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Before yesterdayAway In Autumn

The Magic of Creating

19 May 2020 at 14:39

A beautiful day for sitting outside with this inspirational book, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. The sun and birds singing and breeze and fresh air offers a sense of freedom and open space that gives me a good mental space for writing. I am reading Big Magic with my Creative Book Club. I love leading a group with such creative minds, and am inspired by them. We are currently reading the chapter on Enchantment, where Elizabeth Gilbert writes about creative genius and where it comes from, and also talks about the concept of “flow” or “being in the zone.”

I’m sure many of you have heard of this, and experienced this, especially if you are a creative yourself. Flow is the idea that we are so immersed in writing, art, or other kinds of creating, that we lose track of everything–ourselves, the time, our environment, the people and sounds around us, and more. It’s an amazing place to sink into, also known as “being in the zone.” Hours can go by and feel like twenty minutes. We might look back on our writing and think ‘wow, who wrote that?”

Gilbert discusses the historical Roman and Greek perspective on flow, as “being taken care of by some external divine creative spirit guide” and she says this: “I only rarely experience this feeling, but it’s the most magnificent sensation imaginable when it arrives. I don’t think there is a more perfect happiness to be found in life than this state, except perhaps falling in love” (pg. 67). I agree with her completely.

Flow, or being in the zone, doesn’t happen everyday (although I wish!). But when it does, and we suddenly feel that passionate connection to what we are writing and making, it’s very rewarding. All stress, worry and anxiety goes away. Our thoughts and problems seem to disappear. Our outer world gets much smaller, and our creating gets bigger.

I hope you get to experience this wonderful state of creativity, and I have three points of advice to help you:

1) Show up everyday: like a farmer working his farm fields, we have to work our creative fields. Never have I sat down after weeks of not writing, to find myself in a space of flow. It only comes when I show up for the work, day after day, and then at some point, creative inspiration shows up too and surprises me, like a wonderful visitor I’ve been watching for at the window.

2) Inspiring space: Where do you love to write? What can you add to that space to make it feel cozy, inviting, and creatively inspiring? In what space do you feel most safe and creatively free?

3) Trust yourself and the creative process: the blank page can be very daunting. As can a piece of clay waiting to be sculpted by hand or on the pottery wheel, as can that blank canvas waiting for your first brush stroke. It’s all laying before you like a giant red carpet, but you have to take that first step. It certainly can feel like stepping into the unknown and simply having to trust. Even the first few strokes or the first few pages may not turn on that creative ‘aha’ moment, but if you trust yourself and the process, I promise, eventually it will come.

If you want to join our Creative Book Club, just click on this link and send me your email, we would love to have you.

You can join at anytime, even if you don’t have the book, and haven’t read the book. I share enough readings from the book that you can follow along with our videos, Facebook group, emails, and discussion questions.

It is so good to learn about and participate in the creative process with a community of creatives around you. After Big Magic, we will be reading another title on creativity and/or writing. The title has not been chosen yet, but I am tossing around some great books in my mind.

If you want to see my thoughts, book reviews, and videos on the creative process, please follow me on Instagram @creatively debra.

Hope you find creative joy today!

xo Debra

The post The Magic of Creating appeared first on Debra Franke.

Jill Grunenwald’s Running With a Police Escort

15 May 2020 at 23:26

When I first picked up this book at Indigo Chapters, and started browsing through the pages, I found myself laughing out loud at the recognition of myself in this narrator. Written as a memoir, this never-giving-up runner finds herself always at the back of the pack and the end of the race, to the point where a police escort helps her get to the finish line (long after the race had ended). At first I found this surprisingly and charmingly funny, and then in the same second, I realized … this would be me. I knew I needed to read this book. Not only would I empathize with the narrator entirely, but she sounded like she could empathize with me. I needed some fresh running inspiration.

In my first race two years ago, I was second to last. In another race, I found myself in the last five. One race I even found myself running at one point as slow as a woman who was speed walking. In my running group, I am always at the back. But as our coach always says, it’s not speed that matters, and I have learned that the robin gets the worm, and the tortiose can outrun the hare.

So, while I remain a slow runner, it’s time to get back into the game, since the weather is nice and my Whippet puppy (who definitely runs about 25 miles/hour faster than I do) is a bit older now.

Can’t wait to pick up the pace again while picking up this book, and being inspired by Jill Grunenwald in “Running With a Police Escort: Tales From the Back of the Pack.” A book that is real, funny, and poignant, and ensures me not one single reason to quit.

Also, this book combines two of my favourite things: reading + running. I’ll just try not to do them at the same time, lest I take out a flagpole (ps lots of fun things happen at the back of the pack!). 

The post Jill Grunenwald’s Running With a Police Escort appeared first on Debra Franke.

4 DAYS LEFT: THIS IS FOR YOU, MOMS!

27 December 2019 at 21:21

Here we are, the days between Christmas and New Years, feeling the slower lag of the holidays, that sort of ‘non-time’ when you don’t really know what day it is, when you’ve had too much sugar and not enough vegetables, and the air feels so much like foggy springtime you might think you’re celebrating the wrong season. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for the fresh start of New Years, and the chance to simplify my life again, declutter any stressful areas (both physical and emotional), and start anew.

Moms, I don’t know how you do it. You spend so much energy looking after your little ones, rocking your babies, running after your toddlers, tripping over Lego and blocks, finding new and original ways to get your kids to eat, working on sleep routines, arranging play dates, nurturing your family and wiping away tears after nightmares and sibling spats and disappointed hearts, balancing grocery shopping and dinners and careers … when do you ever get a chance to look after YOU?

We are so excited about our Body Mind & Soul Online Retreat for Moms starting in January, 2020, that is created uniquely for you. Do it from the cozy warmth of you home, at the time that suits you best. Put your kids to bed, pour a hot tea, cozy up with a blanket, and experience this retreat in just a short time each week. We want you to find relaxation and rest, to be able to reclaim balance in your lives, to rediscover who you are, and to find a safe space to be vulnerable, honest, and and understanding towards yourselves.

Save your seat and register here, by December 31st!

Come join us and show up for yourself. You deserve a moment that is just for you. Bring your presence and your mindfulness, and find self-compassion and love for yourself. It will change everything. A fresh start towards freedom, abundance, love.

The post 4 DAYS LEFT: THIS IS FOR YOU, MOMS! appeared first on Debra Franke.

Hey Moms, do you want to ‘retreat’ with us?

21 December 2019 at 12:17

Need to relax, rest, reclaim balance in your life, and rediscover who you are?

Then this opportunity is for you! SAVE YOUR SEAT NOW! January is coming fast, and brings a time for fresh starts and renewal of peace.

