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,


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,


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,


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


New Moon May 2019

— Cat Charissage (c) a.r.r. 2019, acrylic on canvas

Hello dear friends,

My painting above was the result of some playing around, starting with a whirlwind of colors which then had an unusual angel come to visit. I’ve not decided whether I’m done with it or not.

It’s May, and it just snowed here in Lethbridge. Sigh. I have laryngitis or some sort of throat/chest infection — the weather feels like sympathetic resonance. So I don’t have much to share today, except the painting experiment above and the following poem. May this new moon initiate new beginnings, and better health for myself and all else who need it!

With much love and many blessings,



—  Cat Charissage, April 2019

Proton, Electron, Neutron.

Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis.

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Creator, Sustainer, Destroyer.

Good, Evil, Ordinary.

Blessing, Cursing, Observing.

The All-Vulnerable, The All-Embracing, The All-Given.

Outpouring, Infilling, Holding.

Father, Mother, Child.

We think in trinities.

We describe reality as we experience it, in trinities.

And, in 1945, in the soul land of enchanted New Mexico,

the test site of another trinity —

Soul, Defense, Destruction —

was named The Trinity Site,

where we caught clear sight of one particular reality.

Some may have seen

Testing, Destruction, Ending the War.

I say I saw

Threat, Destruction, Death.

Or Power, Threat, Annihilation.

The explosive power is not IN the Proton, the Neutron, or the Electron, but

In the INTERACTION of Proton, Neutron, Electron.

Power is not in Me, or You, or in the Other,

But in the interaction of Me, and You, and Another.

Almost 75 years after the first nuclear explosion,

Supposed to have brought peace in our time,

We live with Fear, Hatred, and Instability.

What if. . .

we had a testing site

in a most beautiful soul land —

here would do,

or the center of any of our hearts —

where we gather

the brightest of the brightest

Aspirations, Creativity, and Skills

to Explore, Test, and Disseminate

The explosive power of the interaction of

Hope, Love, Life —

of Me, You, and Another.

What if?

Seasonal Transitions and Busy Times



Hello dear friends,

Many things are shifting right now.  Many good things are ending, and many good things are in process of becoming.  Much of the time, we can point to all sorts of things going wrong in our lives, but right now I want to focus on a few joys.  (I’ll spare you the rotator cuff woes and the challenges of cortisone and spring migraines . . . )

The books in the photos above have all been really important to me lately, even though I’ve finished only The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt.  I’ve had the privilege of discussing this book weekly with a great group of friends since January, including my dear spouse (yes, this is what we do for a date!)  In this time of elections, I strongly recommend taking a dive into this book if you’ve ever had the thought about someone “You’re such a smart, good person —- why are you so deluded in your politics?”  It REALLY helps one understand how we make moral decisions about politics and religion, and why good people can have such different ideas.  It also offers strategies as to how to talk and listen to others in ways that are constructive, respectful, and that even have the potential to change people’s minds.

Devotions by Mary Oliver arrived this week, and I’m so looking forward to this last compilation of poetry from one of my most favorite writers.  Wild Mercy is hot off the press.  I’ve read several of Mirabai Starr’s books, and can’t wait to explore women mystics, especially some I’m not yet familiar with.  Doesn’t it have a great cover?  Christian McEwan’s World Enough and Time is wonderful in helping one to have the attitudes of “enoughness” and “spaciousness” (my word for the year) in a world which is moving too fast and seemingly asking way too much of us each day.

For the past two months, especially, I’ve felt quite busy, overly so.  I’ve been balancing okay on the surfboard of my days, but very much been hanging on by my toes in the wild ride.  Many good things came up this year, and it was too hard to make a decision on what to cut out so I did all of them (which isn’t a great way to live a life, but a great way to have an exciting season!)  I audited two university courses, one on Classical Islamic Thought, the other on Sufism (Islamic mysticism).  I’ve always been interested in how we humans live out our spiritualities, and never before had the opportunity to learn about Islam, in person, from a scholar I respect.  There’s been the book group on The Righteous Mind, my own Story Circles (small groups on different topics which I facilitate), and a huge influx of opportunities for reading my poetry in public (which means the stimulation of writing more poetry).  I also supported my painting teacher, Shiloh Sophia, in her online course with the Shift Network on “The Dance of the Critic and the Muse”.

