Have you ever found yourself halfway back in time and space? Not entirely in the present and yet surely not having fully left the previous. This is where I am today.

It maybe because my present is so unformed and amorphous right now, unsettled, without shape or definition, that this slippage into a place from before could happen. Have I taken a step back? Am I searching in my past for some remedy to the present?

I have to look at that, see how it feels to wear that for a while. There is reason enough to feel that my current circumstances and choices are far from working in the practical, sensible, material sense. The past looks pretty damned good from that angle, with the little house and garden, predictability and companionship. It is easy to ignore the past discomfort, reasons I didn’t stay, and deny the person inside that I am re-finding now.

Much has changed for me, and those directly affected by my choices and the continuing unfolding of my life. It is true that we are independent beings, responsible for our own lives but we are also social beings living to a greater or lesser degree in community. The interactions with the other independent beings in that community impinge on our individual lives and choices.

I know that I cannot dismiss that reality and part of living as the independent being that I know I am, is to respond to the overlapping stories with integrity, compassion and truth. So, on the journey within my present there are times when the past asks to be seen and heard. It is not the same of course. I have evolved – things and people, times and places have changed. But the whisper of that reality, perhaps unresolved and still hanging, is in my present. So here I am.

  I realize, with a burst of clarity, that it is not because I  am physically and emotionally un-tethered in my present material circumstances, that I am in this current situation. It is rather because I am so fully in the present. The present that lives in me – in my center, my certainty and my comfort – that allows me to be again in a past physical place, with surprising comfort and ease.

Where am I? I am back in the house where I lived until six months ago. I am here to mind the dogs, water the garden and fill the space for the place-keeper who stayed when I left. He is away on a much needed and deserved break from this space. Time in a different space to re-find, as I have been doing, his present, new inner place.

It is testament to the patience, wisdom and courage we have both independently and uniquely drawn on that we can be in this place. A place of asking and receiving, giving and accepting. A place where each of us, for different reasons that have to do with our very different journeys, have to face whatever it is that is difficult to do. It is a step on the path to full healing from the old place, free of expectation or keeping a tab.

We can never go back – the past is the past. Looking forward robs us of the present and thus the opportunity to embrace the gift of the Now is missed. So I am indeed back where I used to live, temporarily, with no plans for the future beyond this Now. The trailing memories of the past after the initial explosion into my senses and heart, are now just that – soft clouds in the sky of my mind – as I am able to live in this Now.

The gift I was given, to come and be here for someone else, has given me peace and power in equal quantity. It is surprising isn’t it? When unexpected comfort rises from the discomfort, when the blind leap sets us free, when the conscious placement of old stories opens new possibilities.

So I am fully in the old space with a new present. I have picked tomatoes (new), watered roses (old) and worked out the new internet system. I am running the old trails, sleeping in the old bed oriented newly in the room. I clean the same counters and sit at a different desk.

I won’t be here when the present place-keeper comes back. But I will have had my present here and will give his to him – through my being here in this place while he is away in a different place making space for this one.

My story will continue, with a new present unfolding every day, and the memories of the past trailing quietly behind me. The demarcation between the past and present, the half way back and half way here, always gives way to and, in fact, is the present. Sometimes we just need to bump right into that line to know that. I am here, now, and doing fine.

And how is your Present?

 

This is the 3rd and last in this series of three blogs where I am exploring the opening sentence of my Personal Magic book:
You can be someone who is resilient, optimistic and kind while being realistic in the present world.’

Last time I offered a way into being a realistic Optimist  and the blog before encouraged you to embrace Resilience.  Today I consider choosing to be Kind in your interactions in the world.

Kindness, or compassion, is an action and attitude that is most useful when directed both out to others and also toward your self.  Like Resilience and Optimism, it is not befuddled by avoiding facts, and sidestepping reality in a syrupy wash of ‘feel good’ babble.

Kindness is marked by the capacity to both see the reality without emotional attachment or the need to prove something, and at the same time with a generosity of heart. A kind person can offer support without dismissing the others’ experience or behavior nor using that as an excuse to exact a lesson. Kindness expects nothing in return and is independent of outcome.

