begin. again. and again.

oh boy.

oh boy.  oh boy.

twelve months have almost passed since i last wrote.

twelve months.

these past months i have done many things other than write.  many things.  lots of dishes.  laundry.  vacuuming.  (what a weird word that is.)  i have done lots of crying and lots of healing.  thanks to plant spirit medicine i have shed some of what i do not need.  i have experienced lots of loving.  i have watched my children continue to grow.  boom.  my oldest daughter has bigger feet than me.  boom.  both my children are in school all day.

i have experienced a lot of kissing these last twelve months.   more kissing than vacuuming.  which means there was a lot a lot of kissing going on (cause i really like vacuuming).  lots of exquisite kissing.  i have thought that maybe i should just post two pairs of lips touching so you would know where i was.  but really that wouldn’t have done justice to the complexity of my  year (or my days).  you might think it was all roses.  or dahlias.  or cosmos.  or green juice.  or striped yoga pants.  or you might think that i was only having the most incredible orgasms i have ever had.  (i think i will write a whole post about that soon!)  you might even think my year was spent lying on a beach in a bikini.  but that just wouldn’t be true.

this year has been about beginning again.  which is another way of saying that i have been learning to trust.  i have been letting a man love me.  sometimes this has been so easy and sometimes it has been so damn hard.  i have been letting myself really love him.  this too has been both sweet and simple and excruciating.  beginning again is another way of saying that i’m teaching my heart to become un-broken.  or maybe i’m not the teacher here.  perhaps the plant spirits, my children, and my new partner are my great teachers.

perhaps i am “writing” a new story.  my love story.  and maybe i don’t need to write it alone.  maybe i’m learning that we write together.  or as my partner might say:  “what are we going to dream into being?”  what are we going to co-create?

i’m not sure what has stopped me from writing here.  if i have time to scroll facebook….. i have time to write.

i decided to begin again.  right now.  i am grateful that i can.

can you almost see me press the publish button?  just after you watch me spell check!

and after i find that photo i wanted to show you!

P1020035love and new beginnings chantalle xo

 

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i traveled with sue

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sue and i swam in the sea.  we did this every day.  and every day it was this holy shit feeling.  we are swimming in the ocean.  i could see it in her eyes.  the awe.  the gratitude.  the bliss.  i’m sure i had a similar expression.  i felt so buoyant.  and free.

sometimes we giggled like children.  so much was fresh.  so much was new.  like the flying fish jumping.   i yelped in delight every time i saw one.  when they hit the surface, not far from where we swam, and descended back into the water, a spray of smaller silver fish glittered.  sue had lost her prescription sunglasses in the water the day before, but still i continued to shout: “can you see all the little ones flying up? over there! wild!”   we stayed in the water until the sun was low in the sky and our fingers were puckered.  i licked the salt around my lips.

newness was driving on the other side of the car, on the other side of the road.  this newness was awkward.  worse than a sloppy first kiss at 13.  on these daily car treks i sometimes shrieked, but not usually in delight.  sometimes i was grumpy after a day of bizarre (to me) round-a-bouts, narrow roads, and steep climbs with blind corners.  i argued with paul, my dear friend, about the meaning of straight.  no way seemed straight.  nothing seemed like going forward.  it was all rough and curvy.  and i felt lost.  i slowed at every passing car.  and almost froze when buses came near!   i could not enjoy the view!   but a dip in the sea was all i needed to wash away the stink of fear.  and i tried to tell myself that i was getting smarter.  all this other side business.  all this switching it up.

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i was always excited to see fresh papayas and avocados being sold on the side of the road.  thrilled to pick a lime fresh from the tree.  happy to find kale and mizuna and mustard greens at the holder’s farmers’ market.  i enjoyed the smell of freshly brewed bay leaf tea.  and was deeply saddened by the mangoes, falling on the road near paul’s house, never to be eaten.  and just the other day, back at home in guelph, i saw dozens of neglected apples on the roadside half covered in fallen leaves.  same same.  but different.

my travels don’t often take me far from home.  but for the past few years i have been journeying to barbados.  once a year.  and for the last two years sue has joined me.  this year she was my sole retreatant!  i was her personal person!  and she was mine.

