Friday, August 12, 2016

On morning's light

Morning has always seemed such a special time to me.  A time when the burgeoning sunlight softly arcs across the awakening world, the angles of it's rays so gentle as they touch each tree or surface, caressing each person who has awoken to greet the new day.

As the dew wafts fresh over the grass, the birds awaken after their night of rest, gently calling to each other across the boughs, connecting again, as they stretch their wings and prepare for the new day ahead.


And so, I was surprised to read a few weeks ago that the light of morning is indistinct from evening's light.  There is no physically measurable  difference between morning and evening sunlight in terms of the light's softness or gentleness of arc. As morning dawns and the sun creeps across our world it is the same in reverse as the arriving of nightfall.

The difference is in our perception.  In how our eyes adjust to the newness of the light after a nighttime of darkness.  And, I would hypothesize, in the softness of our spirits as we awaken to embrace a new day, our hearts open like a little child whose arm is loving touched by the wizened, wrinkled hand of her beloved grandmother.  It is in that moment of touch that all the secrets and truths of the earth are passed down throughout the generations.  Time after time.

Indeed, as with the light of the morning, in life our perception is everything.  It's a lesson I've been learning this week in numerous ways.

It's been a week where I've been deeply reflecting on my life. An ocean's depths of emotions have swelled in my spirit. The life I physically live is very different than how it used to be; there are some physical circumstances in my life I would never choose if given the choice.  And yet, God has seen fit to order my days right now in this exact way.

A few days ago I came across an anonymous quote online that has both taught me much and quieted my soul:
    "Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is." 

I'm learning to trust God that the way my life is unfolding is part of the plan for my life.  That in the quietness Truth speaks.  That, regardless of one's circumstances, peace and deep meaning and calm and creativity and most of all thankfulness are always our choice to live.

 That joy comes in the morning.




Saturday, August 6, 2016

Angels in the night

I know pain intimately. I wish I didn't, but it's one of the realities of having lived for many years with a condition that causes severe chronic pain.

However, fortunately even the most cutting sword can also carry a gentle edge.  I think perhaps because  I know what it is to struggle deeply, my heart has also gained an attenuated sense of joy and my eyes have often been opened to the great natural beauty in the world all around me.  I discovered a long time ago that if I wanted my experience on this earth to be more than just the pain and darkness that can come easily to me, I needed to allow my spirit to open receptively to the goodness of this world, to allow my soul to flourish despite the pain.

However it is not always easy.

A few weeks ago I had a terrible night. My body was horribly pain-wracked as I huddled in the darkness.

Yearning for comfort, my mind brought forward a story I'd read just that day written by a woman who described being visited by angels at various difficult points in her life.  I'm usually pretty skeptical of such stories, but I respect this person, and if she says it happened, I believe her.

  Why couldn't that happen for me?

In the darkness I began to pray, begging God for relief. To not be alone in my pain.

But....nothing happened.  No hint of comfort in the blackness, just the pain enveloping like a shroud.  Seemingly God or angels were nowhere to be found. Somehow that hurt more than anything.


 Giving up on thoughts of angels appearing in the night, I began to distract my mind.  Distraction sometimes helps reduce my pain, helps me to refocus.

           


I began envisioning in my mind my 100 year old Granda Horne's former house,  where she lived for 50 years before dementia ravaged her mind (but never ever has stolen her spirit or spunk or sparkle).  That home was such a safe, wonderful place for me to visit all through my childhood. Inch by inch, I mentally walked up her sidewalk, opened her door, and began going room by room                                                           through her home.



My mind began to fill with happy memories,  every one pushing away my focus on my body's pain and filling my spirit instead with the deepest of comfort.  There were memories of her hugs and love and homemade chocolate chip cookies, and the yellow curtains with green and blue flowers that billowed next to her mint green walls.  There was her old fashioned kitchen table, her ever-present knitting projects, and the funny little tv set across from her gaudy brown couch. 


.





