Friday 26 December 2008

See you in the New Year!

I'm taking a little break from blogging over the holidays. See you in the New Year! Best wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2009!

Thursday 25 December 2008

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light

How can you not love the Christmas nativity story? Is there a more profoundly radical idea than that the Divine will manifest itself among the most humble in society? Even today that idea should shake us to our core. The nativity story, with its angels, shepherds and wise men, has something beautiful for everyone. Plus the Great Mother in an undercover role!

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Christmas Eve

So it's Christmas Eve tonight! My Rare One and I plan to watch It's a Wonderful Life on CBC television. Her Royal Highness the cat plans to curl up on her cat tree in the living room and sleep through it. Will we curl up on the loveseat, sip hot chocolate and eat popcorn with our full attention on the movie? No, we'll decorate a gingerbread house while we watch it. My Rare One is a bit of a multitasker that way. But it does mean that we get to enjoy two great holiday traditions simultaneously!

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Snow Shoe Hares

This gorgeous painting was created by Molly Roberts, a very talented fine arts student in Milwaukee, WI. She writes about her art and life in a beautifully presented blog called Her Speak. From her blog, you can access her Etsy site called Doll Machine Gallery.

I love rabbits, always have, always will. And of course, rabbits are a very potent symbol of the Goddess (think Eostre!). When I see a wild rabbit crossing my path, it's almost like a little personal message from the Divine Feminine. So when I saw this painting on Molly's Etsy site, I simply had to have it! It arrived at my home on the Winter Solstice, like a special blessing on a sacred day.

Monday 22 December 2008

Hanukkah Lights

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. Here in Edmonton there is a huge outdoor menorah on the grounds of the Alberta Legislature. So last night, local dignitaries (premier, mayor, etc.) and members of the Jewish community braved the incredible cold and assembled to light the first (electric) candle. Like all midwinter festivals of light, Hanukkah is about light in the midst of darkness and hope in the midst of despair. Be it so!

Sunday 21 December 2008

Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice, longest night and shortest day of the year. The sun returns and now will grow stronger each day until our period of restful hibernation ends with spring. My favourite Solstice chant is by Anne Hill and perfectly captures this time of introspection and renewal:

Deep, deep, deep into the heart of the winter.
Deep, deep, deep into the womb of the Mother.
Deep, deep, deep where there is no other
Song but the song of my soul.

Solstice blessings, everyone!

Saturday 20 December 2008

Handel's Messiah

I have not been a believing or practising Christian for 30 years, but that doesn't stop me from loving Handel's Messiah. Seeing a performance every year at Christmas has been one of my long-standing holiday traditions. Tonight my Rare One and I are off to the concert hall again to see this year's rendition. I'm looking forward to it very much.

I still often find great beauty, spiritual meaning and emotional poignancy in selected Christian stories, music and art. Although I am no longer a literal believer, Christianity will always remain my cultural heritage. It is inextricably tied up with my childhood memories and personal spiritual development. When the right note is struck, it can still have profound spiritual resonance for me. Sam Keen, in his book Hymns to an Unknown God, really captured this lingering connection of the heart when he wrote:

The truth of the spirit . . . is better conveyed in song and poetry than by propositions. The best of the Christian tradition, which continues to nourish me, is expressed in the music it inspired. Often, my mind is uncomforted by any set of beliefs that can stand the test of doubt, but when I listen to Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze," my soul lies down beside still waters and a mysterious Lord is still my shepherd.

Friday 19 December 2008


God, I know just what they've been through --
Princess Di, Britney, Lindsay and the rest.
I'm stalked continually by photographers --
one in particular is relentless, just relentless.
Always with the camera phone!
I have no rest, no refuge, no escape.
She waits for me at the cat tree,
lures me with my favourite treats,
always ready to leap out at me --
Is this the terrible price I must pay
for being so beautiful?

(c) Debra She Who Seeks 2007

Thursday 18 December 2008

Childhood Friends: Girlygirl

Girlygirl lived beside us. She was a very pretty girl with long curly blonde hair and blue eyes. There's an old black-and-white photo of us sitting together on the front steps. She's wearing a frilly little dress with bobby socks and mary janes. I'm the dark-haired one with the short pixie cut, tee shirt and pants.

