Archive for December 2012
The skies have cleared and the snow has stopped falling leaving the world freshly scrubbed with glistening white. I went for a walk in this windscape of white feeling the light wind burning cheeks and nose, knowing that I was alive and present. There was no space left for thinking, just being. At my side, my wife walked with me. We turned to see each other knowing that it was a good thing, that we were in a good place.
The last day of 2012 is here and I have continued to post blogs here, however not as frequently as in the past. I do want to finish the year with a post to share with you. Tomorrow I will be with my eldest child and her family for a turkey New Year’s evening meal following an afternoon at a hockey game. I know I wont be thinking of the blog site or anything else while I am with my two eldest grandsons and their parents. I am learning that being present involves more than just body presence.
Returning home the next day it then becomes time for packing and re-packing our bags in order to finally decide what goes and what stays in the bags. Of course we will have packed too much while worrying that we haven’t packed enough.
As I go through each day until we fly off, I continue to practice being present, even for the little things like doing dishes or other daily task. And each day I will take time to meditate with wishes that each of you can be freed from worries and suffering.
Happy New Year! – Bonne et Heureuse Année! – ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!
Yes, this is the temperature as I am writing this blog post. The sun has come out and it has warmed up from the -25 C that was the norm for the past few days. A look at the long term forecast tells me that we can expect more of this more moderate winter conditions until our departure for Latin America.
Preparing for a change of climate and change of culture is time consuming as well as being filled with some anxiety. Having booked our accommodations on-line in places we have never before visited, we are left with more unknowns than known conditions. Will the various apartments and cottages meet our basic expectations? Will we have good access to local stores so that we can live as if we are at home, cooking our own meals? Will there be enough local diversions to stave off boredom that would come from too much sitting around? Have we packed enough stuff to meet our needs? Have we packed too much stuff that will just weigh us down as we travel from one locale to another? Will I be able to navigate the country of Belize satisfactorily while we are weighed down with our backpacks? Will my knowledge of Spanish be sufficient for interacting with local people? Will there be good enough access to Internet to allow me to connect with you here? Questions, questions, questions.
Of course, I have done my homework in hopes of making this journey of three months a fairly stress-free journey. At the time, the most anxiety comes from a different question, “Will my camera arrive back in Canada before we leave?” While visiting my grandchildren in America, I left my camera in their home when we left to return to our home. The camera has been packaged up and sent to us by one of the major carriers. It is supposed to be here by January 4th, a good thing since we leave our home on January 7th. But of course, the gods and goddesses have to be willing to allow the camera to get here without incident. If fate decided differently, I at least have another camera I can use, the one I used to take today’s photo. It isn’t a DSLR, but it is a decent camera for a point-and-shoot model.
Technically, Joseph isn’t supposed to be the father of the baby Jesus, at least that is what any God-fearing Christian would say. Jesus is the son of the creator, a deity Christians call God. But of course, we are all sons and daughters of that which we have a multitude of names, the creative force that gave birth to the universe. As I look at this image, a painting by Guido Reni (1640), I see myself as a father and as a grandfather with his son or grandson.
As I looked into the eyes of my own son when he was a newborn I was in wonder of the miracle of life. I had acted as a creator and what I had created with the participation of his mother, was immortality. As I looked at my infant son I saw that I had been saved from nothingness, that the human race had found yet another saviour who would follow in the footsteps of his father to create yet another gift of hope for humankind.
As I looked into the eyes of my grandsons upon their entrance into my universe, I was again amazed, not at anything I had done, but amazed at how the gift of life traces its course from the beginning of possibilities to some undated and unknown future when the cycle of birth, death and renewal. The promise of hope that each child gives us is the gift that is celebrated at Christmas, at the darkest time of year when we need the reassurances that there will be a new cycle to live, a new year of light to come.
Christmas is for children, Christmas is about children. The greatest gift of Christmas is the hope the children bring to the hearts and souls of adults who have become too close to the darkness, fearful of the darkness.
Four days visiting with our youngest grandson and his family were almost all about playing. Of course Grandma got to do a lot of baking with our daughter-in-law and a few other things while I got extra time with this young man who has more energy that can be imagined. There is no slow speed for him, just top speed until he drops in the early evening when it is time for bed.
