Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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The mustache we’d know anywhere

On a recent visit with young friend, Anya, one of the first readers of my newest book.

Sixty-three years ago today, during a brief 24-hour lull between two hurricanes, my mother-in-law delivered her first child at the hospital of the Kittery Naval Shipyard in Maine.

The photo on the left below, taken on the roof of my husband’s childhood home (one of them, anyway) embodies his spirit, for me.

Lord knows what this experience was about — probably an expedition to tackle all of that plant growth around the chimney. But knowing my husband, he was among the first in this little family group to volunteer for it.

Photo courtesy Thomas Tufts

Second from the right, he’s facing the photographer almost completely, in a stance that suggests balance, and ease. These two qualities are not only a part of who he is essentially, but what he often offers to the situations around him.

My true life companion, he is my fellow traveler in the most meaningful of ways. Many of our adventures lately have been ones that retrace family history, in Ireland, Britain, and Europe.

With an artifact from family history during a recent visit to the village where my mother grew up in England.

On one of his journal-writing days, he captured down some thoughts as he contemplated words of writer Anne Lamott’s about being part of the tapestry of life and of relationships, and the pathway by which souls learn and grow and evolve.

His words on the page reminded me of this: “Heirloom is a compound word, with its roots in heredity and looming. Weaving, writing and painting our stories into the things we create is a way of feeding the Holy in Nature, which has kept us fed and alive.

“And as we put all of our lostness and longing into the beauty we make, we do so knowing that we may never hope for more than to pass on these heirlooms to the young ones so they may find their way home across the songlines, as we have been found by those who made beautiful things before us. If even one generation is denied their inheritance, the story and the way home may be lost. As it is said in West Africa, ‘When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.’” ~ Toko-pa

Artwork: Joan Haskell

After six-plus decades of my own life, I’m finding more and more each day that the most pervading art form and inheritance we leave in the world may be summed up in the following questions, for which I thank author Ronnie Tomanio — and my husband, for years of willingness to live them together:

At this moment in time, what is the act of service I am capable of giving that will build up the good in this relationship?

At this moment in time, what is the act of service I am capable of receiving that will build up the good in this relationship?

 

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Fanning the tiny sparks

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.

It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Artwork: Judy Wright

I like the idea of dreaming the big dream and making small steps.

I’d like to think that you reach your hand, just a little bit further than your reach, not enough so that you’ll be frustrated, not enough so that you’ll give up, but just enough so that you’ll stretch yourself.

~ Maya Angelou

Trust yourself.

Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.

Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.

 ~ Golda Meir

Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

Sometimes we forget that we must bring presence to the as yet unmanifest dream which wants to come alive around us.

By presence I don’t just mean attention, but a certain quality of attentiveness which holds the anticipation of being met.

It doesn’t require the world to act first, to prove itself, or miraculously appear.

Instead it behaves as if the thing one is becoming is guaranteed and moves as if it carries that secret in its step. Life isn’t only happening to us, we are happening to life.

~ Excerpted from  Belonging,

by Toko-pa Turner

 


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Walking a path that loves us

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Painting: Judy Wright

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

Wisdom is a creative power that enfolds, encircles, and encompasses the cosmos, quickening it from within creation.

Wisdom is only realized in and through creation, through our cooperation with the divine power available to us in our creative work.

~ Christine Valters Painter (from Creative Flourishing in the Heart of the Desert: A Self-Study Online Retreat with Hildegard of Bingen)

 

The more you work with your dreams and your unconscious, and honor it, the more you understand it and it understands you.

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Photo: Kathy Gilman

When you develop a relationship with your psyche this way, you begin to carry that energy into life and your relationships.

~ Marion Woodman

 

I think being motivated is naturally built-in to one’s vocation. When you walk a path you love, there is something deeper calling you forward on it, like a beautiful question that can never be answered. In the hard times you may turn away from it, but a part of you knows you’ll always turn back because you can’t give up on what you love, even if you try.  In the end, I think the real work is not finding inspiration, but attuning to it.

So when I’m not feeling inspired, I know somewhere along the line I’ve been distancing myself from life. This feeling of being separate from “something greater” is usually brought about by numbing habits; so I’ll take myself to the forest and let my senses be reawoken and warmed back to life. I think pleasure is really the gateway to feeling connected and inspired.

