Tag: peace

Recumbent gratitude

Bear with me, please.  i am typing this on my iPad, because i lack the capacity to hold my arm up any longer. Right now it is supported by the softest of pillows while all three of my animals have curled up around me.  Alas, this means that while i am comforting my aching limbs, the autocorrect on my tablet will probably toy with me mercilessly.

Still, i cannot help quietly rejoicing. i think i might have turned a corner, (i knock on wood as i type) and if i have this is the cause of much celebration and delight.  For several days now, i have been able to work through some ridiculous pain – not without whining, unfortunately – but i have begun to inch forward.  What was impossible now seems uncomfortably intimidating, but within the realm of imagination and hard work.  Instead of trying to move the mountain with a spoon, i now have a spoon and a pick axe!  Improvement!

What has been making the coals of optimism start to glow, though, is the contentment that has started peeking out between the pain and stress.  The ocean of peace had been well hidden for weeks. Indeed, if i had not lost the way to it so many times before, only to rediscover its shores with the glee of an explorer with no short term memory, i would have mourned its loss forever.  Ah, but that is not entirely true.  i had fleeting moments of contact while i was actively creating, but nothing that lasted once the pen was put away.  Otherwise, i had been wandering the parched, dry land of despair and overwhelm.

But, for three days, i have felt peacefulness’ waters splashing around my feet while i drove, while i struggled with irritation and pain, while i tried to dissect the things i must do into subgroups: what must be done NOW, what can wait until tomorrow, what can be sacrificed on the bloody and fantastic altar of sleep…

There are things i have to urgently address.  My life remains in this long, twisting crisis, caught inside transformation and loss like a fly in amber. Despite that, i must attend to urgent commitments.  Galleries must be staffed (case in point, tomorrow i will be at Artspace in Rockland.) This weekend is the garlic festival in Southwest Harbor, and i will be getting help so this can be done without further injury.  (i am excited for the show, not just because of my new garlic dishes, but because the food is so good.)

For the first time since last winter, for no rational reason, i can feel the certainty that “all will be well” taking root in my soul. More than anything, this inexplicable, perceptible  lifting of mood when the burdens upon me remain consistent convinces me that depression has a chemical hold on my brain independent of circumstance.  Right now, the shadow of suffering still lies across my life, but “all will be well” begins to stand against it, growing stronger and starting to bud.  Like an obsessive gardener, i race to this miracle and try to encourage its flowering. i do all i can to create the best environment, including celebrating the small triumphs like today – gallery sitting, then cleaning the kitchen then loading and firing the kiln.

i am in pain, and exhausted, but i feel content.  The sins of the day – junk food and sodas – helped provide the energy i needed. Instead of my normal guilt, i anchor myself in “all will be well” and once more, i can feel the ocean of contentment all around me.

This lends to every thought and dream the light of possibility; it coaxes my stubborn determination back into movement.  Slowly, i have started trying again.  In the past three days i have submitted my art and writing, sought freelance work, researched more galleries and managed to push through so much pain to do what was on my “this must be done TODAY” to-do list.  And i kept myself from becoming undone by the things i could not do, and the mistakes i made, which might have been the greatest kindness of all.

As i type the kiln is firing and the dishwasher is running.  i did that – me – this broken unit.  i found hope, strength and focus that i did not believe existed within me anymore.

Once more, i find myself crying before bed, but this time my heart overflows with thanksgivings.


without technology’s hum

IMG_0004Since we closed the popup, i have been avoiding technology.  All the social media accounts have lain fallow, i have not even typed in the poetry that is literally gushing from my fingers.  Not content with the solitude of the house, i have been keeping myself walled off in the newly created house-studio, locked inside what had been my livingroom and spare bedroom.

Even the kitchen seems to be too convivial for my needs.  Each time i go to do dishes, i wind up listening to music and singing – which seems at odds with the peace that i am actively seeking.

