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Archive for the ‘Notes from the Edge’ Category

I didn’t know what I wanted to write about this afternoon. It’s Friday, the day I set aside for creative work. I’ve been lax in completing any kind of art. I’ve been culling, gathering, harvesting. Languishing while the mighty Ceres swings her scythe against the grain. I have filled countless journals with sketches and writing practices. I don’t know the end result. I do not know where I’m going. I envy artists and writers with completed bodies of work. They inspire me.

I’m reading the Three Tenets for a writing workshop this weekend. We’ll be doing two days of Writing Practice and a lot of sitting meditation. When I scribbled the daily schedule into my calendar, I could feel the resistance. I’m rereading The True Secret of Writing. I’m a few chapters into Standing at the Edge by Joan Halifax; this morning I read her blog piece Rites of Passage and the Three Tenets.

In the right light

In the right time

Everything is extraordinary.

-Aaron Rose

We all stand at the edge at some point in our lives. That place of not knowing. I’m standing at the edge of letting go of a day job I’ve held for 13 years. The edge of a geo-move next June when Liz and I pack up all of our worldly possessions and move to Montana for a year-long creative retreat. We have no idea what happens after that. It’s uncharted territory — leaving the familiar behind, cutting away the old. After nearly four decades of living in an urban Twin Cities landscape formed by glacial lakes, our new roots will break ground in the rural, more isolated and dry Bitterroot Mountain valley in western Montana.

Not knowing is letting go of preconceived notions of who I think I am and who I believe others to be. No attachments. It might look like it takes courage, but what choice do we have? Everyone tangles with birth and death. And all the messiness in between. We have little control. We are faced with choices each day for new direction. What do we choose?

We stopped at Noon for a webinar by Out of Chicago on A-Ha Moments in Flower & Plant Photography. Nine photographers spoke about the process and joy of photographing some of their favorite macro images. Grounding. Inspiring. Earthy. Perfect for the shift of Mercury into Cancer and a happy place for my Taurus Moon and Taurus rising. It’s the little things. A photograph. One footstep into Eloise Butler Wildlife Garden & Bird Sanctuary. To not know is to reconnect to the wild.

A few reminders from the photographers at the A-Ha Moments webinar:

  • Take your shoes off. Go barefoot when photographing the wild.
  • Details matter. Commit to work the scene. Experiment.
  • Never give up on your vision.
  • Pay attention to what turns your head.
  • Spend time on what you love. Let yourself be taken.
  • In the right light, in the right time, everything is extraordinary.  -Aaron Rose

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Georgia, Haiku, Bones, Minneapolis, Minnesota, iPhone Shots, on the Partial Solar Eclipse, April 30th, 2022, photo © 2022 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Georgia, Haiku, Bones, Minneapolis, Minnesota, iPhone Shots, on the Partial Solar Eclipse, April 30th, 2022, photo © 2022 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Landscape – The Osprey

The walk along Boone Avenue skirts the edge of Northwood Lake, a shallow 15-acre section of the North Branch of Bassett Creek. I drive home from work through busy Twin Cities suburbs to avoid rush hour traffic. Liz moves the opposite direction down Boone on her daily walks. We meet in the middle. Last Wednesday I spotted her orange neon Nikes, index finger high to the sky, jousting the wind. I pulled over. “Do you see it, do you see it?” she said. “You’ve got to get out?!”

I put my hand up to visor my eyes. The raptor soared on the thermals, dipped over two great blue herons nesting in cattails, swooped above a pair of loons in the middle of the lake, glided over our heads, and rose again. Finally, her yellow eyes spotted her prey. We watched as she jettisoned underwater, talons first, splashed lean like an Olympic diver, arose with dinner, and flew away. In all the time we have lived here, this is the first we have spotted an osprey on Northwood Lake.

Osprey dive for fish from heights of 30 to 120 feet, plunging feet first, submerging their entire bodies beneath the water. Airborne again, they reposition the fish for streamlined transport so that the head faces forward. While underwater they close their third eyelid which acts like goggles to help them see clearly. Pairs return to the same nest year after year, each contributing to the structure of their home, much like we have during the pandemic. Raptors bring us great joy on our daily walks. Yet they are susceptible to a virus in the wild – the highly pathogenic avian flu (HPAI).

The answer is yes. I have enjoyed my life. But in the underbelly, I have thought long and hard the last few years about the reality of death. Pandemics. Viruses. Wars. Age. So many lost. My mother died in hospice at my brother’s a year ago in April. By some miracle, vaccinations had become available and we road tripped to Pennsylvania to spend her last weeks on Earth with her. She continues to teach us even in death.

Lineage – Root Teachers

The day of the osprey fell in the first week of whittling my job down to 32 hours, Fridays off. At the end of the year, I will no longer work my day job. In celebration, Liz presented me with a package, a surprise gift to mark new beginnings. We sat in Veronica, my aging 2006 red Mini-Cooper, windows open to spring. Liz smiled and slid a haiku book out from under her windbreaker — Diane di Prima. The 1967 version is a handprinted collaboration with her friend, artist George Herms. Each page presents like haiga. The cherry woodblock illustrations by George were originally printed on a cleaned up rusty press from the Topanga Playhouse that later became LOVE Press. He used an individual color for each print on Mohawk Superfine Eggshell White paper. I now own one of a thousand of the first bound editions of Haiku issued in 2019, commemorating the 50th anniversary.

The second gift from Liz was a set of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones Deck, a 2021 extension of her 1986 classic, Writing Down the Bones. (Have you enjoyed your life? is Card 51.)

The last time I saw Natalie in person was at a haiku workshop in Santa Fe at Upaya Zen Center in February 2020. I was able to briefly connect when we sat down at lunch. I told tell her how grateful I am for everything she has taught me. It’s a gift to have had the opportunity to see her again. On the layover flight back through Salt Lake City, I noticed one lone man wearing a surgical mask, a precursor of what was to come.

By March 2020, everything in Minnesota shut down. So much has happened in between. I worked in the field through the pandemic, where we masked every day and built nuts to bolts machines that filled vaccine bottles. Liz worked from home. We signed up for Zoom and joined Upaya as members. In 2022, Natalie co-taught a Upaya haiku workshop on Zoom where she read Diane di Prima’s haiku. We continue to know Roshi Joan Halifax and the Upaya community in virtual ways unimaginable two years ago. Our gratitude is boundless.

Life – Planting Seeds

The snake plant in the lead photograph was given to my mother Amelia Ernestine by my grandmother Della Elise in 1966 when our family moved from Georgia to Pennsylvania. When my mom died in April 2021, my sister Cassandra (named after great Aunt Cassie) and I split the plant in two. One half road tripped back to Minnesota with me; I named her Georgia. The other half my sister named Belvedere; she put down roots in an antique teapot on Cassandra’s kitchen window sill in Pennsylvania.

Georgia’s leaves stand tall against our north facing windows. She has seen some things, heard some things, traveled around the country. She is rooted to our family and has lived a long and joyful life. Twenty, thirty, forty years moves at light speed. We don’t know when our time will arrive. On my deathbed, I want to say I loved my life with its pitfalls and craters. I dig deep and look to the ancestors to show me the way.

-Written the weekend of the Taurus New Moon in a Partial Solar Eclipse, April 2022

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