing my soul life. The four “worlds” include words which describe the what and the how of each of those worlds, and the yellow curved papers uniting the circle with the outside of the circle describe how I wish to live in this world: “Focus”, “Respect dear body”, “Appropriate Boundaries”, “Drawn, not Driven”, “tonglen” (a practice of metaphorically breathing in the darkness of the world, offering what I can to cleanse the darkness, then breathing out clean, clear light), and an awareness of the presence of “Holy Ones and Ancestors”. All the flotsam and jetsam floating around the purple circle are all the things in the world that I find interesting and attractive, all the books I want to read, the movies I want to see, the new people I’d love to meet, all the disciplines I’d love to learn about, all kinds of ways I’d love to be of service, all the art classes I’d love to take, etc., etc. Alas, we are all limited beings in time, yet, to the extent possible, I want to be conscious of how I am living this blessed life, to be conscious of what I’m focusing my energy on.

After I finished this collage, I looked at it and had to laugh —- and here’s the simple, contemplative life I want to be living! Looks pretty busy and cluttered and oh so full —- so many words, so many colors!!! So I did another small painting: the blue background, the purple circle of self and the worlds I live in within it. When I went to share my artwork with the others, I said that the simple circled cross was what I aspire toward, as in my mission statement; the full-colored busy one is the way I actually live my day-to-day life.

So what about you? At this cultural “new year” of so many new projects starting, what worlds are you living in? Are there worlds that you need to move out of in this season of life? Are there worlds where you need to offer more focus? Can you come up with a simple image, or word or phrase, that encompasses your life these days? Is your life what you want it to be? If not, where do you have choices in order to change things here and there, or change things in one fell swoop!? We don’t control everything in our lives, but we can control our attention. What are you paying attention to these days?

Enjoy this transition time!

With much love and many blessings,

Cat

Can we talk about Overwealmth?

Dear Friends,

I created each of the above color wheels with just three colors of paint, plus black and white. Interesting, isn’t it, what can come from just a few ingredients, using two different brands of paint?

Well, this is my life. And most probably, yours too.

We thought we chose (or were handed) three important things in life, say, family, work in the world, and things you love to do for fun or relaxation. Sounds easy enough to create a well-balanced life with those three elements. Wrong. Each of the three elements, or colors, in our lives have morphed into at least 24 colors, or elements, and could potentially morph into infinite elements, or colors, with just a little more of this, a little less of that — or, heaven forbid! — using a different brand of color, such as moving to a new town or new job.

We’re moving into a new school year, the perennial start of so many new things, and frankly, my dear friends, I’m deep into overwealmth! I want to know if you have any good ideas as to how to handle this, please! “Overwealmth” is a word that I made up from “overwhelm” and “wealth”, the condition of near-paralysis induced by having too many good things going on, or to choose from, or to pursue; and you don’t feel you can give up anything! It’s the sticky spot right in the middle of time management, prioritizing, clutter management, recognizing human limits of time, space and attention, discerning one’s calling(s) in life, desire to honor the gifts of the people and opportunities around one, and wanting to revolutionize the way our societies and hungry forces have shaped, limited, and killed off the creative urges of so many people throughout time, including our ancestors and often, ourselves.

Dr. Estes has sometimes referred to something similar as “raining tortillas”, a condition where, after famine or scarcity, so many opportunities, ideas, and resources come falling out of the sky, and we wear ourselves out trying to collect them all before they go bad.

Simply put, I have so many interests, so many email newsletters, so many art courses, and so many poetry groups that they could fill my nine lives as a “Cat”. The new school year is filled with new programs starting, new sales on old classes, and new in-person groups that I would love to attend. Not to mention what is already here in this life: beloved friends and family, that book I’m writing (I think I’m done with content editing; just a few more checks and then the writing of book proposals to publishers!), comfortable and productive routines, and all the maintenance tasks of cooking, laundry, cleaning (okay, so not that much cleaning). I could give more details, but each of us has our own mix, and I’m more interested right now in HOW to choose, HOW to prioritize, and HOW to go forward in a responsible, ethical, and hopefully delightful manner.

