It’s funny how the memories we have of someone don’t aways match up to real life or at least not the way other people see life or themselves or each other. After my father passed, I began looking through old photos of him, to remember and feel I still had a piece of him around, but the man I saw in those photos was not the same as the image I held in my mind and I wondered as time passes and he is gone for longer and longer from my physical world if the image in my mind would mold to that of photographs or continue to be something different. So on this Father’s day I wish to lay down what I remember of him now and the lessons he taught me in life. Perhaps they will stay the same or perhaps they will change as my own life changes.
My father was not a perfect man, as none of us are. Some have called him a golden boy, others a playboy, some saw him as a teacher and others a sportsman, some knew him for his love of drinking and dancing and some for the quiet solitude he found in nature and the peace of his country home. My earliest memories of him are at that country home when I was just a wee child wandering through the magic of the world, embraced by the love of those around me. I remember him in many ways; with his hands deep in the soil of the gardens or behind a chainsaw or hammer, waxing our skis in the early hours of the morning preparing to take us small children out to explore the stillness of the rising sun on prairie snow, dancing in the living room carefree with so much joy and sitting on the couch with him late at night when he had returned from work. These early memories are imprinted upon my memory almost like a dream, a dream of the father I knew I once had. But in any life these things change and the majority of our shared lives together he fell short of this dream. I now know that he did what he knew to do with his own experiences and imprinting. We are all a product of our raising and our cultures and though my dad was a markedly sensitive man there was no platform for him to learn to embrace this, except for time and the many lessons his life presented him with.
His life lessons did lead him to embrace and honour that sensitive man more thoroughly and I am so grateful that the last five years of his life came so much closer to the first five of mine. Despite all the pain and hurt, conditioning and hiding, we were able to connect and find joy in our shared experiences. This was the time that I truly got to know my father and the dream turned into a reality and this is what I wish to carry on in my heart and share with my children when they ask of their grandfather.
- Be Gracious, Thoughtful and Kind – while he was in hospital just a few weeks before he passed I asked him what his guiding principle of life was. After shaking his head at another probing question and some quiet reflection this is what he came up with. Though I know this was an ideal and he did not always live up to it, in so many ways he did. Throughout the challenges of losing his job, going to court and then to jail and finally his illness, he managed to be so gracious, thoughtful and kind. He would help others when they needed it and constantly was on the look out for making someone’s work easier or more efficient. Every day that I visited him in hospital he would thank me for being there and helping him. For the first time since I was little I felt validated by my father.
2. Connect with Everyone- my father was a very social man. He loved people and could easily connect with them and learn about their lives in the time they spent together. In the hospital he knew all of this nurses, doctors and aides names and stories. When I was young I remember one day driving down the highway and he stopped to pick up a First Nations man, loaded up with bags and a scruffy appearance my father innately trusted this man and welcomed him into our vehicle. I initially felt uneasy by the appearance of this man, but as my father broke out into conversation with this man, I remembered that we are all humans playing this game of life and we each have so much to offer no matter how we look, what we say or where we come from.
3. To be smooth- Anyone who knew my father would have heard him say “be smooth” and this was something he truly embodied. Sometimes it seemed phoney to me like he wasn’t dealing with his shit and sometimes I am sure it was. But he had this way about him of keeping going with a smile on his face no matter what happened; injuries, job losses, separations or accusations. In the last two days of this life he even managed to conserve his energy and each time a new visitor came by he would muster up some strength and smile at their presence. He remained smooth till the end.
4. To take care of myself- My father like his father was a man who knew how to survive; camping in the backcountry, building houses and furniture, fixing old things. dealing with emergencies, he knew how to be self-reliant and throughout my life he instilled this in me in two ways. The first by teaching me these many skills when I was a child and the second by not being present as a father when I was coming of age and so I learned to find my own way.
5. Enjoy the good things in life- Bobby loved things, beautiful, well made, high class, delicious, food, wine, beer, cars, sports equipment, stereos,…. He loved it all and he definitely left all of his kids with a sweet tooth for nice things, but also an appreciation for caring for your stuff. He instilled in me that if you buy well made goods and took care of them, then they would last you a life time and your mind and body would be happier for the beauty that surrounded you and the nourishment that you provided it.
These are the things that sit with me now in my mind and heart as the memories of my father. They may change and perhaps more will come with time, but they are true now and in moving through my grief, writing this has truly helped me connect, reflect and convolesce. Thank you to those who take the time to read this, may it move you to reflect and perhaps inspire you to heal your own grief. And most of all thank you to my father who helped to bring me into this world and share these many memories and lessons over our lives together.
Greetings and a Blessed Imbolc to all!
