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Holiday Traditions

Pic taken Christmas Day 2016, on the trail to Jerry Johnson’s Hot Springs

Every year on Christmas Day, my husband and I venture to Jerry Johnson’s Hot Springs, for a 1-mile hike (one way) & soak in the woods. Neither of us connect with the celebration of Christmas. To us, it’s just another day on the calendar, which affords us a day off from our regular routine and to-do lists. We’ve been springing it on Christmas Day for quite a number of years now – it’s one of our very few annual traditions. And, I’ll add, is simply glorious.

Back when we first got married, in 2000, we tried our hand at celebrating the winter solstice and came up with a few possible traditions to carry forward each December, but it proved to be too forced for us and we soon gave up any sort of formal way of commemorating the seasonal changing of the guard. We both grew up celebrating Christmas – not on religious grounds but on consumeristic ones. And I have incredibly fond memories of it as a child. But neither of us were interested in fueling the drive of the holidays when we started co-creating our lives as adults together.

Many years ago, after receiving a plethora of well-intentioned but ultimately un-neccesary gifts from relatives in the mail each December, we decided to craft a letter to send to our dear family members. As the writer in our household, it was important to me that the letter both express our gratitude for their generosity and our firm desire to discontinue the further receiving of gifts, in as warm-hearted a way as possible. I wanted to do my best to create as little offense as I could, making sure to focus on our appreciation for their kindness and our love for them. And, rather to my surprise, it worked! While not everyone understood our position, they all respected our heartfelt request.

The month of December is the only time I’m grateful for living so far away from my family, as I really don’t know how I would negotiate this festive time of year if I had family around who were celebrating Christmas in the traditional ways that I grew up with and were requesting my attendance to join them. Fortunately, though, that’s not a thing I need to put much thought into.

Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to connect with all the ways that people find this time of year joyful, as I can grow callous in regards to the amount of waste, stress, hardship, and debt that accumulate around Christmas – and the furthering of such rampant, detrimental notions and ways of relating to each other and the world at large. But non-duality continues to ring true! In this case, the teachings of non-duality play out in the simple truth that both things are happening at the same time: there are elements of Christmas that are full of delight and joy and there are elements of great disharmony and destruction.

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Train Song

This is the un-earthing of a song I wrote around 10 years ago, while riding on a train bound for North Dakota. After scouring a dozen old journals for all the lyrics, I finally found them this morning!

Train Song

Written by Nicole Dunn

What once were mountains now are hills
under cover of night they’ll flatten still,
until little distinction can be made
between the icy landscape
and the over-casted sky

Winter comes but once a year
staying however long it takes
for mother earth to rest –
and we while cloaked in warmth,
know little of her journey

So rest now, if you can,
en route to your destination
on cold slick metal tracks –
Rest now, if you can,
sweet people,
through the clicks and the clacks
through the bumps and the jolts

With a gentle rocking beneath it all,
we’re on a land bound boat
gliding between ripples of time

And we ride on with a soft whistle
blowing early in the morning
or late at night
I’m not sure which

What once were mountains now are hills
under cover of night they’ll flatten still,
until little distinction can be made
between the icy landscape
and the over-casted sky

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2017 in Creative Writing

 

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Back to the Woods

dscn5229Jerry Johnson Hot Springs trail, December 25th, 2016, Idaho

Becoming part of a winterscape thick with cedar,
walking tall among elder trunks
and undergrowth buried in snow,
we communed with a part of ourselves
that often lies dormant.

Under nature’s influence
we can be guided back to what has been forgotten.
And when we are ushered
from our slumber to remember,
we will continue to return,
over and over,
back to the woods.

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Posted by on December 26, 2016 in Creative Writing, Travel

 

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Winter Ocean

dscn5087

Winter Ocean

Snow drapes the town in satin white,
tucking us warmly into shelter.
I see the ocean in its crystalline form,
saturating flat undulating ground.

Transported to the sun-drenched Jersey shore days of my youth,
I feel the salt water tangle in my hair,
as swells of laughter and gulls peak between the ocean’s inhale and exhale.
Bare skin and unadorned feet browning and cracking.

My gaze catches on the snow when it falls
and on the ocean when I’m near it,
the same way it used to when I’d primp on the beaches
to flirt with boys.
My gaze, while peripheral, was held steady by them, too.

But, in the cute, summer boys I would lose myself
in romantic sojourns –
and in the shifting forms of water,
I regain my sovereignty amid each circulating droplet,
remembering with quivering assurance,
that I, too,
have been part of this landscape
since the very beginning.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2016 in Creative Writing

 

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Resting

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As the winter solstice approaches may we learn well from the lessons of nature on how to rest.  Not the sort of resting we may think of initially that we mistakenly label as lazy or ineffectual or selfish, probably even unnecessary.  But the sort of resting that contains a great sense of importance, wisdom, and purpose.  Nature does not rest without intention.  Nature rests to continue its varied and diverse manifestations in order to sustain its dependents – animals, plants, minerals, us.  The beauty of the gentle waters, fragrant trees, and penetrating skies relies on the art of resting – on the ability to be set free in the stillness between breaths.

Flats

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Posted by on December 20, 2015 in Everyday Practice

 

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Go with the Snow!

snowheart3

Going with the flow of life for many of us does not come naturally, it’s something we have to practice.  Our tendency, more likely, is to fight against what’s happening.  I’m seeing this currently play out with many people in town who are dismayed at our recent arctic blast from the north which plummeted our mountain town into an early winter spell.

In talking with my husband Mike about the common, yet fairly ridiculous, notion of complaining about the weather he made a comment that I hadn’t thought of before, which helped to shed light on this rather challenging issue for me (I really don’t enjoy hearing person after person continually gripe about the weather).  He said that people tend to complain about the weather because they’re uncomfortable and people aren’t used to being uncomfortable.  This was a great insight for me.  Many of us can spend our whole lives trying to avoid, cover up, forget, ignore, or otherwise distract ourselves when feelings of discomfort arise.  So of course it makes sense that to be inconvenienced by the icy roads, low temperatures, and blasting winds is not a welcomed state of being!  I used to think that an insight had to be some new, fancy, grand idea but, more often, insights are more unassuming and involve simply helping to develop a deeper understanding of something or someone.

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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Everyday Practice

 

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Spoken Word

love

For the third year in a row we’ll be starting our winter series Open Mic Nights at the Open Way Mindfulness Center here in town once a month starting in December.  They’ve been a wonderful way to bring folks together during our long, cold mountain winters and to share in the abundance of joyful creativity that is such a part of our mindfulness community.  Our Open Mic Nights welcome families and kids and my 14-year old step-son is often the first to volunteer to kick off the show with his comedic stylings :)

One of the things I have most enjoyed about these gatherings the last two winters is that we’ve had such a vast array of offerings.  We’ve had songs and instruments, rap, poetry, art work, comedy, readings, group sing-a-longs, tai chi and yoga demonstrations, improv group games, show and tell, dance, and more!  The variety has been just wonderful.

In my preparation for the Open Mic’s to start back up I’ve been inspired to write.  I play guitar, sing, and write songs and lately I’ve been drawn to spoken word pieces.  Spoken word can take many different forms and for me it has become a blend of rap, verse, and song with just my voice and no musical accompaniment (at least not yet!).

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