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

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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

2019-2020 Offerings

Cat Charissage

Soulwork and Intentional Creativity

Offerings for September 2019 to June 2020 

 Story Circles and Workshops

catcharissage@gmail.com  

Story Circles are small groups of 4 – 8 persons who meet monthly to learn, discuss, and do personal writing on various topics such as Poetry, Memoir, Dreams, Spirituality, etc.  Once people have had a chance to sample the group, the circle is closed to new members in November and I ask for a reasonable commitment to attend the groups through til June. Previous circles have formed great friendships and explored the deep and real questions in life.  I facilitate these circles with respect, confidentiality, and humor.

Drop in “Open Circle”:  come when you can, no commitment to the whole series needed.  Topics will be announced monthly and will include optional simple art processes.  To be informed of topics, please send me your email address.

We meet in my home studio in Lethbridge, northside.

Please consider joining us!  Questions? Contact me.

Poetry Circle: 1st Wed. of the month, 7 – 9:30 p.m.   Join other enthusiasts where we introduce the poets or poetry we love.  One member presents on one poet or set of poems each month, formulating 3 questions to help the rest of us lay our own lives down alongside the poetry for deeper understanding and enjoyment.  We write in response to the questions, then share what we wish to in response. Starting Wednesday, Sept. 4, 7 p.m.  $200 for 10 months

Life Story Circle: Last Wed. of the month, 7 – 9:30 p.m.  Using the book Writing from Life, by Susan Wittig Albert, (book is out of print; I will copy the chapters for each participant), we will write about the themes of our women’s lives and share what we choose each month from our writing.  Writing will be done both in the circle and as “homework” (optional) through the month. Starting Wednesday, Sept. 25, 7 p.m.  $200 for 10 months

Dream Circle: 1st Wed. of the month, 1:30 – 4 p.m.  Exploring my dreams has been the most insightful, rich practice I’ve known besides journal writing.  We will tap the wisdom of our sleeping selves by opening up what our dreams are telling us, and asking of us.  Bring typed copies of a dream; each meeting we will explore the dream of at least two members. Don’t remember your dreams?  Techniques for dream recall will be taught, as well as several different proven methods to work with our dreams, including from Carl Jung,  Jeremy Taylor, Bonnie Buckner, Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Starting Wednesday, Sept. 4, 1:30 p.m. $200 for 10 months

The Deep and Real Life:  Interspiritual Explorations, 1st Sundays of the month starting October 6, 1:30 – 4 p.m.  Using Huston Smith’s book, The Illustrated World Religions: A Guide to our Wisdom Traditions, we will examine the original inspiration for each of the major religious traditions of the world with the intent to discover what unites spiritual inquiry among peoples and explore what different traditions may offer us in our own personal depth practices.  This is not a history of religions course (all/most traditions have histories of abuse and intolerance, which while acknowledged, we will not be focussing on), but a look at the spiritual aspects of life and how humans have expressed these depth dimensions.  This “The Deep and Real Life” is a series of groups on deepening our own spiritual selves by examining what people throughout history have offered as legacy. Last year we studied Christian mystics; next year we will look at old traditions and indigenous earth based spiritualities.   Starting Sunday, October 6, 1:30 p.m. $200 for 10 months

(drop in) Open Circles:  last Sat. of the month, 1:30 – 4 p.m.  Open Circles  are low-key afternoons of discussions on various topics in Soulwork and Creativity, and/or simple art explorations.  All supplies provided. About a week prior to the Open Circle, I send out the topic and invite people to RSVP. These are perfect for a stimulating and relaxing afternoon getaway, to explore a new art medium without investing a lot of money or mess, or to introduce a new friend to the kinds of work that I do without commitment to a whole course.  Please send me your email address to be notified of the topics.  By donation (value of $45; pay what you can or barter).

ART WORKSHOP:  Painting Your Inner Guide (for complete Beginners as well as experienced painters)  Saturday, November 2, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Paint the image of your inner wise person.  Get to know them through guided imagery, journalling, and intuition. Write their letter or poem to you.  We work with acrylic paint on 11 x 16 in. canvases. $85, all supplies includedPOETRY WORKSHOP OFFERED IN SPRING 2020!

COST:  I offer these circles out my commitment to community and desire to work with seekers and thinkers in the Depth Dimensions of life.   They are also the culmination of my life’s work in the world, years of study and practice, degrees in theology and education,  more than 40 years’ experience, and 10 years of summer study with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I charge only nominal fees; however, if you are not abundant in cash, what is your abundance?    I am open to bartering, or pay what you can. If you can offer more, I accept with gratitude. Notice that the Open Circles are by donation. Workshops have separate individual costs.  

OWL Poetry One Year Anniversary

Poetree by Cat Charissage, photo by Teri Petz (c) a.r.r. 2019

Hello Dear Friends,

One year ago on another hot day in July, the open mic poetry reading at the Owl Acoustic Lounge here in Lethbridge was opened by Teri Petz, organizer and host. She had been inspired to start an open mic night after 10 months of a Poetry Circle that I had facilitated in my home the previous year. After we stopped for a summer break, she felt the dearth of poetry in her life keenly, and I got a phone call one day, “What do you think of an open mic night?” And the rest is history (herstory!)