Holidays are a time of joy, but they also bring stress, fatigue, and uncertainty. Especially if you are a mom with a new baby, or you have little ones, or teens. Parenting is HARD. And in the process of giving yourself completely to those you love most, you might have forgotten your own hopes and dreams.

And for all you Mamas out there who question yourself, judge yourself, feeling isolated or inadequate or like you are messing up, there is hope! You are not alone.

You do not need to be alone on this journey. You can walk with purpose and love and understanding from other mamas just like you. Find out more here, about our Body Mind Soul Online Retreat for Mamas.

Don’t miss out!

TOGETHER WE WILL

  • Increase our understanding and awareness of our stress and anxiety.
  • Work through setting intentions for our time together and our motherhood.
  • exploring new ways of nourishing their body, mind, and soul each week
  • Work through some serious mama mindset blocks and increase our understanding of the power of our thoughts
  • Dive deep into self-compassion and self-care in new and creative ways
  • Explore mindfulness & meditation and the incredible value they bring to our lives
  • Set ourselves to live a life of abundance (not depletion) – living a lifestyle that supports and feeds us.

HERE ARE 5 THINGS TO GET YOU STARTED, THE MOST IMPORTANT BEING YOU!

  1. A favourite journal. For me it’s a black leather-bound journal that says “Do what you love.”
  2. A quiet, uncluttered, and peaceful corner of your home where you can be alone for a short time each week.
  3. A symbol of relaxation, such as a lovely candle, scent, or pottery mug.
  4. A comfortable floor space, carpet or yoga mat, for some feel-good yoga moves for peace & energy.
  5. You! Bringing yourself, being present for yourself, showing up with your heart, and being compassionate towards yourself.

WHO ELSE IS COMING?

You will be joined in a quiet space for some time to “retreat”; however, you will also be invited into our online private Clubhouse for Mamas, where you can talk with us and other moms, be honest and vulnerable, attend Live Q&A’s and receive support.

SIGN UP HERE AND THEN RELAX.

The post Hey Moms, do you want to ‘retreat’ with us? appeared first on Debra Franke.

Every Mama Needs A Clubhouse: Will You Join Ours?

7 December 2019 at 15:46

Hey Mamas, do you remember that secret clubhouse we all adored or wanted to belong to, when we were kids? That tree fort, or garage, or abandoned shack where we sat on logs, drank Kool-Aid or a bottle of coke with a handful of licorice, scratched our initials in the wooden sun-patched walls, or gathered for roll call, our bikes sprawled in the long grass behind? The place where we could spill our problems, vent, build friendships, share about your lives, and feel like we belonged to something bigger than ourselves?

Well here we are, all grown up, and guess what Mamas? You still need a clubhouse! A meeting space, per say, a gathering hut, an online place or hub to come together and talk, vent, be safe and vulnerable, and learn and support each other. You deserve this. You owe this to yourself. You are beautiful, you are worth so much, and you are doing an amazing job in parenting and building a family.

And for all you Mamas out there who question yourself, judge yourself, feeling isolated or inadequate or like you are messing up, there is hope! And you are not alone.

You do not need to be alone on this journey. You can walk with purpose and love and understanding from other mamas just like you. Find out more here, about our Body Mind Soul Online Retreat for Mamas.

I see you Mamas, and I hear you. I admire you for your inner strength, your courage, your selflessness, your love, your give-everything-you-have attitudes and energy. I know you must be so tired some days, feeling a lack of purpose, not always knowing the best way to parent, not always loving being a parent, wishing you had more time to yourself, longing for some relaxation and even just a few minutes for a bath or time to read a book?

I don’t know your personal story, but I would like to. WE would like to.

This is how our Mama’s Retreat Clubhouse came to be, along with our bigger vision and dream, our online Body, Mind and Soul Retreat for Moms, starting in January 2020. It all started because we wanted to know your stories, your worries, your struggles, your hopes and your dreams. And we want to journey in them with you so you can reignite your motherhood spirit.

When you sign up for our online Retreat, you will be included in our Mama’s Clubhouse Retreat Facebook group, in which you will have check-ins, extra bonus materials, live Q&As, and a space to talk, listen and share confidentially with us and one another. A safe space for you to learn, discover, and rest, with the support of an understanding community.

This is a wonderful holiday gift for the mama you love, or a New Years Resolution, or perhaps just the lifesaving ring you were waiting for someone to toss you. This online Retreat is for you. Sign up by Dec. 15th and be entered for a giveaway retreat package as well!

I am so honoured to be on this awesome journey, offering care and support with three other amazing women who make up our Body, Mind and Soul team: Sarah, Ali, Jenn and myself. We all have something to offer: breath work, positive thought work, mindfulness, yoga for energizing and relaxation, intentional thought techniques, writing and journalling activities to release your creativity, extra bonus materials, and more. Together we bring years of experience in social work and mental health, yoga and Chakra experience, body positive fitness and well-being, and journalling/writing, life story, and narrative work.

And much mama experience.

This retreat is time for you each week, and only you. Time to find yourself again, Mamas. Time to dive into self-compassion, creativity, and relaxation. Understand the power of your thoughts, and learn some mindfulness and meditation. Discover a lifestyle of abundance.

You can even join us on a relaxation mindful nature walk and then reflect on the thoughts, images, and present moment attentiveness you have discovered.

Please follow this link below for more information and sign up for this awesome online Retreat. Do it at your own pace, in your own cozy and warm home space, and let yourself shine. This January, tuck your kids into bed, make a tea or hot chocolate while it snows outside, pull up a warm blanket, and have some time to yourself, some personal and sacred retreat time.

Join us! Body Mind & Soul Online Retreat for Moms.

You will also find us all on Instagram:

Sarah @ Mentally Healthy Me
Jenn @ Exhale Therapy Services
Ali @ Body Positive Wellness
Debra @ Away In Autumn

Watch for more details and feel free to comment and/or send me any questions you have. And most important, check out our link, sign up by the 15th of December, and set your New Years Resolutions and positive intentions now.

We hope to see you soon Mamas in our Mama’s Clubhouse, drinking a warm beverage and sharing stories. You can even bring some red licorice and some nostalgic memories of those good ol’ clubhouse days!


Signed,
Debra & the Body Mind and Soul Online Retreat for Mamas
xo

The post Every Mama Needs A Clubhouse: Will You Join Ours? appeared first on Debra Franke.

From Lost to Found

15 August 2019 at 18:56

I am in the midst of reading a wonderful book called One Coin Found: How God’s Love Stretches To The Margins by Rev. Emmy Kegler. A book that stops me in my tracks to take a deep breath and ponder for hours. A book that inspires me to walk more deeply with those who are hurting and/or wounded by their family, friends, church, or community, and who are trying to find their own gender identity, sexual orientation, as well as their own identity at the heart of who they are and who they are becoming.

