Rise like the new moon, Rise like a mountain


Our Lady of Compassion, acrylic on canvas, (c) a.r.r.  Cat Charissage

Dear Friends,

On this Canadian Thanksgiving and new moon, I am deeply grateful that I personally know so many deeply good women and men who stand for justice, kindness, and compassion.  I’m also deeply grateful that I am among some of the richest people who have ever lived on this planet, including kings and queens of only a few centuries ago:  I have clean water, indoor plumbing, hot water on tap, and central heating.  (Not to mention the medicines I need to keep alive and well enough.)  And, I am fortunate that, even though I have very little “disposable” income, that I can go into a grocery store and buy whatever we need —- not even having to add it all up before I reach the cashier to make sure I have enough money to pay for it.

This has been a rough couple of weeks for many women and men.  I’m remembering way too much:  the Anita Hill testimony, all the stories I heard when I worked at the sexual assault center (and since), all my own stories.  I have two quotes that are giving me great strength today.  May they strengthen you, too:

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:  so much has been destroyed.  I have to cast my lot with those who age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.”             —–  Adrienne Rich

Within your reach, be what you wish to see in others.  Focus on actions and prayer/your spiritual practice whatever it might be.  Join like-kind with a plan, and especially illigitimus not carborundum, don’t let the bastards grind you down.  Mockery and lies are not new.  They are old.  The difference is we can see them very very clearly now.  Plan accordingly.  Turn anger to fierce action.  Swords to plow blades to plant a new land.  With love.”                —- Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in comments on her FB post yesterday

May we all be blessed as we plant a new land,

With love,



Happy New Moon in September


“New Moon” (c) Cat Charissage, 2018, a.r.r., marker and acrylic on paper

(inspired by artwork by Carolyn Scrace)

Dear Friends,

On my mind and heart these days, in the busiest time of the year for me, is how deeply important it is to still sit in the darkness just before the new moon.  My Story Circles are starting, and the first meetings of the year need extra planning to set the right tone and environment.  As well, I’m attending a retreat for Spiritual Directors in Calgary next weekend, and preparing for two trainings with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Colorado in the last half of October.  The only way I can manage any of these activities is through good planning, thoughtful pacing, and a healthy enough immune system!  And still there are many very good activities I’ve said no to.  One form of abundance is having many options, and abundance is always wonderful —- it’s also frustrating, because all of us have limits, some of us more than others, and it’s impossible to take advantage of all the good things that are offered.

For many of us, September is the new year — going back to school, getting the kids to school, making sure family calendars are up to date with new activities.  Oftentimes the only way to have downtime, meditative time, recovery time is to plan it in our calendars and writing it in permanent ink!  So I do, and invite you all to plan some unplanned time, too.

The photo is the cover of my new journal for the month.  For the last year or so, I’ve been starting a new journal each new moon along with setting an intention for the month and bringing it into form through artwork.  Cycling along with the moon helps me notice the earth’s natural rhythms a little more.  I’m also interested in discovering whether my own rhythms resonate with the new beginning of the new moon, increase up to the zenith of the full moon, and fall back as the moon is “eaten away again”.  So far, I can’t tell whether my natural rhythms echo that of the moon.  Yet thinking in terms of a lunar month has proved to be a good and healthy way to do some planning, some tracking, and some of the personal projects that so often otherwise get forgotten in the overwhelm of daily life.  Thinking in cycles rather than galloping along in linear time (the soundtrack in my head is playing the “Da-da-dum, da-da-dum, da-da-dum-dum-dum!” of the Lone Ranger theme, Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”) is more like relaxed breathing than the holding of your breath as you’re concentrating deeply on accomplishing something.  Life-giving rather than risking passing out!  It’s not surprising that many forms of meditation focus on the rhythm of the breath.

Another note on my journal-keeping:  besides meditation/silence, it’s my most important depth-dimension (i.e., spiritual) practice.  I craft my own journals from watercolor paper that I’ve pre-painted backgrounds on while listening to the silence or talking and painting with friends, and I paste into the pages my to-do and ta-da! lists, notes from family and friends, and copies of newsy emails I receive or send out.  Dear spouse calls it my extreme mindfulness sport — but it really helps me appreciate my life, all that I do, and is a loved container for new ideas and art experiments.  Oftentimes our journals are used only to dump our negative emotions into, so for me, including just about EVERYTHING in my life reflects back to me the full richness of life.  It also helps me track when things fall apart, and whether the overwhelm has to do with taking on too much to do or with conditions entirely out of my control.   It’s also interesting to note the days, months, or even years when I haven’t collected my life’s ephemera and reflections.