But now that several of these projects have finished, I have freed up 18 1/2 hours in my weekly schedule (including the driving time getting to these opportunities).  I am SO EXCITED to transition to other great things to do, like rest and read!

Are things shifting for you in your days?  Is it time to assess how you invest (not necessarily “spend”) your time?  I’ve found that though we so often say we HAVE to do it all, we usually do have more choices than are immediately obvious.  Choose, to the extent possible, how you invest your days, for of course this is how we spend our lives.

With much love and many blessings,


Calling All Angels

Calling all angels

“Calling All Angels”  acrylic on canvas, (c) Cat Charissage, 2019, a.r.r.

Hello Dear Friends,

Today feels like a hinge:  the weather here has just broken from a very long very cold snap to something that maybe feels like spring might be possible; it’s the New Moon today;  and it’s Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, which is the 40 day preparation time for Easter in the Christian calendar.

Today I offer you a recent poem that also inspired the painting above.  I think most of us have had the feelings I’m trying to describe in the poem.

May your month go as well as possible, with new possibilities everywhere you look!

With much love and many blessings,


Calling All Angels

— Cat Charissage (c) 2019


At 2 a.m. old fears come to visit:

coulda, shoulda, mighta, oughta. . . .

and then old wounds join in to sing harmony.

Scar tissue may be strong, but it sure can ache. . . .


At 2 a.m., before I’m totally drowned by

fear, memory, pain,

I yell out my prayers:

sometimes they’re addressed

“To Whom It May Concern,”

other times, “Anyone out there?!?”

But last night I started with

“Calling all angels. . .

Calling all angels. . .


Now would be a good time to show up!

Calling all angels!”


And I see, in my mind’s eye,

A flock of ravens alighting in the trees.

At 2 a.m. they are nearly invisible. . .

In fact, I’m not sure they’re there at all. . .

I mean, ravens don’t fly in flocks

at 2 a.m.


And ravens aren’t angels, either. . . .

Usually. . . .


So what do I want?

A white dove hovering over my head?

What it if needs to poop?  Right there and then?

Face it, don’t you ever wonder about those kinds of things too?

I mean, life’s like that sometimes, right?


But I’m particularly partial to ravens.

Discovering the wisdom of my First Nations neighbors

who call raven Trickster,

trickster who brings light,

the light of consciousness,

the light of wisdom,

the light to see.

What an apt reminder of what we really need,

What an apt reminder of God. . .


How many white doves have you seen lately?

But how many ravens, or their crow cousins, have you seen?

I like that:  God amongst us, crows everywhere,

Ravens amongst us, God everywhere

Black as a night with no moon,

The black of night dreams, of pure possibility.

Possibility amongst us, possibility everywhere?


But in my vision after calling all angels,

It’s full moon lunacy,

the ravens alighting in the trees.

Not one raven, but many, plenty, more than enough.

Ravens reflecting pure gold,  pure treasure.


Wait —- ravens aren’t golden.

They’re probably not there.

Maybe the trees are just winter bare,

The gold I saw just trickery

conjured by hopeful despair. . .



Ah, but, maybe they are there

holding possibilities,

bringing light,

bringing plenty, bringing more than enough.


Maybe the angels did come to call,

answering, with possibilities from the fertile dark,

my plea

“Calling all angels!”


Guess who showed up at the window of my study today!


20190208_144105There were a total of seven of them; you can see some of the others in the yard of the house across the street.