Today more commonly known as Groundhog’s day, is the ancient Celtic Quarter Cross Day, also sometimes referred to as Brigit’s Day. The midway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, this day was and still is celebrated by many as the first inklings of spring begin to pull at our bodies, the songs of the birds fill the air more, the snowdrops and other shoots pop up from the ground, here on the West Coast the Rhododendrons are blooming and the cherry blossoms and magnolias are budding. Our minds and bodies begin to stir and perhaps like me fresh raw greens begin to excite your palate and your skin craves the kiss of the sun.
In Chinese Medicine it is the time when water starts to give rise to wood. In the Winter, Water is the dominant element, it is the deepest parts of ourselves, the collective unconscious, our bones, the wisdom of our ancestors we carry in our DNA or Jing in TCM. Winter is a time to go deep within and revitalize and restore ourselves, listen to the wisdom of our bones and the still waters of nature. From this place of strength, stillness and power we begin to set our true intentions for the coming spring. Just as the melting snow and ice give rise to water to nourish the bulbs and seeds in the ground, so do the waters of our bodies, the deep wisdom of our DNA help to give rise to our own soul intentions, those things that we wish to manifest into form, our own shoots, trees, and flowers.
So I invite you all to sit with yourself in the next few days (where the water meets the trees if you can) and listen to the rhythm and voice of your bones, your DNA, the water within and see what wishes to be birthed forth in the coming spring. I would suggest you write these down and place them upon your altar or plant them with some seeds to create a living remembrance and ritual of your intentions.
And if you are interested in keeping alive the ancient Celtic ways and honouring the sacred rhythms of nature, you may call upon Brigit, the goddess of healing and poets, midwives and blacksmiths to help you make three wishes: one a universal wish to all beings, one a wish for your family and one a wish for yourself. With each wish light a candle and call upon Brigit, the elements of water and wood and your own helping spirits to support these becoming reality. When you are completed light a fourth candle to welcome back the sun that is growing stronger in the sky each day. Allow all the candles to burn down while you envision these wishes becoming reality and embody the gratitude you feel for this magic, this life and the support of all our many helpers, seen and unseen.
And so it is!!
Blessings and Love,
Autumn is my favourite season. As the daylight comes later and the rains return here on the NorthWest coast, I can feel autumn laying it’s cloak upon me, it is thick and cool made of fog, wind, dimming light and vibrant decomposing leaves. It reminds me that nature is preparing for its winter slumber and urges me to do the same. Everything needs time to rest and rejuvenate, to return to source and realign with who it is and how it serves. With modern technologies and our seemingly never-ending drive to do more, be more, have more, we no longer allow ourselves to enjoy this movement inward, as our ancestors, not so long ago, did. I, for one, wish to reclaim the powers of the seasons and not become another burned out, frustrated, hormonally imbalanced, directionless human. I want to live a life in alignment with my natural cycles and spirit and working with the seasons aids me in doing that.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Autumn is the transition time moving from the hot fiery yang energies of summer to the cold watery yin energies of winter. It is governed by the element of metal that allows us to cut away what no longer serves, just as the trees drop their leaves and these will decompose and become the fertilizer for the new growth of spring. The Metal element helps us discriminate what is precious and what needs to go. It shows us, if we are listening, where the golden nuggets lie and which are the real gold, nourishing our self worth and connection to spirit and which are fools gold, hiding our dragons of self-deprecation, arrogance, self-destruction, martyrdom,…… Shamanism also sees the fall as a time of letting go and of great dreaming and if we can let go of feeding our dragons, we can dream a new dream that serves our highest purpose and all that live on this planet with us.
In our bodies, Metal is reflected in the paired organs of the lung and large intestine. They are the organs that filter the precious from the waste. Our lungs inhale clear qi from the heavens and exhale old turbid qi. They are connected to the skin, body hair and nose and protect us from external pathogens. They are also responsible for grief. The lungs capacity for grief allows us to honour and have gratitude for what we are letting go of and recognize that our lives will be transformed by this process. This is the gift of grief and how the decomposing of the old becomes the new life of the spring. If we do not allow our lungs to inspire and expire and move through grief naturally, our lung qi becomes stagnated and we may produce excess phlegm, become short of breath, get sick frequently, have chronic nasal issues, asthma or a chronic cough. On the other side if we get rid of too much and see nothing as precious our lungs may become deficient and we can have similar problems marked with more dryness and weakness.
The large Intestine also acts as a discriminator for us, when our colon is healthy we are able to reabsorb the precious minerals and water we need and expel the waste. When we can’t let go we become stagnated with toxins, emotions, and old habits and these can show up as pain in the lower abdomen, constipation or weight gain and just like with the lung when we let go of too much we become depleted of our own nourishment.
