writingmybrain

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Summer’s Children – Part One

Summer's Children-2 copy

Summer is vital (we get to PLAY), energy is vital, combined there is no stopping us—any time of the year.

All we need is a simple unfoldment of time, experience with a dash of hutzpah then combine this with our know-how, open mind and our sense of curiosity—and in the words of my 98 year old former mother-in-law—bingo, bango. Her expression when something is complete or understood—my interpretation—you’ve got it, all is good, let’s do it, there you go… 

These six ingredients: time, experience, hutzpah, know-how, openness and curiosity individually or collectively give us the backbone to embrace our lives, the ups and downs and the ho-hums.

Last week I spent the day with two very wise elders’ also known and dubbed wrinklies by my elderly folks. As a boomer wrinkly myself, I am not insulted by either the name, or the implication. It’s true, wrinkles emerge. Reality is such, we are born, we die and it is what is done in the in-between times that can change the world, for better or worse, and that is a choice we make in each moment of our life, knowingly, or unknowingly slowly, at the same rate as our wrinkles surface. They are the indicators of time and a life lived fully. They are the contours that represent our journey.

One woman, born in Holland was nine-years old during the occupation of WW2, the other was born on the coast of Nova Scotia. One travelled over a mountain pass with a baby in a hand carved papoose on horseback to the back country with her Park Warden husband with four months’ supply of food; the other lived in the States, Mexico, Montreal each time following her husband in his work, learning the language, raising the family and adapting to the cultures. One became a well accomplished wood carver, the other a well-rounded pianist. Both hold the keys of engagement in a life well-lived, well-embraced and well-balanced.

Recipe copy

Writing Practice: What is your recipe for a good life? What are your six main ingredients? Play with it; bring joy into the experience. Create a visual representation of your recipe. Tack it on a fridge, on a mirror. Smile at it, embrace its sentiment. If your recipe alters, change it, write another. The choice is all-ways yours!


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Trust Your Gut

 

Trust Your Gut copy

I made a comment to a friend the other day how much I love to take photographs. It is a passion I had before my accident, and after five years of recovery and learning once again how to take photographs with one hand, I picked up a camera once more. However my comment was more along the lines that how I love a purpose to taking photographs. Of course, I have one—many in fact.

As a former journalist, photo-story was part of any composition. During the early years of recovery, getting to hold the camera still with one-hand, and focus was all about practice, again and again. I could (and still could) use a tripod, but hey, there’s something quite magical about taking a photograph with one-hand and not jiggling it to a blur. There’s a part of me that still loves the challenge, the unexpected, the magic. It makes my heart feel at peace, time disappear, and it’s like I’m dancing with what is before me. It is similar to writing and poetry, two more of my passions.

I recently read in an introduction to his book Critical Path. Buckminster Fuller included an article by his friend, e.e. cummings, the poet.

A Poet’s Advice

“A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t. A lot of people think or believe or know they feel—but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling—not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.”

Poetry and photography, for me, are felt journeys. In the book—Three Brains—How the Heart, Brain, and Gut Influence Mental Health and Identity by Karen Jensen, ND, she says—

“In today’s modern world, we are encouraged to focus mainly on our head brain. But we also need to use our other two brains to process our feelings and listen to our intuition to help keep us in balance.”

I am encouraged by this book because it explores the value and importance of all three brains—gut, head, heart—to work in unison for a healthy mind, healthy body. It honors the gut brain which is that part of us that is instinctual, intuitive, unselfconscious, immediate, practical, and direct.

I know from personal experience that one of the gifts of brain injury is what I now call the felt sense, which is also known as gut response.

This simple unrestrained response of what “pops” into mind, or out of one’s mouth without social boundaries is a good device I have grown to appreciate. It can be disruptive, it can be disturbing and it is certainly unpredictable, and often surprising.

Its gift is instinctual, intuitive, unselfconscious, immediate, practical, and direct, and I have learned to appreciate that uninhibited awareness. The gut became my indicator of how to be in the world. Of course none of this was in my awareness as first however; I did know it as a gut response, learned to trust it and later identify it as a felt sense. I named it at first as incongruence.

Today when my gut responds to an external situation, I know to trust it, listen, and take time to digest what it is being communicated to me.

Weird hey? Not really. By the same indicators I write and photograph now. My gut is a navigator of terrains. It intuitively knows things that my head has to ultimately grasp and articulate through language. My heart is the compass by which I travel the terrain. Together they’re a great team, and I feel blessed for the opportunities that arise because of the team work.

