Winter Queen

Free Bing photos

Free Bing photos

Oh that whore! She comes on like a beast. Whipping her snow and ice, demanding I heel. She blinds in her furious whiteness and pushes me hard against the door with her pounding wind. I slam it in her face and stumble to the stairs, breathless. I am Ahab and she Moby Dick.

“You shall not pass!” If I had Gandalf’s staff I’d have slammed it to the earth, but in truth, this statement is made rather weakly as she has, in fact, commanded me thoroughly all the way home. I have skated more than walked. Trudged bent, more than floated, regally. My fingers are stiff, my face wind burned and cold. I learned in karate, though, that if your opponent has greater skill, at least come out sounding ferocious. It may, in the end, be the only edge you’ll ever have. I head up stairs and unravel myself of gloves, coat and scarf. Snow pours off onto the floor and the cats scatter. My nose is soon running, but I am not put off. I stand before the dining room window and survey my winter kingdom and sniffle. I may be a snotty queen, but I am The Queen here.

Snow lifts off in waves from the roofs curling and swirling and slamming back hard toward the earth. Trees rock and sway in the gusting winds and the broken slot in one of my gutters whistles and moans. I startle at the sudden whipping of the screens against the windows, but regain my composure lest she think she has caught me off guard. She is impressive, I must give her that, but I am no puny human. I raise my arms up to command the winds, “Regale me with your winter taunts, you nefarious witch! Tear the shingles if you must, I will not be intimidated.” Admittedly, my cavalier stance comes from good homeowner’s insurance, but she knows nothing of this. She only sees my defiance and strength.

“I, not you,” I hiss, venomously with flashing eyes, “am the Winter Queen here!”


Couple at Johnston Lake: Photo by Noelle

Couple at Johnston Lake: Photo by Noelle

My neighbor’s wife had a stroke, not sure how long before I moved here. He is her full time caregiver and maybe in his early seventies. On a rare occasion, when the weather is warm, he brings her out to sit in a lawn chair in the garage and feel the sun. He will listen to talk radio or in baseball season the Rockies losing badly to someone. Every day he walks his chihuahua who barks as if he were a pitbull about to take your leg off. Though the sound can be grating, I can’t help but be impressed by the bravado of a creature that would be a single gulp to a real pitbull. My neighbor shares with this tiniest of fellows the only walks of freedom he knows all day away from his wife. Sometimes he leaves his dog out on the porch below mine late at night and the dog barks persistently to come in. I realize without seeing that my neighbor has likely fallen asleep in front of the TV and forgotten the dog. I wake him to bring the dog in by knocking at his door. He always seems so embarrassed, but I can feel his exhaustion, as he stands in his T-shirt at the door. I’m not sure how to say I’m not worried about the dog, just him.

The neighbor caddy corner to me never opens their shades. I haven’t a clue who or how many people live there, but the lights are on each evening. Winter, spring, summer, fall… Always down. I used to wonder if such people are hoarders, but over the years I’ve learned some people see only a world within, while still others fear the world without.

Two doors over and a flight down a grandfather comes out regularly with his golden retriever and grandson. Oh how the boy giggles and delights in the golden hip dip in snow. Across the parking lot a man stands, cigarette in his mouth, and watches without any interest; never looking away, but not looking at them really either. I wonder what he sees in the ring of smoke that circles his head. I don’t think his wife lets him smoke indoors. This is also true for my neighbor to the west. She sits in her running car, in the garage, with door open, smoking at all hours. I once approached thinking she’d accidentally left her car running. Given her irritation with my query as to whether she was all right, it was evident she’d been asked this before. Opportunities to a smoker to smoke are oddly sacred things, since it’s become an ordeal to do it. I used to smoke, so I get it, but listening to her react I realize how much I don’t miss it.

The planet is covered in billions of lives. Each person carving out their own patterns and habits. Living out stories we know nothing about. It’s not our business what all these people do, but sometimes it’s worth bearing witness to what we don’t know about so much that we see and take for granted as pieces of our own weird little world’s. My neighbor two doors down is as mousy a person as you could ever meet, but her penchant for holiday lights, banners, window displays and colorful decorations year round goes unmatched. She a gray mouse has a vibrant dragon inside her soul that pours out all over her front stoop. I rarely see her out, but I will return home and Valentine’s Day is gone and a lucky clover leaf greets me as I walk up. She is both a caricature of dime store decorations and someone entirely unknown to me beyond my random observations.