Many of you know that I have a “thing” about deer, and have written poetry about them.  Today was a day when I had to make a big decision, and soon after I’d made the decision, the deer showed up.  I’ve NEVER seen deer in my front yard before, much less looking in through the window at me.  Perhaps he was curious about the deer skull and antlers in the window.  The skull with antlers was a gift from my hiker in-laws, who had found it in the coulees around here.  When they found it, bees had built a hive in the skull cavity.  Bees and deer —- ah, the symbolisms multiply!

A wonderful afternoon.


Dinosaur in my living room, sunshine in my heart

IMG_2879 adj

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

Hello dear friends, on this cold day on traditional Blackfoot territory, on the New Moon just two days after Imbolc, Candlemas, feast day of St. Brigid, and Ground Hog Day!  An auspicious time, for sure.

Today I offer you my most recent poem.  I hope it adds to your wonder at our weird, marvelous, suffering world:

Dinosaur in My Living Room, Sunshine in My Heart

Have you ever realized that everything,


in the universe is the same set of elements

mixed together in a myriad of ways,

breaking down, coming together in new combinations,

moving together and apart, in some bizarre cosmic dance?


As someone who doesn’t like my food touching on the plate,

that’s not immediately an attractive thought.

I hear my mother (and now my spouse, and

increasingly, my son) saying

“Don’t worry about it.  It all get mixed up in your stomach anyway.”

And visions of supper thrown into a blender dance in my head.



But I digress. . .


Think of it:

At the Big Bang (don’t you just love those

serious scientific names that physicists use?)

at the Big Bang, everything,

all of material reality,

every atom that is,

is compacted together  (like my supper in the blender. . . . )


And then,

at the self-appointed moment,

or at a word from the gods,

what has been squished, the singularity,

dislocates into movement and pattern.

and to make a long story short,

here we are!


I saw it yesterday in my living room:

I saw the atoms and molecules,

sand (that is, silicon chips)

and dinosaurs (the plastic made from oil made from decayed carbon life forms)

all coming together, creating THIS computer on

the stool next to dear spouse’s favorite chair.


Dinosaurs re-formed so that I can not only touch them, now,

but reach into the internet to learn about them.


And those dinosaurs were formed from the plants, the other animals,

the dirt they ate,

and the plants grew not only from soil

filled with little bugs, stones, and metals,

but from the sunshine itself

nourishing the plant through photosynthesis.


This Chromebook holds the water of millions of years of rainclouds

nourishing the plants nourishing the animals that decayed,

making the oil that makes the plastic of the black lid of the computer.


And someday, if we’re lucky,

future humans will salvage the elements of this computer

out of recycling centers or landfills

to make those flying cars we were all promised

in the visions of the future —- just like the Jetsons!

Maybe. . .


Yesterday, I saw the sunlight pour into my living room

illuminating the trees within the couch frame

and the dinosaurs and sheep

in the nylon and wool upholstery.


Then I thought of the air I breathe,

how the very molecules now circulating in me

might have circulated in the breath of those dear dinosaurs

now in the computer and the cushions.

Atoms that I breathe in may have been breathed in

by Jesus, by the Buddha,

by Jack the Ripper, by Genghis Khan. . . .


No, I don’t live in a cosmic blender

But in a cosmic dance

creating, destroying,

coming together, falling apart.

Recombining in new forms

that so easily hide

the dinosaur in my living room

and the sunshine in my heart.

— Cat Charissage, (c) 2019, a.r.r.


Extraordinary Ordinary Days


collage, Cat Charissage (c) 2019 a.r.r.  with artwork by Rima Staines

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year on this first New Moon of 2019.  I’ve chosen the word Spaciousness for my Word of the Year.  I’m speaking here of an inner contemplative spaciousness where I go for depth, not the shallows or the simply  urgent.  We shall see. . . .

