Hollow Victories

Things I’ve learned from making hollow beads –

  1. Don’t panic. Even when things are wobbly and out of control and look like they’re about to fall apart just stay calm. Take deep breaths, work slowly and with love and it’ll be okay.
  2. When two sides start from far apart, it takes a lot of time and effort to get them to meet in the middle. At first, it looks impossible. But, when they do, it’s a wonderful thing.
  3. When you give something a bit of space, you allow the light in and it will shine.
  4. When you ignore the important parts, they cool and crack and fall to pieces. Sometimes, they can be fixed. Sometimes, they can’t.
  5. Even when things don’t go the way you planned, they can still turn out beautiful.
  6. There is no failure, just learning. So keep trying.

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Walking through fire … literally!

They say that life happens at the edge of your comfort zone. If that’s true, I certainly experienced life this weekend.

In my desire to bring the joy of singing back into my life, I’ve teamed up with an old band-mate to rejuvenate our band. This weekend was our first public gig at a Festival outside Edmonton.

I’ll get to that in a second. Because one of the other things that happened at this Festival was a fire walk. Yup, that’s right. The chance to walk on hot coals. Given my emerging theme of fire so far this year how could I possibly not do this?

On the other hand, it’s burning coals. How could I possibly do that!!

Which brought me to that pivotal moment that so marks life and growth and learning and healing. That timeless moment when you really want to do something but are really afraid. That balance point between “I really want to do this” and “I really don’t think I can do this”.

For me, it is a stripped down moment of clarity when I come face to face with the essence of me. The anxiety that holds me back in perfect counterbalance with the force that drives me forward. The angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.

But instead of trying to get rid of the anxiety, I am learning to let it be. To stop and connect to that still, quiet inner space in my heart and ask it, “Who do you want to be in the world? How do you want to be in this world?” And, then accept the answer. Maybe I am someone who walks over hot coals. Maybe I’m someone not ready for that. Either way is okay. But, what I’m not okay with is letting fear make the decision for me.  Of having regrets rather than good memories. As Shirley Valentine would say, of having a little life with all those unused parts.

Turns out, at least this weekend I was someone who could walk over hot coals. And, someone who could walk over broken glass which is what we did first to practice for the fire.  And, I was someone who could get up on stage and sing. An act which requires me to lower the walls of defense and risk. Risk being seen and heard. Perhaps only when those walls come down can the joy come through.  And, maybe, sometimes that takes a little fire.

A lot of life happened this weekend. In all it’s uncomfortable glory.

Walking on glass …

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The Sacred Fire …

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Prepping the coals …

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The fire walk …

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The waters of Lake Louise to balance the fire …

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Painted people, drumming and a lot of things on fire!!

Well, what can I say. It was Edinburgh on Beltane Night (April 30th) and it was the Fire Festival! Hard to take pics cause it was night and a lot of people and a lot of fire spinning.  I know we didn’t see everything that happened (did I mention all the people?) and I know I didn’t understand all of what was going on (blue people, red people, drumming) so here is just a glimpse.

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Oh, and it involved fire performance, uninhibited behaviour and semi-nudity. Woop woop!

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Wearing our appropriate clothing and footwear, and leaving our flying lanterns a the hotel, we headed up Calton Hill and joined the sea of people.

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Getting to the top, there were some amazing fire figures.

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There was a May Queen (in white and red) with her attendants, lots of painted red drummers and fire spinners, some blue people (the Picts?), a troupe of death people in black and white and a green man with attendants carrying banners inscribed with the Celtic ogham for ivy.  At the big finale, the May Queen kills the shaggy Green Man, he is stripped of his, uh, foliage, and she brings him back to life. Newly sprung, he dances an amazing energetic dance and they kiss. Then, they lit the biggest bonfire I’ve ever seen.

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And there were a lot of things on fire.

