Category: friendships


I am an occasional instructor in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at a nearby University. The OLLI program across the country is a college for seniors, age 50 and older, who come back to school just for the fun of learning, because it is NEVER too late to learn new things or buff up on skills and talents put side during the busy years of looking after others or working full time.

This past fall, I taught a course inspired by a wonderful book by the author Christine Valters Paintner. With a rather unusual title, “Nurturing Your Creative Spirit with Monastic Wisdom” the book shares Benedictine monastic practices and daily rhythms to deepen our spirituality in a complicated world AND guide us back to that  “room” in our souls where creativity is  birthed and stored,  hopefully followed by  the courageous  re-entry into our actual individual  time-apart studios to manifest artwork, poems, writing, sculptures or crafts.

Our class was exceedingly exciting as we employed various meditative practices from monastic life to settle down, reach inside ourselves within the context of silence and stillness, and find our way back to personal artwork and creativity in new and surprising ways, gathering up long ignored pen, paper, journals, paints, brushes and the like.  Our  daily inspirational mantra was a prayer from the Divine Muse, with which we initiated our creative endeavors awaiting the surprise of new expressive ideas:

“Now I am revealing new things to you.

Things hidden and unknown to you, created just now, this very moment!

Of these things, you have heard nothing until now, so you cannot say, ‘Yes I (already) knew that’ “

Some wrote exquisite poems, some shared reflective journal entries. One woman started an art project, a beautiful book of paintings..one for each of the monastic hours (Lauds, Vespers etc) with eloquent musings on each…and with delightful imagination, one woman made for the homeless, a comfy sleeping mat from colored plastic bags, much like a hooked rug, and complete with the ability to roll it up and carry with handles.

Crea Mona 4 Five

Crea Mona Se 4 One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our class was a total delight but our Eldest Elder was one of the most delightful creations herself.  “Joan” is well known and very beloved by all  who know her at OLLI. In her mid-90’s she attends a variety of classes for enjoyment, inspiration and, as she has told me a number of times, to find out what it is she is supposed to be doing with her life at age 95!

During the class she sat attentively up front as always, usually rather quiet until she has something to say.. generally a soft-spoken one or two-liner that catches us by surprise and makes us all laugh with delight…or a question that reveals a piercing depth of curiosity and wisdom that stops us cold to ponder.

Throughout this class as others brought their creations in for our opening “show and tell”, eliciting claps and smiles, we knew that Joan had not as yet gone back into her “studio”  to start painting again which had for quite a time, maybe years, been set aside. She was quite elusive about why she was unsure about doing it.

But then …..

On the last day of the class, she and her daughter came in with a surprise!

Joan had in fact gone back into her “studio”,  picked up her brushes and painted a picture of the rough ocean waters  near the sea wall after a wild storm! Like Joan herself who is quite a “modern-thinking”  Elder at 95, her painting is also modern in expression, impressionistic and with dynamic movement.

Crea Mina Joan PICA ED one 1 (2)

I am a Senior now as well, and the rhythm and responsibilities of life have shifted although I am still far from being  95 years old. With new “open spaces” in my days, I often wonder what I am supposed to be doing with my life now, knowing that it is up to ME to create the new meanings and that, given good health, I need to listen and follow The Divine Muse who has ideas for me to be creative and of service in a world so needing inspiration and beauty.

I think on one level, Joan’s work at 95 is being a “Muse” for us younger Elders… 

 And… for the record…..

We’re  paying attention to you, Joan!!

Crea Mona Group PICASA Blue (2)

From Christine, the Greening Spirit

"Write the truth"

 

 

 

 

 

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Every so often I need to write about the lost art of letter writing, which to me is a very sad indicator of a distressed culture, particular one that is originally and supposedly trained in literacy. 

Nothing can compare to the possible eloquence and depth of a personal  letter, thoughtfully composed with the express intention of intimate communication and deepening of relationship. A letter can connect two souls, hearts and minds in a way a dashed-off paragraph in an e-mail or a three-lined tweet can never do. And let’s not forget the bastardization of language, an inquiry of another’s well-being reduced to the single lettered laziness of a “how R U? ”

There is the revealing of personality in penmanship and unique handwriting and the historical treasure of wrinkled old letters and documents on parchment for the sake of posterity that cannot be conjured up and savored in sterile black and white print from a computer file.

Bringing us now to this essay’s main image of this sad abandoned mailbox. This was the mailbox out in the front yard of the home I used to own. My home,One time it was the receiver of a mix of the usual bills of homeowners and letters from family and friends…those personal letters so eagerly awaited when distance kept us apart from personal visits.

