What is mine to do, to have, to be?

Cat Charissage, June 2020

Dear Friends,

What a month!! Happy New Moon (yesterday), Happy Solstice! And don’t forget the eclipse, and National Indigenous Peoples Week! The pandemic still burns among us and so do the streets in many cities in the U.S. The question I ask myself over and over, as I see ever more possibilities for action to bring in a better world, is “What is MINE to do? Now, at this time of my life, here in my city, here in my aching body?”

At the beginning of most lunar months, I not only start a new journal, but create both a mandala and an affirmation for something that I want to grow as the moon itself is waxing. At the Full Moon of most months, I create a different affirmation, for letting go of whatever needs to be dropped as the moon wanes. This month I put into visual form how I’m experiencing my life: there is so much abundance, starting with the colors of green exploding all around me, to the pictures and memes on my FB and other internet feeds, to the posts of so many dear friends attempting to support justice for all peoples in this time where we must remind others that Black Lives Matter; Indigenous Lives Matter. Yes.

And, it’s easy to despair. I remember 1968, growing up in Chicago, living through this the first time (at least in MY lifetime). The television brought me the race riots not even 5 miles away from my home, police brutality at the Democratic National Convention not even 30 miles away, the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy, and of Rev. Martin Luther King. Twelve years old, I wondered what life would be like in 50 years, if I would even be alive.

There is plenty to do. In just about any direction, go forth and work for the better. There’s all kinds of ways to make change, and let’s not waste a second in thinking that any one way is the only way.

And I ask myself again, at this time, with the aching body I have, “What is mine to do?” In the mandala above, the center is where I stand at my most effective. All around me are all the other worthy tasks, projects, activities I could become involved in. And outside of that circle are all the other interesting things I’m pulled toward as I wish for 48 hour days. Abundance is a kind of wealth; but too many choices overwhelm, and I suffer from overwealmth. The arrowhead is my reminder to focus. And so I do.

Now, over to you: What is YOURS to do, to have, to be?

Much love and many blessings to you,

Cat

P.S.: The following poem is one of my responses to this past month, to this current world:


TO THE OLD GUARD, or ANTI-RACISM ACTION 202
Cat Charissage, June 2020

Do not mistake my silence today for agreement.
Do not assume I’m in your camp, you self-satisfied snool, 
you, who still benefits, 
whose whole family, for generations,
has still benefited from other people’s 
blood, sweat, and death. . . , death. . . , death.

I am watching. I am thinking. 
I am planning, I am plotting.
I am teaching, both underground and in the streets.

We are strategizing. We are listening.
We are gathering our supplies.
We are gathering our allies, and all our resources.

You’ll probably never even know what hit you.

You’ll soon be outdated, 
gotten around, replaced
when no one listens to your speeches anymore,
when no one asks you for your opinions anymore,
and no one tolerates your antiquated hatred
anymore. . . , anymore. . . , anymore.

You will die sometime, you know.
Prepare to meet thy Maker,
and atone for all thy sins.

Meanwhile. . .  
I hear our new world a’coming.
Get out of the way!


“Offer it up”

“Our Lady of Compassion” acrylic on canvas, (c) Cat Charissage, 2019


Today I responded to someone having a really hard time, what she described as a dark night of the soul. Now me, I unfortunately know about dark nights of the soul! That doesn’t translate, though, into being someone who can help someone else in the midst of one — yet, we do what we can.

I’m including my response here in case it may help someone else in these weird, scary, explosive times:

“I, too, have had this kind of dark night. Very difficult. I was taught a concept by the nuns of the Catholic schools I attended, a concept I threw out for many years, but have since found a truth in that is sustaining: when you are in the midst of suffering, “offer it up” for others who are also suffering, in the truth/hope that our sustaining ourselves in the midst of great pain can be of help and a strength for others, some way, some how. To me, when I suffer, “offering it up” is a prayer that Greater will use all things for eventual good, and a reminder that I am not alone. It helps me have great compassion for others suffering, helps me to keep hanging on without becoming bitter (or bitchy), inspires me to search for all kinds of ways to reduce suffering, both for myself and for others, and gives me strength to implement those ways in any tiny way that I can. It provides a door for the way through, even if the way is so much longer than you think you can bear.”