Sunday, in response to some interpersonal strife, i became truly draconian – unplugging one phone and turning the other off.

i have needed silence. i have needed stillness. However, the silence has not been that quiet – it has been filled with word and image.  My heart felt too heavy (interpersonal strife-wise) to write long prose.  Instead, i focused on pen and ink haiku. As soon as the art began to trickle out again, it turned into a flood.  In forty-eight hours, i have written about twenty standard poems and i had to refill my ink jar three times, i drew so much.  i have made over 30 tiny pen and inks – this form of art feels like a compulsion at this point.  i feel agitated when i am not making art, fully content when i am.

Today, though, i have been forcing myself to work on somewhat unpleasant jobs, taking time away from the flow of creation.  I enjoyed no fewer than six phone calls to the Healthcare Marketplace (five were disconnected midway through), two to local health insurance companies, one to my current health insurance company.  But in the end, i got new health insurance to replace the plan that the old company canceled.  The dog went to the vet – he’s lost over ten pounds! – and got his license for the year.  i got more dishes done, along with the litter, and the laundry is sorted to wash tomorrow.

Practical and necessary jobs were finished.  The weariness i feel is somewhat earned. Yet, even as i type this up, i stare at the bottle and pen.  With all my heart, i want to throw myself into drawing and forget the rest of the world.  Even through the chores of the day, every spare moment i could (including the two hours on hold for various healthcare entities), i drew with pen and ink and wrote these wee poems.

Too many were just for me, expressing my current frustrations, sadness, gratitude, hope, confusion, as well as my dismay at the cruelty and oddness of people, and repeated calls to be stronger within myself.  This art made me feel a bit self-indulgent, but it helped to create. i lost myself in the flow.  Everything else became quiet.

And, now, i am overloaded again – ready to throw myself into the search for silence.


Take Life by the hand…

take life by the hand - lead it in a dance of Love - open-hearted joy
take life by the hand – lead it in a dance of Love – open-hearted joy

So much has happened this past year, that i can barely process it all.  A lot of things i took for granted were stripped away.  Those last shreds of stability (or the delusion of same) disappeared.  Going through my poetry and blogs from the last twelve months, what i see is a clarifying fire – a lot of what i thought was important and what i assumed would be my path’s easy choices became either irrelevant or unreachable.  i have been humbled by my own failures and limitations.  i had to adapt – i am still in the process of adapting, in fact – and this has been neither smooth nor free of whining.  (And here is my first gratitude: for friends that held my hand and let me break down in anger, frustration and fear.  You rock!)

join us in this dance - wild joy of word and line - melody of dreams
join us in this dance – wild joy of word and line – melody of dreams

What shocks me the most, though, is how much my art changed while i was going through this intense time.  If i am honest, this transformation began a long time ago. Even during my divorce there were pieces of strength and determination amid some of the most sorrowful paintings and grief-drenched poems i have ever created.  For years, i languished right on the edge of the pit, never very far from falling in even when i danced with happiness.  And when i fell, oh, how i fell. i could stay down there for ridiculous amounts of time, thrashing about powerlessly.

Very slowly, over months and years, meditation and the retraining of my brain started to work.  In a way, i don’t think this will ever be fully finished, although i hope i am wrong. So far, though, each time i get over one hurdle or come to terms with one weakness, i find another.  Somehow, i developed a seemingly endless series of habits and assumptions that need to be questioned, shaken up or eradicated.  Still, i began to be more content for longer and longer periods – even when the same difficulties kept flooding my life.  Loneliness did not disappear, the financial instability did not resolve itself, the troubles with anxiety did not simply dissolve, vanquished by sudden bravery.  However, this year, i found a way to enjoy the moment even when the big picture crumbled to pieces.  When i read my words or look at my drawings – particularly these pen and inks – i do not see the sorrow or suffering.  i see the hope, the bliss, the determination that might be madness.

i do not exist - except in these words and lines - where i come to life
i do not exist – except in these words and lines – where i come to life

Maybe i overdosed on stress this past summer.  Perhaps i finally surrendered my last illusions of control. Maybe after 1,000 hours of meditation even the dimmest bulb can get some light. Either way, i have found myself more peaceful and more shockingly joyous in the middle of crises than i used to be when things were going well.  First, my art became joy, even when i felt nothing like that at the time.  Then i started checking in with myself and discovered the joy and peace were really just there, hiding underneath the wild fear and habits of doom.

