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Tuesday, 30 October 2012


A breath.  Caught.  Inside.
A breath.  Exhaled.  Died.
It wasn't enough.  To breathe.

I never could get enough air. 
Enough peace.  Enough anything.
Staggeringly broken. 

By what every breath could not provide:
Life. My life.
Color inside.

Enough air to breathe.
Enough space to be.

All this time I searched for you.
I looked and looked and couldn't see.
I screamed and screamed
But no one heard me.
I waited out the days and nights.
Apologized and explained too much.
Wasn't me.  Wasn't me.  Wasn't me...

A subtle shift.
A sudden strength.
My heart.  My heart.  My heart.  My lungs...
My soul.  My time.
My one.  My one.

My life.
My color.
My air.
My space.



Thursday, 25 October 2012

Nothing More Dangerous

"Nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future."

I agree and would add other dangers that threaten the human spirit are complacency.  Indifference.  Unquestioned material security.  I am terrified by such things.  Perhaps my most genuine fear, spiders aside, is the fear of growing complacent and too secure in the routine of my life.  So secure that I am blind to others needs, others pain, others in general.  So secure that I no longer think or question or grow or no longer desire healthy changes in myself.  So secure I no longer desire an element of insecurity in my existence.

I have an adventurous spirit.  Not in the physical danger\ daredevil sense of the term however.   I am adventurous in the sense that I live my life in a willing fashion.  I feel I am willing to do what I truly want to do and willing to not be pressured into doing what I do not.  Adventurous because my soul yearns for possibilities and rebels against social norms.  "You must do this.  You must do that."  Why?  Why must we do anything?  The only thing we "must" do is live seeking the truth of why we are here in the first place.  We must strive toward constant growth.

Yesterday I turned 32 years old.  My husband and I went out for dinner and oddly enough talked about this very subject.  What does it mean to have a "secure future" and do we want any part of it?  We reached the conclusion that to us a secure future is not found in one particular place.  It is not being in one particular country or one particular home.  We discussed how we both feel that we could live anywhere and since we share our own version of an "adventurous spirit", I do believe we could.  We determined rather that the feeling of security must lie within our own hearts.  If it does then we already have a secure future in the sense that our security does not depend on  or change with outward circumstances.

I am not impressed with material wealth, fame, popularity, influence etc.  Just don't care.  I like quirky things.  I like quirky people.  I am impressed by people like Mother Teresa and Vincent Van Gogh or those who go against what society tells them they must do and make some sort of remarkable difference in the world or those who go against what society dictates and lead quiet yet remarkable lives that no one ever really hears about.  I'm all for that.  I'm all for living a normal life too by the way.  If by normal you are truly living and breathing freedom, empathy and compassion no matter what your circumstances.  Not normal in the sense of "keeping up with the Jones'"

We never know, and it's very right we don't know,  what the future will bring.  Where we will be in one year, two years, ten.

So I'm 32.  I drink a lot of tea and a lot of coffee.  I light a lot of incense.  I pray and do a lot of soul searching.  I laugh a lot.  Talk too much at times.  Imagine myself as some sort of wise wandering guru.  Acknowledge my reality is slightly different.  I have a ridiculous sense of humor and find a lot of things funny that most people do not.  I dream huge dreams and believe that I have a wealth of opportunity and possibility open to me.  I have a lot faith.  I like to really talk and am utterly bored by small talk.  I think most people are pretty interesting.  I like to travel and explore.  I adore thrift shopping and cutting my own hair.  I have a passion for Italy and India.  I love to read.  I love to write.  I like to paint.  I try to be genuine.  I sometimes find it a struggle.  I hate when things are phoney.  I'm not really a huge success in any of the things the world acclaims as important but ehh, you know, I don't really care. :)

Maybe someday I'll be your neighbor.  Someday I might live in Mumbai or Texas or some random little village in Italy.  Some day I might consider a successful day one where I've just eaten a lot of fresh mango and slept in a hammock.  In fact I'd consider that successful now.  Someday I want to live where the weather suits my clothes.  Someday I want to walk the Camino de Santiago.  Go to Lisieux.  Go to Medjugore.  Go on a hundred billion pilgrimages.  Some day I want to roam around the world again with my husband.  Someday I want to live right down the street from a Catholic church.  So yeah, someday.  Or today.  How about today? 

