Contemplating the lines life has marked into my skin

 

“I wear my wrinkles like battle scars, having earned every last one slaying life’s dragons. They boast of my victories and some defeats while their beauty is a wealth of wisdom gained.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Slaying Dragons

I caught sight of my face, now aging, the fine lines and the not so fine lines criss crossing once smooth surfaces.  Some I dislike, others worry me not.  Those emerging, vertical puckers above my top lip repel me (can I say they are from a lifetime of kissing and thus portray myself as a passionate woman? I think not). Am I past my used by date?  Washed up, damaged, diminished?

According to the pagan stages of womanhood I am on the cusp of Crone; no longer a Maiden and leaving behind the bounty of Mother. You know what? I am not associating with that label any more.  Once it did not concern me.  I embraced the wisdom of Crone but now, standing in this place, I reject the western connotations of Crone being dried up, past a used by date.  Instead I step into the Maga phase and embrace it.

Jane Hardwicke Collings explains that now women live longer and that motherhood begins later an additional phase of womanhood has emerged; that of Maga.  This is the extended Mother phase, after Mother and before Crone. Maga is the autumn season of a woman’s life, the harvest, an integrative place. The Crone is the winter season, the season of “retirement”, life review and letting go. The Crone’s life is inwardly focussed, she is in contemplation mode, a distillation of her life lived. She philosophises, tells stories, prays, gardens and gathers with other Crones. The changes to her body and brain necessitate a quieter existence, which enables a ripened access to spirit. She is the wise woman.

I’m not yet Crone and recent upheavals have helped me see I am not ready for this stage. Very recently I have been sent spiralling (when I know how I will write about it). The path before me and the environment around me changed suddenly, through no choice of my own, and while fearful, there is a future I have yet to create and I know am far from the retreat of Crone.  I am seeing a strength I had forgotten. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I have and continue to collapse into tears of heartbreak and eddies of despair but I glimpse an inner fortitude that is shining away – ready to light my path.

I reflect on my earlier questions – “Am I past my used by date?  Washed up, damaged, diminished?”  Oh, for sure, I have been damaged along the way but I am fuller and more sturdy as a result (or soon will be). Diminished – hell no.  Life throws many things at us and we can choose how we respond.  I am choosing to place delight and mystery, joy and love  of self back on the shelf.  I will no longer be sucked dry of them.  I allow the hidden order and secret meanings of my life to reemerge, into full view, and explore how that feels. I choose to bring my life into better alignment with my values and beliefs.

Am I past my used by date? No way. I sense already, while not fully transitioned from my old life into the new, that I am arriving at myself.  I can see a freedom that comes with a developing confidence; a lightness at shrugging off imposed (many self imposed) boundaries, routines and habits that kept me from being my true and authentic self. I kind of like the idea of recreating my life (deep breaths to stave off panic). Like Salvador Dali, I am open to life teaching me, even if that means more of those fine lines and wrinkles but if I never look in a mirror perhaps they don’t exist. Right?

“Let the labyrinth of wrinkles be furrowed in my brow with the red-hot iron of my own life, let my hair whiten and my step become vacillating, on condition that I can save the intelligence of my soul – let my unformed childhood soul, as it ages, assume the rational and esthetic forms of an architecture, let me learn just everything that others cannot teach me, what only life would be capable of marking deeply in my skin!”
― Salvador Dalí

A year of inspiration: Inspired by the daily prompt; wrinkle” and by my loving son who helps me to see the light.

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Suddenly

“Sometimes life takes you into a dark place where you feel it’s impossible to breathe. You think you’ve been buried, but don’t give up, because if truth be told, you’ve actually been planted.”
― Karen Gibbs

I suddenly found myself unable to breathe.  My heart ached from the pain of the news just delivered. I’ve been crippled by it, weighed down and tormented by it for a month now. It’s like no pain I’ve ever felt. It feels like my heart is expanding beyond its borders, about to explode and yet, it feels gripped, pinched and constricted, tight and throbbing. I look down and can see it frantic through the fabric of my dress.

My heart may well be broken. It aches so.