There was the softness of her strong arms around me and the heartiness of her laughter that chortled through the years, all the way to now when she is 100 years old and so very frail...but still laughs easily


And suddenly in that instant everything changed for me.

Lying in the darkness I realized... an unearthly supernatural angel I did not need. A sudden voice speaking comfort into the darkness.... I didn't need that either.

I didn't need that because all my life, day after day, God has surrounded me with true "angels" in human form. People who have invested in my life and poured so much love into my spirit that on a difficult night great comfort was only a memory away. People who I will forever be thankful for.

God has blessed my life with my husband and child; two special grandmothers and grandfathers; my parents, other family members and friends.  I love them all so deeply it hurts.










I'm sure I'm not alone: we all have had human angels in our lives, be it parents or our children or our childhood teachers or friends or the stranger who smiled at us as we walk down the street just when we most needed a smile..  Love is what makes our world so special, so beautiful, such a joy to be part of. True beauty is found in the relationships we form with those around us.



I realized, during that dark night, that the pain and darkness barely mattered.  I have been loved, and I love.  If I can share the love I've been so generously given, then my life will have been worthwhile.

 Comforted, on that dark night, I thanked God for his provision of so much love in my life. Then I pulled the blankets tightly around me, closed my eyes, and fell into the deepest of peaceful sleep.






Angels in the night

I know pain intimately. I wish I didn't, but it's one of the realities of having lived for many years with a condition that causes severe chronic pain.

However, fortunately it's a double-edge sword.  I think perhaps because  I know what it is to struggle deeply, my heart has also gained an attenuated sense of joy and my eyes have often been opened to the great natural beauty in the world all around me.  I discovered a long time ago that if I wanted my experience on this earth to be more than just the pain and darkness that can come easily to me, I needed to allow my spirit to open receptively to the goodness of this world, to allow my soul to flourish despite the pain.

However it is not always easy.

A few weeks ago I had a terrible night. My body was terribly pain-wracked as I huddled in the darkness.

Yearning for comfort, my mind brought forward a story I'd read just that day written by a woman who described being visited by angels at various difficult points in her life.  I'm usually pretty skeptical of such stories, but I respect this person, and if she says it happened, I believe her.

  Why couldn't that happen for me?

In the darkness I began to pray, begging God for relief. To not be alone in my pain.

But....nothing happened.  No hint of comfort in the blackness, just the pain enveloping like a shroud.  Seemingly God or angels were nowhere to be found. Somehow that hurt more than anything.

 Giving up on thoughts of angels, I began to distract my mind.          Distraction sometimes helps reduce my pain, helps me to refocus.

           


I began envisioning in my mind my 100 year old Granda Horne's former house,  where she lived for 50 years before dementia ravaged her mind (but never ever has stolen her spirit or spunk or sparkle).  That home was such a safe, wonderful place for me to visit all through my childhood. Inch by inch, I mentally walked up her sidewalk, opened her door, and began going room by room                                                           through her home.



My mind began to fill with happy memories,  every one pushing away my focus on my body's pain and filling my spirit instead with the deepest of comfort.  There were memories of her hugs and love and homemade chocolate chip cookies, and the yellow curtains with green and blue flowers that billowed next to her mint green walls.  There was her old fashioned kitchen table, her ever-present knitting projects, and the funny little tv set across from her gaudy brown couch. 


.





There was the softness of her strong arms around me and the heartiness of her laughter that chortled through the years, all the way to now when she is 100 years old and so very frail...but still laughs easily


And suddenly in that instant everything changed for me.

Lying in the darkness I realized... an angel I did not need. A sudden voice speaking comfort into the darkness.... I didn't need that either.
I didn't need that because all my life, day after day, God surrounded me with true "angels" in human form. People who have invested in my life and poured so much love into my spirit that on a difficult night great comfort was only a memory away.

God has blessed my life with my husband and child; two special grandmothers and grandfathers; my parents, other family members and friends.  I love them all so deeply it hurts.  