In many ways, kindness is a gift that we can give to another. In the book I write this about Gift giving:

When you are empowered, you can choose what to receive  (allow in) and what to give (offer out). The feelings – and indeed the tangible outcome of giving – often elicit a smile on the face of the giver as well as the receiver, a sensation of warmth, peace of mind. Most of us want to feel good, to be at peace. Giving a welcome gift with an open heart and with no expectation of ‘reward’ brings its own reward – of goodness, of peace and of honorable power.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, you are most empowered when you give, and the gifts that have the greatest capacity to stimulate empowerment are those that are created with courage and truth, offered as gifts with no expectation of reciprocity. A gift is only a gift if offered as such. When we place a condition or price on it, it becomes a ‘deal’ or a sale.

You can see how kindness must be offered with a clear intention, distinct from your fear and needs.

Earlier in the book I write about Attachment, Detachment (really the flip side of attachment – it is still hooked into the drama) and the only powerful place of all, Non-attachment.

Non-attachment – the state we are in when we are not caught in the drama. We have nothing to prove, win, defend, get or make happen. So we can pay attention to the entire interaction because we are not blocking or manipulating the material.

Ultimately true kindness, offered without expectation of return and clear of personal agenda, empowers others. Especially with regard to the children/youth with whom you engage, kindness and compassion that does not excuse nor blame, offers a foundation from which they can gain their own empowerment.

In the final chapter of the Personal Magic book I write about the role we all have in empowering the children we meet.

No-one empowers another. That is something each person must accomplish for him/herself. However, as parents or teachers, you can (and, in fact, must) seed opportunities for that Empowerment of Self to arise in others.

Those opportunities will vary widely based on age, ability and circumstance. It does mean that you find ways to expand the horizons, broaden the activities and environments, and widen the range of relationships and activities for each individual. Through your efforts others may find ways to attempt, fail, succeed and finally experience the true exhilaration of well-earned pride and the empowerment that struggle and outcome can bring.

Kindness as the foundation from which you engage the world allows you to be both honest and supportive, hold others accountable and forgive their mistakes.

As valid as all that is, most importantly is to practice kindness toward yourself. When you provide the same kind of clear, honest and compassionate support in your own journey, so you will be more able to truly shine your Personal Magic for others.

KINDNESS EXERCISE

• Take a moment and consider who in your life has been kind to you. Define ‘kind’ as something that encouraged you to grow, supported on you in your journey.
• Write a short description of something they did that stands out for you.
• Write a short letter of thanks (even if you do not send it or that person has passed on.)

• Now, write a letter of kindness to yourself.

Looking back on the last two posts and this, take a moment to pull them together for yourself.  How do they relate for you? ResilienceOptimism – Kindness. Your Personal Magic will bring you to this place. As you negotiate and embrace to opportunities of 2012 and beyond, that empowerment will be the strongest foundation from which sustain, evolve and participate fully in your life.

Please share your thoughts with us by posting in the comments below.

I am delighted to introduce you to my first Guest Blogger, the wonderful Kathryn Cloward. I first ‘met’ her through Twitter when I saw that she had written a book called Kathryn the Grape- Just Like Magic.  Here is this powerful, real woman who is writing books for children about their inner magic.

It was serendipitous for me as I launch Personal Magic to know that I am working in good company, that my passion and belief in the unique capacity of every individual is so perfectly expressed by another writer, and for children.

In Personal Magic I write:

No-one empowers another. That is something each person must accomplish for him/herself. However, as parents or teachers, you can (and, in fact, must) seed opportunities for that Empowerment of Self to arise in others….  Most of all, offer them the time and permission to interact with a living, breathing person – YOU! Bring your Personal Magic to assist in uncovering theirs.”

Kathryn does this in a myriad of ways. Get her book and share it with the children in your life. Oh, she also has words to the wise for us grown ups as well!  Enjoy the following from her August 13th, 2010 blog It will be a step toward knowing your Personal Magic.

………..

WHO ARE YOU?  by Kathryn Cloward

 I recently had a meeting with one of my mentors where we were discussing a variety of important things going on in my life. As I was speaking, I apparently made a few statements that included phrases like:

“…..who I am.”

“….my true self.”

“….reflecting who I am.”

Abruptly, my mentor asked me, “Who are you?”

Caught off guard, I said, “What?”

She said, “Who are you?”

I laughed out loud. Not my normal thundering “that-was-so-funny-I-can’t-help-myself” laugh. It was my “I’m-kind-of-feeling-uncomfortable” laugh. The “let’s-move-onto-another-subject” laugh.

It’s my…space filler laugh.

People who know me well, call me out on this laugh. My mentor knows me well, and thus, she called me out on it.