And yet, in the midst of the pain,  I realise there may exist that silver lining they speak of. I glimpse the opportunity to restart and rejuvenate, to renew. I try to focus on the opportunities that lay ahead and of the freedom to grow and expand and to revel in life again.

Suddenly, I realise I’ve been planted and breathe a little easier.

Assayed by the Universe

Indeed, this life is a test. It is a test of many things – of our convictions and priorities, our faith and our faithfulness, our patience and our resilience, and in the end, our ultimate desires. Sheri L.

I have to admit, I’ve not used the word ‘assay’ and had to look it up. It’s used quite a bit in Pharmacology and Metallurgy but the definitions were intriguing and have a wider reach.

Assay (əˈseɪ,ˈaseɪ)

  • To analyse for one or more specific components to determine its ingredients and quality
  • To determine its purity; to judge the worth of
  • Examine (something) in order to assess its nature.

Every now and then life tests us in dramatic and unexpected ways and we are exposed to an analysis that reveals our inner essence. We face trials that bring to light our true nature and we get a deeper understanding of the ingredients that form us.

Why does the universe assay us? The universe doesn’t need to do this to inform itself. It is, I suspect, for our own growth and development. For us to truly see ourselves—to see the shiny parts, the precious parts, the components that make us unique; the ingredients worthy of celebration, of honing, of sharing.

If the universe is testing you it has a lesson it wants you to learn.  It may be a difficult to navigate through the obstacles of the test and it may be an emotional and challenging experience but there will be a lesson—one you’ve missed before. The part I find hard about learning lessons is to trust and have faith that the universe has my back.  I find it hard to surrender. I find it hard to relinquish control and allow the unfolding of what is.  I want answers, I want to see the outcome, I battle against the discomfort. I guess that’s normal.  Three cheers to you if you can surrender and have faith.  I want some of what you have.

In small moments, amidst the turmoil, there is clarity where I can see what I am meant to see.. Where I understand the lesson to be learnt.  These snippets are worth holding onto. These small awarenesses will help me to find my way again when the clouds have cleared. Look for them if you too are in the middle of a perfect storm.

 

A year of inspiration.  Inspired by the Wordress Daily prompt

Shackled

Shackled.
Distracted by craving,
Greedy with hunger,
An appetite to create.

Eluded.
The subject remains hidden,
Blank pages unscathed by ink
Canvases bald.
Languishing.

Barren are the recesses of innovation.
Desolate—the wastelands of creativity.
No spark.
No glint or glimmer.
No muse.

An impoverished artist—
Defeated
Beaten
Cast away
Aching.

Framed

 

If the eyes are windows to the soul, what are windows?

Arches, doorways and windows offer perfect frames through which to present the world.  These photos are a handful of the many, from my travels, that offered me a chance to observe and absorb the world in digestible portions. (Above: Duomo in Florence)

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi—can’t believe my luck to have this view from both the restaurant table and my convent room window.

Ruins in Rome

A glimpse of the sea from my room in Riomaggiore

Within Rembrandt’s house museum, Amsterdam.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting


In life we wait.
There is a distinction between the kinds of waiting one is required to abide.

There is waiting that must be endured such as waiting for—a bus, an appointment, test results, news from a lost loved one …

There is waiting that is observed with tolerance. We wait for the traffic lights to turn green, the kettle to boil, the pizza to arrive …

Outside these watch checking, magazine flicking, foot tapping, finger drumming, carpet pacing moments of waiting there is anticipation—a different kind of waiting.  Anticipation flutters, it tingles.  Anticipation contains expectation—like the countdown to a holiday or a long-awaited reunion with a dear friend.

Today’s prompt took me back to the top of Brinkley Bluff on the Larapinta Trail, in Australia’s Northern Territory, where we waited in anticipation for the sun to set.

The juxtaposition of elevation

Elevate

Two Images juxtaposed —

ethereal, cheesecloth clad, crystal waving souls
floating
to unexplored realms
faces raised to the light,
smiling in joyful anticipation

 —

black suited, anxious bodies
riding steel contraptions
to the next meeting,
heads down,
foreheads creased,
thumbing messages into small devices.

