Friday, January 15, 2021

Blackened gold


The gates were open, then brutally, closed.

My burnished heart had sung to you; longing despite the heavy weight of memory.

There was a willingness to risk even while uncertain that nothing can last beyond what is inherently broken. 

I tried. Freedom, I tried to not say "Good" nor "Evil." To have empathy, to live compassion.

"Don't point the finger. Do not lay the blame."

But my eyes cannot take back the violence that I have witnessed, one incited under a vile guise. I replay the tapes incessantly.

Beating, laughing, beating.

This is also who we are. But not who we have to be.

The ultimate division is not moral, finally but a chasm within our collective humanity warmed and waiting.

"Love" is no liar but now I remember "Hatred" - that fire-breather, roiling, so quick to claim.

How many tears I cry in the shadow of the gallows.

My soul is blackened gold. 

Bitter yet bright shards remain.

You may find a spoken version of this post here.

And please do see below.

Thank you for reading this far.
I was deeply inspired to write this after the attempted coup of January 6th not only after finding one burnt out window in the streets of Avignon but more by one of my favourite stories by a great teacher, Tara Brach:

"The Golden Buddha: Remembering Our True Nature
One of the stories I’ve always loved took place in Asia. There’s a huge statue of the Buddha. It was a plaster and clay statue, not a handsome statue, but people loved it for its staying power. About 13 years ago, there was a long dry period and a crack appeared in the statue. So the monks brought their little pen flashlights to look inside the crack — just thought they might find out something about the infrastructure. When they shined the light in, what shined out was a flash of gold — and every crack they looked into, they saw that same shining. So they dismantled the plaster and clay, which turned out to be just a covering, and found that it was the largest pure solid gold statue of the Buddha in all of southeast Asia.
The monks believed that the statue had been covered with plaster and clay to protect it through difficult years, much in the same way that we put on that space suit to protect ourselves from injury and hurt. What’s sad is that we forget the gold and we start believing we’re the covering — the egoic, defensive, managing self. We forget who is here. So you might think of the essence of the spiritual path as a remembering — reconnecting with the gold . . . the essential mystery of awareness."

We may feel burnt (I have honestly been very down and I am worried about the days to come) but we still have light within us. 

I am holding on to it tightly. And will try to share it forth.

With great Love and Gratitude,

Be well. Stay safe. Be kind.

xo Heather

Sunday, January 3, 2021



I stepped onto the bridge. The sky was grey, the air cold but humid. My hair was sticking to my scalp under my wool bonnet. I folded into myself, boney arms dangling and walked out midway to gaze. 

This New Year's Eve, I was longing for a view. 

How it felt to breathe in openness after having been so constricted. These months which passed without passage. But the summit of the Mount Ventoux in the distance was shrouded in fog or perhaps falling snow. So I inhaled and let my eyes go soft with lack of focus. It was definitely not the first time I had found myself here. A kind of cure. Or a cure of kindness, much needed.

This past year, 2020, was my year of Solitude. The Great Battle of Isolation, one could say.

How do I dare to make a comment of it when so many have lost so much more than I? 

And yet, there were times, in all honesty, when I felt that the pillars of the necessity of my existence had crumbled. I stayed for community, for my beautiful family foremost and the tiny gleams of searching that let me believe deeply that I was not done yet. 

Everything is relative. We choose to forget, or to remember, all the time.

What is astonishing is the part of our hearts - my heart - that signals the beauty of life no matter what. How it keeps our blood pulsing on. If we are so lucky as to be able to pay attention to its call.

So that particular afternoon, I lifted my gaze and focused. 

And there, just beyond, floating underneath the last arches of the broken Pont d'Avignon, I saw two white sparks. My eyesight, which had always been impeccable until this year, made me question but yes, there they were. Two white swans. A pair for life. 

There are never, ever, swans upon this stretch of the Rhône.

And this, finally, was the recognition of what I had been listening to since the Solstice. Initial whispers to be heard of a shift and yet of something, finally, moving as strongly as the current of the river rushing below. Light like hope amidst all uncertainty. All inhumanity. Such a contrast against the shadows love brings.

Will those swans, with their exaggerated elegance but also biting, occasional mindless meanness...will they get us through?

I took them as a beacon, quelconque...perhaps, you shall too.

If you would like to hear my recording of this post, you may find it: here.

Well, my loves. We are still in this and yet I am so hopeful.
Let's keep looking for the moon amongst the clouds.

Every day, if we choose, we can be grateful for whatever little bit of good there is in our day.

With Love and Gratitude, always...always, always.

Be safe, be kind, be hopeful just because you can.



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Not even a mouse

This Christmas. 

It doesn't look like it usually does, no matter how we might try. The carols are being sung, the lights glow, electronically. Often with no one to see them. And yet there is much to be found within the bouncing rebound of tradition when little else makes sense. Whether we are Christian or not, we all have our own examples of celebrating a spark of light in the dark. After the Solstice, we stick to a path of a possible through. 

Are you not moved by our collective efforts to rally, now? I am. Something of a mustering mustard of Hope. Bitter, yes, but real...tangible if bitingly so. 

I wander the streets of Avignon and when they are empty it strikes me with both relief and regret. When they are full, it worries me. To the maskless surrounding I want to ask, "How long do you think this will go on if you continue so?" But I don't. Confrontation is complicated. 

I know this from not only how our societies have pitted themselves against the "other" but also how - over these many months - I have talked to myself.

Peace is to be cherished, whenever possible. In its own way, it should be stacked like logs on a fire inversible. One which prints us like a photograph from the inside out, where all that is negative or missing comes to light.  

Yes, I am alone this year for the holidays...not even a mouse to scratch my door. 