Anyway, gotta run.  Gotta go.  Gotta live.  Cheers Darlin'.

Friday, 19 October 2012

The First Time (A Brief Summary of the Decision to Adopt)

The first time I felt so much anger.  So much pain and desperation.  It took a long time for all that inner desolation to be shot through with something else, hope.  For the murkiness of confusion to clear just enough.  Enough to see a different path, a different dream.  Outside of my own wants and the things I had decided (without much authority to do so I might add) I would have.  Things I wanted and no one would tell me differently.  Until they did.  Tell me differently.

Then in rushed all the hurt and grief and I felt blindsided.  But I understood a little better how little say we have over anything.  How almost laughable is the arrogance of authority.  I saw this though from a place far outside myself.  Still within, I was screaming and pounding my bruised fists on hard wooden table tops.

Then the different path presented itself.  Details began to unfold.  It all felt a bit unsure, hesitant but there was some brilliance there too.  Somewhere in a different place bombs were still exploding.  But no longer was it right before my eyes.

Then as if a miracle had occurred, a sure and steady strength reached down and grabbed me hard by my bruised heart and pulled me upright again.

Somewhere far away, eight months before the end of an unspeakably terrible war that took 100 000 lives, a little boy was conceived.  Amid the chaos and confusion of a suffering country, one life, the life that would come to mean everything to us, began.

And so, beauty in the form of a little boy full of spirit and joy came to us from a most unlikely place.

And so for us, the burden of pain became a burden of love, and beauty from the ashes of what appeared to be the destruction of our hopes and dreams.  It took a long time to understand that destruction was the only way to bring forth newness and growth.

Friday, 10 August 2012

A Life Well Lived

There has been a lot on my mind lately.  And also a lot not on my mind.  Strangely enough, it's what has not been on my mind that occupies me the most.

There are a lot of things I push aside because I don't want to truly think about them with the seriousness they deserve.  Or because I am afraid that by confronting these thoughts I will be forced to take action.  Make hard changes.  Or any changes at all.

I suppose I pride myself on the idea that I am a person unafraid of change.  Unafraid of honesty.  And yet, here I am.

So how can things not on my mind still take up such a large amount space in my consciousness?   For exactly that reason I would think, the very fact that I am pushing these things outside the realm of thought brings these issues I am trying to avoid to the very forefront of my mind in every way except thought.  In stress or anxiety or anger or sleeplessness etc. etc. etc.  And the "why" is there at the tip of my tongue if I would just be courageous enough to look at my present situation, my reactions to various things that have happened to me in the past year, the goals and aspirations I have for the future, the person I am right now and the person I want to become.

I have been feeling uneasy and I think it's because I have not been entirely truthful with myself.  While I am a very outgoing person I also am a very introspective one as well.  There is nothing that happens that I don't analyze to death.  There is no facet of my personalty that I don't make the most minute and exact study of.

There are things I want.  Ways I want to live.  Ways I want to be.

I want to live mindfully, simply, creatively, happily, faithfully, courageously, honestly, wisely.  I want to be at peace with myself and to not mind the inevitable times I am not at peace with those around me.  I want to nurture a creative and loving spirit.  I want to go on learning every day.  I want simplicity and an unpretentious manner of living and being.  I don't want to do well by the standards set out for me by society and the world.  I want to do well by my own standards.  I don't want to fall in line.  I want to be courageous enough to follow the path I know to be right for me.

I don't want to live in a way that satisfies anyone's idea of "normal".  But neither do I want to go out of my way to prove myself so different from "everyone".