I’ve been keeping journals of one kind or another for more than 45 years.  It’s wonderful —- except when it’s time to move and I have 10 extra banker’s boxes full of them!  Do you keep a journal?  Has how you’ve done it changed over the years?  How do you store them and deal with privacy issues?  I’d love to “talk journals” and hear what’s worked for you.

So breathe, live intentionally, and dare to be as happy as you can!

Much love and many blessings,


Reminder regarding Fall/Winter Story Circles

offerings internet vs.
Hello dear friends,
As some of the Story Circles are starting to fill up, I’m writing to remind you to email me if you are interested in any of the Fall/Winter offerings.  All the information can be found in the attachment.  Any questions?  Please email me.   I’m so looking forward to delving into fall and all the promises it holds.
May the rest of your summer bring in good harvests of the heart,

Fall/Winter 2018-2019 Offerings

offerings internet vs.

August 11, 2018

Dear Friends,

IMG_2649 adjHere are my Fall/Winter Offerings in Soulwork:  Small group and individual sessions using simple art processes and writing prompts to OPEN TO MYSTERY, EXPLORE LIFE’S DEPTH DIMENSIONS, and DEEPEN OUR FREEDOM.

Much thinking, contemplation, scholarship, and love have gone into the planning, and  I consider it an honor to be able to do my life’s work, and welcome you to join me. Also, if there is anyone you know who you think might be interested in these sorts of circles,  please forward this email to them. Due to my health challenges, I really don’t have extra energy to get the word out so rely on word of mouth to find the people who would love this work.  Please contact me with any questions.

STORY CIRCLES STARTING IN SEPTEMBER:  What is a Story Circle?   After the listings below I explain the intentions and format of this work.  Keep scrolling!

A Poet’s Words:  Falling in love with poetry.  We will each choose a poet or a selection of poetry we love and each have an evening to share them with the others, along with 3 or 4 writing prompts to help us more deeply appreciate the poetry.  Second Wednesdays of the month, Sept. 12 to June 12, 7-9:30 p.m. $150 or PWYC (pay what you can or barter).

Making Meaning, Making Soul:  Depth Dimension (i.e., spiritual) Practices of Word, Image, Dream (Narrative), and Silence to embrace independent thinking and spiritual deepening.  Last Wednesdays of the month, September 26 to June 26, 7-9:30 p.m. $200 or PWYC.

Untie the Strong Woman:  Exploring the archetype of unconditional love in this book by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.  She tells her personal stories of encountering Holy Mother in the most unlikely of life situations, inviting us to identify moments of illumination in our own lives.  First Fridays of the month, September 7 to June 7, 1:30-4 p.m. $200 or PWYC.

Wonderings about Dreams:  Exploring our night dreams and/or our daydreams for meaning, insight, and guidance.  We don’t pronounce on what our dreams are “telling us to do”, but invite intuition and creativity through an “If this were my dream. . . “ approach using modified Jungian and shamanic methods. Third Wednesdays of the month, Sept. 19 to June 19, 7-9:30 p.m.  $150 or PWYC.

The D&R (Deep and Real) Life: Apprenticing to the Sacred  Exploring our ways of knowing the Sacred through examining some of the Christian Mystics and laying our lives down alongside this wisdom.  From “the dark night of the soul” through “after the ecstacy, the laundry”. First Sundays of the month, Oct. 7 to July 7, 1:30-4:30 p.m. $300 or PWYC.

Open Studio:  Simple Art Explorations  Various accessible projects in artistic expression, journalling, or card/book making.  No previous art experience needed. You are welcome to join in the projects, simply play with the art supplies available, or just join in conversation and tea.  Last Saturdays of the month, Sept. 29 to June 29, 1:30 to 4:30. Come when you can; no commitment to the full year. By donation.

What is a Story Circle?  We are a small group of 4 to 8 who meet monthly (usually September through June) for 2 ½ to 3 hours in order to delve deeply into a particular topic or practice, sharing insights and personal applications.  I facilitate as sensitively as possible, creating an environment of hospitality and depth where we can articulate what we didn’t know that we knew, as well as to learn new ways to bring soul into our everyday lives.  There are usually assigned readings (though optional), and I prepare writing or simple art prompts that help us reflect on and incorporate different aspects of the Story Circle’s topic. The goal is to lay our lives down alongside the life stories of others (both those of the authors we’re reading as well as each others’) in order to find and/or create meaning, understanding and richness in our inner lives.  This richness radiates out into whatever we do in the world to bring wholeness and positive change whether in our families or our organizations. No one is encouraged to share more than they are comfortable with, and the meetings are designed so that each participant has several choice points regarding how much they want to share. After we respond to the prompts in writing or with image or color, we share what we wish in our “go-arounds”.   Each of us having a written record of our topics, prompts, and responses adds layers of life documentation and reminders of new areas to explore. I come from an interspiritual stance where spiritual wisdom from all traditions is respected and encouraged, while also appreciating the legacy of my Catholic Christian history. I stand for personal sovereignty, critical and independent thinking, and building authentic community. The groups are educational, not therapy, though participants have found them helpful in examining and healing their suffering.  I have trained in counselling and crisis intervention, especially regarding sexual violence, but am not a licensed therapist.

