Monday, May 11, 2015

in the blizzard of the blossoming

The above quotation popped up in my Facebook feed on the weekend and was exactly what I needed to hear. Probably especially the 'do not complain' part.

The month of May has always been a favourite with me, partly because it's my birthday and our anniversary in the first week. Above a lovely gift from Rob and Chloe - small batch perfume from the Library of Flowers. I have to admit that I love perfume. One doesn't wear perfume to work, of course these days, and because I know people for whom perfumes trigger migraines, I'm careful about where I wear it. Usually it's for when I have a writing day, at home, when I'm happily alone.

We went out for a couple of birthday and anniversary dinners, but on the day itself, I took the opportunity of trying a recipe I've been wanting to try and which I figured no one else but me would really be keen on. Based on this recipe for lentil cakes and poached eggs on Canelle et Vanille. (Using what I had in the house, canned lentils, parmesan cheese, dried parsley, etc). As it turned out, everyone liked them, and I'll definitely be making them again.

And there had to be cake. From the grocery store, as there has been no time for the making of cakes.

The World Has Need of You 

by Ellen Bass
everything here
seems to need us

          - Rainer Maria Rilke

I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple.

- from Like a Beggar

Birthdays are odd things, though, aren't they? This year I turned 49, no big deal, and I'm saving the fanfare for next year. But it rattled me in a way that I don't think turning 50 will. Maybe I'm getting all my angst out now. I spent the week asking myself crazy questions, feeling unsettled. Odd. Asking, "have you managed to do one good thing?"

Meanwhile, there's now less than a month until Rob's show on June 6 at the Douglas Udell Gallery in Edmonton. Which is exciting, busy, stressful. All those things.

Naturally, I have extra hours at work in the next few weeks, and naturally my eye has resumed twitching, and naturally my stomach has been aching, and I've been waking up at 4am. But that's all normal right? Anyway, you'd think I'd be used to it all by now, about 25 years in. No. And the interesting thing is that it actually becomes more difficult in many ways, because you know more, see more, understand more.

I know the only answer to all this is to not complain (which I guess I just did, oops), work harder.

Well. This is how the week began. Spring was emerging, right on schedule. The light was that amazing light you get in May which knows just how to kiss all the newly unfurling leaves. The light that coaxes out the new buds. It's the light that shows you, too, the astonishing light of your own being. 

One morning, I happily lost myself in this little foresty place. I lost myself in the light for a while.

Emerging, from the wild trees, readjusting my eyes, I attempted to capture the green blush of spring on my favourite tree. 

And this in our backyard, the intertwining of the threads from the prayer flag and the not quite ready leaves of the cherry tree. Seems a bit symbolic of something, yes?

This next quotation from Parabola has been with me all this past week. Partly because of all those troubling and devastating things going on in the world, and also because in my job I meet people whose circumstances are really tough and who face obstacles I've never experienced. My own complaints and worries seem quite minuscule after talking to some of the people I meet, let me tell you. And I'm trying to remember to ask them, what would you like me to do? and listening, before rambling on with all the various possibilities. When I did this one day, a young woman told me she just needed to tell someone what she was going through (and it was a lot), she just needed to talk. And she also needed a bus pass because she had no money, but she knew where it was she had to go. Two things I could do.

There are always all these contradictions. For me, this need to be alone, but I also believe the following, that the exercise of compassion is what matters.

“The exercise of compassion is what matters in our world—dethroning yourself from the center of your world and putting another there. Now this requires intelligent thought. You really have to think and practice the golden rule about what the other person really wants instead of what you think he ought to want. When we speak to people we should behave as Buddha or as Socrates did. Address them where they really are and not where we think they should be. We have to put ourselves in the place of another, and we have to be able to do this globally.”

- Karen Armstrong, from “To Go Beyond Thought" in Parabola Magazine

Birthday flowers, from a dear friend.

And to continue with the theme of contradictions, and with apologies for the billions of photographs. Snow in May. Which came and went in two days last week, but was fun to attempt to record, nonetheless. 

