The Shawl

October ShawlOctober is the shawl around the shoulders of winter
The be-draggled be-gonias that will fast be-gone
Lavender shadows in the soft silver hair of the elders
And in the air of an aging year that will not go down quietly

The bite of the noon breeze is sharper than my mother’s tongue
Keen
Whetted by the contrast of cerulean and coppery shades
Shimmering in the reluctant light

As it pulls the unknowable close
October rustles her shawl
Tucked snug around the thin days
And turns inward.

 

Jaylene Whitehurst
October 2, 2015

Merry Mandala!!!!

May we live the cycle of embracing the darkness and being pulled toward the light.

May we live the cycle of embracing the darkness and being pulled toward the light.

The celebration of Christmas isn’t over for me. There’ve been years I feel a let down on the 26th, but not the past few years. Rather than the end, this feels like a beginning. Every Christmas, every Winter Solstice, every turning of the dark season toward the light, is more an opening to continue expressing the light than an ending of anything. I no longer rush to take down my little tree. It is no longer a chore but an unfolding, a changing of the environment gradually.
It is a relief to let it be beautiful a while longer. To know it will be tucked away when the time is right for me. To know it is all a process of Love.
Whatever, however, you celebrate this season, may you linger in the warmth.
May we carry it forth. May we be changed.

The Gift of Right NOW

She has no idea that her legs are too long. She's having fun :-)

She has no idea that her legs are too long. She’s having fun 🙂

Here is my column that appeared in the Crossroads Magazine today. I’m happy to share it here.

