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Posts tagged ‘Alaska’

12 lessons from my hibernation years, 2009-2012

I’m celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas, thinking about present time, and made a list of 12 practical life learnings–gifts–gleaned from what I’m calling my silent years, 2009-2012.

Why the list? I moved to Alaska in 2007, and with the assistance of the sturdy and wild landscape, hibernated. I am sorry for the times I was not available or present to the suffering and celebration of dear friends, former students, acquaintances, readers. Please forgive me, and my silent absence. This inner hibernation was necessary to heal and become hopeful, energized, and juiced with life once again. It is good to feast and feel quirky and alive, anew. In 2013, I anticipate mutual partnerships, service, and being available to contribute to healing and wholeness, passion and laughter in our world. Cheers!

Top 12 List

12.  “Carry many colored pens. Good ink flows smooth.”  #writer

11.  “Photo inspirations appear everywhere.”  #iPhone

10.  “Dog – An angel cloaked in fur, wielding a tail.”  #Kenai

9. 
“Wear ice cleats outdoors at 36F and below.”  #prudent #PreventFallOw

8. 
“Snow-blowing trumps vacuuming.” #chores

7. 
“Great book clubs issue EOs [Emergency Orders] to convene. No reading required.”  #SourDoes #friendship

6.
  “Our energy biofield is mysterious, practical and compelling.”  #HealingTouch #Reiki #Qigong #physics

5. 
“Ask a friend to accompany you to divorce court, for a biopsy appointment, or these such things.”  #Don’tDoItAlone

4.
  “Fish barefoot, in a suit, at dawn, dusk or dark, in a boat, on a bank, a shore, any time. When someone hands you a rod, take it.” #Alaska

3.
  “Fifty surprised me.”  #5October #TakeMySweetTime

2. 
“Romance happens at a fire.”  #sparks

1.
  “Flow like a river.”  #attitude

Bonus: “Wear your love like heaven.” #2013

I will share short posts in coming weeks to illuminate these 12, together with additional learnings from my time of hibernation. And, I’m curious, what would your list include?

May your 2013 be exceptionally brilliant and intentional. Please, be brave, believe.

Happy New Year.

Love, Pegge and Kenai (the dog)

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Stand Still. Appreciate a Tree.

Wilderness is a powerful teacher. In Alaska, the landscape is sturdy. Rugged. Every day a thousand trees remind me to stand still. Trees teach me tenacity. Trees teach me to grow roots, offer support, move without snapping, let go, and to hold onto myself. I live in a log home built of tree trunks. Burning branches provide wood stove heat, protecting me from bitter cold.

A Jewish friend told me that today is  Tu B’shvat–a holiday called New Year For Trees. I recalled a favorite poem, and want to share it with you. Lost reminds me to pause, be present and embodied in the here and now of time–where ever that may be. Perhaps it will speak to you, too.

Lost
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
— David Wagoner

Reflection
Please make time to appreciate your outer landscape. Look closely at a tree, go to a park,  take a walk. Then, stand still. Where are you? Really, where are you? Give thanks for life–however it lives in you today.

Please offer your thoughts and comments. What do you discover?

A Dog Teaches Me To Trust Love, Trust Myself


Around ten pm, a few days before Christmas,  I sat cross-legged gazing through the burnished glass of a wood stove. Heat rippled toward my face. Flicking flames evoked emotions and memories: a needlepoint Santa stocking for a boy who no longer lives, the ending of a marriage I held precious, decisions that tangle and untangle a life. My two–outdoor only–dogs snoozed nearby. A few weeks earlier I decided to bring them inside with me. It was the best present I’ve given them–and myself.

Kenai, the five year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever came over, prodding my forearm, seeking attention. I stretched out on the carpet; he laid full length next to me.  I stroked the groove between his eyes with my thumb. Tears prickled my nose and eyes, unbidden. Something melted in me. I want to learn to love this fiercely again. I want to share radical unconditional love. I blinked unexpected tears, continuing to pet his fur.  While wood crackled and popped, I realized how defended and sheltered my heart is. Kenai stayed still, simply present.

Dogs teach us. This was not the first time Kenai had been my companion. I think he is an angel in disguise.

He went missing in the wilds of Granite Canon, Wyoming, for nine months. Only a pup, his loss came three months after the death of my only child. That was nearly five years ago. Then a miracle occurred.

