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Vena Cava

Through Poetry Friday friend Ruth, I discovered the writings of Jan Richardson and her Women’s Christmas Retreat booklets. Last year I downloaded the one for 2015 (Illuminating the Threshold) and worked my way through part of it using its questions as writing prompts.

She ended the third chapter “The Cave of the Heart” with these questions:

“The ‘cave of the heart’ is a way of describing that place where, even for some small space of time, we can turn inward and pay attention to what is stirring within us. How do you find or create this kind of space? Are there practices, people, or places that help you listen to your life in a way that enables you to return to the world with renewed vision?” – p. 11.

My one little word for 2017 is LISTEN, and so the question: “Are there practices, people, or places that help you listen to your life…” popped out at me as I re-read these comments just now, and the poem I wrote in response last February:

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Vena Cava*

The vena cava of the psyche
also needs the in and out of breath
the in of distance—
a walk
a drive
a vacation
the out of spill
a journal
a pen
the in of a song
the out of tears
the in of an essay or poem
the out of conversation

So the blood of growth and change
pumps from the cave of the heart
to the head, the hands, and the feet.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

I’d love to know: How do you listen to your life?

You can find Jan Richardson’s Women’s Christmas Retreat booklets available for download on THIS page.

* The vena cava are either of two large veins discharging blood into the right atrium of the heart, one (superior vena cava) conveying blood from the head, chest, and upper extremities, the other  (inferior vena cava) conveying blood from all parts below the diaphragm – dictionary.com

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Poetry Friday LogoThis post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today Linda at Teacher Dance.

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Posted by on January 6, 2017 in Personal, Poetry Friday

 

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Sounds

By now you’ve probably switched calendars, thought about—maybe even listed—a few resolutions and goals for the year, and caught yourself writing 2016 instead of 2017 a time or two. Plus, you may have chosen your one-word for 2017.

The custom of choosing a word for the year has been around for a while. I’m not sure whose idea it was to begin with but memory and scrapbooking enthusiast Ali Edwards has been choosing a yearly word since 2006 and has even developed a One Little Word business, offering prompts and scrapbooking products to members. I like her definition of “one word”:

“… a word to focus on, to live with, to investigate, to write about, to craft with, and to reflect upon…”

My word for 2017 came to me in the early hours of December 18. I had just written a blog post about my 2016 word (“mindfulness”) and choosing a word for 2017 was on my mind as I snuggled under the covers for a few more winks.

Also around that time I had been noticing that many of the big-name bloggers and productivity specialists I sometimes read were trying to convince me that I needed to be more focused to accomplish more and thus make more money in 2017. To do that I would want to sign up for their webinars and courses, but hurry because the special price would go away soon. I felt so bombarded by voices, it was becoming hard to hear the voice I really wanted to hear. How could I listen above the noise?

That word LISTEN sparked a frisson of recognition in me. You could say that morning it woke me up. LISTEN would be my one-word for 2017!

Because I always choose a scripture to go along with my word, I knew just what that would be too—Jesus’ words from John 10:

“To him (the Good Shepherd) the doorkeeper opens and the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him for they know his voice” – John 10:3,4 (emphasis added).

I want 2017 to be a year of listening for, recognizing, and hearing to the extent of obeying the voice of my Shepherd above all other voices.

During 2017 I’ll explore many other facets of the word as well, such as listening to nature, to people, and to all the ways one hears and listens metaphorically—by reading, tuning in to my intuition, visually observing and hearing the unspoken communication of those around me—that sort of thing.

I’m planning to try some activities this year related to my word. You may want to join me:

  1. Find and collect quotes with 2017’s one-word in them.
  2. Find, collect, and memorize Bible verses that relate to my word.
  3. Make a playlist with songs that relate to my word.
  4. Look for and watch TED Talks about my word.
  5. Journal / blog about my word.
  6. Collect objects with my word on them to display around the house.
  7. Make a collage or other art project relating to my word.
  8. Write a creed or manifesto as an ideal for how attending to my word will affect my behavior.

And now to prove that hearing and listening have been on my mind for a long time, here’s a poem from my files. It’s one I wrote in 1980 when I was taking a summer writing course.  (In it you’ll hear sounds that you probably haven’t since that era of wooden clogs that we wore for a while).

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A Western Meadowlark–a frequent sight on the Canadian prairies but rarely seen here on Canada’s southwest coast. I photographed this one one January morning at Blackie Spit, Surrey, B.C.