Girlygirl's Mom used to run around in their backyard wearing only a bra and panties. She always had a glass in her hand. So Girlygirl's house was another one that my mother forbade me from entering. And of course I disobeyed, but again only once. Even though it was the middle of the afternoon, Girlygirl's Mom was still wearing her bathrobe. She sat at the kitchen table, smoking a cigarette and drinking booze out of a coffee cup. She made my teddy bear drink out of the cup too. She laughed and laughed. Everything she said was slurred. The house looked like a tornado had gone through it.

Girlygirl and her parents moved away shortly afterwards and went to live on a farm way out in the country. I don't know what happened to any of them.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Childhood Friends: Cling Wrap

Every morning during summer vacation, Cling Wrap would arrive at our house by 8:00 a.m. and sit on our front steps, waiting to play with me. There was no getting rid of him. He never wanted to go home. He was a quiet boy who was always ready to play such favourite games as house, pioneers, Robin Hood and Tarzan. I'm afraid I bossed him around terribly. He didn't mind.

One day we had a big fight and I told him to go home. But he wouldn't, of course. His name wasn't Cling Wrap for nothing. My solution was to throw stones at him until he left our yard. My Mom caught me and I got a spanking for it. So I learned not to use that method of persuasion again. Cling Wrap was back the next morning, waiting on the front steps as usual.

Although Cling Wrap was always at our house, my Mom forbade me to ever go inside his house. I disobeyed her once. The inside of Cling Wrap's house was dank and dark. All the curtains were closed. His father was lying on the couch, dead drunk. This was his usual daily routine. His mother was out supplementing their meagre town welfare benefits by cleaning other people's houses. For the first time, I understood why Cling Wrap preferred to spend as much time as possible away from home. I never went inside his house again.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Childhood Friends: Tomboy

In the mid-1960s, two-parent families were the absolute norm in our little one-horse prairie town. Tomboy was the only kid I knew who lived in a single-parent family. Her Mom was a free-spirited artiste who did wild things that no one else did, like paint murals and pierce her children's ears (even the baby). The family lived in our town for a couple of years and then moved on again, when Mom found a new man.

Tomboy was the most wonderful girl I knew. She taught me how to jump off the roof of the back shed and how to cadge free chocolate milk from the creamery. We both adored Anne of Green Gables and spent countless hours acting out that book's adventures. Tomboy was Anne and I was Diana. My crush on Tomboy was such that I willingly assumed the second banana role, something I would never have done for anyone else. In our own private Avonlea, there was no Gilbert Blythe. We never missed him. We kindred spirits spent our time at the Lake of Shining Waters (which appeared to everyone else to be a culvert on the cemetery road).

When Tomboy moved away, she and I swore eternal friendship and gave each other a lock of our hair. I kept hers in my Sunday School Bible. We were faithful pen-pals for many years. Tomboy remained a boyish girl until she graduated from high school. Then, completely out of the blue, she became a born-again Christian and a total femme. She married shortly thereafter and I never heard from her again.

Monday 15 December 2008

Old Man Winter

Old Man Winter has chomped down on Edmonton with his icy fangs and is shaking us like a terrier shakes a rat. Hmmm, a bit over the top, I know, but DAMN it's cold! Since Saturday, the mercury has frozen at -30 C (-40 with wind chill, yay!) And apparently this frigid weather is going to continue right through the holidays. The entire prairies are trapped for the foreseeable future beneath a dome of Arctic air. Pity us, all ye who live in temperate climes.

Saturday 13 December 2008

Sankta Lucia

Today is the feast day of Sankta Lucia (St. Lucy), the thinly Christianized version of the ancient Nordic Goddess of the Winter Solstice. She ensures that the sacred light returns to the world every year at the very zenith of darkness. Under the old Julian calendar, her feast day was actually held on the Winter Solstice, the longest night and shortest day of the year. But under the reformed Gregorian calendar which we use today, her sacred day got shifted backwards to December 13. On this day in Swedish culture, the oldest girl in each family embodies the Saint/Goddess and gets to wear the Lucia Crown of Light. Moving about the dark house at sunrise, she awakens her family with the blessing of light and the bounty of the Goddess (coffee and special buns).

So ends the longest night
With light that She's bringing,
She is the Queen of Light
Joyfully singing!
Clad in her garment white,
Wearing Her Crown of Light --
Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!