Emmy Kegler is a queer woman who grew up in the church and knows well how those who believe can use scripture to hurt and wound and exclude others. Her voice is nourishing, her stories are full and round with vulnerability. The book starts out with a beautiful quote from the wonderful advocate and late Rachel Held Evans: “Here is a church that colours outside the lines, a church full of what she calls “the impossibilities of God … the Spirit that moves in the margins.”

Many of Kegler’s words throughout the book have struck a deep chord with me: “I needed someone to tell me the truth: pain was real. So real, in fact, that to know what it meant to be human God put on skin and let that body be torn limb from limb. Pain was not escapable, pain was a reality.” Such an immediate connection with reality, in fact more than reality–a deep and significant truth.

Kegler has also helped me to better understand the book-ends between which such a rich continuum lives and exists (or as my own pastor and friend would say, the richness and full colour that comes between the extremes in the merism symbols): “I did not yet know Austen, now my best friend, who would teach me that “male and female,” like day and night, sky and sea, water and land, did not preclude the existence of sunrise and sunset, rain and snow, beach and riverbank, and trans and nonbinary.”

Merism (from the Greek, “divided”) is a rhetorical term for a pair of contrasting words or phrases (such as near and far, body and soul, life and death) used to express totality or completeness. Merism may be regarded as a type of synecdoche in which the parts of a subject are used to describe the whole. Adjective: meristic. Also known as a universalizing doublet and merismus. A series of merisms can be found in marriage vows: “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.”

from Richard Nordquist, https://www.thoughtco.com/merism-rhetoric-term-1691307

I am leading a friendly book club on Facebook and we are reading this book One Coin Found together. Would you like to join us? We are only discussing Chapter 3 so far. Send me a message if you’d like to read and discuss along with us. I consider it a safe space to share and learn together.

If you would like other recommended book titles, let me know, and if you have one to recommend, please let me know.

The post From Lost to Found appeared first on Debra Franke.

What Makes a Dwelling Place Home?

31 July 2019 at 18:57

Can a parking lot become a dwelling place? Can a draped sheet become a home? This past summer, as the building next door became vacant and up for lease, a few homeless folks began camping out in varying forms of tents and dwelling places in the empty parking lot. Because the parking lot was right beside our living room and kitchen, and right under my bedroom window, I couldn’t help but notice the patterns of campsites and tents that evolved over the summer. I learned a little about tenting in this city closer up than I ever expected.

First there were picnic tables used as a gathering place, then eventually pushed together with a sheet draped between. Then a small fire pit was added between two tables, and rocks built up the fire pit, a few more added each day. Later in July, a new camp sprung up on the other side of the parking lot, closer to the building–more complex, with multiple sheets draped from the fence and building, a clothesline, a few bikes, and what seemed to be a wash station. A quiet camp, I enjoyed having them as neighbours and hoped to meet them if an occasion allowed.

I know there are many opinions on tenting in London, and I can’t begin to speak to these. I can definitely tell you I’m compassionate towards those who are tenting, because they’re most likely hurting, struggling, and homeless. But what I can tell you about most, is what I learned from one particular man who camped just under my bedroom window for several nights. He wore a muscle shirt, looked aged by life, and had a rough beard. He had several large carts piled with his belongings around the fence corner (and no, this wasn’t Sunny.)

He started out camping with a group, and slowly pushed them away one by one, until it was only him. He paced, he smoked, he took over the territory. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was upstairs in my bedroom, when I heard a lot of angry screaming outside my window. The man obviously felt a threat to his dwelling space, perhaps a place he was just starting to feel a little bit safe, and he seemed determined not to let anyone take that away from him.

I looked out the window. He was face to face with another man, both of them posturing and aggressive. He had a brick in his hand, and he was holding it close to the other man’s head, yelling and threatening to cause him serious harm if he didn’t leave. Finally after more yelling and cuss words and posturing, the other man did go, unwillingly, but peacefully enough. I was broken up inside, after witnessing the violence of the situation. Though I understood it would take a lot of past trauma and difficult life circumstances to create that kind of angry emotional barrier, I was still shaken up. Such aggression–what kind of hurt would it take for someone act that way?

The next day, the camp was gone. I heard from a neighbour that the police had been called. Later that night, I was walking with a friend down Queen Street in the rainy dark, when I spotted the same man, walking west with all of his carts. I almost didn’t recognize him. He no longer looked tough or aggressive or angry. Instead he looked tired and smaller, soaked from the rain, his shoulders weighed down, and he was struggling with his carts as he crossed over from one street to the next, coming back for them one at a time, and then moving them along in single file.

It was, through the dark rain, that I could best see his heart. That I could see God, and felt my own fear of this man transform into a newfound wave of hurting for him. I suspected trauma and vulnerability and sadness and fatigue. What kind of muddy dark depths had he been through, I wondered, to end up here like this? What kinds of things took him away from home, and what could possibly ever bring him back? What kind of dwelling place, even a makeshift tent or picnic tables pushed together, could ever feel like home for him? How much love would it take, and trust, and relationship, before any dwelling place would ever feel like home again?

The post What Makes a Dwelling Place Home? appeared first on Debra Franke.

What Planting a Blue Spruce Taught Me About Life

28 June 2019 at 16:40

I call her baby blue, or Blue for short. She is adorable, growing fast, silver-blue, five feet tall. She has quickly taken on the steady and faithful role of watching over our house and neighbourhood street. Behind her people are camping out under a makeshift tarp and hiding away their hurt, across from her a man walked yesterday yelling and gesturing wildly with his arms, and beside her lives my village, my people, our community house family. She gently welcomes happily our daily watering, but really, in all her honesty, most prefers a steady summer rain. She was a gift from a good friend, and replanted beside our house one month ago. May I say, with all genuineness, she is a blessing.

Blue arrived through a bit of a mix up over where she would be planted. Her first suggested space became a flower garden, her second chosen place is a few feet south of the garden. The yellow petunias, hostas, red Flaming deminias (rhymes with Jalepenas is how my neighbour remembers it) and Lavender have a way of charming her I suspect, and her own blue needles lend soft shadows over the eyes of morning light hovering around the garden.

Silver blue. Blue green. Singing the blues. Baby blues. Blue jazz. Little boy blue. Blue velvet. Got the blues. Blueberries. Bluebells.

Blue started teaching me about life the minute she arrived in the back of our friend’s van, roots loose and losing some of their soil. We were emotionally exhausted as something upsetting had just happened the day before, and we were struggling with moving forward in decisive ways. Yet the fact that she would die if not planted, gave us a clear direction to follow, and got us grounded again. New life needs to be nurtured and protected above all else. What we are given we must cradle, love, and plant into the ‘already-grand-beauty’ of this earth.