Past participants have given outstanding feedback regarding the depth, quality, and community-building aspects of the Story Circles.  You are welcome to come to the first two meetings of the Circle to see if it is a match for you. If it is, then I ask for a commitment (within normal life demands!) to attend all meetings of the Circle, as much of the benefit comes from the accumulation of reflection and sharing throughout the year.  No new participants are invited after the 3rd meeting of the year. (This does not apply to the OPEN STUDIO afternoons. Each one is open to new participants; space permitting. RSVP for each month.)

I also offer individual sessions for counsel/planning, intentional creativity, and simple ceremony to mark life transitions.  Between 1.5 – 2 hours, by appointment.

About me:  I am  a contemplative educator, counsellor, and artist, helping women and men navigate the Depth Dimensions of their lives through image, word, silence, and dream.  I believe that the most important work each of us can do is to live out our gifted selves fully, creatively, and freely, to make a home for all  of us, in a world which too often wounds our bodies and souls and colonizes our minds with distractions, commercialization, and other people’s agenda.  

I live in the liminal places, between the worlds where spiritual reality meets ordinary life, where word (poetry, prose) meets image (paintings, journals), where wild adventure meets chronic pain, and where prairie meets mountains in western Canada.

A student of the wisdom traditions of the world, I have a Masters in Education, 4 years’ graduate study and a B.A. in Theology, plus more than 30 years’ experience in service and education, including as counsellor and Executive Director of a sexual assault center.  Trained in post-trauma counselling and a certified Intentional Creativity Teacher and Coach, I have taught in university, high school, professional development, and privately. I stand on the shoulders of my beloved teacher Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of more than 30 works including the bestselling Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.   I have studied with her for the past 8 summers in 11 week-long intensives..  I work out of my home studio in traditional Blackfoot territory in Lethbridge, Alberta, and on the internet through video calls.  A 60 page chapbook of my paintings and poetry entitled Open to Mystery is now available.

With much love and many blessings,




Prayer, and turning towards the Light — Solstice!

—“Prayer”, acrylic on canvas, (c) Cat Charissage, 2018, a/r/r

Dear Friends,

Prayer is good thought, focused.  In this painting I wanted to show how our ideas (hair, here in small spirals) go out into the world (the unravelled spirals, enlarging in the background around the woman) to influence for good or ill.  The red triangles are the thoughts focused, prayer.  The ideas and the focused thought can help organize the matter and the spirit of our often chaotic lives.

Here in the northern hemisphere we’re at the zenith of the sun’s light in our days.  What has come to a zenith in your life these days?   Where and how do you turn toward the light?  (I’m thinking right now of my beloved sunflowers!)

I’m just back from attending a week-long intensive with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her series “Heart of the Wounded Healer”, held at Sunrise Ranch outside of Denver, Colorado.

I’m so grateful to have been able to go, to learn so much from her and my fellow participants about psychological and spiritual healing, which of course influences our bodies’ experience of wholeness and health, and to have the chance to work through whatever is left in my own life to resolve and heal, as well.  Travelling is very difficult for me, and I’m still so tired out that I’m saying I’m the best looking zombie in Lethbridge right now!

So a short post today to share my painting, and to offer perhaps a new way to think about praying —- and how it may be effective.

May you use your good ideas and your powers of focus to bring Light, love, and decency into our needful world.

Much love and many blessings,


Wildness has visited


Hello dear friends,

Happy New Moon!  What new ideas, projects, or adventures are growing in your life these days?

The poetry reading on the 28th went very well.  I’m so appreciative that so many of “my people” came to hear and support me, and I had a really good time.  I also took along three of my paintings that go along with some of my poetry.  A real blessing that came out of the experience is that it did a lot for the “imposter syndrome” that so many of us struggle with:  I feel more confident in claiming that yes, I am a poet and artist.

One of the newer poems that I read was “Wildness has Visited”, dubbed “The Deer Poem” by a friend:


It snowed.  Again.