Sounds

A foghorn groaning his pain in the bay,
Liquid notes of the lark on a new spring day
The gleeful ring of the telephone
Cutting the still of an evening alone
The tock, tock, Tock, TOCK, TOCK, Tock, tock, tock of feet
In wooden clogs on the concrete street
The fiendish howl of the winter wind
When I’m warm inside, and so is my friend
The raucous cawing of crows in spring
And the gentle plop, plop of the snow, melting
The hiccupy laugh of Brita at play
When she catches her ball, then flings it away
Crystal chimes in December, buzzing crickets in June
The shrill school bell—so welcome at noon…
Sounds there are without measure to feed our ears
To sharpen our pleasure and soothe our fears
To add to the riches of all our years
Wealthy the one who truly hears.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

Do you choose a word for the year? Does your word choice have a story behind it? What ideas for activities could you add to the list above? I’d love to read your responses. Leave them in the comments, below.

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This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, the first Thursday of each month. Today it’s hosted by Carol Varsalona at her blog Beyond LiteracyLink.

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7

Happy eve of New Year’s Eve!

Everywhere I tune in these days I hear people talking about what a terrible year 2016 has been and good riddance to it.

I don’t feel that way at all. For me 2016 has been a wonderful year. Hubby and I are still living together in peace, we visited our distant kids three times, had a fabulous summer holiday, welcomed another beautiful granddaughter, and were spared major illnesses, accidents, falls, fires, earthquakes, storms, and floods.

Poetry-wise it hasn’t been bad either. The number of poems I wrote this year is 97 and the number of times I participated in Poetry Friday is 37.

What’s with all the 7s?

I know! Seven seems to be my little buddy (in addition to those two, there are a total of eight 7s in our address and two phone numbers). Thus when I read the prompt “Write a number poem” in Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet II (a wonderful book for poetry craft and prompts, by the way) I had to choose seven. The threshold of 2017 seems the right time to share it.

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Image: Pixabay

7

It’s not that it is a prime
number of perfection
the completion of an entire week
or that it’s the address of heavenly bliss.

And though its association
with itch and deadly sins fascinate
the reason I fall for 7
is how often it has fallen for me…

so often in address and phone number
I fear one day to find myself
at 6s and 7s to remember
where all those 7s belong.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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What number would you choose for a number poem?

And now I’d like to wish all my Poetry Friday Friends a 2017 so 7-perfect it deserves a 10!
PF-2This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Donna (the BOLD) at Mainely Write.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2016 in Objects, Personal, Poetry Friday

 

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Technician

Yesterday I had a medical procedure which needed an intravenous line to insert contrast dye. My experience at the medical centre was unusually drawn-out as apparently I have what they call “rolly veins” (which have the good sense to slip away from needles).

The workers were wonderful, though. And in the hour it took to get that chunk of hardware into me, I had lots of time to study them. One technician particularly snagged my attention.

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Image: Pixabay

Technician

Her pants were green, her vest was blue
her top turquoise and peach
her hair a tidy dreadlock mop
Africa tinged her speech.

She worked with warm efficiency
to get an I.V. started
but four pokes chasing slippery veins
left her a bit downhearted:

“You’re my first patient of the day,
fear it will be a bad one.”
She warmed my arms with towels and sheets
handed me to the next one.

Two more technicians tried their luck
I felt like a pincushion,
with bandaids sprinkling both my arms—
unfortunate condition.

“She left her veins at home,” she quipped.
“She is the one to blame.”
Then kept on checking back until
the I.V. doctor came.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2016 in People, Personal

 

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Walking in the rain

When the glory of fall has passed, I still walk, often in the rain.

I have heard about how rain affects people in different locations differently; some are downright jubilant about its coming. I wonder if living in the soggy southwest of Canada (/ northwest of the U.S.) would dampen their enthusiasm.

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“mallard couples glide where yesterday / they waddled…” (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Walking in the rain

“… the rain … is pouring down, humming and tapping the floor. … It is getting fragrant. I am barefoot, dancing, jumping and running madly.” – Rizawa F. Syeda-Kazmi

Trees writhe, kowtow to squally air
rain beats tantrum gusts

races down roofline, puddles dance
the forecast—walk later, not now.

I leave between sobs
last tears damp and curl my hair.

Sky is soon weeping again
we are deluged in her woes

my hooded anorak
listens to the wet complaints.

Rain’s ally, the muddy Nicomekl
has claimed the flood plain

mallard couples glide where yesterday
they waddled through squishy grass.