The special saffron-raisin buns distributed by Sankta Lucia are yellow like the sun and are called "Lucia cats." So the following picture is appropriate, if perhaps a little too literal!

Friday 12 December 2008

Women's Spirituality

The most recent issue of Sagewoman magazine (No. 75, 2008) has a new column by Z Budapest, one of the women who helped create the women's spirituality movement in the early 1970s. Writing of those days, she says (p. 67):

We were creating our own religion, our own rituals, our own prayers and sacred dances. Our own holy days. Our own priestesses. Everything between birth and death was now in our domain. We were saying, in effect, "Move over old man god, your time is up. Take your desert-born religions with you. Take your woman hating-tenets, take your male rule over women and bury it. We are free now. We no longer believe in you. We don't care about your 'good books,' we care about our own souls. We judge you from now on, as you have judged us. We are on to you, and you have lost us forever."

Women's spirituality still has the wonderful headiness of that freedom and creativity. It's one of the things I loved most about this path when I first began to walk it 20 years ago. Today it's something I simply take for granted because it's ingrained in me. But this quotation reminded me of how exhilarating it was when I encountered that freedom and creativity for the first time. How different it felt to be the active author of my own spiritual beliefs and rituals, instead of being the passive recipient of teachings and rituals handed down from one generation to the next!

Wednesday 10 December 2008


Lakshmi came to her
the woman who extravagantly wrapped her tree
in a thousand sparkling coloured lights
so that in the midst of winter's frigid darkness
the delight of beauty would not be lost

Lakshmi came to her
the goddess of the festival of light
attracted by she who knew the importance
of celebrating light when all is dark
she who had learned this hard lesson from life

Lakshmi came to her
not once but twelve times
an entirely unexpected profusion of goddesses
arriving unknown and unannounced
to bless her life with abundance

Lakshmi came to her
gold coins flowing from her fingertips
the sacred lotus in full bloom
to dwell in the garden of her life
beneath the shining tree of light

(c) Debra She Who Seeks 2008

Tuesday 9 December 2008

All Hail Her Royal Highness

My cat is miffed that I have not been blogging about her lately. This tribute to her divine heritage as a Daughter of Bast should defuse Her Royal Highness's snit. Plus an extra bit of gushy food for supper tonight. And some extra petting. Maybe a new catnip mouse.

Monday 8 December 2008

Childhood Friends: Jay Dub

One year at school, local evangelists gave everyone in my class a little New Testament Bible (a practice now quite rightly prohibited for reasons that would never have occurred to anyone forty years ago). Anyway, the first couple of pages contained a picture of our then-still-new Canadian flag and the words to our national anthem. My friend Jay Dub very carefully ripped those pages out of her copy. Jay Dub was a quiet girl who kept pretty much to herself. She and I chummed around at recess, but her mom didn't let her bring friends home to play after school, she said.

Of course I asked Jay Dub why she ripped out those two pages. She explained that Jehovah's Witnesses recognize only God, not the State, as the controlling authority in their lives. So it was blasphemous to have the flag and national anthem in the Bible. I was completely gob-smacked by this information. If not for Jay Dub, it would never have occurred to me in a million years to question the presence of patriotic material in a Bible. Although I still did not agree with ripping out the pages, I did understand why someone else might want to. This was my first exposure to the idea that there could be different opinions about Christianity. I see this now as a very spiritually significant event in my life. Thank you, Jay Dub, wherever you are today!

Saturday 6 December 2008

The Montreal Massacre

It's hard to believe that 19 years have passed since December 6, 1989 when 14 young women were murdered at L'Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal by a crazed misogynist gunman. At the time, absolutely everyone knew the gunman's name because of its constant repetition in media reports. But the women's names were rarely mentioned or highlighted. So the women who organized memorial rallies in virtually every city across Canada made a point of reading aloud and emphasizing the women's names, so they would not be twice victimized by being anonymous characters in their own horrific story. It is the gunman's name which is not mentioned at the continuing annual memorials, so that he is denied any personal recognition -- even the notoriety of infamy -- for his evil hate crime.