She also taught me that transporting ourselves from one kind of soil–our place, our family, our home, all that we’ve known–to another, without community, preparation, and sensitivity to this kind of homesickness can set us up for hardship in our new environment. We hurt when we are limited from thriving. She also taught me that roots need room to spread. They don’t just grow down, they grow out. They reach for new love, new space, new direction, new challenges. With the right amount of space to grow into who we are and what we need most, we will thrive.

Blue taught me that three or more people planting a life is better than one. Holding her tall and adjacent to the blue sky, watering her roots, adding fertilizer, adding compost soil–the bigger the village, the better her chances for survival. She taught me that she fears not the dark, and not being alone, and instead she loves the stars overhead, quiet of the night, birds of the early, early morning, the sweet lone call of the cardinal. She fears not the human elements and unknown of the human heart and experience, and instead grows strong listening to the echo of the deeper earth, where all things are connected and alive together.

She teaches me miracles of new life. How to stand rooted and strong in a world where trauma exists, where pain happens, where hurt is deep. And also the gentleness, the tenderness, the love with which she sheds her needles, her gracefulness in letting go, as she creates a ground covering for the tiniest ants, beetles, grasshoppers. And a place in her arms for birds to land.

She also teaches me that in the area I live, which is on a downtrodden street left almost isolated in its burdens, where things go missing, get wrecked, and our welcome garden sign was taken, that the trees and beautiful gardens are still loved by all who pass by it, respected, appreciated, seen as healing. As though there is a recognizing of life that is more beautiful and healing than we as humans could ever be for one another.

She teaches me that we all continue to become more beautiful, in both good and hard and sorrowful situations. She already has new shoots all over, beautiful young tender bright green needles shedding their bud-casings. I thought this beauty meant her transformation was life-giving and plentiful. I have since learned that even if she was dying, she would still be sprouting these beautiful new shoots. That a tree cannot help but do what it’s meant to do, even in a journey towards death. Beauty comes in death, as in life.

She teaches me to believe in all that will someday be. To imagine what will happen in the years she grows tall and wistful and magnificent. To wonder whether I will be alive still, or returned to the divine, when she comes into her fullest height and breadth of life. And she teaches me that even though the blue spruce that we planted outside my bedroom window in the country along our rural roads when I was eight years old and had to be dug up and moved many years later due to her height and gigantic root system, that she will come back again, come round again, be faithful to me and the world I inhabited as a child. That her roots remain and my child will not disappear. Her symbol of peace never waivers. The presence of blue, like a soothing wind over the high waves of ocean is always steady. The blue of a sail. The blue of a saint’s eyes. The blue of never-ending life. Blue of heaven on earth, and fireflies, and sparks over a campfire, and hearts that were once broken but are finding their way back home. Blue.

On the edge of sleep.

The post What Planting a Blue Spruce Taught Me About Life appeared first on Debra Franke.

Hands In The Soil

16 May 2019 at 11:59

My Dad was the first to convince me that we don’t call it “dirt,” we call it soil. It’s beautiful and rich and it’s from the earth. It’s valuable, a gift. It’s something we respect. Dirt is dirt. Soil is soil. This is soil.

This past week, I felt the impact of the incredible sorrow and grief surrounding those who die and the family they leave behind. As Rachel Held Evan’s last blog post stated, “death is a part of life” and she hoped we could both grieve and celebrate that truth: “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Oh how I hurt for her family and friends and all she touched so deeply with her beautiful, open-hearted posture of love.

I let my heart hurt as I prepare containers in my backyard for gardening, pulling out the old sticks and bits of root, and pouring in new soil and compost and manure and peat moss.

With hands in the soil, I can just bear it a little bit easier, because I feel connected to the universe that little bit more.

Last week in the news: a sweet young couple lost their eighteen-month old girl in one of the most traumatic ways possible: forgetting her in their van while going to work. I can’t even begin to imagine their pain.

With hands in the soil, life and death are connected somehow: the unknown that we cannot see is felt in the life in the dark where my hands are digging down.

Putting our hands in the Earth can bring us into the present, help us feel more–and–deeper than the numbness we might be carrying around, closer to whatever it is you believe lives on beyond this limited world that we can see and experience as human beings.

I learned to respect the Earth and it’s abundance from my parents. We grew everything from carrots and peas, to beans and onions and potatoes, to kohlrabi and lettuce and tomatoes. We had fruit trees in a small orchard behind our house, with many red and black current bushes. The same west side of the house where we watched the orange-pink sun get thinner and thinner in late dusk through our bay windows. My mom picked Linden leaves for tea from the ditches along our country roads. My dad managed a tree farm for many years. I helped seed, weed, harvest and eat the carrots and peas right out of the garden, standing in the cool earth in my bare feet, carrot soil-grit in my teeth and on my tongue. Most delicious thing in the world.

I intimately got to know the seasons of the year and the seasons of the gardens and trees, by seeing and embracing the human patterns of each season. Wet snow and steel toe boots by the door from walking rows of snowy trees and working in the tree barn, jackets and gloves and rain boots and spaghetti straps and sunblock in Spring and hot summer days, rolls and rolls of colourful marking tape (reds, greens, oranges, blues, yellows) in the Fall, and pockets knives, whet stones, pruners and tree callipers , and so much more.

And the smells that bring me back, that reminder me how real this world is: damp burlap, earthy roots uncovered, carrot stems and peas fresh from the hot sun, tree sap and maple leaves and fresh cut wheat across the fields. And the many creatures we encountered: sparrows and cardinals and blue jays, tree caterpillars (loved by me but not by the tree growers), the ladybugs, streams of ants, praying mantis playing her violin, and camouflaged walking sticks on the tree bark. This was real. This was life. This was being planted, slowly and surely.

Life starts in the dark, our hands deep in the dark soil. When it ends for someone we love, we feel the depth of that darkness, oh how deep it goes, on and on forever.

My prayer today, is that you’ll have a chance to put your hands in the soil, to grow something, to know that the cool, damp dark that hurts us so, also sprouts new life that will rescue us.

It takes a long time for something new to grow; it hurts. Our tears water each new seed.

The post Hands In The Soil appeared first on Debra Franke.

Shalom: Love Them From The Rooftops?

26 April 2019 at 17:16

There are moments when you feel the needle moving, when you feel the arch of the universe actually bending towards justice and love and shalom.

— Sarah Bessey

It was a long day at work. I was coming home, and looking for the slightest encouragement of budding pink and white blossoms on the bare branches of lilacs and magnolias on my street (Spring still felt far away), but no luck. I turned the corner of our busy street, and just as I pulled up to my driveway, thinking about what I would make for dinner, my attention was immediately drawn upwards, by something moving.

Turned out, there was a man on my roof.