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traveling with sue was a gift.  a gift of giving and receiving.   i offered yoga and food and adventure.  she presented me with grace and surrender.  and trust.  we offered as much of ourselves to each other as we knew how.  we shared stories.  we listened.  we watched the moon grow lush and full.  we laughed.  drank from coconuts.   swam.  and swam.  we napped in the shade of beach umbrellas.   and then we swam some more.  we celebrated sue’s 61st birthday.  ate chocolate for breakfast as often as we wanted.  and then we cried.  we mourned the death of her son.  we honoured the 10 year anniversary of his passing.  we looked at his photos.   his little boyness.  his young manness.  his eye twinkle.  his 25 years of life.  sometimes we held back our tears.  i could see it in her eyes.  the ripeness of  her sorrow.  the holding it in.   our travels brought us back again and again to the joy and the sorrow.  the two holding hands, never far apart.  the warm sun against the deep loss.  the loss highly contrasted by our joy.

one day, tired after a full day of trekking, we swam in rough waters and were taken by the current.    it came upon us so suddenly.  one moment we were laughing in the waves.  the next we being being whisked away!  we were terrified.  i saw sue stuck.  unable to swim against the pull.  i followed her not knowing if we would get smashed against a rocky shore.  but unwilling to leave her.  in my haste i made my way, desperately, for rocks.  thinking i was at home in different waters with different rocks.  the waves smashed me against the jaggedness.  but i made my way to the beach with only a few sea urchins embedded in my shin, and fingers, and feet.  sue let the current pull her around the rocks and managed to find a small patch of beach upon which to land.  we looked at each other in shock.  and relief.  and we never swam at that particular spot again!  later, after a long nap and supper, sue took photos of me trying to dig out the hard urchin bits with a needle.

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ever morning, at 6:30, we faced the ocean on our mats.  and almost every evening too.  we sat side by side looking out and breathing in.  our meditation was to receive the sound of the ocean, and the birds, and the music at the bar.  our yoga to be with the dogs that liked our mats as much as we did.  to stretch and strengthen even when people were walking by.  our practice, i think, was to be together.

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our retreat offered us the possibility of being, just being in all our wildness, by the powerful sea.

sometimes i get up early

yesterday, at 3am, ezra asked me to cover her up.  the blankets must have gotten tangled.  she was cold.  i snuggled her back into blankets, rolled over, and checked the clock.  3am.

3am has become this funny time for me.  if i am woken (by myself or someone else) i can’t seem to fall back asleep!  my mind is full.  telling stories.  planning.  fretting.  working stuff out.  i usually stay in bed while this happens.  but yesterday, after an hour of mind play, i decided to get up.

i rolled out my yoga mat at 4am.  it was a miracle!  i never get up and do yoga.  unless i’m teaching.  i wake up at 5:30am almost everyday.  but it’s to make green juice for folks and get the kids ready for school or go to the farmer’s market.  there have been very rare moments when the girls are with their father that i have done some yoga.  but not like this.  this yoga was more free from self-judgment than i’ve experienced in a long time.  maybe it’s because of the auspicious hour?  maybe it’s because of the week of morning yoga i had taught the week before? or maybe it’s because of what i said before bed?

i twirled my wrists and flicked my fingers.  i laughed and i watched years of yoga teaching roll over me.  all the phases i have been thru.  all the movements i haven’t taught in a while.  poses i love.  poses i don’t.  i was compassionate and funny with myself in a way i usually reserve for others.

yoga photos by ally 026i luxuriated in twisting.  breathed into spots where something has been holding for a long time.  i tried not to push too hard.  i tried not to try.  the holding and stiff spots didn’t disappeared.  i just noticed them.  and breathed.

it was one of those moments.  a more clear than foggy moment.  a rare self kindness hour.

yoga photos by ally 035i am no longer dreading waking at 3am. although i’m not setting the alarm for that hour!  but if i do wake and find i really can’t go back to sleep i might get up and roll my mat out again and see what happens.

before i went to bed i had curled myself up into a ball and i had promised myself that i would take care of me.  that i would love me no matter what.  you see i had been feeling sick for weeks.  tired.  scared of i don’t know what exactly.  scared of death.  scared of failure.  sickness being a failure (in my stories!)  and so i promised to myself again, like a little wedding, to honour myself no matter what.  with or without the yoga.  with or without the cold or flu.  healthy or not.  i was going to remember to keep loving me.  it’s a good promise.  and it’s so strong and deep it’s ok if i break it or i forget!  probably a little something like god.

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all photos by ally

http://allysphoto.com/

a love letter to my father

“In American psychotherapy, the first question many practitioners ask their new clients is essentially, “What did your parents do to you to mess you up so badly?” One of my Japanese friends tells me that in his country, a therapist is more likely to ask, “What did your parents do for you? How did they nurture and support you?”