Thursday 4 December 2008

Childhood Friends: Feral Girl

Feral Girl lived down the street from us in a shabby house with a severely alcoholic father, a mother who no one ever saw and many, many siblings. Although she was a year older than me and in a different grade, I would often encounter her at the train tracks on the way to and from school. She was one mean, angry kid. I was scared of her. One day she tried to hit me with this crappy old baby doll she was carrying. Instead of fighting, I decided to compliment her doll and I pretended to admire it. This tactic completely threw her. She was deeply suspicious of my reaction, but she didn't try to hit me with the doll again. A light bulb came on! Over our next few encounters, I made a point of being friendly to her, ignoring her rudeness and hostility, trying (in essence) to tame her with kindness. She remained deeply suspicious of me for quite a while, but eventually we did genuinely become friends. We often walked to and from school together. I quite liked her. I hope her life turned out better than it began.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Childhood Friends: Flea Proof Girl

Flea Proof Girl had several disabilities like club feet and bowed legs as well as other, more private, physical ailments about which we were never completely sure. But she also had a shining spirit and an incredibly positive attitude in the face of relentless teasing and bullying at school. Her main tormenters were boys who would pretend to be horrified if she touched them. They would run away from her, yelling "Flea proof! Flea proof!" to counteract the cooties they allegedly feared catching. But it was just meanness, pure and simple, that motivated them.

Flea Proof Girl made a point of chasing the boys as best she could, threatening to touch them, but always with a smile and a laugh. I still marvel at her resilience. But who knows how much she cried at home? How much support and advice did her parents have to give her to get through each school day?

Despite her disabilities, Flea Proof Girl could jump rope like nobody's business. She whupped me regularly in skipping rope contests. I learned from her that disabled people need no condescension from anyone. I competed against her as hard as I could. And I was genuinely glad when she won.

Flea Proof Girl died of medical complications when she was ten: a short life, but a life that touched many, I'm sure.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Childhood Friends: Intro

I grew up in a small one-horse prairie town, which was (and probably still is) exactly the same as all other small one-horse prairie towns. I was ten years old in Canada's Centennial Year, 1967, which was a really big deal at our school. We had to sing Bobby Gimby's "Ca-na-da" song constantly. We had to colour endless copies of the Centennial logo. Worst of all, we were forced to memorize all the provincial flags and official flowers. I still remember them. Anyway, I want to tell you about some of the interesting kids I knew then. Most of my childhood friends were outsiders and misfits. That probably reveals some horrible dark truth about myself more than anything else, but so what! I don't know how long this series of posts will be or if they will all be consecutively posted but off we go, down memory lane!

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Toodle-oo, kangaroo!

I won't be blogging again until the beginning of December, so see you then!

Sunday 23 November 2008

Graffiti Haiku

There are many creative graffiti artists (or vandals, depending on your perspective) working in the neighbourhood near our university. They inscribe their offerings in spray paint, stencils or magic marker on any number of handy surfaces belonging to others. One spring day as I walked in the area, I passed three separate graffiti statements painted by different people on a sidewalk, utility pole and green dumpster, respectively. Each statement stayed with me until later, when it occurred to me that I had inadvertently found, in the most unlikeliest of spots, a charming haiku of great wisdom. Thank you, unknown graffiti poets!

listen . . . don't wait
until tomorrow . . . grow

Saturday 22 November 2008

45 years ago today

I'm a total politics junkie, although not so rabid as I used to be. My very first political memory is from 1963, when I was six. My memory isn't so much a direct memory of JFK's assassination, but of the reaction of the adults around me -- such shock and horror and disbelief. But I do remember, a few days later, coming home from school for lunch and watching JFK's funeral on our black-and-white TV. There was a very real sense that the world had just gone completely mad. The only event since then which has matched that reaction is 9/11.

Friday 21 November 2008

bad poet's dilemma

can i use this word
without irony


hmm, no

(c) Debra She Who Seeks 2008

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Guiding Principle # 2

"If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him."

This murderous little sentiment is actually an ancient Zen Buddhist saying. While it sounds paradoxical (shouldn't a Buddhist be happy to meet the Buddha?), it is actually darn good advice. If we meet a spiritual authority on our journey who says that they have all the answers and all we have to do for salvation or spiritual fulfilment is just follow what they say, it's a pretty safe bet that they will lead us astray and cause us great damage. We must retain our individual thought, control and judgment at all times during the spiritual journey. Anyone who doesn't want us to question or think for ourselves is dangerous. Spiritual authority is found within ourselves, not externally.

Thus endeth the sermon.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Guiding Principle # 1

"Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out."