~ Dreamwork with Toko-pa

 


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Love’s call to creative living

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Photo: Wertheim.de

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

Some more wonderful company, as I ponder the mysteries of inspiration and creative process while reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear:

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Photo: Wertheim.de

“I think being motivated is naturally built-in to one’s vocation. When you walk a path you love, there is something deeper calling you forward on it, like a beautiful question that can never be answered. In the hard times you may turn away from it, but a part of you knows you’ll always turn back because you can’t give up on what you love, even if you try.

In the end, I think the real work is not finding inspiration, but attuning to it. So when I’m not feeling inspired, I know somewhere along the line I’ve been distancing myself from life.

This feeling of being separate from ‘something greater’ is usually brought about by numbing habits; so I’ll take myself to the forest and let my senses be reawoken and warmed back to life. I think pleasure is really the gateway to feeling connected and inspired.”

 ~ Dreamwork with Toko-pa

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Photo: Wertheim.de

Such love does the sky now pour,
that whenever I stand
in a field,
I have to wring out the light
when I get home.

 ~ St. Francis of Assisi

It is through the power of the soul that the mind comprehendeth, imagineth and exerteth its influence, whilst the soul is a power that is free.

The mind comprehendeth the abstract by the aid of the concrete, but the soul hath limitless manifestations of its own.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá


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The ways of a greater part

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GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

You have the need and the right to spend part of your life caring for your soul.

It is not easy… To be a soulful person means to go against all the pervasive, prove-yourself values of our culture and instead treasure what is unique and internal and valuable in yourself and your own personal evolution.

~ Jean Shinoda Bolen

Discipline is not a means of accomplishing more, but a stance of patience and curiosity to witness more of the faces of God in which we are already contained and cared for.

~ Andrew Shier

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With image thanks to Following Atticus: http://tomandatticus.blogspot.com/

Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice.

I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment.

It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.

~ Henri Nouwen

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Image: Tobey A. Ring

Yin is the receptive, feeling, compassionate force within.

It knows the wisdom of surrender and chooses to yield, even when everyone else is getting ahead.

For Yin, withdrawing is entering. … Like an ecosystem, Yin considers all counterparts essential.

So ideas that emerge from this level of imagination serve more than the individual cause – they serve the great ecosystem upon which we are all dependent.

~ Toko-pa


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Feeding the Holy, crafting a spirit

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Photo: Thad Ring

So many thoughtful souls keep us company when we’re on a path of creating.

“Creativity arises out of the tension between spontaneity and limitations, the latter (like the river banks) forcing the spontaneity into the various forms which are essential to the work of art or poem,” said Rollo May.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.”

“People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore,” Anna Quindlen has noted. “It’s so much easier to write a résumé than to craft a spirit.”

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Photo: Lara Kearns

“Weaving, writing and painting our stories into the things we create is a way of feeding the Holy in Nature, which has kept us fed and alive,” says Toko-pa. “And as we put all of our lostness and longing into the beauty we make, we do so knowing that we may never hope for more than to pass on these heirlooms to the young ones so they may find their way home across the songlines, as we have been found by those who made beautiful things before us. If even one generation is denied their inheritance, the story and the way home may be lost.”

As it is said in West Africa, ‘When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground’.”

And finally, this beautiful encouragement from Craig Paterson: “Whatever difficulty you may be working through today, find a point of solace in art. Let it be both comfort and crucible, to rest your weary heart and to transform the dense dark matter of your troubles into something new and clear. Make beauty and vulnerability your allies in your brave journey of becoming.”


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By the light of burning bridges

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“Giraffe on Fire” – Salvador Dali

Gleanings found here and there:

You have to systematically create confusion, it sets creativity free.
Everything that is contradictory creates life.
~ Salvador Dalí

The only way you can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you.
~ Richard Peck

Iceland, China, Sandra's Christmas & School Spring-Summe (9)Drop your maps and listen to your lostness like a sacred calling into presence.

Here, where the old ways are crumbling and you may be tempted to burn down your own house.

Ask instead for an introduction to that which endures. This place without a foothold is the province of grace.

It is the questing field, most responsive to magic and fluent in myth. Here, where there is nothing left to lose, sing out of necessity that your ragged heart be heard.

Send out your holy signal and listen for the echo back.
~ Toko-pa