“Seriously, Kathryn. Tell me, who are you?”

Feeling a little off track from the flow of our original conversation (and mildly annoyed with my discomfort), I quickly answered, “Well, I am my son’s mom. I’m an entrepreneur. I…”

She cut me off and said, “Kathryn, get out of your head. This is important. Close your eyes and sit with it. Allows the words to come to you. Don’t force it.” Then she asked again gently, “Who are you?”

By now my smile had subsided. I knew this question wasn’t going away. It couldn’t go away. I agreed with her, it was important. It was a question that needed to be answered, not for her benefit, but for mine.

The question lingered….Who are you?

She waited patiently for my response. Just like a seasoned business negotiator, she asked the question and didn’t say another word.

So… I closed my eyes. I took a deep breath, exhaled, and sat in the stillness. I shut down the chatter in my mind (which took a fair bit of time) and allowed space to open up.

Then…

Stillness.

Stillness.

Within a few moments the visual appeared on my mind’s blank canvas. I saw my tree. The tree that started out as the logo for Natural Kidz, and then evolved to be the tree that brands and binds all of my businesses, the businesses I love and invest my work energy into.

I saw my tree.

The multi colored tree that has ultimately come to represent…me.

I am the tree.

Grounded.

Sturdy.

Flexible.

Growing.

Nurturing.

Colorful.

Colorful!

Moisture was gathering behind my eyelids and a small smile formed. Then my mentor broke the silence and asked, “What is your smile saying?”

I smiled wider, opened my eyes, and with a confident voice I spoke the words that had come to me when I saw the tree appear in my mind’s eye. I said, “I am wildly colorful!

She smiled and nodded with confirmation of my breakthrough. Oh yes! Now, I was most definitely out of my head and into my heart. I took a deep breath and continued with the self-defining statements that were flowing out of me.

I am wildly colorful.

I am compassionate.

I am courageous.

I am a great mom.

I felt good. I felt centered. I felt clarity.

I drove home in silence feeling peace in allowing and accepting my true nature to come forth.

My true nature is not first defined by my roles. When asked to describe myself, I normally respond with my roles, as I did when the question was first asked by my mentor. And while I am proud and honored to be my son’s mommy, my parent’s daughter, my (three) brothers’ sister, my friend’s friend, my own boss, I am also proud to be….wildly colorful!

At one point in my drive home that day, I recall laughing out loud, thinking: from now on when someone asks me a question that requires an answer of “I am…” I may just have to say: “Hi. I am Kathryn. I am wildly colorful!”

How is that for an ice breaker?

So…I raise the question to you. When you sit with yourself in quiet space and you get out of your head and into your heart, how do you answer the question; “Who are you?”

………

Kathryn can be found at:
http://www.kathryncloward.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/kathryncloward
Find her at Facebook: and LIKE her show The Ripple Effect
http://www.naturalkidz.com/

Read the original post with a beautiful illustration at: http://www.kathryncloward.com/who-are-you/

Short BIO:
Kathryn Cloward is a passionate and purposeful entrepreneur who is known for her dedication to creating dynamic companies. She is the founder and president of Natural Kidz and Kandon Unlimited, which is home of Kandon Publishing and Kathryn the Grape Company. Bringing her childhood nickname to life in the Kathryn the Grape children’s book series has been one of the most fulfilling projects in her life.

Less than 10 minutes ago I sent the Personal Magic manuscript to Yoly, my publisher. I am not sure if I feel wonderful or slightly sick… My friend and author Ellae calls it ‘time enforced abandonment’. Yes I know it might never be ready but it does have to go out into the world eventually.

Of all the pages of writing – the ideas, activities, stories – the writing that most held me as I wrote and then almost brought me to tears when I read it over, was the acknowledgments page. To realize where this began was profound, to observe how many people and life events have been the tapestry from which this book emerged is deeply moving. Somehow it has brought together my life in a way not expected. A mystery cake that came out of the oven after so many years of mixing ingredients into it.

If the actual writing was the baking period, and if the ‘out of the oven’ moment was sending it to Yoly, then this cake continued to have ingredients added right up to the moment it came out of the oven! Life didn’t stop because I was writing the book. Quite the opposite in fact. The book and life strode along hand in hand, each urging the other on.

Sometimes the book was pulling life along and sometimes life dragged the book out into the open. This continued right through writing the acknowledgments. Maybe that is why we resist a book ending. We can go ahead and catch the odd commas and missed tenses etc until all are accounted for, but the rhythm of life itself will go on without the companionable encouragement of the book.