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The best place to see some really amazing photos is on the Beltane Fire Festival Flickr site (seriously, check it out). Other than that, I highly recommend going and experiencing it for yourself! In the meantime, here is one minute of the festival, just to whet your appetite!

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I lost my mittens on Calton Hill
Twas Beltaine night and I thought it’d be chill
But the fire burned hot so I stripped down nude
And my poor little mittens had nothing to do

Neglected and sad they wandered off
And were banished away with the cold winter’s frost
Hand-knitted and warm, a gift from a friend
Sacrificed to the Spring, cast off at the end.

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1 of 59,100

Today is the Sun Run in Vancouver. One of the biggest fun 10K “races” in the world.  It’s raining and I’m thankful that I don’t have to brave the crowds downtown. And while the weeks of physio have resulted in a green light to run again after injuring my knee it’ll be awhile before I am back to 10K. If ever.

I first ran the Sun Run five years ago.  I wrote this piece afterwards but I’ve never shared it. Mostly because it is linked to my issues with food; which I rarely talk about publicly. Today seems like a good day to push through the fear and be proud of my story.

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On April 20, 2008 I ran 10km in the Vancouver Sun Run. One of 59,100 participants. Maybe they all have stories of how they ended up there early on a cold Sunday morning. This is mine.

When I reached out for help in the fall of 2006 I was in a deep well of pain and hopelessness, looking up at a sliver of sky with no idea how to climb out. The food was no longer helping me cope with life and I was unhappy and in despair. With just over two years to go to my 40th birthday, I looked ahead to that milestone with dread and panic. I was barely managing my life now at halfway through. How would I ever manage the next 40 years – if I even had that long?

Gradually, as I began to find the help I needed, I began to have hope again. As I let go of the physical and emotional weight, I began to believe that I could actively live the life I wanted to live, rather than only dreaming about it.

I remembered how much I used to love to run as a child – the sense of freedom, of motion, of feeling how alive my body was.  I had dreamt through my 30’s of running the Sun Run the year I turned 40 in April, 2009.

I began to think I could make my running dream come true as well.  Having not run for over 20 years, I thought I’d start trying at 39, just in case I “failed” and needed a second try to make it.

It took me 3 days to sign up for the Learn to Run clinic at my local community centre. Three days of feeling the fear of potential failure, three days of berating myself for not doing it and three days of trying to be gentle and encouraging with myself rather than harshly self-judgmental.

The first night of the clinic, a friend had to “talk me in” as I headed to class – scared, nervous and unsure of myself. I worried that I would be the slowest person, that I wouldn’t be able to do it, that the clinic leaders wouldn’t want to stay at the back of the pack with me, that others would judge and think that I shouldn’t be there. I worried about how I looked, what I was wearing, what I sounded like as I was running and whether anyone would want to run with me and be my friend.  Somehow, I made it through the first night.

In between weekly classes, I ran twice during the week on my own. I ran at night in the dark so that no one could see me. I kept to the back streets and off the main roads so that other runners and car drivers wouldn’t look at me. But, I kept running and I kept going to class.

One night, about 6 weeks into the clinic, I was really struggling with the group run. I had a cold and as I huffed and puffed along with all my fears and worries weighing me down, I just wanted to quit. To give up and not have to work so hard.

But, that night, in the sky overhead, there was a rare and awe-inspiring sight. A total eclipse of the moon. While we were running, the clouds had dispersed and I had a beautiful view of the full moon as it gradually turned red and darkened into the eclipse. A full moon is a time of energy full and rich with potential. And a lunar eclipse marks a period of profound transformational change that in the past, was viewed with fear.

As I ran under this powerful sign, I realized that my journey of running – as with my journey of healing – is one of powerful transformational change. And that it is often hard, sometimes really hard, and sometimes scary. But, that my running journey with its physical transformation and my spiritual journey, with its emotional transformation are both worth the effort because I am worth the effort.