I looked again. Yup. Definitely a man on my roof. It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the bright afternoon light, before he came into focus and I recognized him. It was my next door neighbour, walking slowly along the shingles with his back close to the upper windows, and then kneeling down. Turns out, he had climbed up there to lift up our cable which had fallen low to the ground, and to tie it back onto the little upstairs window post hook.

I have a fear of seeing my friends and family up on rooftops or anywhere high and what I deem to be dangerous, so I quickly stopped the car, left it standing there on some strange and awkward angle between the sidewalk and driveway, and jumped out.

“What are you doing? Are you sure you’re safe up there?” I called up to him.

“Oh yeah, no problem at all.” He had no worry in the world as he lowered his stomach to the shingles, reached out and tied the cable neatly to the corner of the house. “Maybe could you just hold the ladder while I climb back down in a minute?” he called back to me.

Yes, it was the least I could do.

The ladder leaned against his side of the house, where he had climbed up, and turned out to be his original invention: a very resourceful person, he finds discarded, forgotten, and ‘unloved’ items all over the neighbourhood while walking and biking miles each day, and loves them into something. On this day, he managed to build a ladder from scratch, since we didn’t have one tall enough, using two two-by-fours, and some metal racks suspended in between to form solid metal footholds. I’m used to baking from scratch, even knitting from “scratch,” but building ladders??

“You made this?” I asked. “How did you come up with this idea?”

“Oh yeah, it was easy. We needed a ladder, so I made one.” He shrugged it off, like he had made something as easy as a sandwich.

This same young man and another neighbour are planning to build wooden birdhouses next, with the wood they find on their travels around. I’m a bird lover (birds remind me of the present moment and how tiny I am in this universe, which humbles me). Together, we have found a couple of spots where they could be attached to our backyard fence. The same neighbours are helping us install our tiny ‘firefly’ solar lights. One of our same neighbours hand-built a beautiful pine railing for the front steps over the winter months.

I think about the roof and the cable being lifted back up. I think about the birdfeeders and the lights and the front step railing. I think about what family feels like, and this is it.

There are moments when you feel the needle moving, when you feel the arch of the universe actually bending towards justice and love and shalom. (Sarah Bessey)

These are the moments when I feel something different in the air, when my attention is peaked to look for what I cannot see, in the life I am used to knowing. When I feel the needle moving, to use Sarah Bessey’s wonderful worlds, towards better, and I know that things are being made right and moving towards shalom.

These are not just any neighbours, and this is not just any house.

We are all living in a duplex, with four bedrooms on each side. For some of my housemates and neighbours, life has been a difficult struggle, and this is the closest they have come in a long time to family living (and the biggest challenge they’ve faced to overcome their fears enough to take the chance on living with us). Living intentionally as community and family, we do our best to navigate being separate households, and yet to also create a space to help one another, depend on one another, and do life together. We aim towards better.

Some days are a struggle, but there are many days where love is shared like a spark of something pure and unexpected. Sometimes this means a movie together, sometimes dinner at the end of a long day, sometimes sharing a story of struggle, or finding a shared narrative in the world, and sometimes it means climbing on the rooftop for one another.

No one deserves to walk alone. Doing life together is the best way of moving towards justice and love. We don’t always do it well in our home, but it’s our intentional aim. Our best effort at being human and treating each other as human.

Who are you loving from the rooftops?

And who is loving you?



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The Magic of Creating

19 May 2020 at 14:39

A beautiful day for sitting outside with this inspirational book, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. The sun and birds singing and breeze and fresh air offers a sense of freedom and open space that gives me a good mental space for writing. I am reading Big Magic with my Creative Book Club. I love leading a group with such creative minds, and am inspired by them. We are currently reading the chapter on Enchantment, where Elizabeth Gilbert writes about creative genius and where it comes from, and also talks about the concept of “flow” or “being in the zone.”

I’m sure many of you have heard of this, and experienced this, especially if you are a creative yourself. Flow is the idea that we are so immersed in writing, art, or other kinds of creating, that we lose track of everything–ourselves, the time, our environment, the people and sounds around us, and more. It’s an amazing place to sink into, also known as “being in the zone.” Hours can go by and feel like twenty minutes. We might look back on our writing and think ‘wow, who wrote that?”

Gilbert discusses the historical Roman and Greek perspective on flow, as “being taken care of by some external divine creative spirit guide” and she says this: “I only rarely experience this feeling, but it’s the most magnificent sensation imaginable when it arrives. I don’t think there is a more perfect happiness to be found in life than this state, except perhaps falling in love” (pg. 67). I agree with her completely.

Flow, or being in the zone, doesn’t happen everyday (although I wish!). But when it does, and we suddenly feel that passionate connection to what we are writing and making, it’s very rewarding. All stress, worry and anxiety goes away. Our thoughts and problems seem to disappear. Our outer world gets much smaller, and our creating gets bigger.

I hope you get to experience this wonderful state of creativity, and I have three points of advice to help you:

1) Show up everyday: like a farmer working his farm fields, we have to work our creative fields. Never have I sat down after weeks of not writing, to find myself in a space of flow. It only comes when I show up for the work, day after day, and then at some point, creative inspiration shows up too and surprises me, like a wonderful visitor I’ve been watching for at the window.

2) Inspiring space: Where do you love to write? What can you add to that space to make it feel cozy, inviting, and creatively inspiring? In what space do you feel most safe and creatively free?

3) Trust yourself and the creative process: the blank page can be very daunting. As can a piece of clay waiting to be sculpted by hand or on the pottery wheel, as can that blank canvas waiting for your first brush stroke. It’s all laying before you like a giant red carpet, but you have to take that first step. It certainly can feel like stepping into the unknown and simply having to trust. Even the first few strokes or the first few pages may not turn on that creative ‘aha’ moment, but if you trust yourself and the process, I promise, eventually it will come.

If you want to join our Creative Book Club, just click on this link and send me your email, we would love to have you.

You can join at anytime, even if you don’t have the book, and haven’t read the book. I share enough readings from the book that you can follow along with our videos, Facebook group, emails, and discussion questions.

It is so good to learn about and participate in the creative process with a community of creatives around you. After Big Magic, we will be reading another title on creativity and/or writing. The title has not been chosen yet, but I am tossing around some great books in my mind.

If you want to see my thoughts, book reviews, and videos on the creative process, please follow me on Instagram @creatively debra.

Hope you find creative joy today!

xo Debra

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Jill Grunenwald’s Running With a Police Escort

15 May 2020 at 23:26

When I first picked up this book at Indigo Chapters, and started browsing through the pages, I found myself laughing out loud at the recognition of myself in this narrator. Written as a memoir, this never-giving-up runner finds herself always at the back of the pack and the end of the race, to the point where a police escort helps her get to the finish line (long after the race had ended). At first I found this surprisingly and charmingly funny, and then in the same second, I realized … this would be me. I knew I needed to read this book. Not only would I empathize with the narrator entirely, but she sounded like she could empathize with me. I needed some fresh running inspiration.