I wonder if this is the same for all books? Or is it because this one is so integrated with life and how we live it, with relationships and how we nurture them, with the body-mind-spirit connections at each individual’s level.

I have learned much by writing the Personal Magic book. It provided the means by which to pull my history together and to articulate my philosophy and passions beyond scattered thoughts and experiences.  Each time I got stuck or the writing felt rote, LIFE would take the work  in hand and say, “Ok, and what about this?” There is nothing in this book that I can’t own!

Now that it is done, even more than when I began, I know how deeply powerful the process of writing can be. If you are looking for the meaning of life, well, there is no better place to begin than writing your story. The meaning becomes clear and connects the dots of the mosaic of experience.

So I am proud of this book. I know that it will facilitate others on their journey as it leads each reader/participant through their personal story and thus to finding the unique meaning of their life.

Most of all though, it is in the acknowledgments that I feel whole and an immense gratitude. The power of gratitude is that it takes you outside of inner workings and into the vast universe of ONENESS. So when I write the acknowledgments, when I take that moment, in the small space given, to recognize all who gave me so much on the journey that became this book, I am expanded. When I write the dedication, I see the meaning.

This last insight isn’t in the book – that will have to be next one. You see what I mean?! The book and Life are used to progressing along together, so here is life offering an excellent ‘Aha!’ and the book is gone!

No matter. Life does go on and the story/book comes after each beat of the heart. The story arises out of the living and is not the heart itself but a close companion on the journey. I give this book to the world, and know I will continue exploring, evolving and sharing my Personal Magic. That is the delight that is being alive! I get to keep doing it – finding the commas, the odd grammar, misplaced tenses – tweaking, fixing, adding. Unlike a book, which does have to be abandoned, my life is forever.

Today’s blog is done but I share with you the acknowledgments and dedication as I sent them to the publisher this morning. You will have to get the book to see if they were re-worked before really going out into the world. There is still that one last opportunity to hold on – if it too long for the format…

Acknowledgments

This book has taken my entire life to come to fruition and there are many to recognize as teachers (often just through shared experiences) and supporters on that journey. Here is a partial list: the students over many years teaching at Linfield College and other workshops and schools; actors, directors, writers and producers in the live theatre world; the writers in the Performing Wellness Workshops; fellow teachers and passionate advocates for the arts; Bonnie Ross, Nurmi Hussa, Colleen Hawkes; and the horses, desert, hot-springs and mountains that sustain me beyond the words and thinking.

Dedication

This book is dedicated to Alexa who from the moment she arrived in my life has been a gift, a treasure, a challenge and a joy. The honor and responsibility of being her Mother impelled me to embrace my personal magic even before I knew that is what I was doing. Thank you.

2011 has brought with it many gifts, opportunities, challenges and, most of all, the imperative to really walk my talk. (Shoot, now I am in for it.)

This is what I seem to have on my plate as we end the first week of the year: my horse who needs care and exercise; an ongoing very part-time office job; a play in the nascent stages of rehearsal with myself as Director (at a 45 mile distant location); a book begging to be completed; maintaining the social media connections; a house in the late stages of unpacking and careful settling; a home which I share full time with another living, breathing, creating, loving being.

No wonder I am feeling as if something has to go. But what? Not my time out in the environment and natural air. Thank goodness my horse is the gateway into that world! Even if I don’t have time and energy to run or hike there is always her needing me and in that way we serve each other.

The office job ties in with the trips for the play rehearsal and I enjoy the comfort of being organized and useful in that space. (Not to mention it is a source of income!)

Directing/producing the play feeds my creative passion as I juggle actors’ schedules, budget with set needs and immerse myself in the actual rehearsal process. The driving there and back serves to give me the time to listen to music, catch the news, or simply ponder the latest wrinkle in the process.

The book is taking a back seat although I find am thinking about it more and with a clarity that had been missing when endeavoring to complete the final chapter. Somehow though, the sitting and writing is eluding me.

The daily Twitter and Facebook connection is once again finding its morning ritual place. As I drink that morning coffee and peruse the online NY times, other papers, and listen to NPR, I keep an antenna up for that on which I wish to comment. Checking on to my page and the plethora of discussion via the wall is more sporadic! (I love the little emails that tell me someone has written to me!)