It’s been a helluva spring, this year.

Yet the white blanket sparkling in the sunshine IS pretty. . .

Underneath the crabapple tree, though,

The snow is trampled

and chocolate droppings are now

fertilizing the lawn.

What a mess!

The deer have visited in the night!

Hungry, they’re cleaning up the last of the crabapples.

I don’t know where they come from —

those deer had to walk through a lot of city neighborhoods

to get to my house.

It thrills me, thinking of their presence,

blessing my neighborhood of little boxes all in a row.

Wildness has visited, anointing my front yard.

Invisible, persistent,

the wild is surviving,

finding what is needed

to keep on going.

Long, long time ago

Holy people would wear headdresses of deer antlers.

The antlers, branching toward the heavens,

become a tree of life to ascent to the spirits.

The antlers reach out to pick up new ideas on the wind.

The antlers plow through deep snow

making way for others to go on on their way,

creating paths to food and survival.

My dear crabapple eating deer,

show me how to climb the tree of life,

teach me to pick up new ideas floating round my head,

remind me to make way

to find soul food and survival

and to leave paths for others to find their way, too.

Dear wild, wild deer,

come find us in our little boxes, all in a row.

Show me how to, like you,  spark hope

with the mess made while you clean up, use up,

all the leftover abundance.

All the leftover abundance, all around us,

right in front of our noses.


Thank you for reading my work!

With much love and many blessings,


Poetry reading this Saturday

Hello dear friends,
I’d like to invite all of you who are available to join me at a poetry reading this Saturday, April 28, 7:30 p.m., at Casa in downtown Lethbridge.  I will be reading from my original works, and have a 15-20 minute slot.  I’ll also have my chapbook there for sale.  There are about 5 of us, a very eclectic group of artists, who will be performing:
The Jester’s Court is a series of evenings of readings and concerts organized by Jeff Godin, who used to be part of the Most Vocal Poets group here in Lethbridge.
It would be wonderful to see you there!
Also, because of this event, I am CANCELLING the OPEN STUDIO  for April.  I plan to resume the OPEN STUDIOS on the last Saturday in May.
Happy Spring!
With much love and blessing,

What’s going on around here

IMG_2879 adj

photo by Teri Petz, http://www.worksofbeauty.ca

Dear Friends,

Welcome to my world this April!  I’ve just finished two university classes that I’ve been auditing this semester at the University of Lethbridge:  God on Trial, a philosophy course that dealt with theodicy — the question of how to reconcile a good God with the presence of evil and suffering, and Comparative Mysticism, a religious studies course.   Both were great, but together, just about killed me off —- I reluctantly have to admit that going out every day (or 4 days a week) is just not sustainable for me, health and energy wise.  I had thought that since I was very excited about the courses and that the logistics were manageable, that I would be able to add them to my days.  But no, getting to the courses took almost all my energy, and other projects suffered.

It was really delightful, though,  to relate to the profs and other students in lively intellectual discussions, something I’ve missed for many years.  I’m a life-long learner, and am always taking courses on-line or in person, but the intellectual banter of the academic courses was stimulating and fun.

Art-wise, I’m experimenting in new styles.  I’m painting in rhythm with the new moon, including simple ceremony and a monthly intention. Here’s what I just finished an hour ago:


There are about 5 layers of paint in here.  Here’s an image in progress:


The words in the background are “feel, think, remember”.  They are cues for associating to images from dreams or stories:  “When I think of  x , what do I think, feel, or remember about this image?”  Associating to personal images, especially in dreams or in experiences of synchronicity, is one of my prime ways of accessing inner knowledge, and in this painting I was pouring a whole set of my current concerns.  A new medication I’m trying suppresses the remembering of my dreams, and that’s a big issue for me!  I’m re-teaching myself all my tricks to remember dreams, and appreciating the fragments and stray images that still manage to come through.

The cauldron is reminiscent of Ceridwen’s cauldron with the magical elixer — where even just three drops are enough to grant full wisdom and knowledge.  The decorations on the cauldron are two intertwined snakes, visually associated both with healing (the caduseus) and with the shape of our DNA molecules,  a tripartite intertwined shape reminding us of the movement in groupings of threes (thesis, antithesis, synthesis; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Maiden, Mother, Crone; the phases of the moon; etc.), and a row of frogs.  The frogs are imaged in the shape of a woman giving birth.  For me, frogs are symbols of irrepressible energy and new possibility.  In a dream I had many years ago, I was carrying a bucket that was lidded, but it was filled with a few frogs that kept leaping out of the bucket no matter how I tried to tighten the lid.  The rose is a symbol of so many ideas for me, also associated with so much mythology, especially the European mythology of my ancestors.  Here, the rose reminds me of the unfolding mystery of life, which never fails to pull me in.