I'm sure I'm not alone: we all have had human angels in our lives, be it parents or teachers or friends of the stranger who smiled at us as we walk down the street.  Love is what makes our world so special, so beautiful, such a joy to be part of. True beauty is found in the relationships we form with those around us.


I realized, during that dark night, that the pain and darkness barely mattered.  I have been loved, and I love.  If I can share the love I've been so generously given, then my life will have been worthwhile.

 Comforted, I pulled the blankets tightly around me, closed my eyes, and fell into the deepest of sleep.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

His name is Wild

Wild, Deep Wild, he approached me. Timid; Frightened; Afraid- oh so very afraid.  

Directly, he came, yet slowly so as to not bring fright to my Spirit. Came to me in my Funny Chair as I sat in the River Park.  My heart sad and hope-filled, both.  


He, with eyes of deepest night, black and guarded. Oh so guarded. 


I held my breath and stilled my spirit: he looked directly in my eyes and for one infinitesimally small and yet eternal Glimmer,  his eyes spoke. A Story was told.  His story.

Even if I could have leaped from my chair and ran away (or at least screeched to frighten him), as many would say to do when a wild coyote is within 7 inches, I could not.  I would not. In that instant, I would have guarded him with my Very Life.  All the Life still in my battle scarred body and pain-bathed spirit.

In that moment I was of His Tribe and He of mine.

And so, stilling even my breath, I looked into His eyes. And He returned the look. Our eyes holding fast, my spirit Listened.


His name was Wild. Deep Wild.   A knower of rejection, of confusion,  of sticks thrown at him by humans.  Of being chased away for being who he is. His only Crime to have been born into our modern world.  A world changed by us- not him.

His Spirit, so very battle scared, he lives in a cataclysm of worlds.  This little River Spot was his birthright of Millenia.  Maybe longer.


The spot was  Not Mine.   Never mine, and yet here I was.  Here we all are really, all of us humans who believe that our wishes and needs and dreams and desires are paramount- our giant buildings and smoking exhaust pipes, our racing cars and loud music. Our garbage strewn about. The city, large, grown all around his little River Spot. Encroaching.

All have forgotten, all but perhaps him- or maybe even him- that this spot belonged to the thousands of generations of Wild gone before him.  It was His, yet he was reduced to surrendering to human whims.  To swallowing his Deepest Hunger, to scavenging for food to sustain his needs. To timidly hiding in the shadows of the trees in the Valley.  Hiding in his very home.

But, that was not all his Story.  Because it is out of our deepest pain and struggles that Courage grows.  Spirit develops in the hardships- and who is more a Survivor than a Wild One in a little River Park in the midst of a Giant City? One reviled for his very Wildness.

And in that Glimmer, as our eyes met, our Spirits met too, To both of our surprise we had a great deal in common.

Then, he was gone.  Wild gone.  But not really gone.  Shadow- hidden.  He'll return when He is ready.  On his terms.  Because that is really what it is all about.

We can bustle through our lives. Build our glass office towers and ever giant homes.  Have park picnics, leaving his Space littered with our one-use coffee chain cups.  We can strew about our burger wrappers. littering the park.  But we can never ever change that this is his birthright home. That, rejected creature, he belongs.


 That he has a story. That he matters.

His name is Wild.  Deep Wild.


Please note: Photos in park taken by my husband Eric Hoff.  Eric had gone on a walk, and from a far distance saw this event taking place and quickly snapped some photos.  It happened in a very quick time span; by the time Eric reached me, within a minute or two, the coyote was gone. Also, I do not advocate approaching wild animals who can be potentially dangerous and also who for their/ our safety need to not become comfortable around humans. However, the coyote approached me and with my mobility issues it would not have been an option for me to run away even had I wanted to.  At no point did I feel I was in danger- he was much more afraid of me than I of him. Thanks for reading :).


Ps....many have told me they have been unable to leave a comment.  If you would like to contact me please email me at jenna.c.hoff@gmail.com or send me a Facebook message (jenna schentag hoff )

His name is Wild

Wild, Deep Wild, he approached me. Timid; Frightened; Afraid- oh so very afraid.  