Who am I, I wonder, to all of them? What do they see as they see me come and go day to day? Am I acting out of blind habits I’ve performed a thousand times or am I mindful of who I am in this moment and who I am becoming? So many moments pass with little attention that I cannot take back. Somehow it seems very important to really see this moment and feel what is happening in it. It may make no difference to my neighbors, but I’m thinking it should make a great deal of difference to me.

Teaching Ducks English

Free Bing Photos.

Free Bing Photos.

I’m not sure how I got lost. The moon was out and I’d chosen a wooded trail, but with unseasonably warm weather the snow had all melted and it proved darker than I’d expected. I’d been following the creek which meandered off to my left. I’d hear it occasionally babbling away in the dark; happily, contentedly, peacefully. Such a lovely sound, but then at some point I realized I was running into more trees. As I looked back over my shoulder to see if I could discern the trail I stepped full on into the creek. A pair of mallards had been sleeping in the same spot and my sudden arrival sent them into the air dashing right by my head as they aimed for the creek. (Okay, maybe an exaggeration, but if FELT like they flew by my head) Such a ruckus they made, and now completely startled, I screamed stumbling backwards, slipping on some river stones and bum-planted into the muddy embankment. For a second, I was a bit stunned, until that comedian’s voice that lives in my head suddenly piped up, “It’s always a good time until someone ends up in the river”. If I hadn’t been so cold I might’ve laughed. The birds continued to squawk and quack announcing to the entire woodland that the sky was falling, as they splashed down into the creek maybe fifty yards out.

“What are you all quacking about?” I hollered at them, completely flummoxed, “I’m the one in this bloody snow melt with no duck fat!”

Ducks will gad on, long after they’ve headed downstream, as if they are endlessly calling back rude comments at you.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” I mutter as I pulled my now cold, wet and muddy arse out of the creek. “Everyone’s gotta an opinion. Move on,” I call out as strong as a Boston beat cop. “There’s nothing more to see here….” The birds ignore me, but their quacking is now idle bitching and I stumble back toward the trail.

Profanities are a greater gift than most people realize. In such moments they give real vigor to an otherwise completely impotent moment. The “F” word in particular is not only The Great Profanity, but one of my favorite words in the English language. No word holds its influence or power. We use it to express anger, fear, love, passion, confusion and brimming joy. It’s a noun, a verb, an adverb and an adjective depending on our predicament. On this occasion I used it liberally on the long and numbing walk home. I make no apologies. My feet were colder than Icelandic cod three days dead. If the ducks were offended I can hardly be held to blame. I certainly didn’t teach them English, but if I did, I would’ve definitely started with the “F” word.


No idea where these images are from. My Aunt Liz sent them in an email.

Ah Valentine’s Day… A chance to remember love, yes? If we let go of the chocolate, diamonds, and Hallmark cards what is left? What is love beyond this day of hearts and flowers?

It is your complete awareness of your beauty alone in the dark.
It is laughter at your own jokes.
It is a willingness to be yourself despite what anyone else thinks.
It is dancing badly and singing even worse.
It is having such faith in the sacredness of all life you leave all to be who they are.
It is remembering why you fell in love with a person, a place, a song.
It is risking your former self to discover who you haven’t met within you yet.
It is making sacrifices because your inner love can’t help but spill onto all whom you love.
It is an inner well of such goodness you withhold judgment and criticism
It is a generosity of spirit that sees and expresses divine beauty and grace to all whom you meet.
It is filling your heart with the smallest, most mundane moments of your ordinary life and feeling immense gratitude for them.
It is knowing that the Universe pours love on you as a great river without ending.

Nothing brings love through the front door. It grows out of you as the oak from the acorn. It rises up a great fountain and floods your Universe. You are not empty and given love. You are love and when you anchor your mind there the world explodes in more facets than any diamond you have ever seen.

Happy Birthday

Re-posted from Art For Ever Facebook page

Re-posted from Art For Ever Facebook page

Last night, on the eve of my birthday, I stood out on my deck. A storm front was rolling in and the air was cooler than the day’s had been, but still lovely to the skin. I focused for a good bit on that feeling of wind on my hair, face and arms. I let myself fall as deeply in love with that feeling as I have ever allowed myself to feel for anything. I asked myself if this moment was my last would this be enough? Was this moment all my life ever needed to be? Could I say it was the most satisfying life ever, if this was the pinnacle moment? I wept with how strong the yes came. For years, I have, like everyone else pondered what needs to be in my life to be happy. What needs to change or be different? What do I need to ‘do’ for my life’s mission to be attained. Honestly, it’s hard not to write, blah, blah, blah. We have it so backwards. It is never anything happening in our life or acquired or become. Those are all extensions of ourselves. Without self love there is nothing else. When you have self love you need nothing else. The simplest things become exquisite. Even now writing this that air still moves over my skin and I almost can’t contain the joy it gives me. I turn 52 today. I was born at 2:50pm and my mother used to say, to stretch out my birthday, that technically my birthday does not start till then and goes till the next day. I’d say it begins now and goes forever. What a lovely gift to give myself. Today, I give it to all of you. Happy Birthday to all of you. Today is the first day of your life. It is the best day. The only day. The most beautiful day. If you can focus on only one thing in your practice, make it self love. Love yourself with all the passion and power you have ever given anything in your whole life. Everything changes on that single decision. Absolutely everything.