We are none of us "true individuals", every idea we have has been picked up from someone else somewhere along the way all the way back to the beginning of time.  We have no claim on originality and yet we are all individuals.  We are all very similar and we are all very unique.  What saddens me is that so many people spend their lives suppressing that brilliant spark of light that makes them unique.  They fear it or they hide it or they kill it or allow others to do so.

There is a Latin proverb I like.  "Live your own life, for you will die your own death."

I am the only person alive who sees the world quite like I do.  Who feels quite like I do.  Who dreams or hurts or loves or learns or refuses to learn quite like I do.  I can not be replaced by anybody else.

Why do I not think I am worthy then?  Why do I not carefully take my own fragile preciousness in my hands and protect it the way I would a child's?  Why do I so often fail to be kind to myself?

I am good.  I say the wrong thing sometimes.  I do the wrong thing sometimes.  I am imperfect but I am good.

And so my friend, are you. 


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Shocking Duplicity of My Existance Or Confessions of A Minimalist Dumpster Diver

Before my grandfather sold everything he possessed to move to Haiti, he owned three antique\junk shops in the Chatham area.  My memories of him begin with hot sunlight, dust billowing up behind an old rusty car as we drive down the dirt lanes of the prairies in search of dusty treasures for sale in someone's barn.  Some colorful beads, some unusual glassware, something strange and unexpected.  I was a very little girl but I remember the thrill of possibility.

And this my friends, is the shocking duplicity of my nature.  I have written about the appeal minimalism has for me and it does have appeal and value, there is no doubt.  I have admitted that I sometimes panic if I feel too "cluttered" or that I own too many things.  I do donate unused and unwanted things on a very regular  basis and feel renewed, cleansed even.  I crave a simplistic and zen-like existence.  Wandering the countryside, writing haiku's, wearing orange robes, communing with birds and foxes...I may be mixing up religions here but you get the idea.

So how can the following situation make any sense at all when measured against my zen-like aspirations?  Per comes home from work.  Announces that he is going to take a load of garbage to the dump.  I shrug my shoulders nonchalantly.  I don't really care.  Then he says that they have a room there where they put the good items and after people have unloaded their junk, they can browse there and help themselves to anything they like.  These words!  They're like magic!  Suddenly all my minimalistic ambitions fall away and I jump up eagerly announcing that I'm ready!  Let's go immediately!  And the thoughts that fly through my head...oh my goodness...oh my goodness...Colleen...breathe deeply...what if long lost...Munch painting there in that little room full of treasure?!  What if??!!  I steady myself but my head is on fire as I contemplate the possibility of discovering some famous and beautiful work of art under time's veneer of dust and grime.  I run upstairs.  Should I change clothes?  Oh my goodness!  I'm so excited!  (Disclaimer: I never said I was cool.)  I want to shout out the window, tell the neighborhood of my evening's thrilling plans but instead I just hug it to myself like some delicious secret.  The dump!

It's like how I feel when I enter second hand bookshops or second hand  shops of any sort for that matter...I just have to rush around and look at everything.  Then I go around more slowly, more reverently, examining, searching out treasure.  It's a heady rush.

My own father has no shame about actually taking chairs and pieces of furniture out of other people's garbage piles and he has found and refurbished some amazing pieces this way.  I love used things, I love books that have been scribbled in by previous owners, hope chests that have been full of someone elses dreams.  But see I love these things just for themselves, for myself and I do believe that's where the difference lies.  In this affinity I feel with the woman who likes the same Edward Thomas poem that I do and made note of it in the margin of the book I picked up at a stall in Aberdeen for example.  I don't like these things to impress other people (and yes I'm aware of just how impressed they would be.:)  I like them because I just do.

So you see how very complex this situation is.  This seeking (and succeeding) in living a life uncluttered and yet this intense passion for sifting through heaps and piles of discarded junk at junk sales, in antique the dump...