Over 100 different poets have read throughout the year, with 20 – 24 poets most evenings. Who knew there were this many people who wrote poetry in Lethbridge??? It’s been a full house for months now, and last Thursday was practically standing room only. It was a joyful celebration. Steve, the manager at the Owl, donated and served both a chocolate cake and a vanilla cake, bringing plateful after plateful of slices to each one of us. I have been so grateful to the openheartedness of all who have stood up there and read their poetry — many for the very first time in public.

So in honor of the anniversary, I put together a “Poetree”, painting of a tree with bare branches, whose leaves were left on all the tables with an invitation for people to write out what they love about poetry or about OWL Poetry. Then they taped their leaves to the tree, making a beautiful full tree. (The photo here is of the bare branches b/c I don’t yet have a photo of the fully leafed tree —- the double sided tape didn’t work as well as I had hoped it would, and I’m in the process of gluing those leaves down —- 2 hours today, with only about 1/2 done so far!)

I also wrote a poem dedicated to the OWL Poets, which I was able to read to them all:

Carry on, fellow poets!

I see you here on stage

voice quivering but soul shining.

I hear your heart’s words of

joy, or pain, memories or anger.

I know the nervousness of reading your poetry 

first time in public.

I know how bright that light is onstage,

this microphone scary with its loudness.

Wow — my voice, really?

Yes, really!  

Your voice, you, heart and soul visible

right here, now.

So filled with gratitude,

I bow to all the poets here.

I may never have met 

most of you if you hadn’t dared

to stand here naked and 

tell us what it’s like to be you:

People full of mystery and surprise,

Listening to you inspires me to 

see strangers with more curiosity and hope.

So, what’s it like for you?

Tell me what troubles you,

delights you, fills you with wonder.

From despair to random kindnesses,

from sex to spirituality,

I hear from you how many ways there are

to live a life, a good life.

And I’m grateful to you 

ordinary , beautiful people,

so extraordinary in soul shining out,

lanterns to those of us lost or frightened.

You belong here, as do I, 

and we’ve all made a space

inviting others to belong to this adventure called life,

this experiment in telling it like it is.

Carry on, fellow poets!

Let us carry on!

——————————–

Filled with gratitude, I wish you all a happy New Moon, this last day of July,

Cat

The Nest of What’s Next

Hello dear friends,

Though it’s a day after the New Moon, a sincere New Moon greeting to all of you! What new idea, project, poem, painting, relationship, surprise will be coming to you this month?

Here is a new poem to go with a painting that I’d finished a couple of months ago. The painting started with a whirling and an expansion that reminded me of the Big Bang of creation, which then morphed into a closed eyed angel with a different kind of sight. No, not eyes on the back of her head, but in the invisible wings that we all carry.

Much love and many blessings,

Cat

The Closed Eyed Angel, acrylic on canvas, (c) Cat Charissage a.r.r. 2019
The Nest of What’s Next
Cat Charissage   June, 2019

What am I not seeing?
What have I not yet woven into the
nest of what’s next?

I remember pregnancy’s ninth month,
the weariness, the anticipation.
The nest of my bodymind ready to bring forth
what’s next.
Yet I couldn’t see my child’s face,
couldn’t know what next would be asked of me.

Bringing a new human into the world
in continuity with ancestral pasts, is like
bringing into form what wants, needs to happen next
in continuuity with my past,
with all I’ve suffered, with all that’s been enlightening.
I yearn to see what yet is not.

Can the closed eyed angel see?
Messenger from the beyond of today, remind me
I do not weave nests alone
anymore than I wove my son alone.
Be with me in the weariness and anticipation,
be with me in the blindness.
May I see.
May I see.
May I see . . . 
at least may I see 
the next step.

June New Moon 2019

doodles, acrylic on watercolor paper, Cat Charissage, (c) 2018 a.r.r.

Dear Friends,

The New Moon isn’t until Monday, but I’m ready to take off to the Heart of the Wounded Healer training with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, outside of Denver, Colorado. Feeling so grateful to be able to go, this being year 4 in a 5 year series of trainings.

The past couple of months have held some great possibilities, a few wonderful invitations, and plenty of new options for the future. Part of me is saying “What? Who, me?”, while another part is saying “Yes! Thank you! I’ve worked for so long; I’m so grateful for the recognition!” It’s the constant back and forth that I think many of us tell ourselves when good fortune visits. “Do I deserve this?” vs “Hell, yes! It’s time!”

“Am I special? Especially talented, especially gifted, especially something?” vs. “Who do I think I am? I’m just another person among a whole lot of other people.” The ongoing conflict between being prideful and being disempowered.

What I want is genuine humility, which is not an effacing of self nor grovelling in the dirt (though the word does come from humus, earth). It is not inflation of self, nor deflation. It means being who I truly am, presenting who I am without embellishment, without hiding, being in touch with the ground of my being, as genuine as I can muster.

On this issue, which has agonized me off and on for many years, I finally received some dream wisdom: I dreampt of a green dress I owned — the color of green that is the beautiful shade of spring leaves. Then in the dream I saw a glorious field of sunflowers. Yellow/gold against spring green. And I had it! Sunflowers and roses are my most favorite of flowers, and sometimes I think of my face as the big round face of a sunflower. Have you ever seen a sunflower that isn’t beautiful, and glorious? One that doesn’t make you smile, even just a little?

So yes, I am a sunflower: special, and beautiful, unique and talented. AND, I’m in a field, a world, of millions of sunflowers. Each special, and beautiful, unique and talented.

You, too! So nice being in the field together! We each have so much to offer, individually, and together. May we bring this richness into this needful world.


Happy days to you,

Cat

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

Cat