Together Alone in Nature – Lockdown

This has been a tough time for many, making adjustments endlessly, with the shifts and changes in the alternating lockdown world. Taking solace in the natural world provides time for new ways of thinking, and gives the certainty that the cycles of Nature are there for us, when everything else is uncertain. Keep strong and stay safe!

copyright imogencrest 2020

Pet Loss Support Available

A recent experience supporting a friend who has lost her small dog, a treasured soul companion who had seen her through many life crises, has served to highlight how important it is to be provided with some strategies to cope at this time.

It is now well documented that those of us who enjoy living in harmony with multi-species suffer very intensely when animal companions are dying. Many find the void almost unendurable to cope with. Unfortunately, not everyone understands the depth of grief associated with the passing of an animal companion.

If you are anticipating or coping with a significant loss in your life and wish to better understand the grief that accompanies such loss, you may need to spend some time connecting with someone who has had personal experience.

Having experienced considerable loss, I have found my own way through grief many times.  As one who’s always wanted and needed animals in my life, over the years I’ve loved, lost and mourned a number of cherished companion animals as well.

Last year I formally graduated as a Master of Social Work but over the years I have helped individuals understand and cope with their grief.  As a former volunteer at the Melbourne City Mission, I worked with carers who were mourning the loss of their partners and family. I have also supported a number of friends who have lost cherished animals. The Temple of Solace offers visitors who have signed in a safe place to express their grief.  All you need is a WordPress account.

My years of bereavement counseling have taught me that grief is indifferent to the species of the loved one who was lost. I believe that anyone who loves greatly in life and grieves deeply in loss is deserving of whatever respect, caring and support I can offer.

This site was designed to meet the needs of those who are mourning the loss of their loved ones, whether human or animal.  Whatever your particular circumstances may be, I hope that you will feel welcome and that you will find some comfort here.

If you need personal support I charge a minimal, one-off fee and I will maintain contact via email and offer creative suggestions to help ease the pain.

The Soul Rests Eternal

“… the landscape that emerges through my music is rather like the misty dawn of a new day; a day not yet ripened by the sun, but one that shows the promise of a warmer future – a way through the emotional morass.”

Take the time to read the delightful new interview in the Salon du Muse at the Soul Food Cafe. Heather Blakey, web mistress of  Soul Food, takes the time to interview British composer, Mike Sheppard. This interview explores spirit and soul and shines some light on the path for those suffering from bereavement.

From the Ashes

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I remember standing at this spot in 2005 with Darryl. His cancer had returned and we came here so that he could show me exactly where he wanted to be scattered. I remember we cried and held one another and I promised that I would meet him here one day, that we would sit with our feet dangling in the cool water.

According to his wishes we scattered Darryl late in the winter of 2007 after his death on January 19th 2007. If you look carefully you can see some of those ashes on the stones at the edge of the water.

When the Victorian Bushfires ravaged this whole area on February 23, 2009 I was shattered, but had little comprehension of the ferocity of the fires that razed this area. It took me awhile to visit, mainly out of respect for the people who actually lived here and lost their homes. But then, during the week before I sold our home in Fitzroy North, I felt compelled to drive back and see what remained.

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Incredible as the destruction was, I found that the place retained its Qi, that the beauty had not been erased. Perhaps more importantly there was plenty of evidence of regeneration. My fears were quelled and I knew that we still could meet here again and again.

Quilting Love

before my time
before my time

You all might think I’m daft for not realising until so recently what the quilt buying was really about, but it is true, I didn’t know I was on my own ‘comfort rugging quest’.

I stumbled across a lovely old quilt on eBay while sitting up with my dog Kelly when she was so sick and in pain and I tended her throughout the nights.  The more she hurt the more I hurt, and the more I hurt the more I turned to external things for distraction from a fear of having to euthanise Kelly, a fear that was threatening to drive me right around the bend.  By the end of the three week stretch of a hellish illness with the poor creature I had developed a wicked shake in my hands that I could not still, a shake so pronounced I could barely type on my keyboard, with twitches and tics in spots on my face.  Now that’s stress.
I realised I was looking for distraction with the eBay shopping but I didn’t catch on that the contents of my mailbox and deliveries were all about comfort and a quest for a sense of histories, of the roots that would hold me in good stead during these life storms, roots I don’t have.  I have gained at least ten pounds and more quilts than I can count (because they haven’t all arrived yet).  I have no money(somewhat disturbing, but only somewhat) so all were bought on credit.  I’m not cringing about that really because I spent no money for Christmas as I have no family to spend it on and an acceptable interest pay-back rate.  I also have self-compassion and (finally) self-understanding.
The quilt pictured above was the most expensive at only $80 US.  You read that correctly!  The fellow didn’t sell me his grandmother but he might as well have for that price!  The piece is enormous, covering most of one entire living room wall, entirely handstitched with no discernable pattern and most pieces no larger than a *small* Post-It, and very, very many as small as half a pinky finger.  I keep sitting on the couch staring at it in awe and gratitude to have such a work of art in my home, for it has done something to make this house seem more like a home to me.  All the quilts seem to have that magic.
The best clue to their real meaning for meaning, their connection with my need for roots, for history, for a sense of something besides the terrible present, is that the one requirement for all the quilts I’ve sought out is that they all be antique at best, vintage at least, and hopefully made with love.  The ones called “crazy quilts” are best because they best reflect my crazy life and my episodic internal chaos while managing to be full of comfort at the same time.  I strive to be like that: able to be warm and full of comfort despite my own chaos.
Steph