And the blog? Well here is this! I’d very much like to be more successful at getting it out on the same day each week… but there is that darned rehearsal schedule for a start…

The house is inching toward completion, as each day at least one thing is carefully home-d in the space or something is taken to the little garden storage shed for later. However boxes still squat in places where I know they are not going to live forever!

I make forays into the garden, (a summer project for sure). I play with the dogs, write to friends on email and angst over the letters that deserve and need a hard copy reply. The vacuum cleaner and broom and the lemon spray stuff with the paper towels emerge weekly. The Grocery Shopping and the To Do For The House (it needs some maintenance) lists grow on the fridge door.

Ongoing is the sustained effort to generate income, create and nurture connections that will allow me to do the work that I want to do – arts in healthcare, theatre, teaching and facilitating others on their journey.

As I walk the high tightrope of my life right now, however, the pole that I hold across my body is the beloved being with whom I share home and the journey. This dynamic keeps me flexible and balanced.

It would be too easy to as I have before, swallowed up in all the work and the ‘to dos’, so buried in the Doing of it all that I do not recognize how to let some of it go. Identified and defined by business of KATE the avalanche of Business would swallow me/Kate up.

This relationship, this home, keep me from flying loose and un-tethered into the stratosphere, preliminary to landing with a sudden reverberating thunk back on the ground, wondering what happened…What has to go then, is the whirling dervish of mindless, self-perpetuating activity.

I knew in November last year, when I was found by and found the life inherent in this relationship, that I was being given the wings by which I could fly, freely, in control of the direction and the velocity. And also given the means by which to perch and rest, walk on the ground when necessary, then to soar way above the mountains other times. And so I can choose never to be at the mercy of the winds about me, never to lose sight of the earth and my place here.

So when it is time to get up in the morning, whether or not it is in response to the alarm or trusting I have woken in time for the days activities, there is also time to snuggle with the living, breathing body beside me, before easing out of bed. We share the making of coffee, chat with the dogs, remark at the welcome glory of the sun in the sky, overview the day ahead, before going to our different morning rituals.

On the days that I am gone most of the day and into the night, he will feed and visit with my horse for me and then tell me how she is when I get home late at night. I can go to his work place and have lunch, he can come to rehearsal. The Grocery Shopping and To DO lists are negotiated and prioritized regularly. We wander the aisles of store together by preference. ‘Slow down’, he says, ‘Relax. If you don’t get that done today it will be alright. Do this now.’

So I let go a little, know that I can do it all differently. I let the floor shimmer under its covering of AZ dust and little dogs’ hair one day longer, and stop talking about the latest in the news or the frustration of the slow writing. Instead I admire the beautiful pots in the studio that appeared through the clay from under his hands, give and receive a gentle massage for tired muscles, and breathe.

2011 lands me fully in the gift to live life in relationship with myself, in communion with another being, in work and in play as I have never done before. I can creatively balance my life, the journey and expression of my path in good health and good company. The trick, after all, is mindful breath and the gift of the hands that hold mine while letting me fly.

Last night the cold and storms that have been lashing the rest of the USA hit us here in Nthn Arizona – in particular this little corner of Cordes Lakes. The sun, as welcome as it is here and as home as it usually seems to feel (given its cheerful presence most of the time), hid from us most of the day. By mid-afternoon it was definitely cold, wet and windy.

On Tuesday while it was the sort of winter’s day we expect and why we live here (sun, gentle breezes and blue skies) Mariah, the little grey Arab mare who I am proud to say I own (have the papers and all to prove it!) arrived. We had been living up in the Rimrock area and when I made the move down here a month ago she stayed until I had the new abode ready for her.

I had planned to bring her down with friends on Wednesday (that’d be yesterday) and was blithely ignoring the weather reports. (After all, I know that people who aren’t used to ‘weather’ get quite excitable about a bit of the white stuff…) However, the friends took it upon themselves to announce they were bringing her that morning – Tuesday.

As they were doing the driving, were quite capable of loading her into the trailer and were also very good horseman I was not in a position to argue! My plan to drive up and be there to load her, then follow the trailer back was moot. I allowed that others could do what I can and could help me make this work better than I had foreseen, as the weather reports seemed to be more dire than I had wanted to believe. I moved the days’ plans about (also perfectly easy to do) and prepared the yard at the community co-op stables a mile from my house.