When I was taught this in grade school, over 55 years ago now, the full phrase was “offer it up for the poor souls in purgatory”, and was surrounded with much sentimental piety that just doesn’t work for me anymore (if it ever did. . . ). Yet, the first part of the phrase has never left me, and I think it says something important about solidarity with others, and committing to change, to using whatever power we possess to lessen suffering. It’s also a commitment to never forget what it feels like to suffer so much, so that whenever we can, we help not from pity, but from an experiential basis of solidarity. From and for “us”, rather than “for you poor people who are hurting”.

Much love to all of us.

Regarding racism, murder, and protests

Last night there was a protest against police violence, held in Denver. It turned ugly, frightening, and violent. My teacher, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and her family were there, and she wrote a bit about it as a comment on her blog. I include it here, as it is sane wisdom in these times. Last year on her website, she spoke about how at any kind of peaceful protest, there will come people who are specifically there to incite violence, one of the reasons being to give the peaceful protesters a bad name. At that time, she said that anytime we join a public gathering, march, or protest, to be sure to carry with us water and a protein bar or two, a fully-charged phone, enough money to get home in a hurry by taxi or however, and phone numbers for emergency, including your lawyer. Shit happens. She also told us that if violence occurs, run in the opposite direction from the disturbance. We can do far more for good if we are alive and healthy. Don’t let the sensationalism and excitement serve to rob our power to make positive change.

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes Dear Brave Souls

I’ll be back after /if i can get 8 hours of rest.

Tonight was a sad frightening night as during a peaceful protest here in Denver regarding the clear murder of the gentle giant George Floyd in Minneapolis by one police officer while three other officers watched and did nothing…

where i live as things began to get out of hand, shots were fired by a protester, and people began to riot. A man drove his car into the crowd hitting one pedestrian and then all manner of matters erupted.

There are many parts to what happened. And it is a terrible opportunity to put into practice what we have been studying here: Being Light and Being Love here, and referencing MLK’s teaching us about how to make progress in Justice sore needed in every part of our planet.

I will write a letter about what happened and what actions my family and I have and will take, including leaping over the wall of the overculture that keeps allowing atrocities to happen without Justice before , during or after.

I see the same and same everywhere: It’s not just the injustice. Its the wanton blockades to gaining the attention of those who can say yes to one’s demands for decency, truths and just outcomes.

I see it in India, I see it in Quebec. I see it in the Ozarks, in Appalachia, on the Reservations, on the Reserves, in the Borderlands, at the Boundary waters. I see it in Ivory Coast, in Mali, I see it in Queensland, I see it in Hawaii. I see it in Borneo. In Central and South America in every nation, in Mexico, in the Everywhere

It is time my dear Sons and Daughters of The Light and of Love, for us to be on the move again toward our seed blessing/ planting, as we have already begun. Holding hands, carrying our lighted lanterns up and across snow wind mountain.

Let us see about Planting
Two new seeds:
one for our consensual reality:
Justice.
And one in the other world:
Justice.

Let us see
what we can see
that we have not seen before.

Let us hear
what we can hear
that we have not heard before.

Let us Love
what we have not
Loved before.

Let us Light
what we have not |
Lit before.

Let us do
what we have not yet
done before.

Think on these things
mis queridos, my beloveds,
with precision not rancor,
with blessing ways, not bitterness,
with vision, not vindictiveness.

Remember, self-purify,
for hatred has never been
the cure for hatred,
though oddly enough
Fierce love is often
the remedio for no Love…
A Just heart
is the remedio
For an unjust mind.

I love you with all my heart.
Please rest: tomorrow is a new day
Not yet written upon.

Dr.e

Dr. Estes posted this as a comment in a much longer post that was not about this subject. It can all be found at https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10157493137173635&id=29996683634&comment_id=10157496026488635&notif_id=1590740991270109&notif_t=feed_comment_reply

“The One”: new painting

“The One” 20′ x 20′, acrylic on canvas, (c) Cat Charissage, 2020

Greetings to you, my friends, on this New Moon in May, 2020!