Ashes to Dust

 

It was time to scatter Jerry’s ashes.  A few of us gathered in the woods near his house that brisk January 1st morning of 1995.  His ashes were placed in a large glass punch-bowl perched on a small table on the wooden pier Jerry had built.  It extended partway over his pond.  Since none of us had ever scattered ashes before and couldn’t contemplate our reaction to handling the remains of our close friend, a man who died way too young, we allowed for each of us deciding at the moment whether or not to participate in the ritual.

Flute in hand, Carol moved down the hill to stand in an open area near the pier.  The waves of mist and fog made it hard for us to discern her, but we were able to catch the plaintive notes as they drifted up through the Arkansas woods Jerry so loved.  This was his wish–to be scattered on his pond where he always swam in the hot summers, where he sat to meditate and contemplate.  The stillness and beauty of the pond and the surrounding woods were a balm to his spirit in an increasingly difficult world.  He had been diagnosed with cancer on his thigh; shortly thereafter his leg was amputated.  It never healed properly as the cancer continued its relentless spread.  How could someone who was so dedicated to living off the land and being independent, how could he deal with this huge impediment to his way of life?

Those of us gathered had tried to help Jerry on his journey and be supportive as he attempted to continue to live his chosen way of life.  Preparing food, cleaning his home, a cabin he lovingly built by hand, stacking firewood and hauling water from the pond for washing dishes, all these things were but temporary stops on his way to finally needing constant care in someone else’s home. 

And now we gathered to say goodbye, Jerry back on his land once more.  The seven of us strolled through the fog, following the notes of the flute down to the pond.  We each shared what we brought to read or say in his honor. 

Then a pause… a long pause.  Would anyone be able to scatter Jerry’s ashes?  I kept thinking I couldn’t possibly put my hands into his ashes… I had just seen him alive.  How could I do such a thing?  This was Jerry, his actual body, burned down to dust and ashes.  How could I touch those burnt remains?  Yes, I knew there was a Styrofoam cup on the table we could use, but even so, how could I dig into his ashes and let them sink into the water?   I knew very well the real Jerry was fine and beyond all this, but still, how could I honor his remains by scattering them?  Could I, even knowing it was what he desired? 

As I pondered my own images, my preconceived notions, I saw Carol walk to the table on the pier.  She scooped up some ashes in the cup and gently spread them on the water.  Another of his friends then did the same.  And another. 

Finally I was ready – sort of.  It was time for me to approach the table, but I still didn’t know what I would do or if I could do anything.  The crisp winter air tinged with woodstove smoke from other cabins sprinkled throughout the valley invigorated me to at least resolutely head onto the pier as it gently rolled under the weight of my steps.  The wood creaked a bit as I crept forward and then I stood before what remained of Jerry.  I took a deep breath in preparation…Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I plunged my bare hands into the ashes, letting myself relax into what felt right at that moment.  No barriers of gloves of Styrofoam to the experience.  And was I surprised!  The ashes were not all ashes.  There were chunks of bone throughout.  Ohhh, Jerry’s bones!  A moment of reeling with the knowledge; then came an infusion of energy.  I grabbed two large handfuls, flung my hands up and out, releasing ashes, dust and bone high into the sky accompanied with the cry, “Go, Jerry!  Go!”  He was free and flying to the heavens. 

The breeze seemed to reflect my exhilaration and joy as it caught the ashes and bone bits, carrying them further into the heavens before returning them to the pond Jerry loved.  I knew then that the phrase “ashes and dust” was a fallacy, a euphemism for ashes and bone fragments.  But I also knew a deeper truth. Jerry was not those ashes and bones; he was spirit and joy!

(published in Sage of Consciousness)

Work Without Hope – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair—
The bees are stirring—birds are on the wing—
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.

Yet well I ken the banks where amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!
With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow, I stroll:
And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul?
Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And Hope without an object cannot live.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (composed 21st February 1825)

Oh, They Have Robbed Me of the Hope – Anne Bronte

Oh, they have robbed me of the hope
My spirit held so dear;
They will not let me hear that voice
My soul delights to hear.
They will not let me see that face
I so delight to see;
And they have taken all thy smiles,
And all thy love from me.
Well, let them seize on all they can: —
One treasure still is mine, —
A heart that loves to think on thee,
And feels the worth of thine.

Anne Bronte

For Steph and Seanna

How will I know who I am without you?
In an ocean without a star to follow
I would drift until I bumped ashore, forever lost.
You are the star that holds me to my course.

How would I know what road to follow?
You are both the destination and the source.
I am who I am because of you, no longer lost.
You are the star that holds me to my course.