Writing Practice: Trust your Gut Writing—Go outside with your journal and pen. Find a quiet place that works for you. It could be a park, your backyard, a lake, a picnic spot. It could even be a mall where busy-ness is all around you. Start by jotting down things around you that “pop” into mind, a visual clue, a felt sense: words, phrases, observations, emotions. Write them randomly as they arise. No straight lines necessary. When you feel you have completed this, stop, breathe. Even close your eyes. Breathe. Keep breathing in awareness until you feel you are ready to go back to your journal page. Circle those words, impressions and phrases that seem to leap out at you. Breathe with awareness; pay attention to any indicators from your gut. When you are ready—begin to write. This may be an insight about health and wellness for you; it may be a journal entry or a poem. Just write—trust your gut writing and enjoy. No need to read it or edit. Just tuck it away for another day and time.

 


Naming the World

It’s an interesting thing; this aging. I am surrounded by elders. I enjoy them, their wisdoms, insights, and the one commonality that distinguishes the ones still active and engaged, are their passions and passion for life.

It may be writing as an example, it may be walking, it may be reading, playing scrabble, canoeing, camping etc. but those that remain engaged in life are the ones that remain active in some way. A great example is my mother-in-law—98. She continues to name the world, practice Sudoku, walk, pick berries in season and enjoy her great, great grandchildren on those many occasions she connects with family.

A further example may be another elder who dragged me lake swimming this afternoon! Of course I joined the ranks of an elder when I turned 65 this year, but this woman far exceeds my enthusiasm for lake swimming and she is twenty years my senior.

I took my camera and ventured that way in support of her engagement. She loves to swim and last year swam daily in the river with a mutual friend my age! This week again I was impressed with another friend—88—her energy and our diverse conversations kept us up late. Last year, her husband died, and she is adjusting to this change.

My own mother is showing distinct signs of dementia and I can’t help link it to her increasing lack of interest and engagement in life over the past ten years. This year she had a stint insertion to stretch her aorta. Now she is getting the necessary oxygen, yet her attitude of engagement still wanes.

Personally, I experienced this with a contemporary a few years back. His physical decline coincided with angina attacks. His brain, as his arteries became more blocked and oxygen reduced, simply wasn’t getting to organs. His behaviour collapsed into this new habit of apathy and it was difficult to get him off the couch. Ultimately I let go because it was his choice.

Simply put, no-one can persuade anyone to do anything they don’t choose to do themselves. All the cajoling in the world won’t make a difference. Lasting motivation ultimately comes from the inside out rather than the outside in. A distinction I see with elders is those that remain involved in their passions, remain engaged in life. Those that lean into apathy tend to fair less well.

My friend—88—still journals, and has done so for over seventy years when she first began her practice in the wilderness backcountry of Canada; in part to track her days activities, observations, inventions and the emotional landscapes of her life, and in part to write extensive letters to friends. She began this practice early on, and keeps it up today. I call it—naming the world—she calls it writing.

Writing Practice: Go outside listen to the sounds of the wind in the trees. If its’s a calm day, listen to the sounds that meet your ears. Smell the air, touch the ground, feel the weather, taste the atmosphere, imagine the story, recall a moment…begin to write. Keep going for 15 more minutes without stopping.


Earth’s Manifesto

Do you wake at night and wonder
at the groan of Gia?
Is she labouring under neglect?
we impose by our disregard?

At first I thought it an excavator
moving the earth, digging
through landscapes of indifference—
then I thought—how unusual to be working
under a night sky—then I wondered
if it were the voice of Gia, I heard
speaking, or the sound of planets
taking communion—only to be heard
during a still night—

Of course I wondered
at my sanity—really tho’ what if

It is the groan of Gia speaking
in sounds we choose not to hear
during the day—are deaf to—
tuned to another frequency?

It is at night, I hear it—the voice
persistent. I hear heaviness;
a call for recognition, for help perhaps,
or—is it a hum for humanity asleep
to wake-up, tune in, listen—or—

just plain happiness—hum,
humming along? I wonder

©April 9, 2018—angela simmons

Poster: Earth’s Ten Commandments: text ©1990 Ernest Callenbach; illust. ©1990 David Lance Goines; Celestial Arts

Writing Exercise: On Earth Day (April 22) find a quiet place-preferably outside, take out your journal, or sketch pad and embrace the five senses, capture them on paper in words or image. Take photographs. I particularly like what I call 360 degree photography. I take a light chair/stool into a natural area, place in a space I can swivel my butt around on in the chair/stool, and contemplate what I witness. I am always delighted at what is revealed to me from just that one spot as I slowly (in a meditative, reflective  space) rotate. Later choose an image-or series of images-and write capturing again your experience. I feel certain that these practises-or one of these practices-will move you to personal and planetary health and wellness.  Here’s another thought-make every day Earth Day. It is in our hands…

 

 


Un-stick Yourself!