I think that for almost all of us, this is a relatively new problem — and I fully recognize the irony (blasphemy?) of calling too much of a good thing (opportunities, choices) a problem. Many of us have come from ancestors who had very few choices; they often had to move to “new” lands to escape starvation and work in oppressive conditions just to provide for their families, and those new lands were already filled with people. History has not been an uninterrupted narrative of justice and delight (oh, you noticed, did you?); we all have our stories, and many of them are nightmares. Just to have a safe enough home, health care, and enough food and sleep is something that most of our ancestors never had and many of us have had to worry about. (see http://www.thenapministry.com)

When I was younger, though there was always enough food, there weren’t nearly enough books, new ideas, creativity, art supplies. I felt “image-starved” with few art books, and no color-photocopiers. Yet now, for the price of a computer account and a mid-level color printer, I have binders and binders full of beautiful and inspiring images I’ve printed out for myself. Instead of being limited to my city’s community college offerings for art classes or poetry groups, I literally have a world full of talented others ready to sell me an art course on anything I can imagine, or membership in a group of like-minded creatives. Because of the scarcity of these extras in my growing up, I’ve developed the habit of collecting whatever resources I could find so that I’d have some resources in reserve when I had the time to enjoy them. My nervous system hasn’t adapted to the “too-much-ness” of the choices available now.

As our choices have multiplied at an exponential rate, however, the capabilities of our oh so human bodies haven’t changed. We each only have about four thousand weeks in a life (see https://www.amazon.com/Four-Thousand-Weeks-Management-Mortals/dp/0374159122), and I’m acutely aware that I’ve already used up 3, 380 of mine. Investigating these new options and figuring out how to choose among them (and writing about the overwealmth of it all) is using more of the time I have left to enjoy whatever it is that I end up choosing!

Oh, for the experience of “no-time” in ritual, the spaciousness of meditation, the flow of artistic expression! If I remember that these experiences come in the doing of the ritual, meditation, or artistic expression, and not in the gathering of the no longer scarce resources for when I might have the time to enjoy them, then things become clearer, faster. I have enough, and the time is now.

Each of us needs only three colors, plus black and white. How we mix those is our life, our contribution, and our legacy. It’s time to delete the email subscriptions, get off of instagram and amazon (fortunately, I early recognized the crack cocaine nature of Pinterest for someone like myself, and do not indulge). It’s time to just pick up the colors.

Much love and many blessings on this New Moon,

Cat

W.I.P., SABLE, and more than enough

W.I.P. in sketchbook, July 2022 (c) Cat Charissage

Dear friends,

This is a work in progress that started when I sat in front of my sketchbook and had no idea what to paint or draw. The center flower appeared first, then the spiraling out, and then the purple bowl within the red bowl. And then I got it. The sketch/painting illustrates the truth behind my “stashes”.

You see, I have a lot of books. I also have a lot of art supplies — many received as gifts, and many, many taken home from thrift stores as I say a prayer for the person whose probable death meant I was able to find their stash donated to the thrift store. An impolite (and clueless) observer might wonder if I were becoming a hoarder. Not nearly. I certainly do, though, have SABLE — Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy.

Books and art supplies are not self-destructive “addictions” as compared to real addictions to drugs or alcohol. And I’m not a Maria Condo fan. (Have you seen what she recommends we do with our books!?!?) The stash has deeply served me, serve others as I “share the wealth” through loaning or giving away, and will no doubt serve future budding artists as they find the remnants of my stash at the thrift stores where my family will have donated things after I pass over to the next adventure.

When I was a child my parents punished and controlled me by controlling my access to books. They would take the pile of library books and the shelf of Nancy Drew mystery stories and put them in their large closet where I dare not try to recover them. Books were my salvation then, and escaping into other worlds than the difficult and surreal reality of my family kept me sane enough to eventually be able to leave. It was an effective tactic on my parents’ part, as I would do anything to get my survival tools, my books, back. Even when the books were seated on my small bedroom bookcase, I knew they could be arbitrarily taken away at any time. “Punishment” never made sense in my family, and was meted out according to my parents’ unhappiness rather than as a consequence of any behavior of mine. So anytime, what I needed for survival could disappear. It’s no wonder, then, that when I was able to control the access to my books, I always made sure I knew exactly where they were, and had enough extra that I never again had to re-read one 22 times.

