Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Bird Lessons

Twice one Spring day I learned something from the birds.

In the morning, a young starling, fledged but just beginning to learn to feed him/herself, harassed its parent relentlessly. Its parent kept running away until the youngster persisted so strongly that they raised their voices. The youngling got the message. I've seen this with cats. When my daughter's cat had kittens and they were weaned, the mother would turn away to avoid the kitten that wanted to suckle. If the kitten got too persistent, she give him a swat or a swift kick. No hard feelings. Just clearly set limits.

Later in the day I had an even stronger lesson. I rushed outside when I heard the frantic shrieking of a baby robin, being snatched up by a crow. The parents set up quite a fuss. I was angry. I had a quick fantasy about getting a badminton racket and using one of the crows as the birdie. But then I stopped myself and just observed what was happening. It turns out I was the only one who had an opinion about the proceedings. The birds were fully in the moment. They were roused to action the second that they needed to be. The baby shrieked its terror. And in the aftermath, the parents spoke their distress loudly for several minutes before their voices settled and they could move on.

There's a purity to the responses of the robins in their loss. The loss is keenly felt, but nothing is added to it. There is a purity in the way that the starlings set their limits. None of it was about good parenting or bad parenting. None of it was about "This should not have happened." In their own clean and natural way, the animals and birds know exactly what to do.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

From the Archives

From the Starry Night archives: some old stories I found that, even if a bit outdated, seemed fitting for today's times. Here they are in no special order:

Mind the Gap 

"During the gap time, I feel creative and eager to jump into a new project, but no matter how hard I try, it's just not right. It's as though part of me is embracing the new me, but the old me hasn't quite let go."

It happened again recently. I ordered a few small things from IKEA and while the colander was perfect, the study lamp was too tall. What was I thinking?

Living Each Day

"Living Each Day is about spending time on what I value. And some days, sitting out in the sunshine reading a book is the very best thing I could be doing with my time."

The gap time is a good time for me to revisit my values and find ways to realign with them. 


"The fragrances of the summer day were so strong that they pulled my attention away from the problem and back into the moment. They reminded me that there were more important things to do than mull over problems."

Pandemic news can be so compelling, I need joy for balance.

Simple Pleasures

"I love hanging out the laundry in the nice weather. It's not just an excuse to get some fresh air and sunshine, it's good for me. The simple pleasure I take from it gives me a time out from all the other matters that want my attention and helps integrate me."

Taking care of myself is so important. So are simple pleasures.


"When I step outside each morning and listen to the sounds around me, it helps me reconnect with the whole world. When I light a candle for a friend, it helps me bring the emotions I am feeling into a positive physical form. When I feel overwhelmed, making a cup of tea is a small ritual that can bring me back into myself. While the rituals themselves are not the meaning, they are not superficial. We need them. We love them. We use them all the time."

Sometimes I just need to sit down and have a cup of tea.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Pink Prayers

I know people who pray all day long every day. That was never my style, but I'm changing that. 

Once I realized that my mental landscape was getting too clogged up with stuff that depletes my energy - like worry, greedy politicians, pandemic, climate change - I decided to do something about it. 

I started by whisking away negative thoughts, opinions and judgements. I flicked my hands as though I was brushing lint from my shoulder and exhaled at the same time. 

That was helpful. But I needed it to go farther. I wanted to add some positive energy. The next time I caught another cluttering thought, I exhaled and whisked as usual, but this time I realized, 'This could be a prayer.'

A full blown talking-to-higher-power prayer might add to the mental clutter. I needed something simpler. Then I remembered a quote from an old book 'He prayed as he breathed...' My breath itself could be a prayer. I got an image of my exhale being a pink cloud going out to meet the situation. 

A pink prayer. 

I whisked and exhaled the pink cloud with a desire for things to improve. Simple. As I continued, sometimes it was a blue cloud, sometimes violet.

It's a practice though. The first few tries weren't quite right. When I thought of a particular politician, the pink cloud I blew at him felt more like a pink punch than a pink prayer. I laughed at myself. It was a start. 