Directly, he came, yet slowly so as to not bring fright to my Spirit. Came to me in my Funny Chair as I sat in the River Park.  My heart sad and hope-filled, both.  


He, with eyes of deepest night, black and guarded. Oh so guarded. 


I held my breath and stilled my spirit: he looked directly in my eyes and for one infinitesimally small and yet eternal Glimmer,  his eyes spoke. A Story was told.  His story.

Even if I could have leaped from my chair and ran away (or at least screeched to frighten him), as many would say to do when a wild coyote is within 7 inches, I could not.  I would not. In that instant, I would have guarded him with my Very Life.  All the Life still in my battle scarred body and pain-bathed spirit.

In that moment I was of His Tribe and He of mine.

And so, stilling even my breath, I looked into His eyes. And He returned the look. Our eyes holding fast, my spirit Listened.


His name was Wild. Deep Wild.   A knower of rejection, of confusion,  of sticks thrown at him by humans.  Of being chased away for being who he is. His only Crime to have been born into our modern world.  A world changed by us- not him.

His Spirit, so very battle scared, he lives in a cataclysm of worlds.  This little River Spot was his birthright of Millenia.  Maybe longer.


The spot was  Not Mine.   Never mine, and yet here I was.  Here we all are really, all of us humans who believe that our wishes and needs and dreams and desires are paramount- our giant buildings and smoking exhaust pipes, our racing cars and loud music. Our garbage strewn about. The city, large, grown all around his little River Spot. Encroaching.

All have forgotten, all but perhaps him- or maybe even him- that this spot belonged to the thousands of generations of Wild gone before him.  It was His, yet he was reduced to surrendering to human whims.  To swallowing his Deepest Hunger, to scavenging for food to sustain his needs. To timidly hiding in the shadows of the trees in the Valley.  Hiding in his very home.

But, that was not all his Story.  Because it is out of our deepest pain and struggles that Courage grows.  Spirit develops in the hardships- and who is more a Survivor than a Wild One in a little River Park in the midst of a Giant City? One reviled for his very Wildness.

And in that Glimmer, as our eyes met, our Spirits met too, To both of our surprise we had a great deal in common.

Then, he was gone.  Wild gone.  But not really gone.  Shadow- hidden.  He'll return when He is ready.  On his terms.  Because that is really what it is all about.

We can bustle through our lives. Build our glass office towers and ever giant homes.  Have park picnics, leaving his Space littered with our one-use coffee chain cups.  We can strew about our burger wrappers. littering the park.  But we can never ever change that this is his birthright home. That, rejected creature, he belongs.


 That he has a story. That he matters.

His name is Wild.  Deep Wild.




Please note: Photos in park taken by my husband Eric Hoff.  Eric had gone on a walk, and from a far distance saw this event taking place and quickly snapped some photos.  It happened in a very quick time span; by the time Eric reached me, within a minute or two, the coyote was gone. Also, I do not advocate approaching wild animals who can be potentially dangerous and also who for their/ our safety need to not become comfortable around humans. However, the coyote approached me and with my mobility issues it would not have been an option for me to run away even had I wanted to.  At no point did I feel I was in danger- he was much more afraid of me than I of him. Thanks for reading :).

Thursday, June 30, 2016

water on a summer's eve

If I was an element I would definitely be water.   I am drawn to water.

The few days in my life  I have spent walking alongside the ocean's shore have been the days I most deeply have  known myself.  One day I will move to live by the ocean!  I don't know how or when, but it is one of my goals.

Watering a bush on a June evening
Tonight I took note of the water spraying out of the garden hose.  It was so pretty.   It makes me want to be a water droplet flying through the air                                             of a summer evening.













Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dancing in the night


It was the last time I would drive my daughter to her hip hop dance class, but on that dark winter evening I had no way of knowing that.  Maybe if I had known, things would have been different.