It’s a Saturday morning in October as I sit down to the key board with a vague optimism that inspiration for this column will mysteriously appear. Editor Mark Boehler has requested uplifting thoughts about the coming holiday season, so I wait for a flash of inspiration about what to lift up. And I wait a while longer— for a lightning bolt that doesn’t strike.
Now, please, don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I feel at all down. I don’t. In fact, I feel pretty dandy. It’s just that, as I sit here to write, Halloween is still more than a week away and I don’t want to think about the coming crunch packed into the thirty-six days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
Sheesh, that’s hardly more than a month for all the doings of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day to speed by in a blur. Makes me dizzy to contemplate it.
The fact is that I want nothing— absolutely nothing— but to fully live this one splendid, ordinary moment. Right now.
The granddaughter is in the adjoining room, the sitting room of my office. Her usual chatter is replaced by a singsong, contented hum…hum…hum. From the corner of my eye I see the reason for her satisfaction. This child is never as happy as when she is arranging and rearranging “stuff” and her MiMi has stuff galore. She’s in heaven.
She’s not thinking about school or what she’s going to wear for Halloween or what her dogs are doing; she is simply the mistress of a universe housed in one room and her mind is nowhere else.
Throw pillows are systematically displayed according to criteria that only she knows. Candles are aligned. Books are stacked on tables just so, and then restacked. She steps back with her head tilted to one side, and, assessing her design, she adds a glass bird before she nods approvingly and moves on to deal with a quartet of ceramic rabbits. Her hands are firmly planted on her hips: Bunnies, beware!
I am touched by how thoroughly present she is in this moment. Right now.
I sink as deeply into the reality of this clear October morning as an old cat with aching bones sinks into a basket of towels, hot from the dryer. This is a moment worth holding but it can’t be held; it can only be experienced and the experience folded into these words. I breathe it in and am grateful for the quiet gift that it is.
Rewind with me to a scene earlier the same week when I am having lunch with my friend Rita at Borroum’s Drug Store. We stroll in early to claim a booth so the lunch crowd doesn’t force us into the tiny table in the front window. The taco salad is satisfying and the companionship is even more so. It’s an easy friendship that goes back to before I was a mother and when her children were small, that has endured stretches when work schedules and family demands made meeting for lunch harder than it is today. I know when we sit down that I’m going to be leaving a generous tip because we’ll be there awhile, and we are.
We mull over our recent visit to a friend from decades ago who is now under hospice care, and tears smudge my mascara; the paper napkins substitute for tissues. Our stories overlap and we talk about the young women that we three were then, puzzling over the different paths our lives have taken, paths that none of us foresaw. Knowing our stories have found a safe landing spot, we voice thoughts we wouldn’t share with just anybody.
And then we laugh! Hysterical, table-slapping laughter bubbles up and trickles out of my eyes. Rita’s ability to get lost under any circumstance is legendary and she has more than one tale to tell about finding herself in places that she didn’t know existed. More napkins please, but, this time, for tears of laughter.
As we make our way to the counter to pay, we pass a table of four women, each fully absorbed in her cell phone, either talking, texting, or holding her phone in rapt anticipation. Rita and I look each other in the eye and realize we’ve spent two hours absent from our phones and totally present with each other.
This has been true communion, the kind that only happens in undistracted moments. Right Now.
A flicker comes: I see that this holiday column is going to be more about what we can drop during the coming weeks than about what we might lift up.
Beginning with our phones, let’s put them down for a while. Let’s look each other in the eye instead of looking at a screen. Let’s listen to a child’s tone and a friend’s story, instead of listening for a ringtone. They are wonderful devices and they certainly have their place, but that place isn’t to contribute to digital dementia. They are in our hands. It’s up to us to drop them into our purses.
Let’s set aside our fretting over getting things perfect. There will be years the dressing is just right; the sage is spot on, and it’s moist to perfection and then (if your cooking is like mine) there’ll be those other years. The tree might be a dazzling vision and others times, well…we barely replace one string of lights before another burns out. To a child, though, every Christmas tree is magical. The coconut cake may be a tad tilted, but this is the South, where there is no such thing as a bad coconut cake.
Maybe the cards are unsent and the gift wrapping wrinkled. So be it. Perfectionism sucks the joy out of life and we have only this moment, right now, so let’s live it.
And then there’s Facebook. If we don’t drop it entirely, could we at least work on letting go of any illusions that what people post on there is the whole story? Because it’s not.
If we get caught up in what other people share, it may look like everybody’s family except ours is sitting down to a Norman Rockwell spread, has a new car topped with a huge Christmas red bow sitting in the driveway, and is heading off for a beach vacation as soon as the table’s cleared. The rest of the story may well be that they can’t afford the car, the credit cards are maxed out, there was a huge fight on the way to the beach, and the kids threw up in the backseat. So how about it? Could we drop the illusions that anybody actually has it all together? Could we let our families and our plans that go awry simply be crooked and human and funny?
Finally, how about we drop our attempts to please everybody? We probably can’t please them, but even if we can, the price of over-commitment is an exhausted kind of major crankiness. There’s no crankiness like the crankiness of having said “yes” to everyone except oneself.
Prioritizing and being realistic about we want to do during the holidays doesn’t come easily to some of us, but in order to slow down and enjoy the celebrations that we personally find most meaningful, we may need to smile and firmly say, “No, thank you, my plate is full.” With some folks, pesky persistent types, we may have to say “no” more than once.

Start practicing now!
The hum of a child puttering about, the tears of tenderness and amusement shared with a friend, these are the pure and humble gifts of ordinary days, gifts that aren’t tied up with bows but with cords of connection.
The gifts of sharing stories, listening from the heart, keeping old traditions and creating new ones are timeless. They were never meant to be contained in a treasure box and, yet, at this time of year, as we gather with friends and family, we’re reminded of how precious they are.
As we pull out the roasting pan and wrap gifts and hang ornaments, let’s listen closely to each other. Let’s look each other in the eye, enjoying the blessings of the simplest gifts.
The only time we have to unwrap them is now.

Right now.

Jaylene Whitehurst is an artist and Licensed Professional Counselor located in Corinth, Mississippi. She may be contacted at 662-286-5433 or at jaylene@heartworkccl.com.

Perspective

 

I am spending Black Friday in my studio, keeping my creative account in the black.