For this, i am more grateful than i can say.  i know i am not  anywhere near done.  i keep practicing kindness, practicing gratitude.  When i forget, or get too busy, i feel myself sliding back into places i want to go.  This practice has become what poetry and prose have always been – a foundation on which my sanity rests.

On this New Year’s Eve, i could give you a hundred things i wish would change, ten stormandsunthousand that i want to do, i could wax on and on about how i don’t know what to do about my business or where the future will lead me.  My imagination can conjure the most desperate, terrible futures as well as ways everything could change, if i want to invest in fantasies.  i could do all those things – but i don’t want to.

What i want to do is make more joy through pen and ink, through clay, through oils and acrylics.  i want to throw myself into the sanctuary of words not because i have to hide myself there lest i crumble into despair, but because it is wonderful, exciting, hard work.  i want to find that speck of unexpected kindness in the middle of uncertainty.  i want to laugh with friends and hug my dog and pester my cats with love.  i want to enjoy this improbable happiness when so much has gone wrong.  i want to keep growing as i have this year.

And for those desires, i also give thanks.

Have a lovely New Year – and if troubles find you, if they find me, may we all find the sparks of loveliness inside them.

poem: mortality

Well, last night,
for the first time
in long, dark ages.
When the music
filled me to wholeness,
enthusiastic joy
kept me dancing
on sore, weary legs.
Beyond words, my friend.
i made peace with my body
and all its beauty
and all its ugliness.
We four came together
in the charged ecstasy
of movement.
Not one bit.
Those wounds that hound me
will probably find me again,
but for now, it’s all peace.
Refreshingly so,
splendidly so
i am ready for bed,
to sleep
like i have earned it.

poem: The posture of prayer

The posture of prayer
has become my habit –
a constant returnyellow angel
to gratitude and love,
a continual search
for any signs or whispers
that might lead me
out of my current vulnerability,
away from these lingering sorrows.
Over and over, i reach out my hands
to sacrifice my worries and fear.
Every night, i crack open my chest
so my heart can feel the wind.
i know i am blessed.
i have felt awesome love.
And, still, i remain human –
lonely, small, anxious and awkward,
turning to prayer
to give me hope.



I have two blogs from my prayers and meditations that reflect on the nature of prayer and what we pray for:http://ashafenn.com/prayersandmeditations/?p=75 and http://ashafenn.com/prayersandmeditations/?p=79

rosary: for peace

Please, God, in all Your Names and Forms, bring us peace.

Turn our minds away from conflict – open us to other ways of solving problems, show us how to honor the dignity of all humans and to love our enemies.

Please, enter the hearts of all people in this troubled world.

Lord, fill us all with kindness, compassion, understanding and love.

We humans are more alike than different. Please, guide all leaders and nations toward peaceful solutions. Help global neighbors learn to truly love each other.

All this I pray in the Name of the Lord. Amen.

and still another poem: perhaps i should say

Perhaps i should sayi ask again
that i regret this time
spent on words and story,
but i cannot.

This is my deepest joy,
even if it’s useless,
even if no one cares
but me.

This paper is my truest friend.
This ink and the sharp tip of the pen
rip through all my hesitation
and every layer of protection
and open my soul to God.

In this state,
the lines flow through me
more than they are of me,
and i find peace.

13 april 2014

poems that heal me (episode 2)

I read this a few times this winter… I have to keep reading this poem, to remind myself that I don’t have to struggle.  All I have to do is put my burdens down.