But then, over the years, technology changed (or rather, infiltrated) our culture,  people’s lives changed and the computer allowed a quicker “touch-base” communique easier on the run, but less informative. That mailbox became less and less receiver of the written voices of people, but more and more the temporary receiver of printed corporate billing and junk mail and flyers.

My mailbox began to lose heart.

Eventually the billing also went online, and that mailbox only became a holding place, until emptied, of colorful  and jumbled hastily stuffed-in fliers and paper junk advertisements which I refused to bring into the house.

Entered then the cultural change of a mailbox unit at the post office.

My poor mailbox was eventually overtaken by brambles and thorns..alone and abandoned by human connections, it became home to a small nest of bees. The happy ritual of going out into the yarden to check for a letter…a LETTER…or to say hello to the mailman…went the way of many of our rituals of belonging both to family and community.

On New Year’s eve this year, I made a decision (not a resolution) to write monthly letters to friends or family whom I deeply care for. I never know what I will talk about, but when I start writing I try to share stories or history or interesting things that invite dialogue.

So far only one person has written back. My brother. We still talk periodically on the phone, living 2000 miles from each other, but the letters elicit different thoughts to write about and to respond to. My children living very very busy lives (we hear that a lot, don’t we from our adult children?) have informed me that for now not to expect a letter as they are swamped with the responsibilities of family life, children, social events and have no time to skim a letter, let alone write one. I have to remember my days past when I sort of lived what they are living now but in simpler and slower style culturally. 

At least we have texting.

Still I know that spiritually and psychologically  a happy letter in the mailbox is a delight to see…and a surprise too..whether or not it is mindfully read in the moment.

Maybe I also know that I write a letter to them, for me, to allay the sometimes feeling of abandonment when we become…  well, you know..the Elders in the family apart from the mainstream of our once inclusion in active family life. I also feel that as an Elder in a fast-moving, superficial and skimming-over society, that I have a responsibility to share the stories ..our stories… for the sake of posterity.

Living now in an apartment complex, there is no lawn, no personal garden nor a mailbox by the road. There is a built in wall of mailboxes inside the building. My mailbox is only slightly smaller than my apartment, which of course is delightful..this my new home. But I will continue to write the letters, a practice akin to writing in my journal or on this blog. And if you are on the end,it would be grand to hear from you……. 

From Christine, the greening spirit

Moi 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is Valentine’s Day today and at this particular time in my life, I am once again my own Valentine, as I have been over the past several years. I am also at a time of looking backwards, mindfully pondering where I have been in my life, where I am, presently, in the very much appreciated NOW, and lingering with questions regarding where I am headed in the future, next, in this still unknown third chapter of life.

I have been child, teenager, girlfriend, wife, lover, Mother, Professional, Grandmother. I have been many things at various stages, overlaying one onto the other like those Russian dolls that nest within each other, starting small and growing larger with each new role. I have been them all and today on a rather unusually configured Valentine’s Day culturally, astrologically and spiritually, I especially ponder the “me” that has been both Tartalina, and Priestess.

Two things: Today’s Valentine’s Day also falls on the day of Ash Wednesday. From an astrological/archetypal point of view, this is a rather interesting mix:  An “8th House” mix for those who speak and understand the poetic language of astrology.

The” 8th House”  is about several things but commonly  sex and death are initially considered.  Today’s Valentine’s Day oddly contains both themes for those who honor or ritualize both the popular cultural theme of romance and the more serious spiritual and religious consideration of death. This Valentine’s day offers us the opportunity to consider both sex/love and death as important and transformative experiences with the invitation to fully embrace Life.

In sex/love, the heart is opened and beating with Life, passion and connection. In death, the heart and beating are closed and earthly connection is released. In sex and love we can be healed but also we can be wounded which when lost, is like a death. In death, we if spiritually inspired, dream or believe our spirits move into a place of total love and merging with the All. Ash Wednesday reminds us of that return back to from where we came.

Big things to ponder here.

But now back to Tartalina and the Priestess.