My intention for this New Moon is to develop a new habit:  I will check email and the internet no more than three times daily.  I don’t have a problem with internet addiction, but I’m certainly not immune to the dopamine hits of an email here, a FB message there.  And I want more of my time to be invested in exploring the mysteries that call to me, rather than finding that I’ve unintentionally spent an hour, for the 3rd or 4th time today, lost on the internet highways.  So!  We’ll see how it goes.   If only three drops of the magical elixer are enough for all wisdom and knowledge, then I figure that three check-in’s per day on the internet is enough for what I might need, too.

Thank you for reading this far, and thank you for the many wonderful comments so many of you share with me about my artwork and blog.  May your Spring blossom beautifully!

With much love and many blessings,



Happy Spring! Celebrate with a snowstorm!

white car in a snowstorm

White car in a snowstorm,  (c) Cat Charissage 2018

Dear friends,

Just a few days before the Spring Equinox, just before today’s New Moon, after a wonderful thaw that was melting the mountains of shovelled snow —– we got a snowstorm!  It looked just like my photo above!

We got our car stuck in the snowy alley.  Then dear spouse went to his sister’s home here in town to use their car (the sister is in sunny, warm Mexico at the moment!).  He got IT stuck, though fortunately it’s stuck in front of their house out of traffic.  Lots of activity has ensued, involving shovels and frustration.   Both cars are still stuck.

Here is my fine literary response:

Please, summer, come!

I want warmth and some

security in walking without slipping,

in moving forward without flipping.

This isn’t our first dance with snow and ice this winter.  Two weeks ago, dear spouse sent this to some friends to chronicle this past-midnight adventure:

Thought you all might like to know what wonderful adventures you can have if you’re stupid.   So Cat and I were out late last night and got home at about midnight. There’s been a fair bit of new snow but I felt pretty sure that I could drive the car through our alley, so I dropped Cat off at the front, and drove around to the back. I was right. I could drive the car down the alley. But I was inches away from getting it into the garage, and I got stuck. With lots of manouvering I managed to get it at perfect right angles to the lane, and then it wouldn’t budge. Dug for awhile. Called the AMA. Was going to suggest maybe they should wait till tomorrow morning to get me out, but got an auto-responder, and ended up with the choice to cancel or wait, but no chance to discuss it. Decided to wait. After an hour or so a tow truck showed up. It was a two-wheel drive tow truck. It got stuck in the alley, and had to call another tow truck. So I had a great conversation with the driver while we waited – we have mutual friends in Lethbridge, lots to talk about, etc. The second tow truck showed up. It got stuck too. By 3:00 am I wasn’t being any help, so I left the two tow trucks and their drivers and went to bed. They were still stuck when I left – I don’t know how they got out.\

I was wakened at 7:30 am by a third tow truck driver who said he was coming over. I told him what happened to the other two trucks, but he said he was coming anyway. So I went out, and dug for awhile. Somewhere in there while I was going in and out of he house he took a look at the situation and called Liberty, who told me, and I called the tow truck driver back. He said I should call the city and ask them to plow the alley before he went in. I called the city. The woman said “We don’t do alleys.” I said “How is the garbage truck going to get down the alley with my car blocking it?” The woman said “I don’t know” and hung up. I went in the house to get breakfast, planning to catch the bus over to Joan and Wolf’s to take care of the cats. While I was having breakfast the fourth tow truck driver called. “I have a four wheel drive” he said. “This truck is like a mountain goat. I’ll get you out.” So the fourth truck showed up. With a lot of manouvering we got my car unstuck, and I drove down the alley to the corner, but got stuck again. So we did a lot more manouvering, and he got stuck too. After about an hour of innovating in some very strange ways – putting a metal plate under the hoist, and using the hoist to push the tow truck along – kind of like a dog on ice propelling himself forward by sticking his tail in a hole in the ice and forcing himself forward a few inches instead of using his legs –  the fourth tow truck got unstuck, and then got me unstuck too. So by noon I got to Joan and Wolf’s. 

Before this is all over, the CAA/AMA will know us by first name. . . .

And too many of my friends are wearing casts as a result of the ice hidden under the snow!

Happy spring!

With much love, many blessings, and lots of smiles,


p.s.  Our car in the back alley became unstuck an hour or so ago, with the energies of three strong adult men.   Now we just can’t let dear spouse try to park in the alley when there’s this much snow. . . . .