About 90 minutes later there she was, calmly leaving the large stock trailer. (She was able to turn around and come off facing the way out, her preferred method of disembarking and thus far less stressful than barreling off backwards, hitting her head as often as not.) To my surprise and relief, Mariah, this light, narrow-bodied, flecked grey Arab mare, was interested and relaxed, rather than antsy and anxious.

Ignoring the horse next door who was doing its best to intimidate, startle and generally make a scene, she wandered around, looked near and far, ate the alfalfa, slurped the water and that was that. Even the local old cowboy were impressed by this little A-rab mare!

The next day, the day of her planned arrival, the weather really moved in. She was by then fully settled and comfortable. Although she had been fed late afternoon, I was concerned with the extreme weather change and wanted to give her some extra feed that night. (A late night snack also meant I wouldn’t have to be down here at 6am!)

Making the little trek down there in the dark, the wind whipping about, everything soaked, I was grateful that someone else was driving and all I had to do was jump out and take the grain to her. (Mariah was quite unperturbed by the late night visitation of the Feeding Fairies, taking this odd event in her stride.)

This morning the two of us who share this house, split the mornings’ tasks between us. I finished the dishes from last night, made the coffee, checked in with the news of the road closures, (canceling a days’ trip out) and David made the dash to feed the little grey horse.

(I would have, but his truck was parked behind mine and I am not yet at all ready to drive his big Nissan, let alone in challenging weather! It was a little odd to be in the house, by choice, while someone else fed my horse. I cannot say when that last happened.)

Later I went down to clean the yards. There she was, standing in the shelter, amidst the deeply biting cold, looking as if she had been there forever. We stepped into our old routine, little extra feed, cleaning the yard and exchanging a greeting and rubs.

Feeling my cold hands in her long rough hair, warm breath on my face as she reached to find the feed, surrounded by the chill of the hard snow flecks and the smell of mud and wet manure, I was comforted. Carrying sweet green alfalfa, the exertion of wheeling the barrow to the manure pile, my feet frozen in their boots, I knew I had finally moved into my new home.

It has been like this the whole month of December. Plans made and changed, a gradual settling into place and home, unexpected moments of great joy and sudden anxiety. Visions dancing like the proverbial sugarplums in my head, and then reality.

The winds of the season, storms and tempests, gorgeous blue skies and hot sun, stunning sunsets, have come and gone with little warning and no real lasting effect at all. The one constant is the unfolding life I have chosen.

My daughter came here for almost a week, leaving the day after Christmas. This became a house-full. Even though the moving in is not complete it felt like a real home.  David and I sharing our first ever December together, a daughter coming to visit me in a place where at last there was room for her to spread out, his daughter on the phone first thing Christmas morning. (‘Have you opened the gift I sent yet? Hurry up! I am dying of anticipation!’)

We have a clay studio in the house. David is a ceramist. I had thought my daughter and I would drive up to where I used to live (where Mariah still was) and ride the horses there, we’d paint the bedroom, maybe the three of us would hike. I knew she’d be interested in the clay studio and assumed we’d do some things there, but I still thought of her as, well, just her and I.

However, this place, this home for family that David and I had created for ourselves and then extended open always-anytime invitation to our daughters, wove its own spell. The rumpled look of not being quite moved in, two small dogs who greet all with enthusiasm and delight, the sofa with old cushions, and candles that are always burning, defined Welcome. Piano, guitar, shelves of books and, seen through the two openings leading from the living room into the studio, a potters wheel and benches urged creation.

This house creates its own space for freedom and creative endeavor. Welcome, it says, come and play, be who you are.

So she did, we did. Alexa set a new tone as she embraced the home that we had been working so hard and busily to create. Along with the late sleeping and much eating, there was sitting in the comfy chair. David and I had looked at it where we put it knowing it’d be a great place to hang and read, but had not actually been able to find the time to sit. It took the daughter visiting, feeling at home, to actually use it! (And dub it the Comfy Chair.)

Of all that we did (and we didn’t paint the room or ride or hike!) the activity and energy in this house with the three of us came from the studio. One by one my daughter and I had guidance in making pots from David, patient artist/teacher who so generously and joyously shared this craft with us. He did so in a way that allowed us to find our own artist within, through a medium with which he has journeyed since his early teen years.

Pots were made late at night and the last of the under-glazing completed the morning she had to leave for the airport. Sometimes two people were in there, sometimes one, sometimes all three of us engrossed in creating art. Against the backdrop of Christmas, this family and this home came to life emerging through the womb of the clay studio.