I press on, blurry-eyed
needing wipers for my glasses.

Front steps glisten. Shake the misery
off leaden coat, hang it by the fire

and recall, incredulous
desert story of rain celebrations

where men drive to ditches, jump in
dance crazy, open-armed when sky drops water.

© 2013 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)
First published in Time of Singing – Volume 40 Intermezzo, Fall 2013

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PF-2This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by the one-and-only Jama, at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2016 in Nature, Personal, Poetry Friday

 

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Just an ordinary walk


In the last few weeks my walking partner, dear hubby, has been finding it more and more painful to walk. Then the doctor told him, no more long walks until you’re better. So for now I am walking on my own.

When I took solitary walks in the past I experienced a wonderful loosening of words and ideas. And it’s happening again, if I’m alert to it.

To help with that, I carry a little notebook and pen to write down words, turns of phrase, and images that I don’t want to forget. Or I hold them in my head. That’s what I did for the poem below. When I got home I free-wrote like crazy to capture everything in prose. Later I worked some of my ideas into …

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“I am a long skinny shadow now, walking down a golden street” (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Just an ordinary walk

On this cold morning I am soft wax
feeling intimidated by impatient cars
swishing, swooshing
swirling beside me.

One turns right in front
of my WALK light, almost clips my toes.
Even in moments of still, distant traffic hums
a far off siren screams.

City birds above me chirp, warble
sing their own bustle, swoop down (peck, peck),
flutter away. They are nonchalant, daring,
savvy to the rhythm of feet and tires (hop, hop).

My nose tests wind gusts, smells
gasoline, diesel, vanilla, a passerby’s peppery
perfume,  chocolate, cinnamon
(something good is baking at Safeway).

I am a long  skinny shadow now walking down a golden street
past a lady in a taupe coat with her silky dog in red
and a grey couple smoking on a bench.
They pull their Lhasa Apso close so I can pass.

I can’t find the book drop at the library.
The security guard points me to it’s green-light lips
“You scan it.” He shows me which bar-code
and the slot sucks the book from my hand.

As I turn toward home, the sun stares
into my eyes, brash. I shade them
with hands balled into gloves, fingers
squeezing warmth from palms.

A kid with a black-and-white backpack strides by
black arms bare under short black sleeves
black jeans, white shoes—so cool
but how can he not feel so cold?

I climb stairs, twist key in the lock—
happy to be home.
It was just an ordinary walk
but forever engraved in this poem.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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PF-2This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by the queen of poetic forms, Tricia at her blog Miss Rumphius Effect.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2016 in Objects, People, Personal, Poetry Friday, Writing

 

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Night Class

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Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly

Night Class

I wake at night in the classroom with God
go to His desk to watch Him marking my day.
“Here,” He says, “see your anger when you were kept waiting
your rudeness when disturbed
your defensiveness when criticized?
These are all places the theory you know in your head
those textbook passages you can say by memory
could have been applied.”

My face reddens and I crumple in shame.
Knowing how to use the formulas I can say by rote
to solve the equations of life
–in spite of review after review–
continues to confound me.

But His loving eyes reach deep into my spirit.
“Don’t worry girl,” He says, drawing me up.
“This is not your final grade.
I have planned for you a lifetime
of projects, quizzes and tests
each designed to give you
more insight.
Getting it wrong is also teaching you
how to get it right.”

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

I see by the various versions of “Night Class” in my files that I first wrote it in 2007.  I was reminded me of that old poem when, a few days ago, I read “The Temple of Memory” by John O’Donohue:

The Temple of Memory

When you visit the wounds within the temple of memory, you should not blame yourself for making bad mistakes that you greatly regret. Sometimes you have grown unexpectedly through these mistakes. Frequently, in a journey of the soul, the most precious moments are the mistakes. They have brought you to a place that you would otherwise have avoided. You should bring a compassionate mindfulness to your mistakes and wounds. Endeavor to inhabit the rhythm you were in at that time. If you visit this configuration of your soul with forgiveness in your heart, it will fall into place itself. When you forgive yourself, the inner wounds begin to heal. You come in out of the exile of hurt into the joy of inner belonging.
– John O’Donohue 
Excerpt from ANAM CARA

I love this part of O’Donohue’s piece:

“You should bring a compassionate mindfulness (my one-little-word of the year)  to your mistakes and wounds. …When you forgive yourself, the inner wounds begin to heal.”

May we do that –forgive ourselves– as we press ahead on the spiritual journey.

 

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