A Chair in Snow

by Jane Hirshfield

A chair in snow
should be
like any other object whited
& rounded

and yet a chair in snow is always sad

more than a bed
more than a hat or house
a chair is shaped for just one thing

to hold
a soul its quick and few bendable

perhaps a king

not to hold snow
not to hold flowers

“And I was alive in the blizzard of the blossoming pear,
Myself I stood in the storm of the bird–cherry tree.
It was all leaflife and starshower, unerring, self–shattering
And it was all aimed at me.

What is this dire delight flowering fleeing always earth?
What is being? What is truth?

Blossoms rupture and rapture the air,
All hover and hammer,
Time intensified and time intolerable, sweetness raveling rot.
It is now. It is not.”

- Osip Mandelstam, via On Being

This was not quite the blizzard of blossoming Mandelstam refers to, but something far more literal.

You would think that I would have packed up all the snow poetry by now, but alas, no.

Snowfall in G Minor

by Marianne Boruch

Overnight, it’s pow! The held note
keeps falling. And only seems
slow. Because it’s just
frozen rain, what’s the big deal? the checker
in Stop and Shop told me.
                                       Save warmth
like stamps. The fade of their color
in the 1920s. Airmail. The pilot with his
skin-tight goggle helmet on his
miniature head could be
                All heads are small. Mine’s
lost as a thimble
in this weather. Where
a finger should be and be
sewing, every thought
I ever thunk.
                    Just this word
thunk. Never used.
It lands, noisy
metal in a bucket. That’s
the last of it. No echo
for miles of this
                          snowfall—as in
grace, fallen from,
as in a great height, released
from its promise.

And then here it is the very next day after the white-out. The snow lingering in the low places, but melting quite quickly otherwise, so that by now you'd never know it happened.

What is there to be done with the contradictions? Certainly we must note them. Redouble our efforts to exercise our compassion. To think about all the ways there are to be human. All the ways there are to blossom in a blizzard.


  1. Happy Birthday Miss Shawna!

    Thanks so much for your post this week. It calms me as I leave with my cat to sit in the car in the cemetery to wait while my house is being shown to prospective buyers.

    Your calming posts calm me when I need them most :)

    Best wishes for a wonderful new birth year,

  2. I love all of your posts, finding so much in the images and words that resonates, comforts me, makes me think. The same is true today. This is the part I love best: "To think about all the ways there are to be human. All the ways there are to blossom in a blizzard."

  3. There's always so much to love in your posts, I never know where to start and I always feel that I've left so much out in my comments...but please know that I loved reading all of this and loved lingering over every one of these beautiful images. The food, the flowers, the leaves, the gorgeous light...and even that snow..and you are a better woman than I not to complain. :) I hope you had a wonderful birthday and anniversary. Good things to look forward to, although stressful I'm sure. My best to Rob on his upcoming show!

  4. Thank you for sharing this loveliness and wonder. I look forward to your post every week and am so much better for reading it and soaking in the delight of the photos, your words and the poetry you share.

  5. This is such a lovely post. Thank you Shawna.

  6. These poems, accompanied by your photos and thoughts, are so rich. I often come back to your posts between Mondays. Thank you!

  7. Thanks everyone! The comments and good wishes are most appreciated! Wishing you all the loveliest week.

  8. I look forward to Mondays because of your beautiful & inspirational posts. Yesterday slipped passed me, so it had to be Tuesday morning.... so much wisdom and kindness in your sharing. Thank you. Happy rest of the month, Shawna. I also adore the May.

    1. Thanks, Sandra! Some beautiful images on your blog! Thanks for being here.

  9. Happy (be-lated) birthday, Shawna! I love perfume too though it has been me, sadly, who has developed an intolerance to certain fragrances. As an aside, I will add that Sephora has started carrying a line of essential oil based fragrances (Atelier Cologne) that are lovely and seem to not trigger any adverse reaction. Now, snow in May?! I love how this post blossomed in the wake of it. xo

    1. Thanks, Leigh! It was a good one. I seem to have developed all sorts of intolerances too these days. Red wine is one, which makes me very sad :) I'm SO glad the snow melted quickly. It was a bit overwhelming.

  10. Happy Birthday, Shawna! I'm so sorry about the snow. I'm glad it melted right away. Makes you appreciate spring that much more, doesn't it?

    1. Thanks for the bday wishes, and yes! Oh my goodness - spring is so much more sweet!


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