It was the kind of evening where shadows were long and the temperatures low: in the minus twenties. On most dance nights  I normally  liked to go for walks around the studio's historic, artsy neighbourhood while I waited for Sam's class to finish,  but on that January night it was just so cold and dark and slippery with black ice that I decided to wait in the lobby of the studio.

Tapping my toes impatiently for the class to end, I found myself drawn to a picture window tucked neatly into the far end of the studio.  Through the window I could see an ongoing ballet class of young dancers: it was so gorgeous to watch my breath caught.  Several very skilled teen girls (the kind who'd probably been dancing since age three) twirled and spun together in time to the music, the litheness of their movements telling its own story of hope and promise.


As I watched, mesmerized by the music and the  movements, emotion hit me as forcefully as it was sudden. It was all I could  do to duck my head so the other dance moms (the kind whose kids had been in dance since age three)  at the other end of the studio couldn't see my face before silent tears began their own dance down my cheeks.  I wish I could tell you I was crying because I was so moved by music or the dance or even the beauty of young girls as they danced  on the precipice of adulthood. But these were tears of grief and self pity.   Maybe even a little envy.

 I cried because even then I couldn't dance. At least I thought I couldn't.


At that point in my life,  although I could still walk easily, my many years battle against chronic health issues had made more advanced movements (ie running, jumping and dancing)  impossible. And so I stood watching a class of young ballerinas leap and twirl and dance with joy- in a way I could not.  And I grieved.

What I didn't realise was just two days later I would hurt my knee, and (when combined with my chronic health issues) lose the ability to walk. At that moment  I had no insight into the months and months of mobility issues and pain ahead, months when I would have done anything to be able to stand in a dance studio watching ballerinas.


It was a hard, very humbling lesson to learn, later, as I looked back, wishing so badly to return to the previous state I had felt so hard done by in.

It brought me to a realization I didn't really understand on that sad, cold night of shadows and tears.  A realization that has become a precious gift.


I realized that dancing is so much more than the ability to leap and twirl and pirouette to music. Every breath we take in our bodies, every  movement we make, every friend we meet,  every action we take: that's dancing.  Dancing through life.  Even the hardships, they are the part of our lives that resemble the dramatic parts of a ballet dance.



That January  night when I cried because I couldn't dance like the ballerinas,  I disregarded completely that I'd had the abilities to  drive my teen to her class,  easily navigate the many stairs to the basement dance studio, and stand watching the ballerinas. Most of  all, I didn't realize that in doing these things- driving, stair descending, walking, and standing, as well as loving my child- I WAS dancing.  Not dancing to music, but  dancing through life.  Dancing on the earth God made.  Dancing through the life God created. Dancing.


Its a lesson I hope I never lose sight of, that life is what we make of it.   There will always be things we long for that are out of our grasp.   That's part of life. The choice offered us is to mourn what we don't have...or to be grateful for what we do.  To focus with joy on the beauty and goodness and love and life we have been given.   We get to choose our focus and perspective, and that in itself is a gift.

I used to take the ability to be easily mobile completely for granted.  Not any more. As I relearn to walk, every step is precious now.

These past months I've longed for another chance and today I was granted a big one. I saw my physiotherapist  this afternoon and he was thrilled with how my walking looked as I pushed a walker several feet across my back deck.

 The best part of all is that he sees a good prognosis for my walking abilities ...his hope is that over the coming months I will continue to regain strength, balance and mobility until I am able to walk independent of support and even regain driving abilities.

He estimates that   8 months from now I will be able to: walk down my front steps without help,  walk down the sidewalk to my vehicle, get in, drive somewhere,  get out,  and walk a medium distance (ie into a store or into church).   I still might need the wheelchair for longer trips (ie walking through a big mall) but to be able to walk at all is just the most wonderful idea..

 This time I  had to reign in my (happy) tears at the idea of regaining such freedom.  I'm going in the right direction. ... dancing all the way.

(Note, photos taken at Sam's dance recital a few weeks ago).