Spring grounding

The Pumpcrete truck was already on site this morning when I woke at 5:47.

That particular vehicle is not there every day – there seem to be periods of building, pouring, then drying, then building a next thing, involving a range of trucks and contraptions and so on.

I was telling my son about the Pumpcrete truck last Sunday when we got together for the first big bike ride of spring season.

He told me about the finishing steps of the condo tower being built across from where he lives, and about the overnight dismantling of the crane, done by another crane, that built itself to be able reach up and take down the crane that had been used to build the building.

Engineers... we marvelled to each other. He said: When I watch what they are doing, I feel an awe, kind of like the awe I feel about nature.

An intertesting comparison I was thinking, as I came across this fascinating podcast with Erin Yu-Juin McMorrow , author of the recent book Grounded: A Fierce, Feminine Guide to Connecting with the Soil and Healing from the Ground.

She talks specifically about our modern western world as being one by and for engineers, vs an orientation to the earth, the soil, the ground, and ultimately to the feminine.

She talks a lot about soil, and putting our feet on the earth to ground ourselves, and I remembered an even deeper technique I learned years ago at a workshop with Ohki Simine Forest, where she had us lie down on our bellies on some scrabbly ground in Santa Fe, lying on the earth and letting her absorb all of our edgy bits, you know, where the grounding instructions go kind of like this –

Imagine a white light coming directly from a source above and bring that energy down into your physical body.

Next, imagine that energy moving all the way down into the center of the Earth.

See, imagine, or feel any energetic imbalances within you being moved down and out directly into the Earth to be recycled. Ask that any imbalances be washed away.

Now, bring the pure, solid, reliable, grounding energy of Earth—and all that she represents to you—allow yourself to feel the qualities of Earth that you most need to draw upon at this time: permanence, reliability, safety, security—whatever it is that you need at this moment.

credit: unknown

But where I live now is so ferociously urban, connecting with the earth by lying on it, or even by going out in bare feet is not an easy or obvious option.

It used to be I could wander out in the back yard in my pyjamas and bare feet, coffee in hand to greet the day…

But after a couple of moves, now I find myself in a place where I wander out to the balcony, coffee in hand to greet the day and see this – the crane, the trucks, the leftovers of industrial harbour wasteland, the highway and condos and cranes beyond –

Now, this isn’t a pity party, don’t be feeling sorry for me, cause fact is, when I go down a few flights of stairs and out the side door, what I see is this –

Lake Ontario / Toronto Harbour.

Big Love.

But the thing is: SO MUCH OF THE WORLD spends their / our lives living in dense urban environments.

In cities. In towers.

Far from any easy direct contact with the earth.

Check out these photos by photographer Michael Wolf

credit: Micheal Wolf
credit: Michael Wolf

So the question is… how do you, how do I, how do we, connect with the ground, with the earth, in this kind of ultra-urban living situation?

In a situation where there is no grass, not even a sense of soil underneath the feet, but rather of concrete and infill, parking garages and layers of infrastructure.

I was telling my boy about how one day someone in our building noticed this ship’s anchor hanging out in the construction site out front.

And someone else in the building said: Well, you know, when they did the infill for this area, apparently they used whatever they could get their hands on, including old ships.

Toronto Harbour 1967

Because we are right on the edge of the Toronto Harbour, on what has gradually, over the decades, been increasingly filled in to create a harbour with a depth able to receive the increasingly large ships.

I guess my answer for myself on grounding in urban situ has been:

When I do meditations where I “ground”, feeling down through the earth, sending roots down and feeling even into the core of the globe – I begin with what is there, feeling down through the floors below me, through the parking garages, and then through the concrete and infill and finally to what’s left of the silt and slime of the lake bottom down there, just letting my imagination feel into what IS, or what I imagine Might Be.

And, aside from feeling good, some fun art explorations have been coming out of it –

Where the Earth Began, Katharine Asals

In a way, this approach to the meditation is an exercise in including the city as material entity that is part of the earth – of trying to integrate rather than fight the fact that this is where my body finds itself.

Okay, okay… it is not the same as bare feet on dewy wet grass in the morning, I can tell you that, but it is still something…

Roots #2, Katharine Asals

And you, Dear Reader? Do you do Grounding Meditations? Do you live in a city? What’s your experience with these various factors?