I’m feeling a shift in the air, in my world, in my psyche. After a week of non-stop rain, the sun is shining, and maybe I’ll believe Spring is here to stay. My city is opening up, slowly and carefully, after the Covid 19 shut-down. Personally, I’ll wait another week or two to see how it goes, but at least I can drop off the library books we’ve had sitting here in the house for 2 1/2 months. Inwardly, I feel a very strong shift: I’ve finished a painting, first time in months, I’ve cleared up a lot of clutter in my study, I’ve finished reading a pile of articles I’d saved because I’d really, really wanted to read them (then never gotten around to it!), and am ready to start another project. As many of you know, I’ve started writing on the book I’ve been wanting to do, and I’ve now enough notes and more than 25 pages or so —- not enough to feel confident that I really will finish it, but confident enough to think that finishing it is not just possible, but probable. I’ve decided to devote my moribund Instagram account to post my progress on the book, and will get that up and running in the next few days. Please join me over there for progress reports, short excerpts, and . . . . more paintings! My plan (remember that having plans does not mean they’ll be implemented as envisioned, but at least plans give God something to laugh about!) is to continue to post on or near the New Moon here on my blog, and about once a week or so over on Instagram. This is a big step for me: it’s setting up an accountability system to keep me writing, AND it’s doing so in a public way, on the social media which I am extremely ambivalent about (that is, the time-sucking abysses of FB and IG). Plus learning curve, which means even more time on social media. . . . Wish me well, please.

In addition, those of you who follow Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ blog on Facebook, know that she has been posting, since just before Easter, a series of missives from her journey up the mountain and her Holy Saturday vigil there. She has committed to 40 days’ writing of what she discovered in that vigil, and now, about 1/2 way through, she has encouraged us to prepare for a personal ceremony to take back our birthright of gifts of the Holy Spirit that we were born with. I have what she has suggested we gather, a few sprigs of a favorite plant (in my case, white sage), soil, water, and the summary of many (many!) writing exercises she’s offered in the last weeks. So, this ceremony will be a new beginning of sorts, as well.

In the last 10 weeks of staying at home, I’ve realized that though I sorely miss seeing my friends and having d&r’s with them (deep and real conversations) and zoom is NOT my new best friend, I actually feel physically better staying home. I must not underestimate the stress and toll on my body of running around. People have talked about how much free time they’ve had, and had challenges in using the time well. For me, I have felt as busy as ever, though not stressed in the busy-ness: never underestimate the time it takes to nurture family relationships in challenging historical times, and never underestimate the time it takes to care for a body in chronic pain (uh, that’s me!).

I don’t yet have a poem to accompany this painting, but the inspiration for the painting came from an experience of the oneness of all that is, a sense of the huge light and love that incorporates everything, and that invites us to be aware of it and to participate in it (or something like that —- those experiences are very hard to put into words). The painting is 20 in. by 20 in., and the circle is highly, highly texturized:

illustration of the texture, from “The One”

I started by writing my intention on the back of the blank canvas. Then, I intuitively painted the canvas with a mix of colors. Once I began to have an image of what I wanted to paint, I started with this:

Then I intensified the color:

And knew the center circle of wholeness needed to be much bigger:

And bigger:

I colored the blue to be more cerulian, sky-colored, and then added the double rainbow. Dr. Estes’ journey to the mountain started with her seeing a double rainbow, and rainbows have been very meaningful to me at crossroads times in my life. They’re beautiful and hopeful.

I knew the circle needed something but needed to think on that a lot. I remembered constructed images of what the sun might look like up close, with millions of nuclear explosions happening at once, one after another, a roiling, moving, almost alive ball of gasses transforming. But how to get that feeling? I used a thin layer of modeling paste, applying it in a spiral. After many layers of paint, yellow, gold, iridescent pearl, more yellow, glitter (love glitter!! Though it doesn’t show in the photos, the painting just sparkles!). More gold, moving outward, showing the ways forward, the ways that cross. . .

The One, acrylic on canvas, (c) Cat Charissage, 2020

Much love and many blessings to you,

Cat

PANDEMIC POETRY

Happy New Moon, my dear friends,

I thought I’d share with you today a few of the poems that I have come across in the past month or so describing or musing upon this time, The Great Pause. Please take care of yourselves in the most exquisite way possible. Do not waste your energy and emotions in “what if’s?” and endless news watching. In a time when it is very difficult to really know what’s really going on, remember that your day to day experience is a result of what you place your attention on. Place your attention on whatever beauty is here, now, in a wonderful spring just beginning to bloom. Place your attention on the so many who are performing intentional acts of kindness and responsibility (our health care and essential workers), and all the random acts of kindness. Yes, take appropriate caution, make appropriate plans, but not in every moment of every day! No one ever died from turning away from Facebook and all the news outlets. 🙂

Much love and blessing to you my dear ones,

Cat

Pandemic
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
 
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
 
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
 
–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20



Lockdown
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.
 
- Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM
March 13th 2020



The world became stilted with fear and uncertainty
What was happening; what was true?
Form a distant land, a warning, but we scarcely paid attention
and then before our minds had comprehended,
the enemy had made its way into our country,
our safe and trusted haven.
This stealthy virus that no one could predict
or explain, lingered on those most unlucky
and most innocent.
Then made its way to all the others who had
hugged and touched these growing few,
until there were not few, but many, in every corner
of the world.
Somehow the world seemed to shrink, we were
not sure if we should hide or run,
we became paranoid and suspicious,
and the country drew apart.
Fear was rampant and we became secluded
and reclusive;  it was the only way
they told us.
Surely some wise and blessed soul
or souls would find an answer and we
would all go back to our places
in a very different world.
     ----- Carol Scott


Praise Song for the Pandemic
 
Praise be the nurses and doctors, 
every medical staff bent over flesh to offer care, 
for lives saved and lives lost, 
for showing up either way,
 
Praise for the farmers, tilling soil, 
planting seeds so food can grow, 
an act of hope if ever there was,
 
Praise be the janitors and garbage collectors, 
the grocery store clerks, and the truck drivers 
barreling through long quiet nights,
 
Give thanks for bus drivers, delivery persons, 
postal workers, and all those keeping an eye on water, 
gas, and electricity,
 
Blessings on our leaders, making hard choices 
for the common good, offering words of assurance,
 
Celebrate the scientists, working away 
to understand the thing that plagues us, 
to find an antidote, all the medicine makers, 
praise be the journalists keeping us informed,
 
Praise be the teachers, finding new ways 
to educate children from afar, and 
blessings on parents holding it together for them,
 
Blessed are the elderly and those with weakened 
immune systems, all those who worry for their 
health, praise for those who stay at home to protect them,
 
Blessed are the domestic violence victims, 
on lock down with abusers, the homeless and refugees,
Praise for the poets and artists, the singers and storytellers, 
all those who nourish with words and sound and color,
 
Blessed are the ministers and therapists of every kind, 
bringing words of comfort,
 
Blessed are the ones whose jobs are lost, 
who have no savings, who feel 
fear of the unknown gnawing,
 
Blessed are those in grief, especially who mourn alone, 
blessed are those who have passed into the Great Night,
 
Praise for police and firefighters, paramedics, 
and all who work to keep us safe, praise for all the 
workers and caregivers of every kind,
 
Praise for the sound of notifications, messages from friends 
reaching across the distance, 
give thanks for laughter and kindness,
 
Praise be our four-footed companions, 
with no forethought or anxiety, 
responding only in love,
 
Praise for the seas and rivers, 
forests and stones who teach us to endure,
 
Give thanks for your ancestors, 
for the wars and plagues they endured and survived, 
their resilience is in your bones, your blood,
 
Blessed is the water that flows over our hands 
and the soap that helps keep them clean, 
each time a baptism,
 
Praise every moment of stillness and silence, 
so new voices can be heard, praise the chance at slowness,
 
Praise be the birds who continue to sing the sky 
awake each day, praise for the primrose poking 
yellow petals from dark earth, 
blessed is the air clearing overhead so one 
day we can breathe deeply again.
 
And when this has passed may we say that 
love spread more quickly than any virus ever could, 
may we say this was not just an ending 
but also a place to begin.
 