This saying is attributed to various authors so it's unclear who actually came up with it, but what a brilliant bit of advice! It's so important to apply some basic critical thought to what we read and hear during our spiritual journey. There are many con artists, hucksters and charlatans out there and they are evenly distributed among every spiritual tradition. Common sense and a healthy scepticism are our best defences against being played for a gullible sucker! Be open to new ideas, but always reserve judgment until the claims have been tested in practice. Unfortunately, all the cliches are true -- there really is no such thing as a free lunch and if something sounds too good to be true, it is!

Tomorrow -- Guiding Principle # 2!

Monday 17 November 2008

Free Advice

There's a saying that free advice is usually worth what you pay for it. But that's not always accurate. When I was young, older people used to give me free advice all the time about how life works. I would pretend to listen, while secretly rolling my eyes and thinking, "oh, what the hell do you know, you middle-aged old fart?" But now that I've reached middle-aged old fartdom myself, I have discovered that much of their disregarded advice was, unfortunately, true.

Giving free advice must be a characteristic of middle age, because lately I've had this undeniable compulsion to do so. I feel another wave of it coming over me right now. Or is that a hot flash? Anyway, I've got some unsolicited free advice about the spiritual journey which I offer to anyone who might be interested. It consists of the two most valuable guiding principles that I have learned during my many, many years of wandering around the highways and byways of mainstream and alternative spirituality (I'm not called "Debra She Who Seeks" for nothing, you know).

Tomorrow -- Guiding Principle # 1!

Saturday 15 November 2008

My Vancouver Ritual

I don't get to Vancouver very often -- maybe once a year, if I'm lucky. But no matter how quick my visit to the city, I always make time for two things. First, I take a taxi to Banyen Books, the spiritual bookstore on West 4th Avenue. It soothes my soul to spend a couple of hours there, just browsing through all the books, CDs and assorted spiritual items. Then I go next door and have dinner at Aphrodite's Cafe.
Aphrodite's Cafe is Capital F Funky, especially at night. The restaurant consists of three old, narrow storefront spaces that have been joined together via interior archways to make a single cafe. It is largely unmodernized, with uneven floors, the original lathe wainscotting and somewhat bizarre washrooms. In the harsh light of day, it would be a shabby, perhaps even grimy, place. But at night, lit by strings of tiny lights, full of the kitchen's warmth and crowded with laughing people while wonderful food is being served -- it's magic! The organic food is always fresh and just simply delicious. Tonight I had Thai red pepper soup and a wonderful vegetarian omelette with salad. Then I topped it off with their specialty -- fresh berry pie (raspberry and rhubarb, mmmm).
If you're ever in Vancouver, go eat there! The website for Aphrodite's Cafe is located here, which is where I got the picture at the top of this post. Tomorrow I'll be back home with my Rare One in Edmonton. Tonight I'm digesting in Vancouver.

Thursday 13 November 2008

CCL Wardrobe Update

I have previously posted about my overweening ambition to possess a Crazy Cat Lady wardrobe. Well, I simply MUST have these pants!!

Wednesday 12 November 2008

First Snow

Yesterday, we had our first snowfall of the winter here in Outpost Edmonton of the Great White North. The snow was beautifully white on the ground and hoar frost sparkled on all the trees. Today we have a bit of freezing rain in our area, causing a few multi-vehicle accidents as a result. If winter only lasted a month or so, what a wonderful season it would be! However, it lasts six months in Canada and becomes a grinding endurance test after a while. But no complaints! This is still the best country in the whole world in which to live!

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Remembrance Day

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

--from "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyon

Monday 10 November 2008

Charlie Walker's Ring and Namesake

My grandparents gave Charlie Walker a ring when he went off to war, a gold band with a red stone. He wore it throughout his time in Europe. In the hospital after being wounded at Vimy Ridge and knowing the end was near, he arranged to have the ring sent home again to my grandparents. Now that ring is in my possession.

My grandparents had seven daughters. When their first and only son (my father) was born a few years after the First World War, they named him Charles Walker in memory of the fallen soldier who they honoured.

