22 Mar 2017, 9:00am

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Meditating in the Garden

I’ve been working on some writing projects – or rather, the working is happening. I don’t know the words for this – only that’s it’s not my drive, but being driven. When it’s time to work on a particular project, I do. When it’s not, I don’t. There’s a great simplicity to this, when I can relax into it.

I’m having the most fun with a project on meditating in the garden, which emerged from my love of gardening and meditation. I’m writing about the garden as a place and a focus for mindfulness meditation.

I’ve written a series of short pieces, each paired with a photo I took in my garden. I decided to  exclude anything taken elsewhere, which means I had to pull a photo I’d intended to use and forgotten where it was taken. This is one of my challenges – to keep the project totally within my own garden.

I wrote most of it late last year, in three days of scribbling out scrappy notes. “Oh, I could write about this, and this, and this.” The photography took off last June, when I looked into the garden early one morning and saw sunlight backlighting a peony, grabbed my camera and started shooting. Somehow I see light differently now.

This project has emerged from the spiritual shift, and seems to be directing itself. I follow along, enjoying the ride.


Calgary Through The Eyes of Writers

Shaun Hunter’s project Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers features The Veil Weavers today. I love the timing, days before a city council vote on a development project that would keep the water downstream of Confederation Park underground, instead of restoring it as a stream in Highland Park, as local residents are fighting for.


26 Feb 2017, 1:10pm

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Writing or Not Writing?

I’ve done very little writing in the last few months – instead, this time has been about deepening, becoming quieter, more still.

Odds and bits of writing arose, some of them quite marvelous and with great potential, but nothing with any discipline, and nothing completed. When the tap is on, I write. When it turns off, I stop.

I don’t know if a more focused or productive time is coming (my intuition says yes), or if this is simply the tail end of being a writer.

I’m fine with either ­– which is its own vast curiosity. But there it is.

I’m not dismayed. I am curious. What will today bring?


From Quarry Lake, near Canmore

Let The Story Be

I came across the phrase people who love the interior world a while ago. I love this – it completely explains where I find myself right now. I don’t remember where I came across it. Apologies for not crediting a radiant phrase.

It explains the books I loved as a child, and my drive now to go deeper into silence, an amazing roller coaster of discovery. I’m diving deep into the interior world.

When I was a child I adored the poem Halfway Down, by A. A. Milne:

Halfway down the stairs

is a stair

where i sit.

there isn’t any

other stair

quite like it.

I remember myself at four years old counting our basement stairs, finding the middle stair and sitting, contemplating the end of the poem. It isn’t really anywhere. It’s somewhere else instead.

I loved the strangeness of Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, and the magic and wonder of Mary Stewart’s Merlin and Arthur stories – not the sword fighting, but the otherness, the mystery. I find it in transcendental poetry, and Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I’ve always been drawn to the mysteries of life, and now I find myself immersed in it. It feels absolutely right.

Now, can I catch this in stories? Part of finding the mystery is allowing myself to not know. Can I “not know” about writing? To simply sit with it, to let it emerge, to be what it needs to be, to let the story become?

I’m editing another novel manuscript. It became clear I need to edit it by retyping it entirely, slowing when I reached anything that isn’t quite right, and letting new words come from a quiet mind. Nothing cognitive, just being with the story.

I’ll hit a paragraph that just doesn’t feel right and let a rewrite flow. I move on through lines that work, that feel right, and when I reach another rough patch, I let the story become what it wants to become.

It’s oddly slow, coming in fits and starts, letting the story set the pace. Once again, I have to release all control and just let the story be.


Organic Editing

It turns out that writing as meditation is no easier with a cold than regular writing. Brain fog is brain fog. But it cleared, eventually, and I got back to work.

What I’m trying to do is kind of like floating, to move through my day letting the day be what the day will be. Which is exactly what it will be anyway. At least this way I recognize my lack of control over life. I wonder what today will bring?

In October we met some mountain sheep at Lake Minnewanka, just hanging out, and I was able to take a whole bunch of pictures using a zoom lens. This is what the day gave us.

This is how I need to write, to find what I find in a story. Other writers will recognize this. It’s often taught as freefall writing. I’m trying to extend that to editing.

I’m trying to turn off my cognitive mind and just let the writing write, the reading read, the editing edit. I’ve decided to call this organic editing, to distinguish it from cognitive editing. Editing without the thinking mind. I know, this sounds like total lunacy. And yet, here I go. This is my current writing exercise.

I’m trying to sit down to editing with a really quiet mind, and not let the thinking mind, the cognitive mind, get in the way. If it tries and I notice, I quiet it, or I stop working. Writing is sporadic and slow, and yet there’s something wonderful here I need to learn.

I’ve wondered if playing the right music or a teaching as background might be useful for keeping my mind where I want it to be. My first try was with Philip Glass. The music helped pull me into the right place in my mind, but once I was editing well, organic editing, then the music pulled me away and I turned it off.

I’m hoping organic editing will get easier with practice, as I train my brain in this new way of working.


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