PeerSpirit Newsletter – The Owl and the Tree
Who can believe that it’s the end of January already? After our annual winter retreat, January has proved to be a busy month. In this month’s newsletter, Christina and Ann reflect on 2017, and set intentions for 2018.
Looking Back/Looking Forward
January, named as it is for Janus, a Roman deity who had two faces, one looking back and one looking forward, is naturally a time of both life review and intention setting. Our personal turn into 2018 has been particularly poignant in this regard—both in looking back and looking forward.
In January we have acknowledged the passing of an aunt, a writing student, and a beloved community character.
The first weekend of January we were asked to help facilitate the celebration of Ann’s Aunt Alicia in the little Oregon coastal town where she lived the past couple of decades. She died at 86 and had asked for stories, music, good food, and some meditation time at her celebration of life. Her husband had adorned the walls of their home with photos and stories and some of her artwork. Neighbors arrived. Cousins flew in from far away. It was a poignant, celebratory gathering that perfectly fit the creative, free spirit that was always our aunt.
To honor the cancer death of Jana Freiberger, 60, a prolific guardian of her life narrative, and Self as Source of the Story alumna, we traveled to Longview, WA to participate in a memorial of song and story in a local community center. Christina and Kristie McLean, writer and friend of Jana’s, spoke of Jana’s courageous dedication to writing, especially once her cancer diagnosis surfaced. Jana organized and sang in a Threshold Choir that provided the comfort of song in hospice settings and dying moments. The remaining women choir members blessed us throughout the service with their sweet harmonies.
This past week in Langley, WA, a village elder, age 100, died in her sleep. Helen was a dear friend of Christina’s 97-year-old father, Leo, so we have been receiving many stories of all the ways her presence and their friendship was noticed and appreciated in the village. The day after she died the local coffee shop posted a sign with her photo and the words, “She will be missed.” Helen was both delightfully eccentric and truly humble. She would be completely astonished by this attention. Her passage has raised a conversation on eldering in place, supporting elders while they support one another, and befriending as a way the community reflects its true nature to itself, a kind of collective mirror.
Time passes: it seems the older we get, the more we face backwards and forwards. We don’t know the number of our days, yet we strive to make the most of them. And perhaps it is this awareness that is the source of New Year’s Resolutions. At the end of our holiday retreat, we spend a day setting intentions into the year, laying out a path of attention and focus. It causes us to think more deeply about those “what and why” choices in life.
Despite all this January energy, resolutions have a reputation for falling by the wayside. Maybe it’s just semantics, but for us intention has had more staying power.
So we explored this a bit, and here’s our theory: resolutions are sourced by a surge in will power: I will lose weight, eat more healthfully, finish a project… But intention is a call and response: take care of yourself, your grandchildren need you (Okay, I will); finish that project, it’s part of your legacy (well, if you put it that way…); move more deeply into your spiritual wisdom, it is needed at this time (open-ended, but clear). It is this interactive element that helps us sustain intention.
Ann enters the New Year with a weekly commitment to take a Medicine Walk—not something that would surprise anyone. A Medicine Walk is not just a stroll in the woods, it is full of intention to listen for guidance, to notice quietly what is going on in Nature, to move at a pace suitable for heightened awareness. She carries a special journal just for her reflections written in place, outside. She walks alone. For her, it represents a deepening of a lifelong commitment to listen to what the earth has to teach her at this time of planetary concern.
Christina enters the New Year with the commitment to complete her novel, to have a solid draft ready for critique by the end of the year. As she spirals deeper into the story, as the characters reveal more and more of themselves to her imagination, as the town and land move through their seasons, writing becomes a channel to her core self and core life message. The book, in all its complexity, is a love letter from her life to the world.
Though we may share our intentions with folks around us as a way of garnering support, the responsibility of doing them rests on us. And as the year’s distractions and invitations to veer one way and another pour into our days, it is this sense of relationship to “being called,” and having responded that helps us hold onto those choices made on a wintery day at the beginning of the year.