Falling Snow…

Me

Me

 

“a small figure sits, eyes closed, waiting.”

I’m sitting in Cafe Beano as has become my morning routine. The snow is falling gently outside, and I can hear the clatter of the coffee shop around me. Fragments of conversation and broken laughter, punctuate the bits of Beck I can hear over the small Bose speakers nestled in the corners of the shop. I sip my Americano and gaze out the window that’s covered in hand cut paper snowflakes, and I can’t help but think that what I long for is somewhere out there… In the simplicity of the falling snow.

And, as I have done before, I close my eyes and take my consciousness away from where I am. i travel out to the mountains and into the silence of the white forest and I become peaceful, momentarily content — remembering. But I become aware of something just outside the walls of my mind. A feeling of unease creeps up the stairs and onto the front porch, and surrounds me in a cold damp sadness. Something has gone wrong. And I drift, pulling my attention back quickly to where I’m sitting.

Why do I feel this way? After all, I grew up in the prairies but was raised in the mountains. It has always held a powerful place in my heart. A place of sanctuary. A place where I have been able to feel safe and content. A place of love and nurturing, inner kindness and self reflection. A place where I would go to simply get closer to what I might call “God” — if I can ever call it that as we have never had a very good understanding of one another. I have commonly referred to this as — the “Church of Nature”. Where I feel most connected to my spiritual self. My loving self. My creative self. I could walk and sit for hours, alone, and feel a presence unlike anything I had felt before.

But unfortunately, I’ve discovered on several day trips in the past couple of years that nature doesn’t heal me like it used to. Somethings not right in the forest. There’s a darkness that fills the cast shadows of my closest friends.

I used to believe that the forest was very quiet compared to the noise of the city. But I now know that the woods were very loud compared to the silence I feel within me now. This silence reveals only one thing. A cavernous expanse of emptiness and a small figure sits, eyes closed, waiting.

Do you ever wonder why so many of us are never truly happy or content and are in need of constant distraction…? It’s because we don’t listen to the very thing we should be listening to and should have listened to all along — Ourselves.

Because when we’re quiet – standing in a shower, laying in a meadow, looking into a fire long after everyone else has gone to bed, sitting on a hill or a bench by the river, and turn our attention inwards, that small but powerful voice speaks to us and knows truth and understanding. We’ve all heard it. Call it your gut or your intuition. It’s uncanny how we seem to just know that what it’s telling us deep down, is true. And in many ways, frighteningly frank.

But the winds of fear blow its’ message into the coldest, darkest corners of ourselves. Should you wake up and accept change? Follow your bliss? You can only hold back that ocean for so long. It’s always at your feet, erasing who you think you are, eroding your defences, rationalizations and coping mechanisms.

And it’s this tsunami of change that washes away the person I used to understand as “Grant”. The father, husband, and friend. The photographer. The man who was always light and fun, never taking anything very seriously — singing and playing guitar. How I view the world. A product of my parents and their beliefs, seeing through the lens they gave me as a child, believing this was the only way to see the world and the right way. This was the person I grew up with. The one I always believed to be…me.

And now the wave of mid-life rushes in and efficiently smooths the sand of the footprints I had left behind. This beach stretches on in both directions, but with no record of me being there. I can clearly see where I have been, and can clearly see where I am going, but I have no sense of who it was who walked before, and who it is who walks now.

This metamorphic change has begun to show me someone else. Another, that has been with me the whole time. The quiet voice. The one that speaks to me when I’m alone. Compassionate, and so very very patient — sitting quietly and waiting.

I stare out at the snow again.

I begin to understand that everything I used to seek comfort in, has become quiet for a reason. It has not abandoned me, but is waiting for me, so I can experience the true solitude and stillness of a mind letting go. It’s a little overwhelming, and very frightening. We are so used to the white noise of our lives that we don’t hear it any longer. Don’t understand that we have become numb and spiritually distant, and that our pointless daily routines are there by the choices we have made for our whole lives. But we feel powerless to change it.

In this silent space I will find my own answers. Answers that don’t come from my family, my friends, or my fears, or what I have read or believed before, or from any group, organization or institution.

I will find these answers within myself. And I will begin to realize the most important aspect of all of this…

That I have a choice.

And in that choice lies…

my Self

The Creative Soul…

Creativity copy2

 

“Creativity makes what it makes, does what it does, and fully understands that we see our true beauty reflected in works that reveal our deepest selves.”

The only thing that I have ever known for sure is that I am creative. It has been, is, and always will be. It is the only constant thread in the entirety of my existence. It is a dear companion and, I used to believe, a dreaded enemy. One that I have a caressed lovingly and stabbed repeatedly in the heart. It has loved me deeply, and has left me bloody and bruised. It will offer a hand up the last challenging pitch of a frightening mountain climb, only to let me fall to the self critical rocks below. The resulting recovery, very painful and slow.