As I’m putting 2018 to bed and prepping my journals, files, studio, and inner self for 2019, I thought I’d show you my collection of journals for 2018.  Remember I told you that I’ve started a new journal on the new moon of each month?  Here are the results of that practice for this year:

journals 2018

My journals include not only my writings and daily schedules, but copies of my artwork and poetry, doodling, smashed in images from the internet that I love, and copies of selected emails that I’ve sent.  They are the chronicles of my everyday life.  Each journal is 9 in. by 12 in., and about an inch thick.  Here they are on the shelf (including my 2017 journals as well):

journals 2017-18

I’ve been so happy that several opportunities to share poetry have opened up here in Lethbridge.  There is the now monthly Open Mic on the 4th Thursdays at the Owl Acoustic Lounge.  Shaw Cable is filming those to show on their cable channel here, and also at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2M9VHrOeCZY&t=74s.   If you follow the links you will find 3 of our sessions.  New ones are added as they become available.  Out of this, the host of our Open Mic nights was offered a radio program!  Teri called it “For the Love of Poetry” and I was honored to be her first guest:  https://www.facebook.com/jessfm/videos/2093527114041007/.  I thought I’d also share with you one of my new poems.  It’s a good reminder for me in these dreary days of winter to live with as much gratitude as I can muster.

May your days be filled with as much grace and fullness as you can handle!

With much love and many blessings,



ORDINARY DAY                                                  Cat Charissage

I show up with pen and paper anyway

Even with nothing to say.

The muse might be visiting — but not with me.


Any good ideas anywhere?  I look around.

Nope.  Just an ordinary day.


My tummy full from a hot breakfast, plenty of protein.

The quiet house, warm.

The comfy bed calling me back to its embrace.

Wet hair, drying after a hot shower.


My ordinary:

Good food — plenty.

Indoor plumbing — reliable.

Central heating — cozy.

Water — hot at the tap, enough to pour over dear body

Over and over and over again.


But only a few centuries ago,

These were not so ordinary,

Not even for kings and queens.


And not so ordinary even now,

For children in refugee camps,

For migrants walking a thousand miles towards safety,

For the homeless, here in Lethbridge, sleeping under the overpass.


My ordinary day is really not quite so ordinary —

My ordinary day of warmth, comfort, enoughness.

Extraordinary, isn’t it?


“Don’t Let the Behavior of Others Destroy Your Inner Peace”

November journal cover

Dear Friends,

The above quote from Dalai Lama, “Don’t let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace,”  has been rolling around in my thoughts for many days now.  I’m recently back from two weeks of trainings with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a wonderful environment where almost all of the participants are extraordinarily compassionate and aware humans.  It’s no exaggeration to say that when times get rough, I think of my fellow learners and am uplifted, knowing that each of them are doing good work in the world and continuing on despite discouragement or seeming ineffectiveness.   Now back in the “real world”, which should definitely be called the “UNreal world”, I struggle with the noise and anger around me  —-  and stay off FB and the internet unless I focus right on whatever it is I’m looking for.

So, how to NOT let others’ behavior destroy our inner peace?  For me, it’s checking in daily with my deepest self, asking where and how I can help, acknowledging where I myself need help, and listening to all within me that I may not otherwise be able to know.  The photo above is of my new journal for this New Moon  —  a collage of paper and images that I’ve saved from dear memories.  The left side of the photo is the back cover of the journal; the right side is the front cover.

When I was away, I had a dream that I had been invited to lead a Centering Prayer group.  I accepted, and as the church’s custodian was showing me around the basement room where we’d be meeting, she pointed out a button that she said did something very  interesting:  it moved the entire room around, as though the room were a ship and I could steer it anywhere I wanted.  The participants arrived and we started the silent meditation.  I smiled to myself, pressed the button, and gently steered the room, including all of us participants, right out of the church and into the beautiful yard.

It felt as though I was bringing myself and the people with me out of the box and into a spacious place of life and wonder.

So my journal cover for this New Moon reflects my understanding of my dream.  My past, on the back cover, is moving into my future where I “include and transcend” (an idea I got from Ken Wilbur) that which once defined me and move into something new.

As we move into the holiday season, especially here in North America, I wish for you that you retain your inner peace and move into a spacious place of life and wonder.  Mindfully and intentionally.

With much love and many blessings,