Saturday 8 November 2008

Charles Hengham Walker

Charlie Walker was born in Scotland in 1891 and emigrated to Canada as a child. He may have come to our country as a Barnardo's Boy or as one of the Home Children who were shipped overseas from Britain to be domestic help and farm labourers. As an adult, he ended up in southwestern Manitoba and worked as a farm labourer for my grandfather. He was very close with my grandparents and I believe he worked for them for several years. In the winter of 1916, Charlie Walker volunteered for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. After training, he was sent to France with the 44th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment). He was mortally wounded at Vimy Ridge in April, 1917 and died about a month later on May 8, 1917. He was 26 years old, unmarried, with no children. Charlie Walker is buried at Vimy Ridge in France.

Friday 7 November 2008

Vigil 1914-1918

My Rare One and I got up in the middle of the night and drove to the Alberta Legislature. We stood in the cold night air and the dark by ourselves and then we went home again. Here's why.

There's a special transatlantic Vigil of Remembrance being held this year for the 68,000 Canadian soldiers killed in World War I. At some point during a night from sunset November 4th to sunrise November 11th, the name of a fallen soldier will be projected in light for a couple of minutes against various public buildings and monuments in Britain and Canada. The illuminated names start in London, England (projected onto Canada House in Trafalgar Square), then cross the Atlantic and are sequentially illuminated in Halifax, Fredericton, Ottawa (projected onto the National War Memorial), Toronto, Regina and finally Edmonton (projected onto a large screen in front of the Alberta Legislature). The westward progression of the names is meant to be a symbolic repatriation to Canada of those who died and were buried in Europe as a sacrifice to the British Empire.

There is only one soldier from the First World War to whom I have a personal connection. His name was Charles Hengham Walker and his name was illuminated this morning at the Alberta Legislature at 2:33 a.m. We were there to witness his symbolic homecoming. To greet his return, I wore the ring he wore throughout the war, including at Vimy Ridge where he was mortally wounded and subsequently died on May 8, 1917.

More about Charlie Walker and his ring in the next couple of posts.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Yes, He Can!

What an incredible, historic day for the United States! What a privilege to have seen it arrive! Celebrate, American neighbours! And then roll up your sleeves and, with Obama's leadership, get the USA out of the ditch and back on track again!

I watched the election coverage last night on the CBC, which broadcast the following quotation about the whole situation: "Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Barack Obama could run. Barack Obama ran so America could fly!" Very cool!

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Lake Louise conference notes

Lawren Harris mountain
tax consequences of share rollout

brilliant white snow in stylized furrows
discretionary beneficial interest in a trust

mountain peak bisects central cloud
Canadian withholding tax

the grandeur of solitude
tax deferral on passive income


(c) Debra She Who Seeks 2007

Monday 3 November 2008

office life

tell-tale stench of wet dog
the carpets were
steam-cleaned again
last night

(c) Debra She Who Seeks 2007

Friday 31 October 2008

Samhain (Halloween)

Today is Samhain, the last day of the pagan year. The night is dark, the leaves are gone, the veil is thin. The Crone beckons, the wheel turns. A day for remembering those who have gone before. Ghosts and spirits will visit us tonight in the form of trick-or-treaters and we will appease them with candy. Our pumpkins are carved and sit on the front step with our rubber rats, Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Fang. Samhain blessings to everyone.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Il Gatti d'Italia (Part 3)

We saw a couple of cats in the charming Tuscan town of Vinci, where Leonardo da Vinci was born and raised. The first cat, a tabby, was sunning himself on a piazza. He was obviously a well-fed pet who was friendly to us, but not to the point of letting himself be petted.

The second cat was pure black and sunning himself on a car in a front yard. I didn't even attempt to disturb him. This is one of my favourite pictures from our entire trip!

Friday 24 October 2008

Il Gatti d'Italia (Part 2)

This charming scruffball lives at the Coliseum in Rome. Apparently many Italian historical sites are full of feral cats who keep down the rodent population on behalf of the Tourism Department. These feline civil servants manage on their own for survival but if times get lean, they are fed by special volunteers called "Gattare" (cat ladies). The cat we saw at the Coliseum was obviously used to being a celebrity. He would not let anyone touch him, but he posed quite deliberately for photos by his adoring public. In the gift shop, you can buy little brass figurines of the Coliseum Cats in various poses, that's how famous they are.