In case you're curious, I found no long lost Munch (are there even any long lost Munchs out there?) but I did find that someone had actually thrown away a Giovanni Guareschi book in perfect condition!  For those of you not familiar with the name, the books are genius.  They are stories written about a communist leader Pepponne and his nemesis, a Catholic priest Don Camillo.  They are utterly wonderful and hilarious and for the most part, very difficult to find and when you do, they cost you.  And I found one at the dump here in Norway.  Not too shabby, not too shabby at all.

Peace out, from Grunge Queen Colleen

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The days are long but the years are short...

The other day when I enthralled you all with my word portrait of our growing William, I kept thinking of so many more things that I want to remember when these lightning fast years have raced by.  And race they will, if my friends and other parents with older or grown children are right, it's a matter of blinking and you're taking them to their first day of school with a perfect new lunchbox and a spirit not yet wounded (hopefully) by other children's ridicule or unkindness.  And all the hope in the world that life will be good, so unbearably good for them.  That their innocence will last.  That no one will hurt them, ever.  But even as you wish it, you know this wish won't come true.  Blink again and they've grown and you're in your house on your own and it's very still and very quiet and there are no children's toys anywhere and no smudges on the windows or building blocks in the toilet or small cars in your shoes and suddenly you have all the time in the world for those things you used to wish desperately you had more time to do.

It's probably because it's his birthday tomorrow that I feel as though each moment is graced with a sort of poignancy.  I always have felt deep, unexplainable regret at the official markings of passing time.  New Years Eve used to fill me almost with a kind of sorrow at the thought of the year disappearing, birthdays while happy occasions, remind me of simple, precious moments that are lost as the calender page turns.  You go out into the world and nobody knows that you used to be a child.  Maybe that makes no sense but it's how I've always felt.  That when it's Christmas or someone's birthday or any other special day you had better make it count from start to finish and say always make sure to say "I love you" one last time before bed...let the person, whether a child, parent, or friend, know how much they mean to you.  Because it is all so finite. 

I think I think too much.

But I am often prey to sudden and deep surges of feeling over mundane things.  Like yesterday evening, we went out shopping for balloons and little things for William's birthday and in the mall, he was racing ahead of us and he still runs kind of funny.  Like the fact he doesn't fall over is pure chance.  Arms waving and legs propelling him forward with lurching motion.  As he ran he was laughing this huge, free laugh that was just pure energy and joy.  I think only children know how to laugh in such a way.  I could see his little brown feet in his sandals and that his hair was sticking out all over his head and that he still has chubby rolls at the back of his neck and as he laughed and shouted "weeeeeeeeeeeeee" (because it was just so fun apparently) and I laughed too but I also felt a sudden and deep sense of loss already for the time in the future when this little boy as we know him this very moment will disappear.  I can't explain it better than that.

Today we went on one of our long and leisurely walks downtown and on the way home we sat on a bench by the harbor to eat our yogurts.  There were two people fishing and as we sat they both caught fish and took the fish off their hooks and let them flop to death on the pier.  I am the sort of person who is bothered by things like this (I can't help it:) but I don't think fishing is wrong of course and I didn't want to turn William against something he might possibly enjoy as he grows up a bit so I didn't say anything at all.  But as wild a little man as William is, he has a really sweet heart.  I saw him look over at the fish and he put one hand over his heart and said "Fish is hurt Mommy.  Poor, poor fish."  Then he sat there for a long time with his little dirty hand on his heart repeating "Poor fish...poooooor fish...oh, hurt...hurt go i water"  And I thought for all his stubbornness and  noise and the fact that he occasionally succeeds in frustrating me until I actually cry, he has a gentle heart.  I'm not sorry.:)

The name William actually means "strong defender".  That was one of the reasons we chose it.  I hope that he lives up to his name and is brave, strong, kind, and a defender at any cost of those who need defending. 