To let creativity be what it is meant to be, we need to understand that the truly creative person, holds their creativity close to their soul. Lets it flow from deep within and lets it produce from a place that is so connected to this “creative other” that we can feel it as if it were a living breathing entity within us. It taps deep into a place we have rarely, if ever met. That makes our senses draw in experience, and lets creation begin, naturally and without question. No internal judgment. Creativity makes what it makes, does what it does, and fully understands that we see our true beauty reflected in works that reveal our deepest selves.

Sounds airy fairy, I know, but I don’t believe it’s a skill that we are born with. We develop the skills to satisfy the insatiable hunger of these creative musings. I believe this creative force lies in us all. Some have natural talent, some have to develop it. Some don’t acknowledge it, give it a voice for the fear that they won’t be good enough. I used to say to my son when he said “I can’t draw” that we all have drawings in us, that we won’t like, and you simply have to “draw them all out of you” till nothing but the drawings you like remain. Simply practice.

Cook, draw, paint, garden, knit, write, sing, and play as much as it takes to get better at your craft. Honour it.

Creativity is one of the greatest gifts we have ever been given. It is a part of who we are. It is everywhere. We hear it, smell it, taste it, feel it, and see it. It is not an enemy or dreaded foe, but a gifted friend. It draws inspiration from it’s experiences and surroundings. What we listen to and what we see. What it teaches us about ourselves. What it reveals about our vulnerabilities and insecurities. And, if allowed, contributes to our ever growing self expression, and to the creativity of those around us fortunate enough to experience our journey. And maybe, just maybe, give them the courage to embark on their own.

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What does creativity mean to you?

Winters Desire…

Winters cold wind spreads across a field of summer fallow,

as snow falls gently,

softly tapping on shoulders that have bourn so much,

and whisper cold memories of warmer times.

Landing on tongues, as we giggled,

and caught the low January sun through a dappled forest light,

shimmering as it fell on its way

to the dance floor,

the flash of light and the beat of my heart to the rhythms of this one,

true desire.

And in the grey of my voice calling out to this wind,

and the frigid illusions of these now, tepid dreams,

I am unable to move.

And staring out to what, I’m not sure,

hidden by layers of lies, I can only imagine what awaits.

And with this knowing doubt, I am frozen in my own fear.

Feet always moving towards a simple end,

but a mind stationary, and unable to reconcile the truths of where I am…

And more simply,
why…

Grant Waddell

Runaway Train…

 

Sugar Maker

 

Moving slowly at first the subtle sway feels soothing as the clack clack of track under steel wheels, begins to form those familiar rhythms that seem so far back in my memory. As if being held by my mother in the maple wood rocking chair so long ago.

And out the window, things that are closest to me blur into shades of brown, light against dark. I focus on the horizon, seeing dreams in the distant haze, but always on the edge,

never closer.

Faster

The sway, dangerous and unnerving, brings panic. I look around and see others looking out their glowing laptop windows, heads down, at reruns of Honey Boo-Boo and Keeping up with the Kardashians, hyperlinking to dreams of cars, houses and shoes.

In a trance, on track, to a better life…

And I begin to realize what this really means…

And I want off

The Window…

Star Banner

“I believe we all receive glimpses into the mystery, and are simply not tuned in to that  frequency within our world. We’re much more aware of that, which will never matter”

I sat quietly in one of the two Adirondack chairs that sat on the small wooden porch. Part of a cabin built in the 1940’s on Jackson Lake at the foot of the Tetons. I couldn’t see these magnificent mountains not only because night had fallen, but also due to the simple fact that the cabin faced the other direction, towards a black asphalt driveway that wound it’s way around the Signal Mountain Lodge Resort.

The forecast called for rain. there was a dampness in the air, a chill that I welcomed.  I sipped my rye and coke slowly, scanning left and right looking and listening for what, I wasn’t sure, but it must be out there, somewhere.

I could feel it…

I could sense it…

Waiting…

I let my thoughts wander. Time passed and the rye, sweet, slowly left, leaving nothing but the last sip. It was time to go in.

I leaned forward and felt a calm drape itself over my tense shoulders. I looked down at my glass, resting on the broad arm of the chair which held nothing, except cold ice. My right hand wrapped softly around it.

Looking up one last time, I cast the ice out over the inky black of the driveway and it scattered in a broad arc before me.

I sat mesmerized by what I saw…

I stopped breathing…

Reflecting the porch light behind me, the ice became a thousand stars against the black of dark bituminous pitch and gravel. It sparkled and shone in the silent night. It was beautiful.