—Merge!—

Elevate
Rise
Ascend

 

The wonderful art of learning

Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.   Anon

As an educator I love learning. Not all lessons are learnt in a classroom nor taught by teachers. Life has a wonderful way of teaching us new things. Today I was pleasantly surprised, through a small detour in my routine, to learn about a type of printmaking called collagraphy.

Collagraphy is a form of printmaking where the artist creates prints from ‘plates’ upon which they have adhered textured materials in the form of an image. Lithography, in contrast, begins with the artist chiseling the image out of the plate from which they wish to create prints.

Ink or paint is added to the plates. Once printed colour can be added to emphasise details at the artist’s discretion.

Artist Jacky Lowry is currently showing an exhibition, Western Wonders, of her collagraph prints at the Caboolture Regional Art Gallery.

I am soaring after this quick lesson and immersion in her work.
Who will educate me next?

Scaling new heights in Rome

Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world the way they’ve been told to.  Alan Keightly

I’ve climbed a few mountains in my travels. I’ve scaled the 1237 steps to the Tiger cave temple in Thailand and made my way up several other steep staircases to magnificent temples, castles and rooftops all around the world, but the hardest climb I’ve ever made was up just 28 wooden steps in Rome.

My journey up the Scala Sancta, the Holy Stairs, also known as Pilate’s Stairs was one made on my knees.

The Scala Sancta are housed in one of the most important papal sanctuaries in the Roman Catholic Church. I grew up indoctrinated in the Catholic faith but was never aware these stairs existed. By luck and a Lonely Planet guide-book, I discovered them on a trip to Italy some years ago.  Early one morning I set off on foot to locate the very unassuming building that houses this treasured relic.

It is thought Jesus climbed these stairs, once part of Pontius Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem, on the day he was sentenced to death. The stairs were later transported to Rome by Saint Helena, she secured a number of other holy relics also. The Holy Stairs were housed in a few places before the current sanctuary. The marble has been covered with wooden treads to protect them from wear and at certain points there are little glass windows that offer a view to the marble beneath and to stains, thought to be the actual blood of Jesus.

The truly devout will think poorly of me, for I had not worshipped in a church for many years nor had I knelt in prayer for some time, though my faith was strong. Having travelled across the world and appreciated the peace and quietude of other sacred and blessed places, I felt moved to join a small number of morning visitors up the stairs.

What I didn’t realise, despite my sincerity and solemn approach, was that to truly pay homage, to honour and respect the sanctity of the chapel and the man to whom it stands in remembrance of, one had to go slowly, with deep reverence. Each of the faithful climbers offered a prayer on every step. Not a short and sweet prayer but a decent, well-considered prayer. Many worked rosaries in their hands. I later discovered many climb the stairs to be forgiven for sins and seek favour with God.

With a genuine respect I proceeded, offering some long memorised prayers alternating with personal prayers of gratitude and thanks. It was a humbling and moving experience.

At the top of the stairs is a private, papal chapel adorned with 13th Century frescos and a 4th century painting of Christ, thought to have been begun by Saint Luke and completed by an angel. This Sancta Sanctorum, is viewed through a grated opening.

Descending is much easier with a set of steps on either side of the Holy Stairs. These can also be used by those interested in viewing the chapel who do not wish to or cannot ascend the Holy Stairs on their knees.

Once reserved as a place for popes the Scala Sancta and the Sancta Sanatorium are now open to the public for a small entrance fee. When visiting ensure appropriate and modest attire is worn. Arriving early in the morning there were no tourists in sight. In fact the whole piazza was empty.

It is easy to be critical and questioning when faced with monuments of faith. Is the story true? Did a man called Jesus climb these stairs? Were they once part of a palace in Jerusalem? Are they stained with blood? Whose blood is it? Regardless of faith, regardless of belief or facts; historically and anthropologically this experience made my mind buzz with intrigue. It served as a gesture in humility a chance to count my blessings and reflect on the sweetness of life. I hobbled away more enamoured with life than before my visit, which is saying something — I was in Rome after all.

Have you been somewhere that moved you to experience the world in a different way?