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Marlon Brando, Phocahontas And Me: Portrait of a Boy Just Shy of Three Years Old

You may wonder what I have in common with Jasmine, Pocahontas, Cinderella, Belle, the female hippo from Madagascar...  Aside from the last one on the list, this is a mystery indeed.  I wrongly assumed it was beauty we had in common, a graceful yet spirited demeanor perhaps.  For quite some time now whenever William would watch a Disney film and one of the doe-eyed, impossibly slender female lead characters would come on, he would point and say in a loving and indulgent tone, "Awwwwww, mommmmmmmmmmy..." or if one of these ladies cried, which happens quite often despite their alleged independence, he would say sympathetically "Oh mommy, so sad.  Poooooooooor mommy."  And my heart would just melt because I made the obvious connection and thought my darling little boy thinks that I am so beautiful that he likens these ideals of womanly beauty to me.  How precious, how perfect, how terribly terribly sweet!  It was my turn to be indulgent.  Until I showed him a picture of my sister and I and he cooed "Ooooh, two mommies!".  Until a friend came over and he ran to the door and said in a friendly tone "Hi Mommy!".  Until we were out on a walk and a group of ladies walked by and he pointed to them and said "Mommies.  Masse, masse mommies!"  (Masse is Norwegian for lots.)  A niggling doubt began to creep into my heart as I understood, he doesn't think that the Disney characters resemble me (this shouldn't be such a shock to me really), he is simply terribly confused about the word "mommy" and all it encompasses.  Certainly he'll call me mommy, no problem.  But every other woman is also mommy.  So it would be best for me to not get too swelled a head about this.  He's just letting me know, yeah, you're mommy but I got a lot of ladies I call mommy.  *shoulder shrug*  It's my thing.

I predict a time in the near future when I may have to have a serious talk with William on how he speaks to women in fact.  There was one Sunday morning when I was sitting on the couch with a coffee and Mr. Intensity came and grabbed my hand, pulling me toward the kitchen with a stern "Come!".  When we got to the kitchen, he pointed at a rather large pile of dirty dishes and said in the same tone "Mommy, you wash!  Wash mommy!"  (Personally I think it's only because dirty dishes are so rare a sight in our house that this happened.)

Or there was the walk we took in downtown Mandal when he was running ahead of me and we passed a very attractive woman sitting on a bench.  She had long blond hair and was wearing a leopard print top, black tights and high black boots.  And she was eating a pastry.  So William races by her and somehow the pastry must have caught his eye and he stops, doubles back, stops directly in  front of her and lets out a long, low appreciative "mmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmm!"   I hope she realized he was referring to the pastry.  

He really is an appalling chauvinist at times.

He is also quite charming.  Dead set on getting his way but charming about the whole thing.  Makes you think you have a choice in the matter.  Lately he has been teaching me how best to answer him when he asks for ice cream, any sort of treat, to go for a walk to see the tractors, anything he wants really.  The answer isn't no.  It goes like this, he'll say "Mommy, (remember how loosely this term can be used), ice cream?  Sure!  A' course William."   "Mommy, go walk and see the tractors?  Sure!  A'course William!"  If I do say no or not yet, he persists with a firm smile and a "Sure, a' course." as though cancelling out the negative response.  I've got a lot to learn obviously.

Watching the Disney movies Ratatouille, there is a part where the rat comes out of the sewer and says "Paris?  You mean to tell me all this time I've been under Paris?"  And in response, I hear William answer totally deadpan, "A' course rat."  Like "You damn fool rat, where do you think you've been all this time?"  Except he didn't say that but may as well have.

William is turning three next Friday and I was reading back over my blog and the posts that I have dedicated to the sweet little man and laughing and wishing I had written them with more regularity because there were so many little things I had already forgotten.  I know it's impossible to capture everything, to remember every funny, sweet or wonderful moment but it's worth a shot.