In my first race two years ago, I was second to last. In another race, I found myself in the last five. One race I even found myself running at one point as slow as a woman who was speed walking. In my running group, I am always at the back. But as our coach always says, it’s not speed that matters, and I have learned that the robin gets the worm, and the tortiose can outrun the hare.

So, while I remain a slow runner, it’s time to get back into the game, since the weather is nice and my Whippet puppy (who definitely runs about 25 miles/hour faster than I do) is a bit older now.

Can’t wait to pick up the pace again while picking up this book, and being inspired by Jill Grunenwald in “Running With a Police Escort: Tales From the Back of the Pack.” A book that is real, funny, and poignant, and ensures me not one single reason to quit.

Also, this book combines two of my favourite things: reading + running. I’ll just try not to do them at the same time, lest I take out a flagpole (ps lots of fun things happen at the back of the pack!). 

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Cheers to you Moms, we are rootin’ for you! Join our online retreat!

3 January 2020 at 11:52

We would love to join with you in our Body Mind and Soul Online Retreat for Moms. A few spots left, and so we have extended the deadline for a few more days. We don’t know your story yet, but we want to.


You have given all of yourself to everyone else. Now it’s time to love YOU. You deserve some time to yourself, time to rediscover who you are, time to find yourself again. Time to B-R-E-A-T-H-E.

Sometimes we need goals to get motivated, and peer support from others. I don’t know about you, but I am prone to avoiding what I need, until I really intentionally sit down and face it.

We have a great team of four awesome women, who bring a wide culmination of experience, in social work, counselling, mental health, anxiety & depression, stress, de-stressing, relaxation, mastering negative life patterns, positive thought work, yoga for peace and yoga for energy, chakras, positive body fitness, life story/narrative writing, therapeutic writing, journalling activities, personal freedom, and so much more.

Also, lots of freebies, videos and journal prompts you can keep, book recommendations, and more.

Only a few days left. Only a few spots left. We have an online Mama’s Clubhouse where you can join us to share your story, receive Live Q&A advice and support, and connect with us and other moms. Our team is here for you and ready to meet you!

Simply follow this link to save your seat. Don’t miss out on this online retreat opportunity, and all the personal connection and restoration that come with it.

You owe it to yourself, to celebrate who you are, and have a fresh start this January.

4 DAYS LEFT: THIS IS FOR YOU, MOMS!

27 December 2019 at 21:21

Here we are, the days between Christmas and New Years, feeling the slower lag of the holidays, that sort of ‘non-time’ when you don’t really know what day it is, when you’ve had too much sugar and not enough vegetables, and the air feels so much like foggy springtime you might think you’re celebrating the wrong season. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for the fresh start of New Years, and the chance to simplify my life again, declutter any stressful areas (both physical and emotional), and start anew.

Moms, I don’t know how you do it. You spend so much energy looking after your little ones, rocking your babies, running after your toddlers, tripping over Lego and blocks, finding new and original ways to get your kids to eat, working on sleep routines, arranging play dates, nurturing your family and wiping away tears after nightmares and sibling spats and disappointed hearts, balancing grocery shopping and dinners and careers … when do you ever get a chance to look after YOU?

We are so excited about our Body Mind & Soul Online Retreat for Moms starting in January, 2020, that is created uniquely for you. Do it from the cozy warmth of you home, at the time that suits you best. Put your kids to bed, pour a hot tea, cozy up with a blanket, and experience this retreat in just a short time each week. We want you to find relaxation and rest, to be able to reclaim balance in your lives, to rediscover who you are, and to find a safe space to be vulnerable, honest, and and understanding towards yourselves.

Save your seat and register here, by December 31st!

Come join us and show up for yourself. You deserve a moment that is just for you. Bring your presence and your mindfulness, and find self-compassion and love for yourself. It will change everything. A fresh start towards freedom, abundance, love.

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Hey Moms, do you want to ‘retreat’ with us?

21 December 2019 at 12:17

Need to relax, rest, reclaim balance in your life, and rediscover who you are?

Then this opportunity is for you! SAVE YOUR SEAT NOW! January is coming fast, and brings a time for fresh starts and renewal of peace.

Holidays are a time of joy, but they also bring stress, fatigue, and uncertainty. Especially if you are a mom with a new baby, or you have little ones, or teens. Parenting is HARD. And in the process of giving yourself completely to those you love most, you might have forgotten your own hopes and dreams.

And for all you Mamas out there who question yourself, judge yourself, feeling isolated or inadequate or like you are messing up, there is hope! You are not alone.

You do not need to be alone on this journey. You can walk with purpose and love and understanding from other mamas just like you. Find out more here, about our Body Mind Soul Online Retreat for Mamas.

Don’t miss out!

TOGETHER WE WILL

  • Increase our understanding and awareness of our stress and anxiety.
  • Work through setting intentions for our time together and our motherhood.
  • exploring new ways of nourishing their body, mind, and soul each week
  • Work through some serious mama mindset blocks and increase our understanding of the power of our thoughts
  • Dive deep into self-compassion and self-care in new and creative ways
  • Explore mindfulness & meditation and the incredible value they bring to our lives
  • Set ourselves to live a life of abundance (not depletion) – living a lifestyle that supports and feeds us.

HERE ARE 5 THINGS TO GET YOU STARTED, THE MOST IMPORTANT BEING YOU!

  1. A favourite journal. For me it’s a black leather-bound journal that says “Do what you love.”
  2. A quiet, uncluttered, and peaceful corner of your home where you can be alone for a short time each week.
  3. A symbol of relaxation, such as a lovely candle, scent, or pottery mug.
  4. A comfortable floor space, carpet or yoga mat, for some feel-good yoga moves for peace & energy.
  5. You! Bringing yourself, being present for yourself, showing up with your heart, and being compassionate towards yourself.

WHO ELSE IS COMING?

You will be joined in a quiet space for some time to “retreat”; however, you will also be invited into our online private Clubhouse for Mamas, where you can talk with us and other moms, be honest and vulnerable, attend Live Q&A’s and receive support.

SIGN UP HERE AND THEN RELAX.

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Every Mama Needs A Clubhouse: Will You Join Ours?

7 December 2019 at 15:46

Hey Mamas, do you remember that secret clubhouse we all adored or wanted to belong to, when we were kids? That tree fort, or garage, or abandoned shack where we sat on logs, drank Kool-Aid or a bottle of coke with a handful of licorice, scratched our initials in the wooden sun-patched walls, or gathered for roll call, our bikes sprawled in the long grass behind? The place where we could spill our problems, vent, build friendships, share about your lives, and feel like we belonged to something bigger than ourselves?