This challenge was given to me recently: write a 100 word poem (excluding title). My challenge to you is write either a poem (if you’re so inclined) or a prose piece. If you go over the word count—no stresses, no worries. PLAY- write4health! It’s in our best interest!

I used the above image to propel me—I muscle tested for it rather than because I liked or disliked it. To muscle test, I picked a number between 1-20; muscle tested top or bottom (of the stack); then went to the stack of photographs I use with clients, counted up to the number and the above photograph arrived.

Some readers may call it random, I call it magic! It is not an image I would have necessarily picked however, because it checked I felt committed to the process of what would be revealed in the poetry practice process. I enjoy this process simply because it takes my mind out of the process. This often will mean I have to dig a little deeper than perhaps my mind would like!

Also recently I read in Henry Grayson, PhD book “Your Power to Heal” an excellent chapter/ explanation on how to muscle test in the event you are unfamiliar with the technique [Chapter 4, pages 72-79]. Even though my technique is a variation on his suggestions you are likely familiar with some of his techniques. I have also found Your Body Doesn’t Lie by Dr. John Diamond another great source of information on how and why a muscle test works. It is a technique I have used certainly in the past ten years since the accident although I have used the technique since 1998.

For the purpose of this poetry/prose practice use an image that moves, inspires or makes you laugh—have a go—Feel free to add your creation in comments below, share with a friend, a family member. If you go over the word count, no matter—simply put the pen on the paper and PLAY! Unravel, untangle and un-stick yourself!

The Memorial Bench caught my attention. The young man was merely 30 years old. He, as the bench were resting in a small church yard on the edge of ranch land. 


sickle of spring

IMG_2504_2383to capture a moment in a frame, is to find a catalyst suspended, alert before an unveiled instant, and in its harness, a story unravels, not its own, of its interpreter which is the person behind the lens

take this twinkling- the grass bobbed in the breeze, gently rustled, shuffled in its dance to a background of shades, blurred by time and circumstance- and yet within that split, between shutter, lens and finger, the sward stood still- was it its intention to succumb to no movement, no- it simply was in the flow of its own journey, with only an intent to be, when the observer, behind the lens arrested this instant, and now is to untangle its mass

– a singular construal that is neither here nor there- simply an elucidation of perception, a tale of unfoldment, seen in hindsight and through the perceivers meniscus- a fragmentation and interpretation of her own sickle

so be the light… the blue and the green, the seizure and snatch—all is one, to the snip of spring

It is what it is…

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IMG_2484  Ever had one of those days where nothing has gone quite the way you planned? Being a neophyte when it comes to blogging I naively thought, follow the directions and bingo-bango, I’ll have a blog! Weeell- not quite like that, for me at least. I get the hang of it a little bit after a friend’s assistance and slowly go through the ropes- no worries. I’ve always said I’m like the tortoise- I get there in the end. I may think I’m a hare, but really…

So having put up my first blog about the book launch- wow, I’ve got a couple of likes and followers and I think I’m in the game, or more importantly, I’m in the flow. I’m a little chuffed with myself- but, not for long.

This week rolls around – and I think I’ll put up a video of me reading from Perhaps Held Before Paper- winner of the 2013 Sharon Drummond Award for poetry. I have this nifty little prototype of me reading one of the poems in the chapbook- Stillness– and some awesome piano music by Gary Still (Restless Hearts), and a few images of my own. I am ready to post- but to my chagrin, I have another learning curve on the horizon. The 3.05 minute video is in the wrong format to upload.   I go for a walk.

It happens to be a beautiful sunny, and for winter here in Black Diamond, Alberta, a warm afternoon. The birds are out chirping their warm-day tunes and a good deal of ice is melted from the sidewalk making it a brisk walk rather than a slip n’ slide.  Not being an Olympian, I am thank-full for bare sidewalks. My restless heart is eased by my body’s fluidity.

So the day, thus far, hasn’t quite gone as first conceived, and I ask myself- in the big scheme of things, does it really matter?  Of course this is a question I often ask myself- and I know the answer in my heart of hearts.

It is of no-matter, unless I pay attention to it and then it becomes matter. By paying attention, observing or attaching then, and only then by golly- it becomes matter- and part of my own foolishness. So, I simply let go of the idea of what I have planned and conceived for my day, and simply go with the flow of what my day has presented to me, and focus on the wonders rather than the blocks. It is part of the joy of being alive—