Today, observing that little grey horse who arrived and accepted her new surroundings with grace and calm interest, who ate, drank and looked near and far, and who turns her tail to the wind but greets me with an open eye and ears forward, this awareness is the great gift of this holiday season. I cannot always control how each detail of my life turns out. I can just be in it.

It took my daughter to really open me to the home we had. The glimpses I had had in the making of it had been overwhelmed by the effort of moving, maintaining work and shifting from who I was and how I used to live to who I am and how I now live.

Remembering how she moved into this place, accepting its embrace, while maintaining in her true essence, I become more aware of my own inner strength. I can accept the gifts and the changes and know I will not lose myself.

The weather will do what it does, people will step in and be there even when I don’t ask. I will sometimes be lost and sometimes overwhelmed, losing sight of what is right in front of me. It won’t matter because when I sit in the comfy chair I will look about near and far.

What is right in front of me: I have my piano and horse here, my books out and a writing space set up. I have a home.

And, more than all of that, more than the things and the place and the stuff, I have been given by the universe someone with whom to share it all. Someone who will also feed my horse, create art with my daughter and most of all, greet me in the home we are making. A gift indeed for the new year and a blessing from the old.

May your year end as sweetly and the new year, 2011, bring such visions and reality to you. May you have a creative space in which to play, discover and rest. May you share love and home however that is for your heart and place. May you be well.

Spring is usually the time of year when these kinds of thoughts prevail. Not being limited by the season however, (or maybe subconsciously driven by my Australian roots where it is Spring) in the Northern Hemisphere Fall I am pondering this word: Married, the result of following through the verb, to marry. And then you are inside the noun of Marriage.

I have been married, albeit long ago, and then with no trouble resisted any impulse to so do again although I lived with someone long term. So it is not the living with, that is the problem, it is the terminology. The word has been reappearing before me again. It is amazing how at my age people are talking about it again after the marriages, divorces and ‘never-agains’.

So, I find myself wondering today what is in a word that it can cause such a pronounced attitude around letters in a particular arrangement?

Out with the Pocket Oxford:
Marriage – act, ceremony, or state of being married
Marry – shows me words like ‘give’ (as in ‘away in marriage’) and ‘take’ (as ‘in marriage’). Sounds like an exchange of goods and services.

There is also ‘unite’, an expansive word, implying that something greater is created.

Synonyms: espousal, union, nuptials, conjugality, matrimony, match. And these last three that remind me of catching/trapping and holding of something: wedlock, nuptial knot, nuptial tie. They each sound very final and sort of, well, imprisoned.

So where do my knee-jerk, heart-deep reactions to these words originate? Early in my life I was a university student feminist and along with studying history and living in the patriarchal Australian culture, was emotionally stirred by the reinterpreted history from radical feminists (Germaine Greer and others) who told this story.

(This next in a nutshell, quite unfairly to the nuances, but in the interests of brevity and to summarize a short but impressionable time in my life.)

Traditionally, women were dependent on men. They couldn’t vote and owned nothing. Men could behave or even leave with impunity whereas women were stuck. Women lost their names, their few processions and any inheritance. They were often also removed from their families in the process of being married – to which the word ‘off’ was regularly attached.

(Actually in most cultures the family of the female paid to get her ‘off their hands’ with goats, land or by footing the bill for a walloping great public ceremony.)

And here was the bit that really mystified me. Women yearned to be married! Why? Because it was a symbol of having achieved some sort of social and cultural status as a desirable and worthwhile human being. Never mind that the status as desirable and worthwhile was at the cost of personal and even social, educational or financial freedom.

So, I set off into the world of relationships both smitten by the opposite gender, and also determined to preserve my freedom. Tricky balance there and I didn’t often get it right and rarely for long. I swung from one extreme to the other.

The hardest aspect to balance was the social expectations with the division of labor bit that goes with sharing a household. Who was meant to cook and clean and do the shopping, who brought in the (most) money? How do we know when we are doing our ‘jobs’, our ‘part’?

Unresolved on this issue, I stopped thinking about it, moved away from Australia and got married. It looked as if it would be easy and the roles clear.

Indeed, even as I resented it at some level, doing those domestic things as my Mother had done, my friends did, somehow made me a credible and at least acceptable woman. When I am very honest I  enjoyed it in some ways. I was also reassuringly on the map, which kept me safe even if a little confused. I was living within the realm of conventional social expectations and standards of evaluations which had been so shocking in my university days.