Well here we are, all grown up, and guess what Mamas? You still need a clubhouse! A meeting space, per say, a gathering hut, an online place or hub to come together and talk, vent, be safe and vulnerable, and learn and support each other. You deserve this. You owe this to yourself. You are beautiful, you are worth so much, and you are doing an amazing job in parenting and building a family.

And for all you Mamas out there who question yourself, judge yourself, feeling isolated or inadequate or like you are messing up, there is hope! And you are not alone.

You do not need to be alone on this journey. You can walk with purpose and love and understanding from other mamas just like you. Find out more here, about our Body Mind Soul Online Retreat for Mamas.

I see you Mamas, and I hear you. I admire you for your inner strength, your courage, your selflessness, your love, your give-everything-you-have attitudes and energy. I know you must be so tired some days, feeling a lack of purpose, not always knowing the best way to parent, not always loving being a parent, wishing you had more time to yourself, longing for some relaxation and even just a few minutes for a bath or time to read a book?

I don’t know your personal story, but I would like to. WE would like to.

This is how our Mama’s Retreat Clubhouse came to be, along with our bigger vision and dream, our online Body, Mind and Soul Retreat for Moms, starting in January 2020. It all started because we wanted to know your stories, your worries, your struggles, your hopes and your dreams. And we want to journey in them with you so you can reignite your motherhood spirit.

When you sign up for our online Retreat, you will be included in our Mama’s Clubhouse Retreat Facebook group, in which you will have check-ins, extra bonus materials, live Q&As, and a space to talk, listen and share confidentially with us and one another. A safe space for you to learn, discover, and rest, with the support of an understanding community.

This is a wonderful holiday gift for the mama you love, or a New Years Resolution, or perhaps just the lifesaving ring you were waiting for someone to toss you. This online Retreat is for you. Sign up by Dec. 15th and be entered for a giveaway retreat package as well!

I am so honoured to be on this awesome journey, offering care and support with three other amazing women who make up our Body, Mind and Soul team: Sarah, Ali, Jenn and myself. We all have something to offer: breath work, positive thought work, mindfulness, yoga for energizing and relaxation, intentional thought techniques, writing and journalling activities to release your creativity, extra bonus materials, and more. Together we bring years of experience in social work and mental health, yoga and Chakra experience, body positive fitness and well-being, and journalling/writing, life story, and narrative work.

And much mama experience.

This retreat is time for you each week, and only you. Time to find yourself again, Mamas. Time to dive into self-compassion, creativity, and relaxation. Understand the power of your thoughts, and learn some mindfulness and meditation. Discover a lifestyle of abundance.

You can even join us on a relaxation mindful nature walk and then reflect on the thoughts, images, and present moment attentiveness you have discovered.

Please follow this link below for more information and sign up for this awesome online Retreat. Do it at your own pace, in your own cozy and warm home space, and let yourself shine. This January, tuck your kids into bed, make a tea or hot chocolate while it snows outside, pull up a warm blanket, and have some time to yourself, some personal and sacred retreat time.

Join us! Body Mind & Soul Online Retreat for Moms.

You will also find us all on Instagram:

Sarah @ Mentally Healthy Me
Jenn @ Exhale Therapy Services
Ali @ Body Positive Wellness
Debra @ Away In Autumn

Watch for more details and feel free to comment and/or send me any questions you have. And most important, check out our link, sign up by the 15th of December, and set your New Years Resolutions and positive intentions now.

We hope to see you soon Mamas in our Mama’s Clubhouse, drinking a warm beverage and sharing stories. You can even bring some red licorice and some nostalgic memories of those good ol’ clubhouse days!


Signed,
Debra & the Body Mind and Soul Online Retreat for Mamas
xo

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From Lost to Found

15 August 2019 at 18:56

I am in the midst of reading a wonderful book called One Coin Found: How God’s Love Stretches To The Margins by Rev. Emmy Kegler. A book that stops me in my tracks to take a deep breath and ponder for hours. A book that inspires me to walk more deeply with those who are hurting and/or wounded by their family, friends, church, or community, and who are trying to find their own gender identity, sexual orientation, as well as their own identity at the heart of who they are and who they are becoming.

Emmy Kegler is a queer woman who grew up in the church and knows well how those who believe can use scripture to hurt and wound and exclude others. Her voice is nourishing, her stories are full and round with vulnerability. The book starts out with a beautiful quote from the wonderful advocate and late Rachel Held Evans: “Here is a church that colours outside the lines, a church full of what she calls “the impossibilities of God … the Spirit that moves in the margins.”

Many of Kegler’s words throughout the book have struck a deep chord with me: “I needed someone to tell me the truth: pain was real. So real, in fact, that to know what it meant to be human God put on skin and let that body be torn limb from limb. Pain was not escapable, pain was a reality.” Such an immediate connection with reality, in fact more than reality–a deep and significant truth.

Kegler has also helped me to better understand the book-ends between which such a rich continuum lives and exists (or as my own pastor and friend would say, the richness and full colour that comes between the extremes in the merism symbols): “I did not yet know Austen, now my best friend, who would teach me that “male and female,” like day and night, sky and sea, water and land, did not preclude the existence of sunrise and sunset, rain and snow, beach and riverbank, and trans and nonbinary.”

Merism (from the Greek, “divided”) is a rhetorical term for a pair of contrasting words or phrases (such as near and far, body and soul, life and death) used to express totality or completeness. Merism may be regarded as a type of synecdoche in which the parts of a subject are used to describe the whole. Adjective: meristic. Also known as a universalizing doublet and merismus. A series of merisms can be found in marriage vows: “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.”

from Richard Nordquist, https://www.thoughtco.com/merism-rhetoric-term-1691307

I am leading a friendly book club on Facebook and we are reading this book One Coin Found together. Would you like to join us? We are only discussing Chapter 3 so far. Send me a message if you’d like to read and discuss along with us. I consider it a safe space to share and learn together.

If you would like other recommended book titles, let me know, and if you have one to recommend, please let me know.

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What Makes a Dwelling Place Home?

31 July 2019 at 18:57

Can a parking lot become a dwelling place? Can a draped sheet become a home? This past summer, as the building next door became vacant and up for lease, a few homeless folks began camping out in varying forms of tents and dwelling places in the empty parking lot. Because the parking lot was right beside our living room and kitchen, and right under my bedroom window, I couldn’t help but notice the patterns of campsites and tents that evolved over the summer. I learned a little about tenting in this city closer up than I ever expected.

First there were picnic tables used as a gathering place, then eventually pushed together with a sheet draped between. Then a small fire pit was added between two tables, and rocks built up the fire pit, a few more added each day. Later in July, a new camp sprung up on the other side of the parking lot, closer to the building–more complex, with multiple sheets draped from the fence and building, a clothesline, a few bikes, and what seemed to be a wash station. A quiet camp, I enjoyed having them as neighbours and hoped to meet them if an occasion allowed.