So like every word portrait, this one too is horribly inaccurate, just a moment here and a moment there.  I don't know how to capture the way I feel about those other things.  Like that for the longest time he had a bald spot on the back of his head even though his hair is the stuff of luxury.  All over his head, his black hair is like silk but where that bald spot was for so long, the hair has grown in like fluff and just sticks straight out and every time I run my hand over his head I remember that bald spot on his beautiful little head.  Or the way his truly sweet little soul shines through at times like when we passed a dead cat on the road and for weeks afterward he talked about the "poor tat" and was genuinely worried about the "tat".  Or how he loves pots and pans with a passion and fills all his little buckets up with sand and water with such intensity you'd like he was in the middle of an amazing feat of engineering.

All of these details are so normal.  So like every other child.  I recognize that but I also recognize that his uniqueness (like that of every child) deserves celebration.  My hope as he celebrates his third birthday is...well...I have so many for him.  One at least is that he keeps his joy and his enthusiasm and that nobody destroys his spirit.  His happiness and excitement are catching and his sheer, undiluted joy is still the thing that everyone mentions about William.  He is full of passion.  I hope it takes him places.

Friday, 8 June 2012


The war within.   These vast, vast spaces.
They can be filled with anything.

I didn't ask for this.
Didn't dare.  Didn't think.
I didn't know
Because no one taught me
That lips were made to whisper lies.

That sometimes the very act of living wounds.

I sometimes see in color.
I always see in words.
Always, always, always always
Always see in words.

They dance around in my head
But they stumble, clumsy, off my tongue.
Like they would like to show me
They can't be trusted.
That I am both more and less
Than they would indicate.

Most life is lived outside
The body
The soul
Outside any real meaning
Life is lived outside
In acquiring
In futility
In emptiness and convention
In the emptiness of convention
And nothing

But my life is often lived within
The confines of my mind
But not of my words
The elastic confines of my thoughts and my being

The vastness
The sheer space
The complexity of life

Rich in my elastic mind.
Sometimes the very act of living restores.

 My lips weren't made to lie.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Spiritual Thirst

It's strange sometimes, isn't it? It's hard to understand. To know. Beyond a doubt, without question, that life...this a blessing, a gift, an undefinable thing. And we're often hopeless at it.

When I sit on a sun warmed rock on a cool fall day staring at the sea, feeling the noise of it pounding in my ears. Chaos echoing chaos. Chaos calming chaos. I know. I want to see the waves break against the rocks, I want to witness more power, and at the core of me, I want to see some sort of glorious unimaginable destruction. It would please would answer some sort of obscure question in me to see it all fall to pieces. It would help me know that things can break outside myself too. And this great hope. This great great great hope is that somehow, I wouldn't be hopeless at living.

I turn calendar pages, scribble out "30" and replace it with "31", watch William's face change from a baby to that of a little boy. I look out my window and see a profusion of flowers and green and wonder how I could have ever lived without these shades of green. But I do manage. For months and months I manage. I look out of my window and see rain and darkness. Snow. New growth again. All too fast. All in the blink of an eye.

I wonder, what am I growing toward? Who am I becoming?

These questions are positive, strength infusing things. They keep me from running in circles, from stagnation, from feeling hopeless.

I want to strip away the useless, the negative, the fear and uncover a dazzling depth of honesty in myself. To confront myself. To grow. To set out upon the most spiritual and life changing of journeys without ever leaving my living room.

I think sometimes it would be so much easier to physically set out on a spiritual journey. To visit a place of solitude and reflection. To take up a backpack and make a difficult pilgrimage across narrow mountain roads. To be taught. To pray and meditate and focus. To go away and come back changed.

It's harder to change in a familiar place. It takes discipline to get out of your own bed each morning and think "Today I am going to learn and grow. Right here where I am. Because this is the option I have open to me right now." Examining the soul is always challenging and often unsettling. It can certainly be unpleasant at times. The alternative is to go though life blindly, always distracted, never achieving awareness or questioning yourself. Never growing. (And yes, I believe there are people who go through their lives never growing or stretching themselves.)

I like myself. I like a lot of things about myself but God forbid I ever get to a place where I feel I have no more growing or seeking left to do.

On that note, I wish you all a very happy new year. May it hold love, peace and joy for you all.