A number of years ago, a dear artist Friend named Madeline, gifted me on my birthday with a doll she made to celebrate the qualities of the sacred feminine and love of ritual that we both share. The Priestess doll represents the spiritual quality of  the Virgin-One-Unto-Herself experience and knowing that is in every woman, some of us a little more aware than others of the sacred times of ritual, connection to the holiness/wholiness of the earth, the seasons , the phases of the moon and planets and the many seasons and moods within us. This beautiful doll with the golden hair representing the return of Spring’s bright sun in the month of May (my birthday month) and the waning moon on her forehead foreshadowing release and letting go speak to the same qualities that we experience in our lives.  There is much to ponder in the symbolism that Madeline placed artfully onto the Priestess Doll.  The Priestess is all knowing of the cycles of life …birth, the fullness of Life,  and death along the continuum of our time here. She knows we come from ashes and to ashes we shall return.   And I am her.

The other doll is “Tartalina”, made in a private workshop Madeline gave to me and another close friend of hers. Both myself and that friend were coming out of complex and  passionate love affairs that broke our hearts and we were in great need of healing.

When coming out of a passionate relationship that has been “the best and worst thing that every happened to us”,  there is a decision to be made in the grief process as to whether we close our hearts totally in renunciation and self protection, or to, after a time, keep our hearts open to the new, to risk love once again despite having been wounded.

I created “Tartalina” to hold that broken heart open in love and understanding, and to honor the alive passionate sensual part of my nature that is as holy and private as my deepest spirituality. She is about owning and loving the sacred, mischievous, naughty, physical, spicy, tart-like feminine expression that is pure sensual delight. I created her to be beautiful and earthy with her long legs delicately imprinted with garden vines and green hair of nature and veriditas for these are earthly as well as spiritual powers. She is a Valentine. And I am her.

I am Tartalina and Priestess combined and in this middle phase of the blessed “NOW” between the remembrances of the Past and the as-yet unknown answers of the Future, I honor and love them both, knowing I can call their qualities and virtues back in whenever necessary.

An incredible Love Story: The Artist is Present: As she sits  silently for eight hours  looking into the eyes  of anyone who wishes to be seen, she is startled when an important lover from the past takes the chair in front of her. Deeply moving.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to me! …and with love to all of you as well!

From Christine, the greening spirit

Cranberyy 2

 

 

 

In Joan Chittisters’s wonderful book, “The Gift of Years”, she writes  “The French call the years after  (official) retirement ‘the third age’ “.  She goes on throughout this lovely book to encourage and cheerlead those from about the age of 60  right until past 90 to see this time period as one filled with many blessings, though of course requiring  some attitude adjustments.

One of the blessings of this time for me ( and I am still working/teaching part-time and far from 90!) is the ability to look backwards down through the years, coming to better understand where I had been, be more acutely aware of the preciousness of NOW in this moment, and have a new tenderness, patience and compassion for those who are ahead of me and closer to eternity.

Inotherwords, perspective.

We have different agendas at each phase of life and Joan’s book eloquently captures all of them in her fascinating chapters.  For me, people- watching at the beach often captures the poignancy, humor and understanding of the different phases we move through…an enjoyable pastime for me in the now-available “floating” times I have to meander out and about with my camera, trying to capture in images what Joan offers  in words.

The beach and beach walkers all have different agendas. I have grandsons and know so well how little boys cannot resist skimming stones and small rocks across the waves…testing how far they can throw their dreams out upon the waters. Is the horizon the limit? Or is there more adventure beyond that? And the retired couple…holding hands, a slow stroll, maybe no need for talking, reconnecting after the active frenzied life of  youth and the middle years of  work and accomplishments, family and friends and many responsibilities, challenges and adventures.

share different agendasI PICA MG_5686 (2)

What about the Girlfriends? Such a familiar scene…. best friends…when teenage, sharing giggles over boys, middle years, long commiserations about relationships and challenges with husbands or lovers, shared wisdoms about raising kids, sisterhood guidance about following new paths of inspiration…. and older years…women soulsisters reminiscing and proud stories of grandchildren and adult children, comparing notes about health and lifestyle changes… I love this picture of these two girlfriends, deep in conversation along the beach, determined to keep sharing stories besides the challenges of the swirling gusts of wind threatening to snatch hat or skirt hems.

share E Mat People Pic one

And then, there is another agenda that is not age-related, but “spirit’  related when beach time is a no- agenda solitary time to just be, bringing nature and soul together in solitude to the music of sea and wind.

SOLOFof Scar PICA little blue boy (3)

share Lady on the rocks PIC Fisherwoman (2)

I am glad to be in this “third age” of life, giving me time to devote myself to writing, photography and pondering where I have been up to this point, where I am NOW in this gifted moment, and how I want to craft my life living at the edge along the shores of existence. Always a walk at the beach will inspire me to know the right way for me to live more fully.

From Christine, the Greening Sprit

share E Mat two book hand (2)

 

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