I know there are many opinions on tenting in London, and I can’t begin to speak to these. I can definitely tell you I’m compassionate towards those who are tenting, because they’re most likely hurting, struggling, and homeless. But what I can tell you about most, is what I learned from one particular man who camped just under my bedroom window for several nights. He wore a muscle shirt, looked aged by life, and had a rough beard. He had several large carts piled with his belongings around the fence corner (and no, this wasn’t Sunny.)

He started out camping with a group, and slowly pushed them away one by one, until it was only him. He paced, he smoked, he took over the territory. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was upstairs in my bedroom, when I heard a lot of angry screaming outside my window. The man obviously felt a threat to his dwelling space, perhaps a place he was just starting to feel a little bit safe, and he seemed determined not to let anyone take that away from him.

I looked out the window. He was face to face with another man, both of them posturing and aggressive. He had a brick in his hand, and he was holding it close to the other man’s head, yelling and threatening to cause him serious harm if he didn’t leave. Finally after more yelling and cuss words and posturing, the other man did go, unwillingly, but peacefully enough. I was broken up inside, after witnessing the violence of the situation. Though I understood it would take a lot of past trauma and difficult life circumstances to create that kind of angry emotional barrier, I was still shaken up. Such aggression–what kind of hurt would it take for someone act that way?

The next day, the camp was gone. I heard from a neighbour that the police had been called. Later that night, I was walking with a friend down Queen Street in the rainy dark, when I spotted the same man, walking west with all of his carts. I almost didn’t recognize him. He no longer looked tough or aggressive or angry. Instead he looked tired and smaller, soaked from the rain, his shoulders weighed down, and he was struggling with his carts as he crossed over from one street to the next, coming back for them one at a time, and then moving them along in single file.

It was, through the dark rain, that I could best see his heart. That I could see God, and felt my own fear of this man transform into a newfound wave of hurting for him. I suspected trauma and vulnerability and sadness and fatigue. What kind of muddy dark depths had he been through, I wondered, to end up here like this? What kinds of things took him away from home, and what could possibly ever bring him back? What kind of dwelling place, even a makeshift tent or picnic tables pushed together, could ever feel like home for him? How much love would it take, and trust, and relationship, before any dwelling place would ever feel like home again?

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What Planting a Blue Spruce Taught Me About Life

28 June 2019 at 16:40

I call her baby blue, or Blue for short. She is adorable, growing fast, silver-blue, five feet tall. She has quickly taken on the steady and faithful role of watching over our house and neighbourhood street. Behind her people are camping out under a makeshift tarp and hiding away their hurt, across from her a man walked yesterday yelling and gesturing wildly with his arms, and beside her lives my village, my people, our community house family. She gently welcomes happily our daily watering, but really, in all her honesty, most prefers a steady summer rain. She was a gift from a good friend, and replanted beside our house one month ago. May I say, with all genuineness, she is a blessing.

Blue arrived through a bit of a mix up over where she would be planted. Her first suggested space became a flower garden, her second chosen place is a few feet south of the garden. The yellow petunias, hostas, red Flaming deminias (rhymes with Jalepenas is how my neighbour remembers it) and Lavender have a way of charming her I suspect, and her own blue needles lend soft shadows over the eyes of morning light hovering around the garden.

Silver blue. Blue green. Singing the blues. Baby blues. Blue jazz. Little boy blue. Blue velvet. Got the blues. Blueberries. Bluebells.

Blue started teaching me about life the minute she arrived in the back of our friend’s van, roots loose and losing some of their soil. We were emotionally exhausted as something upsetting had just happened the day before, and we were struggling with moving forward in decisive ways. Yet the fact that she would die if not planted, gave us a clear direction to follow, and got us grounded again. New life needs to be nurtured and protected above all else. What we are given we must cradle, love, and plant into the ‘already-grand-beauty’ of this earth.

She also taught me that transporting ourselves from one kind of soil–our place, our family, our home, all that we’ve known–to another, without community, preparation, and sensitivity to this kind of homesickness can set us up for hardship in our new environment. We hurt when we are limited from thriving. She also taught me that roots need room to spread. They don’t just grow down, they grow out. They reach for new love, new space, new direction, new challenges. With the right amount of space to grow into who we are and what we need most, we will thrive.

Blue taught me that three or more people planting a life is better than one. Holding her tall and adjacent to the blue sky, watering her roots, adding fertilizer, adding compost soil–the bigger the village, the better her chances for survival. She taught me that she fears not the dark, and not being alone, and instead she loves the stars overhead, quiet of the night, birds of the early, early morning, the sweet lone call of the cardinal. She fears not the human elements and unknown of the human heart and experience, and instead grows strong listening to the echo of the deeper earth, where all things are connected and alive together.

She teaches me miracles of new life. How to stand rooted and strong in a world where trauma exists, where pain happens, where hurt is deep. And also the gentleness, the tenderness, the love with which she sheds her needles, her gracefulness in letting go, as she creates a ground covering for the tiniest ants, beetles, grasshoppers. And a place in her arms for birds to land.

She also teaches me that in the area I live, which is on a downtrodden street left almost isolated in its burdens, where things go missing, get wrecked, and our welcome garden sign was taken, that the trees and beautiful gardens are still loved by all who pass by it, respected, appreciated, seen as healing. As though there is a recognizing of life that is more beautiful and healing than we as humans could ever be for one another.

She teaches me that we all continue to become more beautiful, in both good and hard and sorrowful situations. She already has new shoots all over, beautiful young tender bright green needles shedding their bud-casings. I thought this beauty meant her transformation was life-giving and plentiful. I have since learned that even if she was dying, she would still be sprouting these beautiful new shoots. That a tree cannot help but do what it’s meant to do, even in a journey towards death. Beauty comes in death, as in life.

She teaches me to believe in all that will someday be. To imagine what will happen in the years she grows tall and wistful and magnificent. To wonder whether I will be alive still, or returned to the divine, when she comes into her fullest height and breadth of life. And she teaches me that even though the blue spruce that we planted outside my bedroom window in the country along our rural roads when I was eight years old and had to be dug up and moved many years later due to her height and gigantic root system, that she will come back again, come round again, be faithful to me and the world I inhabited as a child. That her roots remain and my child will not disappear. Her symbol of peace never waivers. The presence of blue, like a soothing wind over the high waves of ocean is always steady. The blue of a sail. The blue of a saint’s eyes. The blue of never-ending life. Blue of heaven on earth, and fireflies, and sparks over a campfire, and hearts that were once broken but are finding their way back home. Blue.

On the edge of sleep.

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❌