But what else could I do? Enough of it really worked, and it wasn’t as if I had some incredible career. (In the current evolution of male/female relationships, that passed as an acceptable alternative if you were not a full time wife/mother.)

Many years later, I own a divorce, the memory of a long-term live-in/not married relationship and several long relationships NOT Live-in. I arrive today as a woman who has had the opportunity to more fully come to know herself, her unique source and place in the world. I have been nomadic, jobless, homeownership-less and blessed with time and willingness to simply Be.

Always I have had family (daughter, parents, siblings) and friends of long standing from Australia, Oregon and newer ones in Arizona. Years working in education, theatre, arts in healthcare and with horses provided a continuum of wide-ranging experiences within which to expand.

Underlying the entire journey is the ongoing exploration and evolving awareness of the role of Spirituality in my life. This, with all the arts work and play, has sustained, challenged and grown me.

Finally, I articulated the understanding I have gained into a book, Personal Magic, naming the unique and powerful Being each of us is, deep within our Soul-self. It is this work and play that enables me to be free from some old paradigms.

Thus, today I arrive here. Relationships exist between people regardless of the social and cultural milieu in which we conduct them. How we feel about them, behave within them, nurture or harm them, is to a large extent influenced by that culture and society.

We each have a choice: to function thoughtlessly within the definitions handed down to us, or to bring our personal awareness and individuality to create each relationship in a way that is true to our personal truth.

When I allow societies’ definition of a word to directly influence my choices around that word by refusing to give it any credence, I am as blind to my Personal Magic as when I blindly follow the conventions. This applies whether we are talking about Mother and Child, Friend or Enemy, Lover or Partner, Sibling or Stranger, Wife and Husband.

How we feel about and respond to the word ‘marriage’ is essentially a choice we can make. (Choice – I wrote about it last week.) So, revisiting the word requires an honest looking back, letting go, moving forward.

I look back to understand and place in context my personal history with the word and institution, the cultural norms as I knew them. I remember the history of the evolution of relationship between men and women throughout eras and societies. I note how the word is used in our current society for political and religious agendas.

I allow my indignation that Marriage is often narrowly defined without real respect for and honor of the LOVE that is shared by the two who would be married. When social and political considerations make something illegal, amoral or shocking, it serves to solidify my respect and admiration for those who, in spite of obstacles to their love, opt for a public ceremony of marriage and who agitate for the legal right to be married.

As a heterosexual woman, how fortunate am I to have the option of choosing that state, legally, without fear of slander, discrimination or rejection.

In reclaiming the word for myself in this time in my life, I create it anew. Marriage is the state of, act of, the pubic expression of a personal trust and gift; an experience no-one can have but the two in relationship. It is also understood within the cradle of the intimate personal relationship, loosely agreed to across many different lifestyles, societies and places.

For me, when I hear that someone is getting married, when I consider it again as an option for myself, I have my list of synonyms. These include: trusting, sharing, supporting, nurturing, growing, offering and receiving the gift of surrender. Marriage is riding the challenging along with soaking in the floating – together.

I know that this only works when each individual is free and whole, willing and able to evolve their Personal Magic. True independence resides in the capacity to choose. Choice arises out of clear vision and, as applied to this subject, is not dictated by fear, either of losing your independence or of being alone forever.

Marriage is a recognition of the other in ‘each other’, the one with whom you can journey in intimacy at ALL levels – body, mind and spirit. It encompasses coming together with time, permission and acceptance of the times apart. It honors the complete, whole individual who brings him/herself to this shared life.

Everything I knew before is a lie. This is now. I am this person with this relationship and this experience. Together we create how we are together whether it includes marriage or not.

Writing the book (Personal Magic) is part of arriving here. At every point in this darned book, I have had to truly walk the talk. This is one of those cases in point! I have had to acknowledge my history and fears, without attachment, in Awareness of Self.

I have had to truly let go of that which no longer serves me or is even relevant. I have drawn on my empowerment as a responsible person, embraced my willingness to give to others as well as to protect myself.  I have come to know that the two are not mutually exclusive.

So, to be or not to be married? Considering the question for myself or others, ultimately I have had to also accept that Spirit is there for all of us. When we know we are on the path of our right work, heart’s desire, doing what we are meant to, (however you name that), it becomes easy.

And if that path includes love, marriage and public recognition as such, then say Yes, in the fullness of your personal empowerment and magic in the world.