Art supplies were the same, and different. Making art was not valued in my family, and any art supplies I might acquire were often confiscated to entertain my younger brothers. Of course the art supplies didn’t survive toddler enthusiasms.

For a long time I was embarrassed by my full shelves and drawers, wondering if I was still reacting to past pains and injustices. And surely I was in my first years of adulthood, but no more. They are wonderful resources that help my and others’ survival, that help my and others’ creativity. The books are freely shared; they help me and others engage with our flesh and blood lives rather than serving only as escape. The art supplies are shared whenever I gather together women friends for deep and real conversations. Discussion flows while paint flows, and it is good. They have become resources for creating a new world. Slowly, yes. But surely, too.

This sketchbook painting is a first iteration of a painting that will somehow show that the sharing of what is needed for survival (the bowls) is a step toward the creation of more and more resources needed for our blossoming, bringing beauty and more than enough of all that we need. May it be so.

Much love and many blessings,

Cat

The Day’s Rhythms

my recent art meditations

Dear Friends,

I write to you on this New Moon in June. It’s been a fruitful time for my inner self these days; I’d like to share a little bit of that with you in order for you to ask yourself how this resonates for you. Are you following a similar path, or is this a completely different season for you? How would you describe to yourself what you’ve learned, or realized, in the past few months?

I broke my left arm on June 2, just as I had finished recording my offerings for a Virtual Retreat that I was involved in, and just as I was joining others in the planning of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of that retreat. (On-line ceremony almost seems like an oxymoron —- but one thing humans do is to adapt to circumstances, and so we did, and the ceremonies were, actually, beautiful.) One of the invitations in the Closing Ceremony had to do with articulating, in just a couple of words, what is next in our lives, what next that we are committed to showing up for. The words that came to me were “Contemplative Elderhood.”

I also had spent a month intentionally asking “Please remove from me everything that is not myself.” This prayer I learned from my dear teacher, Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Something has been stirring.

Then last weekend I fell into a major funk: I felt just SO FRUSTRATED by the limitations of my broken arm along with the limited mobility of my “good” right arm, needing to ask for help in all sorts of things I’m used to just doing as I needed, by myself! Things like driving, cooking, dressing, showering, pulling up my pants, etc. So frustrated, and so tired of aching 24/7, slowed down and exhausted because of the constant pain. So I sat and waited and listened and asked for help, and slowly I’m beginning to see how I can live “Contemplative Elderhood” in my day to day. I was reminded of a poem I wrote in about 2017, a poem that at the time I could only imagine as being possible. . . someday. . . maybe. . .

To Know Mystery

To know mystery, dear one, 

 live the life you long for.

You have more choices than you think. . . 

What if you knew that the only thing you have to do

is what you long to do:  what is good, useful, holy —-

to drop into, over and over and over, this blessed mystery?

Yes, it is possible to live creatively and sustainably, with grace and joy!

What grows the soul, do this,

and what makes dear body thrive, do that.

To nurture an inner life is your political act now.

Defending the depth dimensions, 

your wisdom becomes gift.

Listen for the rhythm:  in, down, up, poured out.

In, down, up, poured out.

In deep connection, with word, image, dream, and silence

live the life you long for.

Well, it seems that this is the time to live this. My broken arm, along with the rest of dear body, is telling me to slow down, stay at home more, but to harvest the so much of what I have learned over the years, both from my study (which has been extensive), and from my experience (which I really would rather have read the book about, and not lived through!)

So here I am, following a flexible rhythm in my days:

Sleep as long as I need to, then up, breakfast, and check email;

Go downstairs to my study; do art meditation and journaling;

Work on my book or current projects.

After supper with my family: read, watch some art videos, listen to poetry or teachings from the mystics;

move into silence and sleep.

On the weekends, a type of “Sabbath” — resting, renewing, being a human BEING.

Not so different from what has arisen naturally for me, but here I’m naming it and claiming it. Of course, “LIFE” interrupts the best laid plans —- that’s why I call it a rhythm. When other needs arise, I hope I can settle back into the rhythm with ease.