Inspired by Lens Artists Photo Challenge: You Pick It

Broken Rock Face

cormorant island
Friday afternoons are sketching class – the best day of the week.
Each week we go to a different location, a park somewhere close by, in the ‘hood, and set up to draw whatever presents itself.
This week was the Scarborough Bluffs.
tree leaning down cliff side
Such an amazing place – I’d never been this far east and south before, and wow, what a fascinating, strange place, almost like being at the ocean with the strong winds, the sound of waves on the beach, the gulls and kingfishers diving for fish –
kingfisher
A place to come back to when the sun is low on the horizon and the skies glow orange and magenta.
But it was interesting too how harsh and desolate the cliff faces looked in the bright afternoon light, the ravages of time and water on the shapes of the rocks –
overhang full size
edge, gull, treetop
My drawing companions tease me that no matter what I draw – a rock, a tree, an animal – it ends up looking vaguely like the human figure.
A drawing of a cliff face also seems to hold a variety of human faces, snouts and orifices –
hoodoos drawing
Another rock drawing suggest reclining figures, hairy crevices and the folds of flesh –
rock fountain drawing
A drawing of tree hints at perhaps a headless torso, arms, a belly-button –
tree torso drawing
Another tree could be an underarm, or a knee –
tree branch drawing
That is my hand, my mark, apparently.
Out in the sun and wind, facing these cliffs, blown away by the sheer force of the place, it’s hard to even put pencil to paper, the desire to simply soak in the splendour of the day is so overpowering.
Yes, this too is Toronto…
cliff lake vistaWeekly Photo Challenge – Broken

Threshold

Threshold of the subway doors, humans and hints of animal beyond – wolfman on subwayThreshold of a slinky bus, during a morning commute, he studies his phone, bathed in light – 20140406-193526.jpgThreshold of a cliff, of the lake, of the edge of the city, of the transition from urban neighbourhoods to the wild beyond – 20140406-193632.jpg
Threshold of a smile, of the beginning of life, of nascent love…20140406-193701.jpgWeekly Photo Challenge – Threshold

Good morning

My morning ritual has gotten more and more elaborate over the years.
It begins hors champ, out of frame, in my bed with scribbles in a dream journal à la Robert Moss – you can’t move too much or the dreams get lost, as if it is the body that holds them, not the mind, so this must be done while still in bed, searching inside the positions of the body for the secrets of the night.
Then journal and pen get dragged groggily downstairs to the kitchen table where writing continues, a kind of morning pages thing à la Julia Cameron, but with candles, I’m not sure why, just for fun.
candles, journalIdeally this is all happening before first light, cause next up is the Sunrise Ceremony à la Diane Longboat, with a little more fire to make a smudge of dried lavender and sage – it’s supposed to be tobacco, but tobacco is kind of pricey around here and doesn’t burn so easily and I’m not so fond of the smell, and seems like the main idea is prayer and gratitude for the day, giving thanks for being alive and being able to see the sun rise yet again, the smoke rising to wherever prayers are heard.
smudgeThis is done facing east, of course, though as a Canadian the changing arc of the sun becomes quite evident if you are doing this daily, and right now the sun is a little further south each morning.
If the day is not too wet, and sometimes even when it is, I stand barefoot out in the dewy grass and damp soil of the back yard, out where the morning glories and other plants reside.
sun in artichoke stalks 2And somewhere in this greeting of the sun a glass of water will be consumed, the first drink of the day blessed by the light of the sun, re-hydrating the body after sleep.glass of waterBut I must confess, each morning is a struggle between the timing of the glass of water with the sunrise, and the feeling that I want, I crave, I shouldn’t, but I just can’t hold off on my one deep intractable addiction, my true love, the one I lie in bed the night before fantasizing about…
coffee groundCOFFEE…..
Oh how I love my coffee, can’t wait for some coffee, am sad each time my allotted 2 cups are done and I’m not allowed anymore.
But I’m not the only one. As I move through my morning routines, often as not sneaking one coffee in before the glass of water, or even before the morning pages and the first lighting of the smudge, I have to be careful not to set my cup down. Someone else here, bizarre little thing that she is, will lick my coffee cup if I’m not looking –
kitty sniffsWe call her the Italian cat cause she likes coffee and pizza, will steal a piece of pizza from your plate if you’re not careful. As a kitten she was found in the alleyway here in Little Italy – seems it might be genetic…
For a good morning bonus, here’s a nice little article on creativity and morning habits.
(Weekly Photo Challenge – good morning!)