—-Christine Valters Paintner
*In a Dark Time*

Do not rush to make meaning.
When you smile and say what purpose
this all serves, you deny grief
a room inside you,
you turn from thousands who cross
into the Great Night alone,
from mourners aching to press
one last time against the warm
flesh of their beloved,
from the wailing that echoes
in the empty room.
When you proclaim who caused this,
I say pause, rest in the dark silence
first before you contort your words
to fill the hollowed out cave,
remember the soil will one day
receive you back too.
Sit where sense has vanished,
control has slipped away,
with futures unravelled,
where every drink tastes bitter
despite our thirst.
When you wish to give a name
to that which haunts us,
you refuse to sit
with the woman who walks
the hospital hallway, hears
the beeping stop again and again,
with the man perched on a bridge
over the rushing river.
Do not let your handful of light
sting the eyes of those
who have bathed in darkness.
---Christine Valters Paintner

Social Distancing and Ceremony

Happy New Moon, dear friends, in this strange new world we are all living in. Happy to say, I’m doing quite well and so is my immediate family. Our day to day lives are not all that different than before, except that Liberty badly misses hanging out at the university, and though I’m primarily a homebody, I’m missing seeing my friends in person.

As many of you know, I’ve been wanting to write a book (well, actually two) for quite awhile now. I’ve collected hundreds of notecards filled with ideas, struggled with structure, and have a whole 5 or 6 pages of text written. Not surprisingly, though, I’ve encountered resistance in actually getting butt in chair, fingers on computer. So after brainstorming and problem solving, I’ve decided to give some help to struggling psyche and spirit —- give what help I consciously can through intention and simple ceremony, and ask for what help may be available beyond my consciousness. Since I often create simple ceremony for my groups and for individuals, I thought I’d describe today’s ceremony as a sample of how I go about planning one.

I set up my tools and helps — all items that hold meaning and inspiration for me: Candle, pen, paintbrush, figures of owl and bear, a pouch of smaller objects, a tiny cauldron to burn sage in, spruce cones from a special tree across the street, and a pine cone from Colorado where I go to train with Dr. Estes. A wreath of braided sweet grass, and a feather fan I made from feathers dropped in my yard.

My little altar is surrounded by notecards, the binder holding notes, a notebook, and my journal. I decided as a focal point to take seven strands of red yarn that I have used in some of my most meaningful groups for a group ceremony called “Red Thread Circle”, and tie seven knots in the bundle to symbolize where I’m knotted up, where the words are not flowing for me:

I sat and thought about what I was needing and wanting, consulting with my guides, asking for help in inner imaginary dialogues, and decided that I will untie one knot each day for the next week, keeping the energy alive for this week towards my intention of my writing flowing smoothly, not getting stuck in snags and knots. Then it was time to quit thinking in words, and create a small piece of artwork. Being that it’s the New Moon today, being able to watch the Moon become bigger and bigger for the next two weeks, I decided to draw a labyrinth on a model of the dark moon. One of the blessings of a labyrinth is that there is only one path to the center and back out again: you can’t hit a dead end in a labyrinth, you can’t get lost. It’s a perfect symbol of not necessarily being able to where the path goes, but having the assurance that if you just put one foot in front of the other, you will get to your goal. No snags, no knots:

And then I sat with it all for another while. I burned some sage, untied the center knot in the bundle of red threads, and I wrote a short prayer/affirmation:

After that, I rolled up my prayer, wrapped it in red thread and set it on my little altar. May way be shown!

I hope that my writing will be like the labyrinth — however long it takes me to get to the center and back, there will be no way to get lost. To just persevere in bringing into material form that which I have to be of help.

I also hope that you will find imaginative ways to support your deep desires this month as we shelter in place, and be blessed with the creativity to bring color and beauty to these strange times on planet earth.

With much love,

Cat

Continue reading

To See the Roses

To See the Roses (c)2020 Cat Charissage, acrylic on canvas

Hello dear friends,

Happy New Moon, another auspicious time to notice what energies need to be let go of, and which new energies can be allowed to grow, as the moon will be growing in the night sky over the next two weeks.

I have this new painting and 2 new poems to offer for this month. As I contemplated my “Word of the Year 2020” I was thinking about how much over the years I’ve learned to reference and trust my inner sight rather than only taking into account the dominant view of reality as told by others. The above painting started out as my wanting to do a kind of self-portrait: I often think of myself as a blooming sunflower (at least it’s who I want to be), and wanted the painting to be a time-lapsed portrait of myself, all juxtaposed. The seed in the ground and its sprout being my young childhood, then the leaves growing larger over the years. A budding flower, still not opened up, then that growing larger as I grew into myself more, and then finally myself fully blossomed as I feel now. And also, now, how I often see the world, as roses falling from the heavens, with the mess of our groundedness becoming compost for something more precious: compost of roses.