It’s not Black Friday here. It’s Gold Orange Violet Blue Yellow Glittery Shimmery Friday in my space.
A painting is coming together.
It’s gone through the “why did I start this?” stage where I entertain the idea (on which I sometimes act) of painting over the whole thing and setting it aside for weeks or months. Occasionally for years.
It may not be finished. I am learning to stop before a sense of being done arrives.
Now I play with it.
This process of making art is a model for Life. It has the capacity to heal my life, to bring integration and wholeness to my bit of the living experience, when I allow it to do what it does and flow with it.
So here I am at this point with it and I get to play with my view of it. How do I turn the thing? Compositionally it ought to work from any position, being nonrepresentational. Yet, the feel of it shifts as I shift it on the easel. Same elements, but more satisfying to me when viewed from some perspectives than others.
It’s mine. I get to choose my perspective.
The details that are lost on a camera phone from across the room beg to be investigated. They silently say “Come closer. Stay with the tension. Stay with the sharp edges and the shimmer. Get to know me.”
Layer upon layer of color and texture. Time passes. More layers.
So I’ll live with it and I’ll play with it and I’ll tweak it.

We’ll hang out together, this painting and I.
Pretty much the same as my Life.

Jaylene
The Ragged Phoenix

All images and words are the property of Jaylene M. Whitehurst, The Ragged Phoenix.

The Unheard Story: The HeartStory

Good Morning, Fellow Travellers,

You know that saying about being kinder than necessary because everybody is fighting some kind of battle? It sets me to remembering too that everybody has a STORY, the story of his or her Life that contains experiences I don’t have a clue about. Everybody has a HeartStory.

To have the privilege of hearing a bit of another person’s story is holy to me. It’s a trust. Yes, it’s part of my profession, but it’s more: it’s something we can offer each other anytime. “Tell me about when___? What was it like when____?  Who was there when____?”

I’ve been married thirty-eight years to the same man. You can probably imagine how well I think I know this fellow. Thirty-eight years and just the other day he shared an event from his childhood that, for whatever reasons, I didn’t know about.

It was such a stunning, intense event that I had to question myself: How could I have not known that? Had it been mentioned, maybe as a matter-of-fact, and I was so caught up in my own drama that I completely missed it? If he hadn’t mentioned it, was there something about our relationship that he didn’t entrust the story to me til now? Was it something he assumed I knew because he did?

Or maybe it just came up exactly when it needed to come up…..nothing more complex that perfect timing!

However it came to be part of not just his story but now part of our family story, I am grateful that I now hold it with him.

And I realized one more time how little I know and how ignorant I am to think I know….

Today I will listen to someone I think I know well.

And I’ll hear an unheard bit of the story.

And we’ll be changed by it.

 

Travel lightly,

Jaylene

 

A MESS with purpose

Doing what I can where I am this morning, whilst in the midst of repairing and reworking both home and office/studio. It’s a MESS. Yes, Fellow Travellers, a capital letter MESS! Both spaces….so what can I do to lessen the MESS?

The shelves in my office I can clean up and straighten. Tidy desk, cull papers. That’s about it for the moment. Everything else I either need help to do or it’s in process and tidying up would only slow the process. I cannot herd this mess into a neat and tidy corral and pen it up. This is the “Oh #*%#! I have to live with this MESS a while” phase of change. 😉

The workmen would kindly invite me to exit my own house if I go in there and start sweeping under their ladders…lol…and well they should because they know what they are doing (yes, they actually do!) and I’d only stick a broomstick in the process and, in trying to help, I would do a lovely job of “not helping.”

Before it can be anything else, it has to be exactly what it is. A MESS.

There is no clean sweep.

That’s pretty much how all change is. Whether it’s repairing and re-working a physical house or a Heart-house, it’s messy. Start a house project and there’s no telling what we”ll run into. Step into Heartwork and questions show up that cannot be corralled. Often we need help to move deeper into the re-working. Try to detour or speed up the work and it really won’t save time. We’ll have to circle around and still eventually address the problems. No clean sweep.

It takes as much time as it takes.

So I am doing what I can in this moment. And reminding myself to breathe, breathe, breathe.

There is such a thing as A MESS with purpose.

He/She/We

He: Where you headed?
She: Just out for a walk…
He: Oh, well, you’ll need some music. Where’s your iPod? It’ll make the time pass faster! And it’ll give you a beat to walk to!
She: No.
He: No?
She: No. I am not looking to rush through my Life, so no need to try to rush up time. As if I could….and the beat of my heart is all the beat I want.
He: But the music…?
She: The birds are music enough.
Long long long pause.

He: (putting the iPod down) Would you mind if I came along?

She smiled.