And so, dear friends, what’s calling to YOU these days?

New Moon: Bird Woman Painting, and Two Poems

Bird Woman (c) Cat Charissage 2022

Hello dear friends,

One of my recent paintings. I wish I could tell you what it “means”, but I’m wordless about this painting. A woman with crows and ravens as her allies. I could do worse. . .

Two recent poems, “My Nature is Nature” and “Remove from Me Everything that is Not Myself”:

My Nature is Nature

— Cat Charissage 2022

I was raised within walls.

My mom always said we weren’t outdoorsy people.

She thought camping was what poor people did.

My dad wore a suit — always —

And he did not want to sweat.

The outdoors was, well, uncivilized.

It was humid, and had bugs.

The sun shone too brightly,

And I’d get sunburn so bad 

That I’d throw up and run a fever.

No thanks.  No fun.

I was raised within walls.

But I grew up, and had a child myself

For whom I wanted to tear down walls:

Walls of prejudice and walls of fear, 

And that meant tearing down the walls I’d been raised in.

And my human nature greeted outside nature.

I smelled pine and cedar.

I heard water flowing over rocks.

I saw mountains I’d never climb

And picnic spots where the fire spoke.

With my boy, we’d learn from the nature centers

That dotted our wanderings.

From mountain slides to coulee secrets

We literally entered a new world, the real world.

I still get sunburn, but I learned to wear a hat.

I still don’t like ticks or big spiders,

Though caterpillars and bees have their charms.

I’m not a camper and I’m not much of a hiker,

But I’m grateful, so grateful, 

To those who’ve built the trails and put up the signs

Who’ve taught me that here, outside the walls, I belong.

I, too, belong on this earth, of this earth,

That my nature needs this nature, is nature, 

and with nature we carry on.

Remove From Me Everything That is Not Myself

—- Cat Charissage 2022

A wise woman offered me her prayer:

Please remove from me everything that is not myself.

Not very poetic; a little awkward; just nine words:

Please remove from me everything that is not myself.

I’ve never forgotten it, and it came back this year

As an inner chant drumming on my heart.

In equal measure I find myself yearning for that to be so, 

And terrified of being left with nothing,

Left naked and cold.  So very cold.

Please remove from me everything that is not myself.

But what if I like having things that are not myself?

What if I’m used to having, to being, lots?

I have the trappings of an educated woman near the end of a varied, interesting career

— and I know my status, power, and position are already in the process of removal.

Those trapping may have been mine, but they are not myself.

I am other than, more than, — and am less than that, too: myself.

I hold all kinds of “stuff,” all kinds of souvenirs

From a life caring for others:

My mother’s dreams,

My fathers’ failures,

Trying so hard,

Exhaustion,

Grit,

And grief:

The grief of so many who have told me 

Their secrets, their pains, their betrayals.

I know how to help carry others’ burdens,

And I carry much.  Much.

And, it is time to set those down to let earth compost them.

They are not myself.

I have wanted to help,

And I have.

And, I’m not the only one who can help.

The world is filled with allies offering help and healing, comfort and transformation.

Ask the ravens and the deer,

Listen to the trees, and even humans, too.

That “stuff” I’ve carried, those burdens, 

They are not myself

Not even the stuff that has happened directly to me:

They are not myself.

The outer life — it has defined me, 

but that is not myself.

And now, what is left?  What is myself?  

What is inside?

The inner life is . . . vast . . . 

The inner life is so rich . . .

The inner life is like waiting for a butterfly to land on your hand.

If I’m very calm, very still, heart and hands held open,

The butterfly comes.  And worlds open.

Worlds open, and I fall through the depths 

Finding myself, my true self.

THIS is my self.

It’s taken a long time to get here.

Thank you.

And you, my friends, I wish for you sunny days and rainy nights, everything you need to grow grow grow in body and heart, in mind, in soul, and in spirit.

Much love and many blessings,

Cat

The Book Chronicle: in the middle of Draft 3

Dear Friends,

More daily meditation paintings from March: if you’re looking at these thinking, “I could do something like that!” you’re right! Why not take out some watercolors, trace a circle with an old cd, and have some fun?