My painting skills not keeping pace with my inner visions, this is the painting I got. I still like it! 🙂

Oh, and my Word for the Year: Inner Spaciousness!

To See the Roses
Cat Charissage, January 2020


Keeping on keeping on through grey days
trying to shine
wanting to be of use
yearning to be swallowed up into Mystery . . . 
underneath me
dirt, mud, cast offs.

One day, many days now
I see the roses
gifted freely
impossible to believe
composted earth 
nourishing all.


The Rose
Cat Charissage, January 2020

I was born curious, as we all are,
longing to understand
the All, the Infinite, the Big “G”,
looking for Reality, for the Metaphors to carry me across the annoyances of
computer glitches and dirty dishes
to the Otherworld here amongst us.

One day I saw the rose blooming 
one petal after another opening up as I watched.
Mystery wasn’t unknowable or ineffably Beyond,
but as the rose, opening more and more 
to our vision.
The more we know, the more we can know.
The more we see, the more opens up to be seen.
In my vision I was a little smaller than the rose,
scampering from one recently opened petal to the next,
following  beauty step by glorious step to the Center, 
where I saw the roiling boiling liquid fire, 
the inner core of an active volcano.
Every few minutes, the power of the volcanic core
would shoot fire into the sky,
beacon to all that here, now, was light, power, beauty.

Here at the heart of Mystery progressively revealing itself
was a bridge to the Other amongst us,
an Other infinitely at home,
infinitely gathering us into its Mystery.

Advent painting and two poems

“Advent”, watercolor, Cat Charissage (c) 2019

Dear friends,

On tomorrow’s New Moon in this month before the hectic Winter Holidays, may you have a little time to ponder the bigger questions in this busy time of the year. So often we’re waiting for the time to do the things we really want to do, but feel as though we just don’t have the time to try for those things we’re yearning for. While some times that’s just the unfortunate truth, much more often we do have the freedom to choose how we will spend our time — at least a little bit of it. Choose how you will spend —- or rather, invest — those 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there in what you really love. There’s no other way than to do it. You don’t know what will happen when you make it happen. Give this gift to yourself.

Here are two poems that complement each other. I had finished the first, and was on a role, but stopping to check accuracy ruined the poem I’d intended! But I still ended up with a story! I hope you enjoy both poems.

With much love and many graces,

Cat

Colors of Transformation
Cat Charissage, November 2019
*Note:  Alchemy often includes the color yellow; here I include only the three primary colors of red, black, and white.

The medieval teachings in alchemy
spoke of three stages of transformation:
The nigredo, the rubedo, the albedo.
The black, the red, and the white.

The black of descent, confusion, despair,
the red of the flaying of skin, the blood letting, the anguish of life poured out,
the white of light, the ability to see, the possibility in a blank page.

I’ve noticed that the alchemists’ search for the Philosopher’s Stone, 
lead transmuted into gold,
is the story of all of us:
getting through THIS crisis to find the light tomorrow,
surviving THIS day to resurrect again tomorrow,
moving through THIS despair to write poetry with my life’s blood tomorrow.

Well, today has turned into that tomorrow.
And I’ve waited a long time for this tomorrow,
this black and red moving into the white.
The danger has moved into opportunity.

Many times through this cycle
I’m now noticing that life
is always including these three colors, 
always including transformations:
the black of a velvet night’s quiet rest,
the red of sunset, then of sunrise, 
the white of noonday sun.
This reflection of light allows me 
to see more than just my own crises.

This, the alchemy of the black, the red, and the white,
accompany the hard times, the good times, the ordinary times.
These three colors —- and dozens more:
the alchemy of the rainbow of life.





How Google Highjacked A Great Poem; or, If You’ve Got Something to Say, Don’t Check the Facts
Cat Charissage, November 2019

Here’s how the poem started:

“Throughout the world, throughout time
the colors red, black, white, and often, yellow
appear together over and over.

Had I created the world,
and the creator must be an artist, for sure,
I would have chosen red, blue and yellow,
the primary colors out of which every color ever seen can be created.
Needless to say, Creator did not consult with me.