Without dismissing the possibility that your mom and dad did inflict damage on you, I’ll ask you to concentrate on the Japanese-style inquiry for now. What are the best things that happened to you when you were growing up? What did your family and community give you that you’ve never fully appreciated?” Rob Brezney’s Free Will Astrology.

this is a love letter to my father.

ezra's 5 birthday and bee pollen and stones 071i told my daughters recently that when i was a little girl (maybe five years old) i thought i was going to grow up and marry you.  i  remember this so vividly.  i can feel it:  the overwhelming love.  i believed that this is how my life was suppose to go: you was going to be my husband.  i was concerned about mom.  i worried she would be too sad.  but i loved you so much.  and perhaps that is how i understood that you would be mine forever.  when i was five it wasn’t a metaphor.  i really believed that you would be my husband.  the girls and i giggle at my understanding of growing up.  and i laugh because i was so astute!  and they laugh because i was so silly!  and both are true!

this is a love letter to you father.

you has always taken care of me the best way you knew how.  you are a provider extraordinaire.  you are a very hard worker.  you began working in your father’s insurance business in your early twenties.  yesterday you turned 68 and you are still working (and running) that business.  you are dedicated and diligent.  you are a people person.  i remember walking around the mall with you, i was still young enough that i held your hand, and watching as you said hi to what seemed like everyone.  you are warm and friendly.  and i think you are a great boss.  you have had many of the same employees for over 20 years.  i greatly admire your skill with money.  it is something i have yet to really figure out.  you continue to help me, even though i am an adult, with generous gifts that bring great ease to my life.

this is a love letter to my papa.

you are funny.  you laugh long and loud.  you love to joke and tease.  this was not always easy for me.  when i was little i would sometimes run to my room and cry.  i would hide my face in a pillow until mom came to find me.  i didn’t think it was funny that you hid my dessert.  and perhaps you didn’t know what to do with such a sensitive child!   i appreciate your sense of humor now.  and the lightness that you bring to life is a gift.  my girls think your sense of humour is hilarious.  they don’t mind when you offer them a beer or a hotdog (which they do not drink or eat!).  they just laugh!

you are fierce.  you can yell. (sometimes because you are scared or worried.)  you can explode.  you can swear.  and fume.  i don’t know for sure, but it seems that you can really let shit go.  express it and move on.  and not hold on to it.  it doesn’t seem as if you hold too many grudges.  and this is awesome.

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you are a dedicated husband.  you have loved my mom the best way you know how.  i am proud of how the two of you have navigated your life.  i have always willed for you to stay together.  even when you fought.  i realized that fighting and misunderstanding is a part of life.  and it does not need to be a end to a relationship.  i am thrilled that you have journeyed together in so many different waters.  you take care of her and provide for her in the same ways that you do for me.  and this is a blessing.  i imagine that it must be hard to mom’s husband sometimes.  i don’t know what it is like for you to have watched her all these years suffer such headaches.  i have never heard you once complain.  i watch as you try to buffer her world, to create a space where there is more ease and less stress for her.  i watch as you love my mother and i am filled with awe.

this is a love letter to my father.

you are incredible during crisis.  and sometimes i forget that.  and so i call mom first.  but you were the calm one when i called about car accident, or when i was pregnant at 23 and then had a miscarriage.  you came to my piece about  sexual violence.  and you came running when my husband left me.

you are a private man.  i wonder how you might feel at this public love letter.  i hope you don’t mind.  my eyes are filled with tears.  i am filled with so much emotion.

i want you to know that i see you as a generous, ethical, dedicated man.  i see you as a powerful, funny, strong man.  i want you to know that i respect you.  i think that i have learned many beautiful things from you.   i am a strong fiery woman.  i am creative.  i am deeply caring.  i am a strong supporter of community.  i support local businesses, especially small ones.  i love people, especially old people.  i am funny!  and sometimes i say the most outrageous things!  i can speak french!  so much of you has nurtured me!  deep gratitude papa!

i still love you with the intensity of a five year old girl!  but it’s o.k. if we don’t get married! 😉

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my best friend was a cat

george died last week.

