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