Saturday, July 29, 2017

Endings and Beginnings


It's only because I need to exhale. And probably to breathe. These last years have felt all about loss to me. There've been so many big ones. But out of the losses, new life has emerged. And there's some great stuff on the horizon. When I'm in the middle of mad loss, sometimes it's hard for me to remember that rebirth follows. It's how everything works. The forest burns down in a fire and the ground becomes so fertile and rich that tremendous new growth springs up as if overnight. The energy of plants after flowering turns inward and the plants seem to die away, but their energy is busy creating fruit and seed for the harvest and for new cycles of growth. The moon waxes to full and then seems to dissolve before our very eyes, growing dark before waxing again. Winter's quiet activity beneath, deep in the earth, defies the death we see all around us. And spring always springs back with flowers and greening. The sun sets and rises again. A new day.

Nature is a brilliant teacher for our spiritual struggles.

So then why are the lessons so hard to remember?

Before I run ahead to rebirth, there's some exploration in the darkness to engage. Like the Earth, I need to notice the quiet activity in my wintry soul here in high summer. I'm in the middle of some big good-byes these days. A close friend moved back to England last week. And next week my daughter moves to Chicago to begin graduate studies. This weekend feels like a threshold. And like so many thresholds, it's a bit intimidating to step across.

I've been lucky because I really haven't had the extreme letting go of my kids that so many have. They both went to college locally, and even though they both are long out of the nest, they are close by. If we want to get together, I just jump into the car or onto the train, and there they are. There we are. In person. Together. Yesterday my daughter said, "Mom, I'm 29!"

As if that makes a difference. I'm laughing as I'm typing.

Did you ever see the remake of Father of the Bride? When Annie Banks is sitting at the dinner table telling her dad she's fallen in love and is going to marry a wonderful man? We look at her and see a bright, animated young woman excited about the future opening before her. Her dad looks at her, incredulous, and sees a little girl speaking the same words. To her dad, they seem ridiculous coming out of her mouth. It's hard for him to wrap his mind around what is happening, even though it's what parents want for their kids. I don't see a small child when I look at my daughter, but I do see all of her, an entire lifetime with her, from the tiny baby on my belly right after her birth, to the bright and beautiful child on stage at her first piano recital at age six absolutely illuminated by the spotlights, to the phenomenal artist exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts just a few years ago, to the woman of substance sitting before me with her life partner at the table in a hipster cafĂ© in South Philadelphia yesterday afternoon. 

It's hard to say good-bye.

When we're on the threshold, in the Underworld, in the liminal space between realities, in the between times, it's hard to see what's on the other side. Space and time seem to spread out before us like unending darkness. And we just can't see beyond it. Of course, the truth of all this that is sometimes hard to wrap our minds around is that this darkness is not objective reality, it is simply what we're able to see in the moment. And it's the kind of darkness that is the substance of pure potential. The darkness before the light. The silence before the speech. The feminine principle that underlies all creation.


I need to remember to breathe. Remembering to breathe is akin to putting one foot before the other if we are trying to get someplace and can't imagine ourselves going there. I should probably go outside and take a walk. Put myself into nature and remember the lessons of life. So I can trust life and let go, trust the energy of endings and beginnings.

And then I need to stop thinking about what I'm losing and get back to thinking about what I am creating. 


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Sometimes the Growing Season is Long

I hope I can remember how to do this.

It's been quite a while since I've written. I walked into a dream and spent a lot of time bringing it into form. The last time I wrote, I talked about a vision I had: to hold my poetry book in my hands. It went to the publisher on Friday, just before the new moon -- a time to end one thing before beginning something new. I also wrote about how that vision included gathering people together for workshops in beautiful places. On Saturday, I led the first of these workshops in a beautiful old house in the rolling hills near New Hope, Pennsylvania. It was just after the new moon, a time of energetic rebirth and the beginning of a new cycle. Gardens, fruit trees, a pond, a beautiful and bountiful table, and a great group of women gathered for the first offering of 13 Moons: Tracking the Wild Mare.