DSC_0460she died like she lived: freely and patiently.  i was close by, crying.  i sat on the floor beside her, my hand on her back as she exhaled her last breath.  i watched, a little stunned, as her body went stiff, then stilled.  we were in the basement.  i was shocked at the sound of her last breath.  shocked at the movement of her legs…which seemed to force this air out…or was a bi-product of the leaving.  this dying was something between beauty and ugly.  something so raw.  something i don’t understand.  the girls were upstairs.  ezra kept calling me.  “when are you coming up?”  i called back crying.  “george is dying now.  just wait please.”  george’s dying was short.  ezra didn’t have to wait long for me.  i returned to them all puffy and red.  sniffling back snot.  wiping my eyes and my nose with my sweater sleeve.

we buried her with cedar and sage and tobacco.  and a stone with my heart on it.  i placed her in white cloth with blue flowers.  and covered her with dirt.  she is underground now.

i miss her.  i notice her absence especially when i return home.  she is not here wanting out.  or wanting in.  she isn’t sleeping on my bed or curled up on the heater grate.  she doesn’t want cheese.  nor is she here to sit on my friends.  nor purr when petted.  she doesn’t join the girls and i in bed at storytime.  climbing all over us with and for love.  my experience is that she is gone.  i remember her.  but i don’t feel her presence.

i don’t really know what dead is.  other than dead.

sometimes i think i catch a glimpse of her.  a darkness out of the corner of my eye.  i suppose i was almost always aware of her.  i watched for her on the back deck.  i would let her in or out whenever she wanted.  it didn’t bother me.  i loved that she was free to come and go.  the habit of opening doors for her has not died.  and part of me is still waiting for her.  my eyes searching for her movement.  ivy suggested this morning that it might be her spirit i am seeing.  i like that idea.  ezra wanted to know what spirit is.  and the best i had to offer was “the part of us that does not die when we die.”  she simply nodded.  maybe because she knows that i don’t really know.

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george taught me many things.  i am pretty sure she accepted me exactly as i am.  she was fine and content with life.  she was loving and ruthless.  she rubbed her face against my children’s hands.  and killed chipmunks.  it didn’t matter if i ignored her or loved her up.  she was the same.  she just was.

i have never met anyone quite like her.  human or otherwise.  i realize that she was my best friend.  she lived with me for almost 17 years.  she watched me grow.  she offered unwavering existence.  she just was.  her way of being in the universe was exquisite.  i aspire to her chilled-out-ness.  i aspire to a calm quiet acceptance of me.  and the occasional outburst of ruthlessness (but not with chipmunks!).

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put that box down, and eat some cake!!!!

i hurt my back.  i was putting a cooler into the back of a minivan.  it was hot hot and i was grumpy.  the girls were grumpy too.  i wanted to be cool already.  i wanted to be calm and cool.  and at the beach.  but i was rushing out of the heat.  arguing out the door.  i put the cooler into the back of the van, my back rounding with the strain.  it seized.  it gripped.  it yelled at me.  and i yelped.  i grrred:  “oh my back”.

i am fiercely independent.  that is my story.  i like to carry boxes and coolers and tables.  preferably by myself.  i can open the door with my foot.  i prefer not to ask for help.  i think i’ve mentioned that before!  i know i often carry too much.  i even use my mouth to carry extra.  if i could i would carry everything out of the car in one load.  i’m sure it is comical to watch.  my neighbours must get a regular giggle.  can you see me with my arms and shoulders laden with grocery bags and a box; there is also a cloth bag hanging from my teeth and i am trying to close the trunk of my little blue car?

i asked matthew to cut the grass with my push mower sunday morning.  i didn’t want to ask him; but i knew if i pushed it i would cause myself more pain.  like i did saturday picking up the trays of sprouts.  you see there is actually more clover then grass in my little yard.  clover flowers are beautiful; and fun to eat.  but the bees buzz in the clover grass.  we walk bare foot and sometimes we step on them.  stepping on bees is no fun.  so i asked matthew to cut the grass.  and sweetly he did.

i’m noticing how difficult it is for me to sit still.  to just be.  to undue.  i prefer to keep myself  ‘busy’.  i enjoy doing.  moving.  cleaning.  tidying.  weeding.  teaching.  selling.  juicing.  playing.  driving.  writing.  reading.  talking.  with only the occasional rest.  my back, however, was asking for more than occasional.  it also required a narrower range of motion.  and so i obliged…honestly… because there was no other choice. the kind of pain i experienced in the first few days was the sharp, shooting, and take your breath away kind.