Instead,  it’s red, black, white, and often, yellow 
that show up
in the alchemy of western Europe,
in the embroidery of eastern Europe,
in the medicine wheels of North America.
They show up in the colors of soil, 
and even in the colors of our skin.”

Not too bad, eh?
Then I decided to check Google for more ways these colors show up, 
And --- Hold on!
There’s lots of meanings for lots of colors,
even more meanings for combinations of color!
Red, black, white, and often yellow
aren’t necessarily universal at all
and red and black connote evil as often as not.
Different cultures, at different times,
attribute different meanings to different colors.
Turns out we humans are . . . . well . . . different.

Oh well, probably not the first time
Google has ruined the premise of a poem. . . .

Still, red, black, white, and yellow
ARE the colors of soil
And ARE the colors of our skin.

Maybe it means. . .  
but does anything really mean anything?
Well, how about this:
at least we can CHOOSE  it to mean, 
and I do so choose,
that we all belong here,
on this earth, 
together.  
Made of this earth,
molded of the clay of this earth,
naturally,
together.
Home.
Red, black, white,  yellow . . . and oftentimes, brown.

New Moon in October

Hello dear friends,

It’s been a very busy fall so far: the start of my Story Circles, the beginning of a new reading group at the library I’m co-facilitating (we’re reading Karen Armstrong’s 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life), my birthday, my son’s birthday, several friends’ birthdays, the writing of poetry, and the highlight: going to the Original Voice training with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Colorado. This year it was on The Cloud of Unknowing, a 14th Century classic on the contemplative life, written by Anonymous. (And might that have been a woman?? Hmmm. . . . sounds like it!)

I’d like to share two new poems from this fall. They go together, because they are the two ways it seems my days go. One day I feel the one; the next day I feel the other.

May your autumn be full and restful.

With much love and many blessings, Cat

All Shall Be Well???
Cat Charissage, October 2019

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
--- Julian of Norwich

Hey Julian ---- is that really your name anyway?
Awfully suspicious that it’s the name of the church you lived next to ---
So is “Julian” just another name for “Anonymous”?

Anyway, “Julian” --- did you really say that?  “All shall be well?”
What?  Were you on drugs, hypnotised, or just mentally unbalanced?
I mean, just look around;
Watch the news, for crying out loud.  
Hate to break this to you, but things are definitely NOT “well”.

Black woman killed in her home, shot by the policeman sent to see if she was all right.
Kurds abandoned by allies to armies just itching for a little ethnic cleansing.
Sexual slavery rings.  Cages for migrant children seeking asylum.
Opioid crisis.  Climate crisis.
Crisis.  
Cries us.
Cries us.
Cries us.

All shall be well?  Try that line on a woman who just lost her child to a bullet.
Are  you kidding or are you nuts?
I am not impressed.

Yet, through the ages you say
all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.
It’s kind of got a nice rhythm, eh?

Deep down, I can’t believe you were nuts.
You lived during the time of the Black Plague, which killed 1 out of 3 persons.
Maybe the plague killed your children and spouse and that’s why you ended up
living on the side of the church, never leaving that tiny room,
an anchorite with window open to listen to all who came to tell your their heartbreak,
asking you to pray with them, for them, for comfort, for strength.

Though you didn’t get around much, the evening news came to you,
hour after hour, day after day, year after year.
You knew how much we hurt, 
how much we suffer,
how much we need.
Some things just never seem to change.

All shall be well and all shall be well.

Well, I guess I can hope.
Maybe someday I can believe it.
After all, some days, underneath it all,
I find myself wordless
watching a magpie watching me,
seeing the tenderness of an openhearted soul,
feeling “thank you” arise from my bones.
And I hope.

The tension of the opposites.
I hold it all, waiting for a creative resolution.
And I hope.

Craving the Sublime
Cat Charissage     October, 2019

It’s the moment that takes your breath away:
The trees singing harmony with angels
Visions of unity, pattern, exquisite beauty
A conviction that love --- unconditional, all-inclusive, and infinite --- is truly where we live and move and have our being.   Love: our matrix, our motherboard.
Knowing --- in a flash  --- that everything belongs.
This.
This is the sublime.
This is what I crave.