Thursday 23 October 2008

Il Gatti d'Italia (Part 1)

Okay, so enough with Michelangelo, Renaissance art and goddess hi-jinks at the Vatican. Now I'll blog about what you really want to know, namely, what are cats like in Italy? There seem to be many feral or half-feral cats, so it was hard to get close to them. Even those which were clearly pets were stand-offish. None would let me pet them. I called "kitty, kitty, kitty" but no response. Then it struck me that, of course, these cats don't speak English. So I called "gatto, gatto, gatto." Still no response. They did, however, snicker at my English accent.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Birthday Tribute

I'm thinking today of my old friend, Silver Warrior Woman, who died this spring in a Winnipeg nursing home. Today would have been her 92nd birthday. She was such a wonderful woman. We were friends for nearly 20 years.

A special treat that she and I enjoyed often was going to various public gardens around Winnipeg -- the English Formal Gardens in Assiniboine Park, the rock gardens at Captain Kennedy's Tea House, the rose gardens at Kingsway Park and, in the winter, the Conservatory at Assiniboine Park.

Silver Warrior Woman was always feisty and independent. It was her idea that we should regularly attend a Winnipeg women's drumming circle many years ago, an activity that is still an important part of my life and spiritual practice now in Edmonton. I thank her for that gift. We had many good laughs together and also shared a love of cats. I know that she is now reunited at last with her beloved Russian Blue cat, who was undoubtedly waiting for her at the Rainbow Bridge.

Monday 20 October 2008

In Which We Honour Magna Mater

I had brought with me from Canada two tiny replicas of the Great Goddess of Willendorf, the oldest representation ever found of the Divine Feminine. To honour the continuing presence of the Great Mother in this sacred site, we each placed a replica behind two columns at the very centre of St. Peter's Basilica, near the statues of St. Helena and St. Veronica. I placed my offering to the Goddess with this thought in mind:

Magna Mater,
Great Mother,
I honour you and
I remember you,
even here.

How long these offerings to the Divine Feminine remain in the heart of St. Peter's depends, I suppose, on the thoroughness of the Vatican cleaning staff. There is, of course, a good chance that the cleaning staff are women. I would like to think that when they find the Goddesses, they will simply smile and put them back!

Sunday 19 October 2008

In Which We Infiltrate the Vatican

I read that St. Peter's Basilica in Rome was built on what was once the site of the Temple of Magna Mater, the Great Mother. In fact, some of the stone from that pagan temple was used to build the huge church that was the first centre of triumphant Christian religion and power. At St. Peter's, the Divine Feminine's place was appropriated, both literally and symbolically, by the Patriarchal Male God.

The simple fact that there is a Christian church squatting over top of a Goddess temple does not mean that the site cannot be used for its original purpose. So following our guided tour of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums, my Rare One and I slipped back into St. Peter's Basilica by ourselves. At the centre of this overwhelmingly opulent church is a sculptured bronze canopy surrounded by huge statues of saints. Under the floor beneath this canopy are the tombs of all the popes from St. Peter onwards. My co-conspirator and I decided that this was the perfect spot in which to honour the original tenant of this site, the Great Goddess. Details of our ritual tomorrow!

Saturday 18 October 2008

Our Michelangelo Road Tour

I admit that I deliberately got my Rare One hooked. It started innocently enough when I slipped her a copy of The Agony and The Ecstacy, Irving Stone's wonderful novel about the life of Michelangelo. After she finished with that, though, she needed a bigger fix -- the movie with Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison. From then on she was hardcore, man, a full-fledged Michelangelo junkie. Just like me (*sob*).

So our trip to Italy became the Michelangelo Road Tour. In Florence, we saw his painting of the Holy Family in the Uffizi Gallery, then his magnificent David in the Accademia Gallery, along with the "Prisoners" statues. We visited Michelangelo's tomb in Santa Croce church. Leaving Tuscany, we went on a special trip to Rome just to see the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Last Judgment, the Pieta and the dome of St. Peter's. But still it was not enough to satisfy our Michelangelo cravings! We took another day trip to Carrara, the Tuscan mountain town where Michelangelo obtained the pure white marble for his sculptures. We toured a marble mine and saw the house Michelangelo lived in while supervising the quarrying of his marble.

Now we're back in Canada, in Michelangelo rehab. But it was worth it!