The Book Chronicle: I’m deep in the midst of Draft three of Developing Your Inner Life as a Political Act, taking into account the feedback I received from my first readers (thank you!). I’m going to have to cut a lot, as it’s currently 460 pages. Also, I’m realizing that if I were to move around some chapters the book would be stronger, so that’s going to be the next draft. I’m not exactly discouraged, but I am relating to the comments of other authors who have said “If I knew how much work it would be, I might never have started my book”. Another friend congratulated me on finishing the first draft: “Congratulation on the birth of your new ‘baby’! Now all you have to do is take it home and raise it until it’s ready to leave home!” And that’s what it’s like —– I thought I’d accomplished a lot, and I did — but there’s just a lot, lot more to go!

Meanwhile, I keep arting a bit most days, and writing some poetry for our open Mic here in Lethbridge. Here’s one about the body:

I Used to Hate You

—– Cat Charissage

I used to hate you.

I was ashamed, embarrassed by you.

I wondered — constantly — how others saw you.

If only you were . . .

a little more of this

a little less of that,

if only you behaved,

then my life would be okay. 

I took you to the doctor oh so many times,

Hoping he would talk some sense into you —

or give you some medication, or recommend something.

How much pain you’ve brought me!

I kept thinking it was me who was trying so hard,

punishing you for doing just what you wanted,

punishing you by ignoring you, 

never buying you anything beautiful.

never adorning you with color and scarves and shawls.

And slowly, slowly, I realized just how loyal you are,

how you keep me going

giving me your last bit of strength.

For years your demands were few

until you just couldn’t go, or do, or serve anymore.

The doctor said “You’re all worn out!”

And yes, I was.  And filled with pain, too.

Dear Body, forgive me for thinking that YOU hated ME

when all along, what I hated was a culture

that wants skinny women and bony bums.

Dear Body, I thought I was the one trying so hard

when I treated you as a workhorse.

And what do people do with a worn out horse?

Well, they shoot horses, don’t they?

And I, in collusion with an unhealthy world 

that commodifies women’s bodies and 

values you only for what you can produce,

almost did kill you.

No more! 

How could I ever think that you were other than me?

How could I try to shape you so others would approve?

How could I ignore you for so long?  

You and I are one.

I will no longer be mean to myself, to you, dear body.

You are marvelous!

You heal from insults and you heal from death scares.

Your scars are marks of valor — we’ve been places, haven’t we?

Your way of holding on to nourishment, to every last calorie

enabled my ancestors to survive famines,

surviving long enough to bring forth another generation.

I love how much you try, how much I try.

I love how faithful you are, how faithful I am.

I love how wise you are, how wise I am.

Dear body, dear body mine,

Here I am!  

Surviving and strong!

My body, My Self!

Take care dear friends! May Day and the New Moon —- much newness to revel in.

With much love and many blessings,

Cat

A Little Art, a Little Poetry

Hello dear friends,

It’s the New Moon, just a week after the Spring Equinox, and also April Fool’s Day! I’ve been experimenting with different ways to approach my days. I have the incredible luxury of being in charge of my own schedule —- I have projects and commitments, but very few places I have to be at a certain time. And I’ve been waiting my whole life for this! I do find that routines create rhythms for my days, and my current rhythm is to come down to my study after breakfast and devote about twenty minutes to painting contemplatively, in silence, with as little plan as possible. I’ve shared here a few of my mandala paintings; I draw a circle using an old cd, and then fill it with watercolor. They’re not perfect, but they don’t have to be. I encourage you to find a daily practice that gives you a little quiet time to let your mind, heart, and soul settle.

Last Wednesday evening was Open Mic at Owl Poetry. It was our first time back live, in person, at the Owl Acoustic Lounge. We’d been meeting over Zoom during the pandemic, and as thankful as I am for zoom technology, there’s nothing like being in person. We had 25 poets reading, with nine of them being newbies (first timers at Owl Poetry)! It was a wonderful time. I read two of my latest poems, poems that I’ve written in response to these crazy times we live in. I’ve included them here; I hope you enjoy them.

With much love and many blessings,

Cat

Our Responsibility to be Informed

Cat Charissage, March 2022

How do you get your news?

How do you live out your citizenly responsibility to be informed?