In the five element cycle, healthy metal nourishes our water, which is reflected in our kidneys and bladder and controls our deepest resources, our ancestoral essence/genetics, as well as our fear. Metal also helps control the wood element, preventing our livers from overacting on our other organs with anger, aggression and fire. When we work with our metal it assists us to make the long stretch of winter with ease and strength, which encourages a fertile and vibrant spring guided by spirit.
There are several things we can do to nourish our metal during this season:
- Slow down and take stock of our lives, reflecting on what no longer serves and what is most precious in our lives and begin to release through gently cleansing our bodies and minds, saying goodbye to relationships and old stuff, creating a simple releasing ritual to honour this process and your grief.
- Allow grief and sadness a place in your life. When it comes up recognize it and let it flow through you, letting it go through breath, crying, movement
- Eating warm, seasonal, easily digestible Pungent foods. These help promote circulation and digestion and release excess phlegm, Such as: ginger, onion, leeks, green onion, black peppercorn, garlic, celery, cilantro, fennel, spearmint, radish, chile pepper, sweet pepper, turnip, taro, cinnamon, cabbage, cardamom, cloves, oregano, mustard seeds, wine. Also eating yin nourishing foods to help protect against the dryness and winds of the fall, such as: pears, apples, mushrooms, tofu, seaweed, almonds, pine nuts, oils (olive, grapeseed, coconut, sesame), pork. As with any eating make sure you don’t over do it on any one kind of food.
- Wear a scarf to protect yourself from external pathogens, especially wind
- Take herbs that clear, moisten and nourish the lungs and intestines: A simple tea made of some of the pungent herbs above to clear phlegm and warm the body like the always classic lemon, ginger and honey or a nice moistening blend with slippery elm, marshmallow and licorice root.
- Practice gentle movement practices to keep your qi moving but also build your qi and strength for the winter like qi gong, yin yoga, tai chi, walking,
- Spend time outside breathing in clear qi from the heavens
- And of course get some acupuncture! For low cost acupuncture, check out the local acupuncture schools or community acupuncture clinics in your area. For more psycho-spiritual assistance look for a five element or alchemical acupuncturist.
If you wish to go even deeper into your process and the process of the cosmos, the autumn/metal time of year is supported by three primary astrological signs:
- Libra- Sept. 23 to Oct. 22- the sign of balance, justice, beauty, truth, perfection and relationships. A wonderful time to delve into your relationships with self, other, spirit, work, body and the planet.
- Scorpio- Oct. 23 to Nov. 21- the sign of self-will, taboo, secrets, transition. A time to go deep within and look at our shadowy places around emotions, love, sex, secrets and taboos. What needs to be brought up to the light and what needs to be let go.
- Sagittarius- Nov. 22 to Dec. 21- The sign of higher knowledge, learning, wisdom, spirituality, philosophy. This sign helps us to start to dream a new dream and find the wisdom in all of our letting go, helping us to make the transition to winter.
Wishing you all a gentle, nourishing and deep Autumn,
Marika Reid Hall
References and Resources to go deeper:
Dear Mother Earth,
It is with all my heart, body, mind and spirit that I thank you for all that you do for me, for all of your children. Every minute, of every hour, of every day you nourish us without question or asking for something in return. Yours is the unconditional love that is written about in tales and songs, that makes me wonder if I am worth of such love and care. You offer us power, peace, love, support and beauty but though you are a benevolent being I know you are hurting and lashing out at us disrespectful children, forever sucking at the teet till mother has no more.
I know I have not always been good to you and chosen the easy, disposable, fast way of life. But without you I would be lost, You are my connection to this human body, you are one of the most amazing things in this game we are playing, you are spirit manifest in pure form, shining your light and love on all of us. It brings me great sadness when I see the abuse committed to you, just as we abuse each other and ourselves. If only we all woke up and remembered connection is the greatest medicine and how sitting upon you and breathing you in settles our nervous systems, relieves our stress and reminds us we are not alone.
I sat up on you this afternoon and offered you up my gratitude and prayers. I prayed that I always keep my connection to you and that our relationship grows stronger everyday and that all beings may work to create such a relationship. I know that in a mutual relationship of care and respect we can thrive all together. We are your stewards and in sitting with you and witnessing the miraculous way in which you work, we can create a way of being that is based in unconditional love and respect and through your love and support we can heal the pain and loneliness that lies deep within.
I am so blessed to live in a place where I can be with you daily and am in constant awe of your beauty, power, strength, support and nourishment. Thank you for being the role model you are to me, for feeding me, for the beauty you break me open to, for listening to my prayers, pains and discomforts and offering me your love and support. I love you so much!!!
With endless love and gratitude,