It's been fun. I've been applying it to all kinds of things: personal problems, illness, certain politicians, even the part of me that jumps to judgement awfully quickly. The idea is to hold all these things gently. Humanity doesn't need my opinions, it needs kindness. 

Is a pink cloud a prayer? You bet it is.

Monday, February 22, 2021


If I am to surrender to a higher power: my problems, efforts, self, I have to actually let them go.

I forget where I first heard this analogy, but it has stuck with me. In the analogy a young boy has a broken toy and hands it over to his Dad to fix. But he doesn't want to let it go. 

Like us. 

We may want to micro-manage the repair. We may want to keep hold of it while the higher power works with it. In both cases we are not letting it go. We are not surrendering it.

To really surrender it, we have to be willing to never see our desire for it fulfilled. We have to let it go and trust our higher power to fix or to not fix, to keep or to return. It doesn't belong to us. It belongs to the world. And we have to be perfectly ok with life if it never gets fixed.

I have a thing going on that might be resolved by the time this story goes out to you. Or it might not. I ordered an internet system that is new to our area, and by all accounts a good idea. So I ordered it. One part arrived exactly as scheduled, but the main component is no-where to be found. In the past I would have had a pretty strong emotional investment in this new tech, but today I don't lean in quite so hard. I've been disappointed by promises like these since internet became a thing. So I refused to think about it too much until it was installed and working. I connected with the shipping company, and when I got no-where with them, I contacted the shipper. The shipper sent out a second unit. Then just like the first unit, it, also, is no-where to be found. 

Something greater than me is causing a glitch in the matrix. 

I thought about the child with the toy. He really had to give it up, to let the responsibility for the repair lie in someone else's hands. I had to do the same. So I asked my Internet Angel to take care of this for me. 

Surrender doesn't come easily in a society that emphasizes personal responsibility, and downplays the connections that interweave our lives. We get tangled up in personal responsibility. At what point does this stop being my sole responsibility and start being the world's responsibility?

Depending on our conditioning, it can be hard to find that middle ground. 

By thinking I'm letting Divine Beings handle the details, it's easier for me to give over personal responsibility. They certainly have a bigger view of the situation than I do, and I can assume, as Beings of Light, their plan is beneficial for all. That softens the disappointment.

It is getting easier as I get older, too. A lot of things in life are annoying and stupid and never get resolved. That's just part of life. And as I am less able to carry the responsibilities I carried when younger, it's easier to kick back a bit and let others do more of the heavy lifting. It doesn't mean I give up all personal responsibility though. I'm not going to plunk myself down on a beach and do nothing (although that sounds pretty nice). 

But I still get caught up in my attachments. I can see myself as that little kid, grimly hanging on to my toy - or my belief, or my role, or my ... stupid internet.

All these things belong to life. To the world. They are not mine to hold. So each time I find my mind thinking about those missing packages and wishing I had better internet, I hand the problem over to the Angels again. It may never get resolved, but I figure it has a better shot in my Angel's hands than mine alone.

(photo by Trym Nilsen)

Sunday, January 24, 2021


My yoga teacher offered us all a January challenge. She suggested when we awaken each morning, we think of something we are grateful for before we turn on our phones, or get involved in our day. 

It's a good habit. Especially when life gets stressful. Someone else suggested the same at bedtime, "Be grateful for three things in your day before you shut your eyes."

I'm not going to explain how beneficial gratitude is. We know it is. 

It's the challenge part that is a, well, challenge. Changing habits can be hard. We get locked into our routines and rituals. Especially when life gets stressful. But one small thing a day can be done. If we forget, we can remind ourselves and try again. Then as the habit becomes more set, we don't need to remind ourselves as often.

Recognizing the little blessings is just as powerful as the big things: a warm drink on a cold day, the scent of onions cooking, internet fast enough to stream. But we have to stop for a sec and connect with them. Morning or night can work. As can grace at mealtimes - whatever its form, it's a way to pause and remember all the labours that brought the food to our table: the sun, rain, farmers, transport, market, cooking, everything. 