With that realization, I took that giant bundle of fear and worry and self-hatred that was weighing me down and left it at the edge of the road and ran onward both lighter and freer. I ran for me, for the joy of running and moving my body, for my health and because I wanted to make this dream – and all my dreams – reality.

A few weeks later, a woman in the running clinic said to me, “I love running behind you, you set such a steady pace.” Surprised, and not realizing that anyone was actually behind me, I replied, “I just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.”

And at that moment, I realized that my method, which had lead to running success, was equally applicable to all the aspects of my life. Transformational change happens one small step at a time at its own pace. It is my journey, and it happens in my own time and speed and rhythm.

On April 20, 2008, I ran the Vancouver Sun Run. One of 59,100 runners, I ran it just for me, at my own pace, one step at a time, joyous and free.

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Clearing space

On Saturday, I spent several hours gardening in a labyrinth.

Now, I am not a gardener. My rooftop patio has not a plant on it (except for that weird thing growing in one corner that I didn’t plant). It is decorated with art and beach treasures and other things that don’t die and don’t need water.

But I love labyrinths. I love the twist and the turns. I love that you lose the path and have only faith that you will end up somewhere. I love that just when you are lost, you find the centre. And, I love that each labyrinth has it’s own energy – a heady mix from all the people who have journeyed within it plus the energy of the land that it resides upon.

So I volunteered to help garden the labyrinth. And the job on Saturday was to clear away last year’s growth, now dead. And, we cleared a lot!!

As I ripped out the dead old branches and leaves, clearing space, I realized how much new growth was hidden under the weight of that old growth. New shoots, green and fresh, reaching for the sky and the sun. In amidst the dead, there was life.

As I carried armful after armful of old branches over to the compost pile, I thought what a perfect metaphor for life this was. Because we have to clear away the old to make room for the new. The old growth blocks the space that the new growth needs.

Some of the old branches came out easily. Others, especially the vine-type growth that snaked it’s way through the grass, required more effort. And, it all went into the compost pile to make new soil. And so it is with each truth about myself I learn and relearn. Some are easy and fun. Some are pretty twisty and tough!

Often times, I think we lament the old. And certainly there can be a grieving process in letting go of the past. But, it too was once the growth that we revelled in and which nourished us. Growth builds upon growth.

In those sunny hours working in the labyrinth, I was grateful for the reminder that clearing away the old is a necessary part of making space for the new.

Oh, and that it is hard work and you should definitely stretch afterward if you want to be able to use your muscles again the next day.

Before –
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Parfait break –
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After –
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Creating space for a newbie

I love my adventures in glass making but I don’t always love the glass studio.

I took my first glass sculpting class less than a year ago and I joined the glass studio co-op 6 months ago. And, while I love glass beading and glass sculpting, it’s been hard to get to know people at the studio. My fellow artists, I suppose I could call them. (although the word artist still feels strange on my lips and squirmy on my skin)

Its true that creating the glass art can be a solitary act. And, I imagine that no one wants to interrupt someone who is in the middle of a delicate creation. But, aside from my teacher and the one friend who told me about the place, I haven’t really had the chance to talk to others at the studio and to learn and share. Which to me feels a bit lonely.

I do try and be friendly but I am still feeling the jitters of anxiety. Mostly, I am trying to learn the glass art studio etiquette and focus on not blowing the place up.

Last week the studio started Newbie Tuesdays and I couldn’t be happier. Five of us newbies around the torches. Sharing what we love. What we find frustrating. What we can’t figure out. What tricks we’ve learned. And, what we hope to someday create. Supporting each other.

In my giddiness, I went a little crazy with the hollow beads. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them. But I love their size and I love how the air expands as it heats, creating a space where the glass floats in the air. To me, they are like tiny planets. A piece of the cosmos, infinite in variety and each unique. Solitary in their sphere but reflecting the light of their existence into pure beauty.

I can’t wait til next Tuesday!!!

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