Yet,
No matter how much I want it to happen,
I cannot make it so on demand. 
No matter how much I need that numinous moment,
I cannot make it so on demand.
No matter how deeply I wish to see, to know, to feel,
I cannot make it so on demand -----
no matter how hard I grit my teeth.

But, 
I can live expectantly, trusting in possibility.
I can tune my hearing to voices under the noise.
I can look between the atoms to see what dances in that emptiness.
I can quiet myself to feel the invisible’s presence.

Yes, I can.
But give me just a minute, because 
my friend just posted the cutest video of her youngest going on her “pick up the trash walk”,
and there’s a kid at the door wanting to sell me Girl Guide cookies --- the chocolate mint ones,
and I’m in the middle of an email to my dear friend in the midst of despair,
oh, and I promised to finish prepping those questions for the reading group on compassion.
And I haven’t even started my homework for the Life Story Circle,
and I forgot to pick up tofu on my way home from the doctor,
and my son really wants me to proofread his essay before tomorrow morning,
and I just saw an alert about yet another tweet from that president down south -----
I thought I’d disabled all those notifications already!

Deep breath.
Time to turn the kaleidoscope one notch.

All this.
All this fullness.
All this embeddedness in my own world.

Yes.
I do belong, now.
There is love, here, 
here now where I live and move and have my being,
a unified life of participation, of giving and receiving.
Deep breath.

I can almost hear the angels singing.

Why Story Circles?

TIME TO REGISTER! Some circles start next week!

Dear Friends,

The two most common questions I’m asked about my offerings are: What are the Story Circles? and Aren’t they just another class? Workshops and individual sessions are understandable —- But a story circle? Do you sit around and tell stories?

Well, no. But in a different sense, yes: when a few people get together around around topics worth talking about, stories about peoples’ lives tend to get told. These are the kinds of stories I make space for, create a container to hold, and invite reflection on in the circles I call together. Small groups that afford a relaxed, yet meaningful series of discussions on a particular topic that also offer self-reflection and respectful dialogue are rare in these times. It also seems to be something that many people long for — especially when there’s no gimmick involved (I’m not trying to sell you a $2000 program or involve you in a multi-marketing business), when personal disclosure is absolutely not obligatory, though allowed and often invited, and when we live lives that are filled with superficial obligation and a disappearing sense of civil discussion. Many of us long to meet eye to eye over a warm drink and talk about things close our hearts. Experimenting with a new skill or two in creative expression is also a delight, especially when there’s no pressure to perform and inexperience is welcomed.

I’ve had 40-plus years of passion around asking what makes life worth living, what brings joy, how we can explore the depth dimensions of life. I studied theology for 8 years plus earned a master’s in education, taught from pre-school to university, in informal groups for children and adults, and mentored individuals in self-education. I’ve worked in public organizations and in advocacy, and helped women and men heal from trauma, especially sexual violence, through six years as head of a Sexual Assault Center and more years as a counsellor, and studied in person with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes for more than a decade (Jungian psychotherapist and author of best-selling Women Who Run with the Wolves). I’ve also seen many of my ambitious hopes dissolved by chronic pain and several long-term health struggles, and know those middle of the night questions far too intimately.

One of the things that makes life worth living for me is making authentic connections with others when exploring together “deep and real” questions. I encourage myself and others to explore the ways that humans throughout the centuries have tended to reach those depth dimensions in life: through creativity, through informal yet expressive words of poetry and life stories, through dreams, reading, and reflection. These kinds of conversations don’t tend to “just happen”, so I use the skills I’ve developed in facilitation and education to provide a container and simple structure to allow these kinds of conversations to unfold. My experience as a counsellor allows me to hold that balance between authentic discussion and too-much too-fast disclosure, so that everyone feels respect, containment, and their own sovereignty.

Every fall I offer several opportunities for that kind of conversation to unfold in various Story Circles which meet once per month from September to June. We meet in my home studio, so the size of each group is limited to 8 maximum. This year the various topics include Poetry, Dreamwork, Life Stories (memoir), and Interspiritual Explorations. (I also offer individual sessions, in person or online.)

If this kind of conversation pulls to you, please check out my brochure https://catcharissage.com/2019/08/14/2019-2020-offerings/, or contact me at catcharissage@gmail.com. What a great new exploration to begin on this New Moon as the fall new school year begins!

With much love and many blessings,

Cat