How will I know who I am without you?
All my travelling was to be with you.
You can’t abandon me so far from shore.
You are the star that holds me to my course.

Hold to your course, Steph. Her star still leads you.

Gail

Healing Writing – Heather Blakey Joins SARK

Creative Genius – Writing and Creating

SARK’s newest book features the work of Heather Blakey at Soul Food:

“SARK is a sparkler who jump-starts the creative process. Her ideas are user-friendly, innovative, and pragmatic.” -Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way

Write and share what’s in your heart! Let SARK show you how. Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper is your non-judgmental witness, resoundingly supportive friend, and practical guide to the craft of writing and storytelling. For anyone who knows that a writer lives within them but doesn’t know how or where to start; for writers who need new ways to work past their blocks and be reinspired; for anyone who loves SARK’s wise words and art, Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper will help start the ink flowing and keep it going.

Soul Food Feature
SARK’s new book features, amongst other things, the work of Heather Blakey at the Soul Food Cafe. If you are a fan of Soul Food or just want to learn more about writing, make sure to pre order a copy of your book today!

One Becomes Forbearing

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Create emptiness up to the highest

Guard stillness up to the most complete.

Then all things may rise together.

I see how they return,

Things in all their multitude:

Each one returns to its root.

Return to their root means stillness.

Stillness means return to fate.

Return to fate means eternity.

Cognition of eternity means clarity

If one does not recognize the eternal

One falls in to confusion and sin.

If one recognizes the eternal

One becomes forbearing.

From Tao Te Ching as translated by Richard Wilheim

Waldon went off to live deliberately. Joseph Campbell spent years in the wilderness! I have come to Wartook. Here at Wartook I see and feel what these men felt, understand why they stepped off the well beaten path and isolated themselves. They came because you have to come and create emptiness, be still, with nature, in order to fuse with it and liberate creativity, give one’s art life through merging one’s spirit with nature.

Here at Wartook I know that the spiritual plane is not on some elevated platform, far from my grasp. Here, within the shadows of Mt Difficult I know that spirit walks where I walk, sees what I see, breaths the air I breath, communicates with me through something as simple as a blade of grass, a spire of bamboo grass being caressed by the gentle breeze. Here in this quiet space I can hear her gentle laughter, echoing within the empty spaces.

Here at Wartook I gather dead leaves to accelerate the fledgling fire that warms my womb like cabin. I take dead leaves, hold them in the palm of my hand, crush them and feel them disintegrate. It is self-evident that spirit abandoned these leaves, left them to fuse with the earth, to be gathered by me to fuel flames and heat my coffee pot. I look and understand that the dead leaf is nothing but an empty shell, the remains of an organism that once breathed life, danced upon a bough, amid other leaves, drank the sweet life giving oxygen that surrounded it.

Having taken the dead leaves, gathered the brittle twigs, that once carried the tree’s life blood, I stop, quizzically ponder and in doing so, learn that in the same way our bodies, once emptied of spirit, will stiffen and wither.

Ash’s head drooped within milliseconds, the proud body crumpled and curled, his spirit rose within an invisible vapor, like a curl of smoke from a chimney and drifted out into the cosmos. Dog, human, leaves are a part of the great cosmic force and that cosmic force is a part of dog, human, leaf, until it decides to depart, leaving a shell to be disposed of.

How does this knowing affect what I do here in Wartook? Why am I writing about it? I am writing, quite simply, because the spirit of Wartook, the custodian of this remote valley, has taken it in to its head to sit me in class, insist that I observe, sit wrapped within a snow dome, a galaxy of bright stars. Spirit seems to think that I need to understand that, while my ego would like to think otherwise, I have no real existence outside nature, beyond that galaxy of stars that cloak me.

As I sit within the dome of bright stars, I am certain about some things. I am certain that Ash only exists as remains, lying within a grave over which birds carol their evensong, above which magpies call, announcing the arrival of dawn. Yet I am just as certain that a part of Ash came, to greet me, as I entered Rose Gully Road. He lies here now, beside me, tail wagging, adoring eyes watching, protecting.

As I sit within the dome of bright stars, I know that Darryl’s body, dissolved in to ash, was scattered upon the water of the Stony Creek, floated, like a raft, along with the currents and vanished. Yet he exists within memory, within the stories, told of him. He is not with me yet he is always present, a guiding hand, a reassuring voice, a gentle touch. Where Darryl once stood, where Ash once lay, there is a void, an emptied space. Yet this void is not formless, anymore than the heavens that surround me are formless or empty. They are filled to over flowing, bright stars bursting forth light, forming constellations, patterns, pathways to distant worlds.

The void is just another manifestation of nature, another form of energy, and a place I keep returning to, a well from which to drink and replenish.

Spirit thought I needed to know that from voids, shapes rise, that while I have no existence outside nature I will exist long after I am gone, just as Darryl and Ash will exist for many life times. I have listened to spirit, to the custodian of Mount Difficult. I hear and know that shapes rise, return from the void. The shape that is rising is still imperceptible, is barely discernible, but it is taking a familiar form and within that form is life, the one, the very same spirit who has taken me captive here in Wartook.