Night Ride

night rideBiking home late from work, a route different from my usual as I’d stopped to pick up another drawing pad, some conté, a few more colours of paint, and launching off with bags dangling from the handlebars I saw a man I used to know.
Oh, it was a complicated story, an early education in some of the crueler ways of men, the contradictions a man can have, being not at all a good man and yet not quite evil – in other words, definite trouble.
But we are still friends, friends from a distance, so we embrace, each leaning towards the other with bikes balanced underneath, he holding the cell phone aloft momentarily, Dejame saludar, he says to the person on the other end.
To me he says, Call me, Write me, Let’s get together, and I grin and nod, knowing I never will, that I see him now as a symbolic figure in my world who appears out of the blue like a highly personalised superstition. Years ago I nicknamed him Eleggua – trickster, guardian of pathways. When he appears like this, mercurial, on a street corner, it strikes me like a message, an apparition, a reminder to look for crossroads, choices, pathways that may show up leading in different directions.
Pushing off into the evening, I wonder about his appearance, put on alert for what may lie ahead.
Rounding the corner on my bike from College heading up Manning, my attention is caught by a woman’s laugh.
She is a young woman – I see her pulling herself up from where she is leaning over with the force of the laugh at a small table outside Greg’s Ice Cream. And so…, she says, prompting the young man at the table with her to continue with his story, the story that has made her laugh so.
He has a baseball cap sitting smartly on his head, and something about the cap and his very upright eager posture suggests an earnestness, a sincerity, an openness, an undefiled quality.
And I feel their young courtship, such a pure feeling as I imagine it, because of the full-bodied way in which she let herself laugh in the summer night, giving herself over to his story, and because of the way he sits so fastidious and attentive to her. Coming from the chance meeting with the tricky, mercurial Eleggua, I allow their fresh, young, sweet spirits to wash over me in the night, and carry the feeling home with me, wondering what is next on the path.

Nostalgic evening

20130705-195956.jpgA long walk home from work after some 12 hours in front of the computer and it’s a hot heavy summer night and the downtown is busy and congested with crowds and throngs of people all moving in different directions at different speeds.
In a square with a fountain, kids play in and out of the water, drenching themselves fully dressed in that way kids will do without a thought, without a care, letting themselves go, free and open into the sensation of it all, the wet, the surprise of it, the cooling down of the body. One boy rides a scooter between the shoots of water. I suddenly long for freedom and energy and optimism of childhood, for the hot summer nights when I’d play loose-limbed and happy with my friends with just this kind of abandon.
20130705-200027.jpgRounding a corner I happen upon an old payphone – a relic from the past so hard to come by these days, the graffiti and garbage collecting on and around it suggesting a sad and lonely disuse, the discarding of quaint technologies, already forgotten.
pay phoneHeading up Spadina the crowds thin out and the colours of Chinatown remind me of other years lived in other cities and other apartments, that one on the edge of Chinatown in Montreal, and the boyfriend I had at the time, and the first night we hung out and he walked along the ledge of a garden, balancing, showing off, both of us giddy with the newness of something, something we didn’t yet know would be so mismatched and dismal.
20130705-200048.jpgSo much colour and small works of art there is everywhere on this route! A parking lot with a string of bare lightbulbs hanging in front reminds me of quinceañera parties in Mexico with strings of lights and little fold up chairs and tables with table cloths where everybody sits between drinking and dancing late into the night.
How many little glimpses of lives we can have within one lifetime…
20130705-195651.jpg
Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic

The World Through My Eyes Today

Early mornings at my house include a sleeping teenager and a tiny runt of a cat who believes she’s a lion –
20130621-145645.jpgThe chaotic traffic-jostling bike ride to work usually involves various moments of stopping to look at interesting occurrences of political street art –
20130621-144343.jpgAnd this is the building where I work, disappearing today, on the longest day of the year, into the blue of the blue sky, making it almost possible to believe this is a Greek island somewhere and not the stinking metal and cement downtown of a big city…
20130621-143237.jpg
Weekly Photo Challenge – The World Through Your Eyes

The Sign Says

20130531-163158.jpgFirst day back at work today after a couple of months off and meandering.

Leaving the garden behind this morning, my feet muddy from the wet soil, heading out along College on the streetcar for the first time in weeks, after a few blocks the driver leaned deep into his horn and the brakes but too late, too fast, nothing could stop him and he rear-ended a taxi, totally crumpling the back half of the car.

All of us passengers fled the scene, the streetcar driver slumped depressed over his steering wheel, the taxi driver strangely indifferent.

Ahhh, the city…
20130531-163704.jpgNow walking to work, I run into an old friend, a friend I haven’t seen for maybe 5 years and we kiss each other and hug again and again – it has been so long, too long… I am suddenly grateful for the streetcar driver’s misfortune.

Now rushing to work, the day is beautiful and the city vibrant, so wonderful to be in it, feeling the heart of it, not thinking about the absurd, if entertaining dramatic spectacle that has gripped city governance for the past weeks.

Opportunities for photos abound, and indeed there are signs everywhere, too many signs, the city is rife with signs.

Some are intriguing, cryptic in a playful way –
20130531-163243.jpgOthers are strange in that futuristic sci-fi dystopia movie kind of way…
20130531-163318.jpg…especially as there is NO blue door in sight.

Others are attractively bilingually cryptic in a way that is repeated again and again in different languages all over the city –

mother of god

And others just seem to have been very badly located –

delicious food

But now very very late for work on my first day back, I run up the stairs and face the door with the sign leading to the floor that will be my daytime abode for the next couple of months…
20130531-163405.jpg
The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge can be found here.