Grand-parenting is a vital task. Grandparents are magical people due to their unconditional acceptance and their ability to maintain focus on a grandchild. Unlike a parent who must multi-task, a visiting grandparent has basically one task, being a grandparent.
Tomorrow we are off to watch our oldest grandchild play hockey and have an early Christmas celebration before driving the next day to visit the rest of our grandchildren. I will post when I can.
I have to admit that I am sad, heartbroken, angry and more – all at the same time. Again there has been murder with guns in another school in America, the land of guns, guns, guns. I have to admit that I am not really surprised. Owning a gun is considered a god-given right and is legal to carry to schools in certain states in America for reasons of personal safety.
Officially, more that 16% of American youth under the age of 25 are unemployed. That number doesn’t include those who have dropped out of the job search market or have yet to try looking for work in ways that would get them noticed. The myth that America remains the land of dreams where anyone can be a millionaire or become president of the country or the CEO of an organisation in spite of the fact that the “winners” of this American dream accounts for only one percent of the population. We teach our children to dream the dream then abandon them as we break up our homes through divorce or abandon our children to televisions or the latest media babysitters such as smart phones, and game consoles. When we do show up at home, we teach them that drugs and alcohol are our preferred means to numb our own fears and disappointments. We do our best to disguise, to cover up, to mask our feelings, our fears, our desperation. We do not teach our children well. To make matters worse, we disable our schools so that they can’t effectively parent in our stead. We become a nation of neurotics with the occasional psychotic episode erupting such as in Newton, Connecticut on December 14th, 2012.
In 1912, Carl Jung commented that America “will either master its mighty forces or be mastered by them.” Contemporary evidence suggests that we are being mastered by these forces. America has incarcerated more of its population than any other modern western-world country. Violent death by guns and other weapons continue to exceed that of most other countries in the world. And the violence isn’t decreasing. We seem hell bent on imprisoning as many as possible, especially those who are suffering mental illness. No wonder that Jung said that America was a neurotic nation, a nation that must learn to live with its shadow rather than trying to barricade that shadow behind bars or in mental institutions or behind a very lucrative pharmaceutical industry. What little real therapeutic help is available is, for the most part, priced out of the reach of our youth, our minorities and disadvantaged.
Access to mental health care is not a right. Whatever mental health care that is available comes at a very high cost, much higher than the purchase price of a gun. Mental health coverage, when available, is often limited to a small number of sessions with the bulk of help offered in the form of pharmaceuticals. Now, as a mental health professional, there isn’t much I or you can do about the issue of gun control outside of supporting local, Provincial/State or National initiatives, but there is something I/we can do with regards to the issue of access to mental health care. We hold the keys to our practices whether or not we are independent or in an organised practice. We have the skills and the wisdom to help with the underlying mental health factors which sometimes erupt in tragic events. The only question is do we have the will?
It’s early morning with dawn a few hours away. The Christmas lights are on in anticipation of a new day. I treasure the colours that emerge in the darkened house lit only by the Christmas lights on the fireplace mantle and on the tree. There is a warmth promised, an invitation extended.
The chair holds one, and that one could be you, would be you if you would allow yourself to be transported into this world of golden colour. The chair is old. older than me. I found this chair in a shed in the north country, a place of wildness, a place of broken dreams and dreams yet to be born. Restoring the chair took many hours of careful work, grateful work that helped filled long winter hours.
In this chair, children were held, fed and comforted. It is a chair that has known so many stories yet knows how to keep its counsel, to keep secrets. This chair has followed me from home to home knowing that it isn’t the four walls that build a home, but the hearts within those wall. So, for a moment, take a seat and feel the warmth of my home.
Sometimes it seems nature wants to make statements to humans. In the evenings in our town, just like in many other towns and cities in the modern western world, there is a dedicated effort to set out coloured lights to mark the approach of the Christmas season, or the approach of winter’s solstice. Regardless of all our efforts, it only takes a moment for nature to make a grand statement that dwarfs human efforts.