I spent most of the week away in the mountains in a small cabin in the woods, writing and planning, thinking about what's next. Being spacious. I've needed space to meet this transition well. And I've given it to myself. I spent time poring over process books and journals, gathering goals and action steps and forming them into a plan. I spent time reading through writing journals of poems, essays, reflections, short stories, and memoir. I found this on the first pages of a journal I'm currently using. It's from March 2016:

This is the beautiful morning pages book that my daughter made for me and gave me at Christmas. It is amazing, and I thought I'd save it for something special. And then I decided that my life as it is, right now, is the special gift I have, so here it is -- open and opening to whatever new is coming. It's a good day to begin this book because I'm seeing today as a new beginning. It's the last day of new moon week -- tomorrow is the first quarter. ( Do something!) So here it is. I'm feeling drawn to doing, gently, today. I signed up for an evening yoga class. I have a list I made yesterday. I drew out the weeks before I leave for California, five of them. There's some great time here to make some changes I'd like to make. This book feels so rich and amazing. I love the size and I'm not worrying that it won't fit on my bookshelf. What beautiful pages to write upon. Yes. It feels rich. And it's indeed an auspicious time, just days before the Equinox. So many beginnings. I'm seeing some clarity around a plan coming together. And it's beautiful. There is so much wonderful potential swirling all around -- and I feel free now to take my finger and touch it. I can see a desire building to reach in and get my hands dirty, first one and then the other. And to go in, all the way up to my elbows, then to my shoulders -- then just to fall, or dive, right in, fall in and be completely swallowed by it!

Potential is a beautiful thing. It's all about creating space so something can happen. Sometimes we carry so much clutter in our thoughts, our feelings, our living space that there's no space to see possibility, no time to take time to dream and to plan, to manifest. There have been times in the last few years when I felt like I'd lost my center and had no direction, but I just kept trusting where I thought life was leading me. I was listening deeply for what was emerging, rather than trying to impose something on myself. And, suddenly, as if a mist dispelled, things became clear and I realized I was just a few small actions away from harvesting a crop that's been long in the field.

Sometimes the growing season is long.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I Squeeze Out Dreams Like Threads of Light

I have been gestating.

My last blog post, which was my New Year's post, really got under my skin. I began to think about my own dreams. And what I would like to bring more fully to birth in the world. And so I went deep inside and visited my dreamscape. I found so many things there, but mainly I found that a dream I began to dream three years ago was still scratching at the walls of my consciousness, trying to get my attention.

There were a few fears I had to overcome to begin to bring this dream to birth. And so I spent some time with those fears and decided that I needed to take things one step at a time.

First, I had to get really clear about my dream. I saw the poetry collection I've been working on for the last three years as a book in my hands and I saw the workshop that emerged out of writing the poetry being offered in beautiful places to as wide an audience as possible.

A book and a widely-shared workshop. It felt like a huge undertaking.

One day, one of my writing mentors sent me a link to a publisher and suggested I send my manuscript to them. It is a small, independent literary publisher. They don't publish many books in a year, but the quality of what they offer is amazing. When submitting to their open submissions process, an editor reviews and critiques your work. It took a lot of courage for me to submit. It was my first experience submitting a manuscript and I think if I'd done more independent research on this publisher I might have been too intimidated to have submitted my work. But I trusted this writing teacher and submitted the manuscript.

They did not publish my work, but the feedback I received was truly valuable. It was worth every moment spent writing, editing, curating, and waiting.

Among the comments were, "The speaker's one that requires the reader to trust the poet. And we do. Your voice is clear and strong, speaking often without artifice or guile."

And, "I was struck by the cadence of the words, the rhythm holding the poems together. It is at times subtle, but the music is there...When the cadence and metaphor worked together, as in 'Unbound,' I'm willing to take leaps with you, the poet."  

I was given some excellent criticism about ways to improve the collection, trimming it to "cast into sharp relief your subject." This, and other comments, feels something like a treasure map as I continue to work with the manuscript.

The dream began to shape itself into a goal and the goal into objectives. I am almost ready to launch my project - a book and a widely-shared workshop. There have been many steps in between, and so this gestation has been both deep, inner work and exhausting, exhilarating outer action. 

I turned my dream into a goal and my goal is now taking form.

I've been thinking about the steps I outlined in my New Year's post, and one of them emerges as the most powerful ~

Get comfortable with the "you" you need to be in order to live this dream.   