Over the Hill

Anticipation builds as you climb the hill and near the crest or travel the road that comes to a bend. You could come this way a dozen times and you never lose the sense of magic at what lies around the corner or over the hill. It is as ingrained in our spirit as the breath of life itself. We are meant to explore, discover and ponder this Universe we were given. We are all adventurers, though some of us have fallen asleep in the field. Comfy we’ve become that we are more like a cat in a sunny window, even when the sun has diminished and the earth has grown cold.

Wake up, wake up, you sleepy head! Do not linger in this spot for too long. There is more of Magellan in your belly than the sitting hen, you oft convince yourself you’ve become. Listen closely. Do you not hear it? The trail calls just over the hill. Just over the hill and around the next bend.

Snow Falls Gently

Free Google images

Free Google images

It came in so quick. Probably didn’t help that I’d left late, which is rare for me. Everyone had been driving at standard, rush hour speeds, and then brake lights lit up the pre-dawn morning, as the roads went from merely wet to snow covered and slick.

I look out my windshield and the snow is quite beautiful.

The white, probably 80’s vintage 280Z is clearly in a hurry and rides the bumper of the only slightly newer Ford Bronco. I turn away, not to feel the anxiety of a rear end that hasn’t happened yet. My hands are gripped too tight on the wheel. I focus on relaxing them. I have that odd displaced feeling of not being wholly in myself. Sort of half there and half outside the vehicle trying to project my senses forward.

The snow falls in big flakes I want to touch. So peaceful – snow and all this darkness. Mother Nature’s crazy womb.

There is no reason for concern. This is a good car with all wheel drive, new tires and anti-lock brakes. I’ve got this and yet I find my hand rubbing my neck. A Pathfinder rushes past, only to come to an even faster halt up ahead with a slide. Feeling his movements sets my nerves on edge.

The evergreens off the interstate are already covered in winter white in a matter of minutes. In my mind I can feel the cool wind standing in front of them. They wave in the winds coming on this storm front. I wonder if they are beckening me out of the car.

A Toyote slides sideways two cars up and all of us brake. My breath catches and I hear my inner mantra on over drive, “I’m okay. I’m okay.” I see another slide a bit in my rearview mirror.

As we enter a smaller valley the wind is cut off and the snow falls so gently here. It’s magic as I look off from the road.

In pioneer days we’d all stay in and wait till it’s over. How advanced we’ve become, eh? The Toyote recovers sort of and begins moving again. He is our lesson and we all move at a crawl. I find myself estimating the pace to the time I’ll arrive at work. I’ll be late. Stomach tightens a bit. I wish the car behind me wasn’t so close.

The snow falls gently.

Relaxing my hands again from the wheel I take in a few deep yogic breaths. Look how smoothly this car moves. This should be my focus, not the car’s hazard lights off to the side of the road. The woman is talking frantically to someone on her cell. My heart beats slightly faster as I remember what that feels like.

Rooftops glisten in all that white. Drab winter grays and browns are gone. A winter wonderland in less than ten minutes. I crack the window a bit to feel the cold air. It’s fresh and clears my mind a bit. Bits of snow ping my face and somewhere in me I know I am not separate from this beauty.

I try music, but it is too distracting at the moment. Three cars have come to a head in an effort to change lanes. No one has hit the other, but they are trying to determine who will go first in this darkness and snow. One of them struggles to find any lane. We all hold back to let the scene sort itself out.

The snow falls gently. I watch it melt on my windshield. What it would be like to stand in the middle of an open field and let it melt over me?

It’s all in timing and perspective, isn’t it? Seven at night and I could be in that field. Seven in the morning and I’m gripping the wheel. Not going to work and it’s beautiful. Getting to work it’s an obstacle to navigate. A different day or a different hour and everything shifts. How many things are like that in my life, I wonder? Just a different day or a different hour. A slight turn of my mind from the obstacles in front of me to the mystery and beauty all around me. I wonder…

The snow falls gently.