In times of war it feels that we must keep up with it all,

We must know which cities are now occupied by “the enemy,”

We must watch the crowded lineups of women and children escaping the country while they can,

must keep up three, five, nine times a day as our phones “ping” another notification of death, of suffering.

We feel good knowing these things, keeping up with the latest.

We’re being responsible, well informed citizens.

We even think we know what’s really going on

Forgetting that the first casualty of war is truth.

But — what is really going on?

And did you hear about some other news?

That in Red Deer, healthy twins were born to a couple who’d yearned for ten years for a child.  And now they have two!

Did you hear about that family in Calgary whose grandparents needed to move into assisted living, renovated their home so that the grandparents could move in with them?

Did you hear that in schools around the world, teachers gently taught little ones how to read?  And not just today, but every day?

Or that in every hospital in every nation the nurses cared for their patients, and lives were saved?

Be conscious of what news you take in.

What’s really going on?

A lot more than we’re told.

April Fools

Cat Charissage, March 2022

The news around me is harsh:

Stats are showing that the vaccines themselves may make you more susceptible to covid.

The new chemicals that civilization has released into the air and water over the last seventy years may be responsible for the explosion of neurological difficulties in children.

Toxic masculinity is alive and well when an actor wallops the comedian whose joke he took offense to — on worldwide live television.

And, oh yes, don’t forget that imperialism burst out in war in the Ukraine.  Russian empire building at its ugliest.  And just as ugly, American empire building.

So what’s a trickster to do on April the First?

First, extend April Fools day to the rest of the year, 

and be a fool every single day!

Be a fool: go write a poem!  Ain’t nobody gonna get rich doing that!  Ain’t nobody, well, practically nobody, gonna make a living doing that!

Be a fool: major in Religious Studies in university!  How are you going to get a job with that?

Be a fool: raise the next generation of adults!  Daycare workers and at home moms aren’t going to be any engine behind economic prosperity.

Be a fool: listen to stories and read philosophy!  Hang out with friends discussing them til dawn, but you might be late to work tomorrow — a foolish thing to do.

Be a fool: date your spouse!  Even after forty years with each other.

Be a fool: look into the eyes of the people you meet!  Know that they are probably struggling, too.

Be a fool: dare to be happy, and peaceful!  Have no need to argue, harangue, or conquer.

Be a fool:  The wisdom of peacemakers appears foolish to powerful men.

Be a fool.

A Calm, Grounded Presence

a painting that refused to say within the lines

Dear Friends,

With all of the conflict in ourselves, our relationships, and our world, the war in the Ukraine is another example of the horror that humans can perpetrate on other humans, animals, and the earth itself. I’m so sad that the people in the Ukraine have to deal with this, in the midst of a cold and grey winter, far from the sunflowers that are its national symbol.

For those of us not in the middle of that particular conflict, or directly impacted by it, it is far too easy to give in to feelings enflamed by all of the news, the photos, the social media, and the commentators. Many of us are feeling horrified, and/or angry, and so many of us are feeling the panic that comes from not knowing what we can DO to help the situation.

May I suggest that that you create an oasis of calm within yourself, for at least a few moments? These moments of calm will help you to discern what immediate actions you can take that might be of help. You may want to contribute to various organizations that will help the Ukrainian people, and/or write letters or meet with your representatives to pressure our governments to help resolve the situation. You may reach out to friends who are Ukrainian and Russian, asking how they are affected and how you might be of help. You might sit with your children to locate where the Ukraine is on a map and together study a bit of the long history of that part of the world. Humans have lived there for more than 50,000 years, and the Ukrainians have especially suffered through the 20th Century.

One of the best things you can do is to be a calm, grounded, and loving presence in this world, both to discern how you can truly be of help and to bring calm and understanding to all those within your reach. Beyond checking in with the news once a day (if that), I’m not sure that further news consumption will accomplish anything good for the most of us. Remember that there are not just “two sides” in every conflict; there are multiple sides, multiple opinions, multiple points of view, and different information that is available to different people.