For me, this has been some of the hardest work these many months. It has required me to unearth some old stories that I've needed to heal and transform in order to see myself alive and present in the dream, and to make it happen.

I am passionate about the healing power of story. About unearthing our stories like archaeologists painstakingly working a tel and the anthropologists who work with them to study the artifacts and create meaning around them.

And so, Anthropology for the Soul: Unearthing Story for Healing, Growth, and Transformation, the workshop, has emerged out of my work and expresses a process to help reveal what is emerging and expressing itself through one's life stories. This empowering work helps people to heal and transform, unleashing their creative genius. 

The kind of genius that has enabled the birth of Claws of Uthurunku, the poetry collection that emerged as I unearthed my own story, a healing story. Very shortly, I am hoping to post a photo of me, holding the book in my hands. For now, I hold a manuscript in my hands and a dream is coming into manifest form.

“There you are”
He points to one s
Boundary of Light
I squeeze out dreams
Like threads of light
From, "Into the Dreamtime"
(c) 2014 K.C.Knodel


Friday, January 31, 2014

Turn Your Dream into Your Goal

I was just curious...
If there was something else...
Sometimes just naming it
Helps you to be able to let it go
And open to what is to come 

It's such a simple idea - turn your dream into your goal.  But how many of us actually do this?  Don't we usually relegate dreams to the realm of fantasy and soldier through with something more realistic?  As I've been thinking about the Lunar New Year, I've been thinking about dreams.  The things we long for. What we'd do if there were no limits. The things we don't usually think we can achieve and so they sit somewhere in our consciousness and become something we turn to when what we actually are manifesting is disappointing. 
But what might happen if we take our dreams and turn them into goals?  Well, our dreams are likely to come true.  I think about Gabby Douglas, the U.S. Olympian, to whom this quote is usually attributed. I don't know if she came up with this herself or if she is quoting someone else.  It doesn't really matter. What does matter is that this young woman embraced this whole-heartedly and, in doing so, won gold medals in both the individual all-around and team competitions in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
What do you dream?  A new moon is a great time to get clear around this and begin to plant the seeds that will enable you to manifest your dream.  Plant them now.  Turn your dream into your goal. Write it down and post it where you can see it every day.  Begin to live as if it is already your reality.  Get comfortable with the "you" you need to be in order to live this dream.  Start to jot down some action steps that you can take that will bring you closer. 
At the first quarter moon, select one action step and do it.  Each step you take brings you closer. 
At the full moon, notice what is manifesting as a result of taking a step closer to your goal.
At the third quarter moon, spend some time reflecting on how far you have come, who you have become, and what might be a good next step.  At the next new moon, plant the seeds that will enable you to move farther along in the process and continue to take the steps that will allow you to move closer and closer to living your dream. 
This process can be used with small and large life goals.  There are no limits except for those we place on ourselves.  These usually come in the form of limiting beliefs that rob us of our confidence and hold us back. Turn the limiting beliefs around and notice how you have transformed as your thinking begins to change.  Don't put pressure on yourself. Hold all of this lightly and take small steps that build on each other.  What had once been nebulous will begin to take form.












Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hugs, Chores, and All the Good Stuff for the New Year

When my children were little, we had a hug jar and a chore jar -- large, decorated Ball jars, that had little slips of paper inside with different kinds of chores and different kinds of hugs.  We got very creative as we invented different kinds of hugs to add to the jar, including everyone's favorite -- the Cha Cha hug. Each day after school, the kids would come home and draw a chore and the three of us would do that chore together and then each of us got to draw a hug out of the hug jar.  There would be hugs all around.  In our house, there were always more hugs than chores.  It was a daily ritual that highlighted for each of us that we have responsibilities, that doing them can be fun and so much easier when done together, and that there is a whole lot of love in our lives. 