And in a second, I felt like I could see pure understanding. It seemed to breath knowing into my soul. As if this small fragile universe that had opened before me was the answer to every question I had ever had. Like I was staring into a mystical world that very few people had ever seen. The truth.

I was in awe, and I watched this fragile gift slowly melt into small pools, and fade gently into memory. The window closed. I sat for a while longer, thinking, and wondering if what I had felt was real. It was. I wondered if this had happened countless times before and I had always ignored it. Not present enough in the moment and let it slip by, not knowing how precious it was,

but never really wasted as it just is.

We choose to see it or we don’t.

It’s Been Awhile…

It's been awhile

[Apologies to those who saw this already but WordPress somehow took my published post and unpublished it and reverted it to draft]

What did I believe?

Why did I believe it?

Why was I a photographer?

A father? A husband?

Play guitar?

Not go to church but consider myself highly spiritual?

Love nature, as if it were… in my soul?

And many more questions.

—————————–

This is a long post, but if you’ve ever felt disconnected, have experienced great loss, gone through a life threatening condition, mid life crisis or simply questioned what life is about I encourage you to read through it.

Introduction…

It has been awhile since I really posted something that I found true to the reason that I created this blog. It’s very simple… my father passed away, and shortly after that my stepmother as well. Both great figures in my life. Grieving is such a strange thing to go through. You not only have the loss of life that is very close to you, but you also have the loss of the parts of you that used to be rock solid. Things that seemed important no longer are. The lives of those around you just keep moving along. And so many questions arise.

My dad passed away four months ago, and my stepmother a month after that. I started writing this on April 4th…my 50th year. It’s some exploration of an area of existence that I’m not sure there’s an answer for. Not one that I’ve found anyway.

—————————–

Here we go…

In the wake of my father and stepmothers’ passing, and under the microscope of my own mid-life passage, and self reflection, I have been left with several questions about what the hell we’re doing here and what purpose we have other than generating an income and consuming. How do our belief systems play into how we interpret and interact with our world, and what if you question your core values during these times, and, as in my case, they appear to completely abandon you.

In “The Garden” I wrote about how we can’t fully know how much of what we feel and believe, can be relied upon as being “born within us” and how much of it is imbued upon us through family, friends, society, religion, and culture. A road that we are set on, wearing carefully crafted glasses, that shape our world views and, our “personal” beliefs, and our prejudices. What would these glasses reveal, if we were born and raised in Canada, Bangladesh, or the Sudan. Ours views on family, love, hate, God, religion, a meaningful life, and the afterlife would all be shaped differently.

Initially, this is not a choice. We are indoctrinated very early in life from very well meaning people. It is only when, with age and maturity and curiosity, we may begin to challenge, ask questions and seek out our own answers, and simply ask…

“Why do I believe that”?

“What do I believe?

Some of you may never ask this question, but for those who look deep, and really examine whats at the heart of “Self,” you may begin to understand just how much (or how little) influence others have had on shaping who you believe yourself to be. And maybe, begin to understand the nature of who you really are, and possibly, the reasons for the quality of your perceived existence.

—————————–

The Catalyst…

So, as I left the hospital on both occasions, and drove home, a growing sense of frustration and unease crept over me. Images and thoughts flashed quickly. Family, and friends, my beliefs, and theirs, my father, and his positive and negative impact that he had on me. Things I have achieved and not achieved, and how everything fits with what I have discovered from my quiet, and sometimes very emotional, and not so quiet introspection.

As I kissed the forehead of my dying father and held the hand of my passing stepmother, I could slowly see the shadow of my own mortality lengthening. And I couldn’t stop thinking about the passage of life and what purpose, if any, there is, or was, or could be. What had their lives meant? Did they feel they lived a life that ultimately mattered to themselves and others? Was it fulfilling?  What about regrets? Would they have done things differently? Would it have made a difference? Did they even think about it? I began to compare where I was to where they were, and examine where I fell short. I think it’s normal to use those around you as yardsticks. And then I thought to myself, does it really matter.

In the days that passed, I would go about a simple routine. I would wake up, enter the world of the busy masses, and observe.  At cafe’s, and restaurants, on the street as people hustled by on their way to the next meeting. Stuck in traffic to and from work. And it just seemed so unbelievably pointless. You grow up, go to school, get a good job, get married, have kids, go to work. Work for decades, and in that time, acquire things. Take a few holidays, work some more, acquire even more, and finally retire. Hopefully with your health so you can enjoy the time you have left. All that was expected of you. Make mom and dad proud. Conform to what we were all taught as children and teens as the “right path”. That’s all fine and nice as long as it truly reflected who you were. You loved your life from beginning to end with few questions. Became what you always dreamt of. But, what if you became an engineer because that’s what was expected, but you really wanted to be an artist. Chose friends and a lifestyle and created a persona based on what you believed society expected of you. Got married because, that’s what your family expected, time was ticking, but you knew they weren’t “the one” and sadly, stayed this course your entire life. The end, would come very, very differently, and very sadly.