We often say “I’m just trying to be a responsible citizen by figuring out what’s really happening!” but how do we truly do that —- find out what’s really happening? We can barely figure out what’s really happening in our own families, much less halfway across the world in countries with a very long history of injustices and tragedies. That is not at all to say we should bury our heads in the sand, though. Let us just recognize the impossibility of knowing with certainty what is going on, and the futility of trying to know the exact motivations of and consequences to every person who is affected by this conflict. We’re not used to the feeling of not-knowing, or of helplessness, and they feel pretty awful. But it’s closer to the “TRUTH” than pretending that the one or ten news sources that you listen to will give you a complete understanding. Even if you were to study the history of any particular region of conflict, you’d need to remember that almost all history is written by the victors and your job of understanding needs the viewpoints of so many ethnic groups, political groups, families, mommies and daddies who are no longer alive to tell us their stories. Don’t give up studying history, just know that it is all a lot more complicated than what you can learn in a few books.

You can, though, be a person who promotes peace and respect, and possibly be one of the people who will have prevented a war in the future. Within your own reach, you can listen first before you talk, whether with your child or with that “foreign” neighbor. When someone starts to express their opinion, really listen, instead of just formulating your response that will “straighten them out”. Ask the other person to tell you more of how they think about a situation, and then ask “Where have you learned what it is that you know about such and such?” and “And how did THEY hear about what’s going on?” and “Might other people of good will think differently about this situation?” “Have you heard from them?” Et cetera.

But it takes a lot of patience and energy to be able to do that —- to listen, and to speak, without enflaming conflict. One way to have that patience and energy is to create regular oases of time in order to check in with ourselves and work through our own inner conflicts.

Here are some of the things I’ve done in the past few days. Besides writing in my journal about my feelings and fears, I’ve sat with some markers and watercolors to express what I don’t have words for. The above watercolor circle started as something just to calm my senses with pretty color. I was amused to find out that even my own watercolors won’t stay where they’re supposed to! They took off beyond the circle, outside of my control. Life lesson, eh?

These next three images were made with markers using a circle template and a square template. After drawing the shape, I just let the pen “do what it wanted to do”. As I drew and colored in, I felt mostly quiet inside, yet some ideas did come up. I wrote the word “Remember” to remind me to remember how so many things and people are connected, also to bring healing when possible, as in to “re-member” what has been broken.

The spiral started out as a way to bring myself calm, to bring the marker round and round a center point, which I had colored pink/violet to represent Love. But as I continued the spiral, it was hard for it to stay regular, in line, and I let go into the waves and swirls I felt more represented my inner state. I felt surrounded by darkness, conflict everywhere, but then remembered that we all are surrounded (if we allow ourselves to be) by immeasurable Love.

In the third image, I made shapes by starting with my pen on the circle, then just making shapes and crisscrossing them. I picked colors I like, and colored it in to represent how I WANT life to be —- interesting, with variety and balance, but not toooo regular!

The final two blocks started with thought rather than simply with color or shape. I thought about the people and groups that are in conflict, divided by jagged borders. Even the people within groups are often divided from each other. I drew in little black shapes to represent the real people who are suffering because of this:

All the little dots are prayers, or intentions of peace and well-being. I noticed that many of the figures looked more like keyholes than the people they are meant to represent. And that started a train of thought wondering what the key is that we need right now. What’s key to all of this?

This final image I’ve included is a representation of what I hope can happen next — that there will be some breaks in the major walls that divide us, and that many boundaries are not able to be seen anymore, that groups will be less separate from each other, and that members will move between and among groups so that the groups take on a different tone, where the ideals and hopes overlap more and people are willing to find out how other people live and what is important to them. This image is rather chaotic compared to the rigidness of conflict situations, but it’s also true that real diversity is much more complex than we expect at first glance.

Try making some images like this. It doesn’t take talent or skill, nor does it take “art” supplies. Use your children’s Crayola markers, make circles by drawing around an old cd. Eyeball a square shape, and give it a try. Just make some shapes and add some color. For me, this kind of activity allows me to express what I don’t have words for, yet the activity itself gives me new words and new ideas. I go back to my family, my friends, my community a little less frantic and frightened, a little more resourced to be the calm, grounded, and loving presence who can help rather than enflame.

With much love and many blessings on this New Moon,

Cat