By the time they were teenagers, the hug jar and the chore jar were collecting dust on a shelf in the family room.  But we started a new jar -- the fortune jar.  Every time we got Chinese food and opened our fortune cookies together, we would share the fortune, laugh a lot, and invariably those little slips of paper would end up on the floor, or in pockets.  I would find them on laundry day and put them, and the assorted toys and coins, in a dish near the washer.  One day I noticed an abundance of fortunes and put an extra Ball jar to use. This one was not decorated, but the rising level of fortunes felt like its own kind of art.  Eventually, fortunes were left on the table and added to the jar bypassing pockets and floor.  Sometimes I'd find the odd fortune here or there and add it to the jar.

And occasionally someone would walk by and fish one out when a bit of fortune was needed.  This jar did not provide a regular ritual, but one that could be called on when needed.

Today when I was online, I found a picture of something that sang to me -- a new jar, a new ritual for a new year.  Get yourself a jar and starting January 1st, write good things that happen to you on little pieces of paper: surprise gifts, accomplished goals, the beauty of nature, "LOL" moments, memories worth saving, daily blessings. Whatever feels good. Put it someplace where you'll see it every day. Keep paper and some Flairs near the jar so you always have your tools nearby.  Be artful. Then, on December 31st, open the jar and read all the amazing things that happened to you in the year. 

Its so easy to forget.  The amazing things.  The blessings.  Moments of joy and wonder.  We usually focus on the challenges, the stress, the things that don't feel so good, what's going wrong.  My guess is a jar like this could change your life. And mine.

The hug jar sits on a bookshelf in my living room.  The beautiful decorations my daughter drew when she was six have faded from the paper but not from my memory.  You can no longer read "Hug Jar" on it. But I will always know what it is.  I opened it tonight and drew a faded slip of paper -- Butterfly Kiss.  It is written in my daughter's little girl handwriting and has a tiny butterfly illustration.  All the other hugs were written by me. The jar hasn't been opened in ten years. I could almost hear a whisper of children's laughter. I think I'll take it with me when I get together with the kids tomorrow on New Year's day to celebrate Christmas. I smile when I think about it and realize it is the 20th Anniversary of the hug jar. The chore jar came later.

When I moved out of my house last year I gave away all my Ball jars. Too bad. Wouldn't it be great to give a New Year's jar to each of the kids for Christmas.  Well, I'll figure something out.  You knew I would. 



Monday, September 30, 2013

Changing Form

Changing Form
She leads me to a plateau of rock
And tells me to jump
Slow motion descent
Through beads of water
Like mist
From the waterfall feeding
The pool below
I swim through
Underground systems of
Caves carved
Through rock by
Over time
And wonder
Will my breath hold
Or will I need to learn
To breathe water
(c) 2013 Katherine Cartwright Knodel

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Musings Under the Balsamic Moon



Thinking about this at the end of the evening, at the end of a month, the end of a moon cycle, the end of a season.  It's the time of year when we are moving closer and closer toward our cyclic endings.  The harvest and putting up our abundance for lean times.  The ending of the long, bright days of summer.  My thoughts continue to spiral around, into inevitable thoughts exploring existential philosophy around endings -- the deeper, more profound applications. . . at least to the human mind.  Nature's cycles point to deep and profound realities.  And tonight I feel that simply noticing the moment is important.

I see beauty in every season, but so often I feel a bit melancholy in these between times, when something is passing away and what is yet to come has not quite arrived.  I am struck by life's constant rhythm of letting go and welcoming in.  My thoughts inevitably turn to the death and rebirth cycle of life.  I try very hard to keep the three words together -- death and rebirth -- but, more often than not, I pause after the first; I know the second is coming, but pause there too. For what feels like an endless moment, I pause before coming to the third. Word. 
When thoughts of endings and death come, I can't help but yearn for beauty.  And I don't simply want to see it, feel it, and experience it --
I want to help create it, to be a part of it, to be Beauty's agent.
And so my attention turns toward creating Beauty.  With my thoughts and with my words.  With poetry and prose. With my wild imagination and the images that flow from it. With the spoken word and with silence. 

With offering something to meet the worry and the stress and the anxiety of our shifting and changing times, and the landscapes that morph and change more quickly than we can absorb. 
As the waning crescent of the balsamic moon diminishes and disappears, and the dark time between the cycles comes, there is a time of pure potential, pregnant with possibility. A time when our dreaming plants seeds.  We pause for a moment, suspended in the timelessness of between before moving boldly forward into what is still unknown.