I've been trying to remember the bedtime one and grace at mealtimes. I forgot at bedtime a few nights ago. But when awake in the night and thoughts of politicians and pandemic started to creep in, I reminded myself "3 things." It wasn't easy. It was a day or two before the inauguration in the US and tensions were high. Who wants to think about something fluffy when we have politicians and pandemics going on? So I did "1 thing" instead of 3. The next thing I knew it was morning.

Sometimes it feels just too hard. But there's a trick to deal with that, too. I can say, "If I could feel grateful right now, what would it be for?" Then even if I don't feel the connection, the door opens.

There's two aspects of gratitude I've noticed. One is deliberate like the examples above, where we take the time to feel that connection. The other is spontaneous. I'll be in the middle of a quiet activity and find myself unexpectedly grateful for something. It seems to rise like a bolt out of the blue. The more I practice the deliberate types, the more often the spontaneous rises.

Gratitude changes us for the better. It makes room for joy to percolate through our cells. So if you don't already have a gratitude practice, maybe you can take this up as your February challenge.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020


After all these years I still take comfort in the trees.

It might look a bit bleak in the winter, but I step into the woods and I enter a different world. The pace is slower. I feel surrounded by the warmth of good company, even when no other person is there.

I just disturbed a bunny that was resting beneath a fallen tree. "Sorry bunny." If I sit long enough, and still enough, I may see another, or a porcupine, or a deer. Whatever birds are local in that season will come along to see what I'm up to and gossip the news to their friends.

It's the kind of place I can give myself over to. It's safe enough for a good cry. The peacefulness reaches into my heart, particularly on days when life is turbulent.

Years ago I would come down here and meditate in the crook of one of these trees. It's too cold today but the tree still seems welcoming. In the summer it's particularly welcoming. One step into the forest and the temperature drops 10°. In the spring and fall, I feast on the scents and colours. They don't all vanish in the winter, though. In the cold and wind today I caught the scent of vanilla and I stopped to enjoy it. I noticed it yesterday in the same spot, yet when I retraced my steps today to see if I could still smell it, it was gone.

In the past, when I went for weeks or months without dropping in here to say hello, I'd take one step into the cedars and wonder why it had taken me so long to come back.

Perhaps you have a place like this, maybe one long forgotten. A place where you can recapture your heart, be at ease and remember why it was so special.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Energy and Depletion

I can tell I'm depleted when: 
  • I have a hard time reading more than magazine level stuff.
  • I can't find much interest in starting new projects or updating old ones.
  • Multitasking becomes hard/impossible.
  • The idea of going out to lunch with a friend seems like work.
  • I feel like I can't handle one more responsibility, or even the ones I have.
  • Planning supper is hard even though I have a freezer full of food. 
  • I have no tolerance for others breaching my boundaries or bullying.

Some things provide a false lift. They don't feel like they deplete me when I'm doing them.  Like social media. It may juice me up to wade into battle, but it's mostly just emotional and mental energy that can't sustain itself. A true lift happens without effort from deep within, from the heart and spirit. This kind of lift sustains itself and builds me up.

So when I feel depleted, I dial things back right to the bottom:
  • I spend lots of alone time so I don't have to interact with others. 
  • I spend time in nature: birds, trees, whatever is nearby. They make no demands. 
  • I walk for pleasure. If it's fun, the exercise I get is a happy side effect.
  • I cook when I have the kitchen to myself and can putter at my own pace. I find it nourishing.
  • I listen to music or radio, watch TV or read books that soothe the heart or make me laugh.
  • I take one thing at a time.
  • If anything seems even remotely stressful, I back out if possible. If I can't back out, I ask for help.
  • I connect with people who make no demands of me.
  • I rethink my responsibilities. Responsibility = Response Ability. I say "no" a lot and worry less about what others are doing.
  • I lay off the self-judgement. It just adds stress when I try to maintain the illusion that I should be managing life differently. 

And I let this restorative phase take however many months or years it needs.