But it is what I am realising, more and more. The importance of my own inner quiet, within, to find stillness, a perspective which offers solace for all that I have felt this year. To forgive myself over and over and over for all the moments when fear was the victor or to champion when it was not. To try to give myself love, regardless. 

Also to shoulder shrug the same love to you, the unknowable you, always. How strong must one be to do so? And yet how willing most of us are, despite our differences. We are endlessly more than we realise.

I haven't been able to buy the presents that I would wish to offer. Nor drag home a tree.

Simplicity is my greatest gift. A simple heartbeat. I breathe it in moments of awareness with a whispery exhale of warm sent out against cold. Life floating free.

Despite my solitude, what immense gratitude I feel. It is its own, different fire. So in my golden bubble, I listen to old favorite songs and light all the candles in daytime. As this is France, I let myself indulge in wintery delights but also have bought baby hyacinths that promise me that growth is possible. Spring comes nonetheless.

Within this true and utter quiet - a pause in my life while so many are still biting through deep loss - I try to imagine a future based upon what I still have. It is the very precarious material of Love that is left to build upon this year and into the next. We are all of us in this suspended somewhat so, even while our hearts, our very real hearts, amazingly, if occasionally, dare to dream. On we go. 

How I mourn for the 1.72 million gone. 

As we search for what is possible in this very particular Christmas...the best perhaps is that we may come home. No judgement, no fear, just home. Wherever that may be. For me, this year that is within my heart. 

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. If you can, hold you and yours ever so tight. 

You can find a spoken edition of this post: here.

I have bought myself wonderful food, have been gifted some as well. Yet look at this sculpted angel that I bought recently. Isn't this who we all are? Rough paste, wings and hope.

If you are reading this, just know that you are loved. At least by a redhead somewhere in Provence.
And that is always a start. 

With infinite Gratitude,

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Walking out of Lockdown

It was the simplest of decisions. Instead of turning right, as I always did at the Porte Saint Dominique, I turned left. Within these three years of living in Avignon, I have never walked that particular path lining the 14th century fortified walls. But the light beckoned and if I have held tight to one important rule, it is to follow the light whenever you can. Roll in it, may it heat you, let it stun your eyes.

This second lockdown feels both ambiguously different and yet numbingly the same. But admittedly, having an idea of what to expect has been truly helpful. I know where my pitfalls lie but also how to divert them. While staying very safe, I stretch the laws when needed, just as I pay attention to any back brain whispers before they hurl into tantrum howls. For I can't let myself go back to that first set state, one that scared me (says one experienced with depression). And yes, I had happily begun to claw my way upwards exactly when this quarantine was announced. 

After a few weeks of feeling pitched at sea, I inhaled deeply and dug out my old tool box, which has served me well in days gone by. Within are items that remain a part of my daily routine, such as making gratitude lists. But I have also made a "schedule" of such quintessential tips as "make bed immediately, change out of pyjamas." It is written in black ink with large loopy letters and is displayed prominently. Delightfully, I am rediscovering others that I haven't touched in years, such as three pages worth of journalling in the morning before that Pavlovian reach for my phone. It feels so comforting to write while knowing that no one will ever see my scrawly wanderings, my thundershow doubts. I do well to not think before I put the pen to paper. "Just go, Heather," I tell myself instead. "Go." 

It feels the same on my daily walk. As with the previous quarantine, we are allotted one hour per day and are allowed to stray no farther than one kilometre beyond our habitation (I have personally decided to define that as a radius, which offers innumerable possibilities). Yes, we need to have a signed "attestation" at the ready, although I must say that I do not see police patrols now. None at all. Regardless, I move. In the beginning, I could handle no more than a lumbering stroll. My lungs are still achey from being sick in March, whether it was indeed COVID, or not. But with time, I find that my pace is increasing in spite of my intentions. My feet dance in a straight line. I feel hungry to be outside of my own four walls and while I have no desire to think, it feels so delightful just to see. Just that, to see.

And so back we go to the left-hand turn. The light is at its peak - a dripping honey that edges towards amber. It clings to the cream stone rempart walls, pulling out each crevice, including the mysterious symbols left behind by each stone-cutter as a means to get paid. So much history, resting solidly, darkened only by the shadows of the last-leaved trees and pedestrians stretched out like spaghetti on their meander towards home.

Again, I don't know this territory, not at close range and so every few paces leads to a clip "aha" as well as the occasional pause to pull out my phone. The non-existent "click." I am used to people looking at me questioningly, wondering what on earth I am trying to capture. Later in my walk, an elderly woman bangs the shutter at her windows purposefully as I fixed upon the scrabbled layers of paint on her building. It was as if to say, "Off you go, you have no business here." 

Ah, but you see? I do. I most certainly do. Every single second that I am rooted in the present - not shadow-pulled towards the past or worrying about an impossible future - keeps me sane. Or at least largely so. This is what freedom feels like. Just to walk and breathe. La liberté that no quarantine can steal. My heart beating, drenched in the warm light of autumn, heals me and holds me like nothing else can. 

On we go. 
My goodness, it is complicated. 
One day at a time.
With Love and infinite Gratitude, 
Stay safe. Be well. Be kind,


Ps. Well this is a bit odd...a little of one-hand clapping. But. Unfortunately, it makes me rather sad. It would appear that Mailchimp suspended my account without any way to recover it. So it would appear that from several thousands, you, my friends are now in several hundreds at most to get notifications of posts. If I am not mistaken, it seems as though only those of you who have a Google or Blogger account are contacted. If anyone wants to chime in about this, please go ahead.
And better yet, if anyone has truly solid advice as to how to get me onto another platform without losing ten years of posts (I am petrified), I would be happy to listen.

Bisous. xo