So………. How much of who I believe myself to be, is really me? How much is my father and mother and stepmother? How about the rest of my family and friends, and experiences I’ve had ?

Who am I?

Really…

What did I believe? Why did I believe it? Why was I a photographer? A father? A husband? Play guitar? Not go to church but consider myself highly spiritual? Love nature, as if it were, in my soul? And many more questions.

Why?

The only thing I knew for sure was, I was born to be creative, curious, and ask questions. I had done so since I could talk, walk, and look up at night sky with wonder. Walk in the forest, down trails, and feel the sun on my face. Look up at the mountains, or sit and listen to a creek, ocean surf or the wind in the trees and stare into a campfire and see my ancient self in it.

I learned to never take what someone told me as truth until I examined as many sides as possible, and make my own conclusions. This involved my religious and political beliefs and several other areas of life that are given to you as a gift from your family as you are raised.

But, one persons truth does not have to be your own. It all comes down to choice. That was one of the best things my father taught me. Question things. Simply apply curiosity and seek knowledge.

So, in classic style, I began the process of asking questions within myself and was having a hell of a time even coming close to what this all meant. Like trying to step on your shadow. Maybe it was simple grieving. A natural response to losing two people within a very short that were very close to me.

I held off posting this because I wasn’t able to really complete what I had set out to do. To fully grasp, what I was trying to convey or answer.  As my eyes opened wider and I asked more questions, I couldn’t find the comforting answers and understanding that I had come to expect from exploration. I didn’t find peace. And maybe that’s what we were never meant to find. Draw the curtain back and reveal that life is more than we thought. And maybe the tension we feel from time to time is when we realize that the life we are living may be an illusion. When I achieve this or that, make enough to buy that thing, then I’ll be happy. Tomorrow, I’ll be happy. But this is always a moving target.  The promises of happiness and fulfillment never really appear. You play the game and achieve what you think you need and generally it will never be enough. And then you realize, something fundamental is missing. Something… This is where I fall down. Whats is it thats missing? Whats left?

Tune out the noise…

I began to understand that “life” as we know it is noisy. Full of work, kids, TV, Facebook, Twitter, and yes blogs and so much more that we engage in, ultimately add nothing to who we are. But we think it’s so important. It’s not. It’s such a waste of time and as I’ve started to understand, time is precious. It distracts us from what’s really important and when you realize it, it’s painful. And I guess it’s for that reason we do it. To distract ourselves from our possibly stark realities and not face that pain. Because in many cases it means turning several aspects of your life upside down and how do you start over from that?

I have been talking for so long. Listening to the opinions of friends and family, reading the teachings and opinions of others and examining theological explanations and I will never find the answers from any of these sources. They’re are all disparate opinions. Nothing more. I’m not going to find what I’m looking for amongst the hustle and bustle of daily life or the noise of living.

And this is when it dawned on me. It was in what I wrote earlier.

“The only thing I knew for sure, I was born to be creative, curious, and ask questions. I had done so since I could talk, walk, and look up at night sky with wonder. Walk in the forest, down trails, and feel the sun on my face. Look up at the mountains, or sit and listen to a creek, ocean surf or the wind in the trees and stare into a campfire and see my ancient self in it.”

Really listen…

Maybe part of what I’m looking for is as simple as that. For it is only in the quiet of the mountains and forests, or looking at the ocean or up at the moon in that beautiful night sky and looking into that campfire that whatever it is, feels closest. In that peace and silence it speaks to me without saying a word. I will never pretend to know. It is far to big for any of us to truly understand. But I feel truly connected to it when I silence what we have created as our normal and expected human path. As an an Agnostic (Sorry Ayn) this is the closest I will ever come to knowing what God is. I think this is where I’ll find my answers. Not from the internet, not from noted experts, not from friends and family and not from books. I will find my answers by simply sitting quietly and tuning out and unplugging, and letting the  silence of nature and solitude speak to me. Maybe this is why I’m driven to explore that trail, climbing through the difficult parts till you come across something that takes your breath away. Places where many others would have stopped just short of the parking lot or the fading internet connection and never had that experience.

In a strange way, it’s much louder than the white noise of life and maybe thats what frightens some of us away from it. It doesn’t come with easy answers. I comes with a deep sense of calm and knowing without anything being said. A voiceless conversation between yourself and the flowing sense of awe that surrounds everything in this wonderful universe. It’s there all the time, it always has been. It always will be.

It is pure wisdom. And we just need to tune into it a little more while we still can.