Friday 17 October 2008

Me 'n Mike

When I was a teenager, I was absolutely nuts for Renaissance art and history (*cough* nerd *cough*). I worshipped Michelangelo. The fact that I lived in a small one horse prairie town in the middle of nowhere did not deter me from my improbable fascination. One day while browsing in a bookstore located in the small city next to our town, I found a slender paperback of beautiful colour photos of Michelangelo's paintings and sculptures. Yea, verily, I coveted that book mightily. It took me weeks to save up the money in order to buy it. Every Friday night when my family went into the city to get groceries at the mall, I would anxiously check at the bookstore to see if the book was still there. It was one of the happiest days in my life when I was finally able to buy it and take it home with me. I still have it. I always will. In one corner of the inside front cover is the original price written in pencil: $2.49. A dollar was worth a lot more 35 years ago. It was harder to come by, too.

Thursday 16 October 2008

Under the Tuscan Sun

It has been a dream of mine, ever since I was a teenager, to visit Florence, Italy. It only took 35 years, but the dream has finally come true! My Rare One and I rented a villa just outside Florence with three other friends and we have just spent two wonderful weeks exploring Tuscany. It was harvest time when we were there. I feel like I have also reached harvest time in my own life, when finally I can reap some of the rewards that I spent so many years working to attain. Over the next little while, I'll blog about a few of our experiences and adventures in Tuscany.

Thursday 25 September 2008


My Rare One and I are off on a Grand Adventure for the next couple of weeks, so I won't be blogging again until mid-October. See you then!

Wednesday 24 September 2008

My Guru

I take spiritual instruction from my cat
she has a yoga and meditation practice
she performs the complex curls, twists
and stretches of yoga
with ease (unlike me)
her best position is of course "the cat"
but she also excels at stretching
with her head low and bum high
I tell her that we humans
call this position "downward dog"
she glares at me with narrowed eyes
and leaps to the top of her cat tree
where she chooses to ignore my insult
she closes her eyes in zen meditation
while I stand looking up at her
like a know-nothing novice seeking wisdom
from the enlightened master
on the mountaintop

(c) Debra She Who Seeks 2006

Tuesday 23 September 2008

My Rare One

My Rare One and I have been a couple now for five and a half years, living together for three. She has many wonderful qualities, skills and attributes, including tolerance of my sometimes offbeat hobbies. Her name comes from the chorus of a beautiful old Scottish ballad called The Tiree Love Song:

Ha-ree ho-ro, my bonnie wee girl!
Ha-ree ho-ro, my fair one!
Will you come away with me, love,
To be my own, my rare one?

There's a great video of this song being sung by Denis Ryan (formerly of Ryan's Fancy) and Raylene Rankin (formerly of the Rankin Family) at

Monday 22 September 2008

Mabon (Autumn Equinox)

Today is the pagan festival of Mabon or the Autumn Equinox, when day and night are equal in length. Like the more mainstream festival of Thanksgiving, it is a harvest festival -- a time to celebrate the abundance in our lives and to express our gratitude to the Great Mother for her generosity. My favourite quotation about gratitude comes from the medieval Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart: "If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is 'Thank You,' that would suffice." I think it captures better than anything what our correct relationship with the Divine should be.

Sunday 21 September 2008

You Must Have a Dream To Make It Come True

When I was young, I had many, many ambitions in life. Some have been realized and some not. But now that I'm middle-aged, my current ambition is to become a Crazy Cat Lady. What steps have I taken to fulfill this dream, you ask? I do have one cat already, Her Royal Highness (or HRH, as the Brits say). Now I just need a couple dozen more. I'm also working on my CCL wardrobe. So far I have (1) a T-shirt with a giant cat face on it, (2) a nightie bearing the logo "Crazy Cat Lady" and (3) a pair of brown capris with yellow cats all over them. It's a small start to the wonderfully appalling wardrobe I hope one day to have.

Saturday 20 September 2008

The Accidental Blogger

This blogging thing has caught me by surprise. I intended to start a blog a few months from now, when I had more time. But then I thought: what if one of the other gazillion bloggers on the internet has already used "She Who Seeks" as a blog name or starts using it before I get my blog started? So I checked it out and found that my desired blog name was not currently in use. then told me I could "register" the name. By the time I realized that "registration" meant setting up the actual blog, it was too late and I was in too far! Now I am The Accidental Blogger, thrown into the deep end before I was ready. Hmmm, sort of the story of my life, actually.

Friday 19 September 2008

Typical, Really

I wanted my first blog post to be something brilliant and eye-catching, but I'm afraid this is it. Hopefully future posts will reach a higher standard!