after five days of much less doing, and some less doing, and a little less doing i am feeling much better.  i am left with only a subtle tenderness and much stiffness.   some loving stretching will assist me. i am also left with deep gratitude for the regular happiness of my body.

with a sore back i still made and ate raw cake!!!!!  in celebration of sitting down with almost nothing to do…here is a cake recipe.  i rarely use recipes anymore…so these recipes are pretty close to what i put in the blender…i just don’t always measure with cups…i use handfuls…but for your ease…i’m using the measuring cups measurements!!!

eat me cake (aka put that box down and eat cake)

crust

2 cups of brazil nuts

1/2 cups of pitted dates or figs

blend in vitamix (or high powered lender)

press into spring form pan

middle

5 cups of cashews

1/2 cup of coconut oil

1/2 cup of honey

2 cups of water

1 Tablespoon of vanilla powder

juice of one lemon

pinch of pink salt

blend in vitamix..use plunger…until smooth

poor over crust and freeze

topping    

3 Tablespoons of cacao powder

1 Tablespoon of raw honey

1 Tablespoon of coconut oil

water to blend;

mix in a bowl with a spoon and spread over frozen cake

top with berries  and enjoy

keep frozen until about 15 minutes before eating  (i have gotten some feedback recently about the time it takes to soften after taking it out of the freezer…so it seems to vary…but it may take as long as 30 minutes to cut easily)  it will be an experiment!!!!!  please let me know how long it takes YOUR cake.  and really how you like to eat it (cold, hard, soft….)

the raspberries in our backyard are delish.  and the wormies are friendly!  raspberries are amazing toppings.  and worms are great friends.

the wild and the cultivated

the weeds are growing in the cracks of my walkway and along the edge of my house.  they pepper the lawn.  they blossom in between the garden beds.  in the driveway.  they push themselves up in between the tulips and under the thyme.  the dandelions are everywhere.  i pluck them and put them in juice.  the garlic mustard is having a love affair with the raspberries.  and the lamb’s quarters are invading my cosmos patch.  you will find chickweed and plantain and burdock and other wild things here too.

i am conflicted.  i am torn between the wild and the cultivated.  you see i grew up in a subdivision in penetanguishene.  and up until recently my parents hired the weed man.  they scraped the weeds from the cracks in their front walk with butter knifes; and edged their garden beds nicely.  the lawn was green and lush and even.  and even now without the weed man it is still is.  so when i drive into my own driveway and see all the wild things i experience an internal quiver.  a mild revolt.  a little ug.  there is part of me that would prefer a pristine clean-cut yard.  at least in the city.  i hear a small voice telling me to DO something about all these weeds.  this might be a surprise to many who know me or come to my home but i do wonder what my neighbours think.  but even still i can’t seem to manage clean-cut.  the wild things (the weeds!) love me too much.  perhaps they understand my need for them more than i do.  and i do know a little about their medicinal and culinary benefits.

i am a fair weather gardener.  two weeks ago it was sunny and 20 degrees.  i rolled up my yoga pants and played in the backyard in my bare feet.  ezra and i pulled the wild things from the garden boxes.  we filled the wheelbarrow with our composted sprout mats and filled up the boxes.  i gave ezra rides in the wheelbarrow in between filling it with dirt.  last week it snowed; and i hardly looked at the garden.

it is gorgeous outside today.  but there is still a little chill in the air.  i choose to rest briefly in the hammock and let the sun kiss me instead of pulling grass out of my flower beds.  i am choosing to write rather than plant.  maybe next week it will be warmer and i’ll finish transplanting the wild phlox and put in a couple of rows of kale.

it’s interesting, but when i’m in the forest i embrace the wildness.  the fallen leaves.  the fallen branches.  uneven edges.  life growing as it does.  life composting too.  the mushrooms, the moss.  the decay.  the erratic growth.  i feel very calm in the forest.  nothing needs to change.  nothing seems out-of-place.  everything feels perfect.

i don’t know if it would be different for me if i lived in the forest.  if i could allow most of the land to remain wild.  if i could plant some vegetables in neat tidy rows and let the rest be as it is.

i’m not sure if my garden beds will ever be perfectly edged.  nor my hair perfectly groomed.  nor my house perfectly perfect.  i think there is a wildness in me:  potent like wild plants.  deep yearnings pushing up against my upbringing.  questioning conventions.  desires stronger than my concern for what other people think.  a deep self-seeding love continues to take root.  maybe with time the wild things will overtake my fearful need for perfection and leave me strikingly real.