Quietly, secretly,
a longing has crept over me.
It’s strange.
i rarely find myself
yearning in this way.
Most of my dreams
come out grand
and unlikely.
But, this time
all i want
is some joy –
a sliver of happiness
at a moment in time
when i have been imprisoned
by my loneliness
to a terrifying degree.
This secret desire
doesn’t even include
great hopes for my future.
All of it –
the sum total of the dream –
is to have a good night,
a happy series of moments
when i forget my fears,
the demands and the stress,
and throw myself into happiness.
Finally, i have a fantasy
i can fulfill
without any massive efforts
or fervent planning.
All it requires
is for me to put my burdens down,
secure i can pick them back up again
in due time.


When I was sullen and depressed as a preteen and teenager, no doubt dripping with hormonal melodrama, my mother used to tell me stories about when I was a baby. In the hospital after I was born, I spent a lot of my time in the nursery with the other babies.  In the tale, every time the nurses brought me to my mother, they were full of praises.  “All the other babies in the nursery were howling, impatient and crying, but she was so quiet and kept smiling at us.”  Then my mother would follow up with a story about the son of her friend, probably about seven years older than I am, who crept in to my room when I was supposed to be sleeping – I was about six months old – to find me awake.  When he looked over into the crib, apparently I burbled and cooed, and he ran back to our mothers saying, “She smiled! She was so happy! And for a moment I was in the world of a baby!”

“You were always smiling when you were a baby.”  She would dismiss whatever sorrow had come over me, “You were always so happy.  So how can you claim to be miserable now!”  She seemed convinced that being happy once mean that you were immune to any sorrow.

All these years removed, I remember that I was indeed miserable as a teenager and I stayed that way for a long time.  It has only been in the past few years that I’ve really been able to make progress against long-standing depression.  I’ve already posted about this miracle, but today became something special.

af_easter2014_0043This afternoon, I took my dog hiking through the woods.  As I filled up on sunshine and delight, I kept remembering the happy baby in those stories. For a little while – within the forest filled with broken trees, those coming back to life, newborn saplings, and a lot of mud, I could not stop smiling.  With each step I thought about the things going on in my life, good and bad, and none of it could unseat my joy. This was not a high-energy, effervescent mood, but a strong, blissful peace that felt natural and deep.  It washed over me as welcome and bright as the sunshine.  For a little while, I wondered if I was returning to the baseline state that smiling baby enjoyed.

Then I came home from the hike (and the wonderful Easter dinner afterward at a friend’s house), and realized I had run out of fuel oil, I exhausted myself loading a kiln, tried to balance my checkbook to have the numbers laugh in my face, and washed what seemed like an endless series of dishes in no fewer than three different sessions at the sink.  As I write, stress and worry coexist with this deep happiness – which sounds surreal, but it is the reality of this moment.  The joy remains.  The sense of powerlessness remains.  Gratitude and the worry dance with each other.  Even now, as I put things up on Craig’s list to sell, realizing how tight my finances really are and could continue to be, I am a smiling fool.  I am awash in thanksgivings.

After all, I got to hike through the woods today with my dog – I had a wonderful dinner with friends – I an finding it easy to smile – and there is always the chance that things will change.


Talking to other women tonight, after a meeting for one of the artist cooperatives in which I am a member, I had a wonderful moment of clarity.  We talked about the things for which we had yearned over the course of our Gratitude21lives – children and relationships in particular. As we told our stories, I remembered the passion and intensity that filled those long-ago prayers. However, nothing pulls at my spirit quite in the same way now. I yearn for different things. I want confidence and self-sufficiency and joy.  My heart beats for art, for creating in word, clay and pigment.  When I am caught in a flurry of movement and obligation, I beg for quiet stillness so that I can center myself and focus on the writing that wants to pour out of me.  Always, I yearn for greater connection to the divine, as I take great joy with the sense of connection I already have.

There are a thousand desires floating around in my mind; we all have them.  But nothing matters as much to me as those frenzied dreams of youth did.  I manage quite well without those things I thought I could not survive being denied.  Gratitude fills me, for these good friends and for the journey that I have taken so far..