It was New Year’s Day, 2007.  I’d returned to northern Colorado from a visit to Alaska, and welcomed the new year,  standing on a snowy ridge top in Wyoming. I called to my lost pup–the only visible movement  in a vast horizon. Kenai bolted through snowdrifts  into my arms, with whimpers and cries. I buried my hands in his fur that day too–later realizing no human hands had touched him for nine months.  Our story “Lost and Found” was printed a Chicken Soup book.

I remember the miracle, and share my 2011 happy new year wish: May we learn to live with fierce tenderness and unmeasured mutuality.

This is an excerpt from Lost and Found followed by a link to the full story. May peace be with you, and me.

…A new year

January 1 dawned clear and sunny. We drove to Wyoming. Entering the ranch, we stopped to scan the landscape with binoculars. On a distant ridge we saw him. There was no doubt now. My stomach started to churn. Within a few minutes, we met Brenda. I could barely breathe. There was only room for one of us in her tractor cab. Jim stared at me and whispered, “Go.”

Maneuvering to the ridge top seemed longer than ten minutes. Cows followed as we lurched through icy snow drifts. The sun radiated brilliance against snow and rock. We stopped where Brenda had left food for Kenai. Heart pounding, I stepped from the cab.

Brenda backed the tractor away. I walked forward. Suddenly I saw a flash of brown on the other ridge. Clapping my hands, I called, “Kenai, Kenai, Kenaiii,” over and over and over. Could he hear me, would he remember?

Kenai stopped and sniffed the air. Instantly wiggling with recognition from nose to tail, he raced through snowdrifts toward me. Whimpers and cries erupted from both of us. I fell to my knees in the snow, arms wide open, calling him. I could see his puppy collar! A solid, furry hay-smelling body launched into my embrace. He was undersized, but unharmed. We jumped up, tumbled around each other, playing, touching, petting, tears pouring forth. I can’t believe he remembers! He’s safe!

When Jim was within one hundred yards of us, I knelt, presenting to him Kenai. Kenai looked to me, then rushed to Jim as I watched, sobbing with joy.

Oh yes, I hope. I believe.

– (c) Pegge Bernecker, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living Catholic Faith, 2008

Links
Read the full story: “Lost and Found.” See photos of Kenai and the Wyoming landscape where he lived.

What’s Your Natural Habitat?


I sit facing my computer screen, inches from a large window. My heart thunks. Outside a shadow moves. A moose peers at me. Vividly tall, she is furry, sturdy, six feet away, eyes glued in stillness. Her nose twitches. I catch my breath, meet her gaze. Seconds pass. Does she comprehend glass? Does it matter? When her shoulder muscles flick, she turns away, hooves crunching tracks through the snow crust. I remain, untangled. My breath is slow and deep.

How can we cultivate compassion when the world we inhabit may be hostile, stressful, aggressive, and painful? It is simple, but not easy, and requires our ongoing commitment. Compassion is not reliant upon ease of circumstance. Some of the most trustworthy, compassionate people I know have suffered profoundly. Paula D’Arcy writes, “How you approach something determines what you will see.” Roshi Joan Halifax tells us, “The world is so tangled, and I need to be somewhat untangled to meet it.” These are good insights. We cannot give what we do not have. What we cultivate is shared with others.

To cultivate compassion we must first show up and be available to place, time, and our embodied self. This prepares us to meet someone or something with integrity and presence. We each live a sacred story with particularities and peculiarities unique to our personality, life experiences, and our decisions of yes, no, and maybe.

Three moose wander in my yard—it is their natural habitat. The two twins were birthed when sun shone for twenty hours a day. Lush green ferns and foliage sheltered their tentative beginnings. Months later, I now sit in silence. Two feet of snow arrived, and neighbors help one another in time of need. I do not live in a wildlife preserve or zoo. Bear tracks across my driveway startle me from complacency. While outdoors, I am calmly alert, with a choice to engage the realness of time and place. I am interwoven in this landscape, a part of it. How will I forge connection and compassion in this climate?

Do you understand my question? Perhaps it needs translation: Where do you live—what is your natural habitat? Who do you encounter with your everyday activity? What causes you to stop in awe and wonder? Where do you rub up against fear and disconnect? These are essential questions in the marketplace or monastery, the inner city, suburbia, or wilderness. Thomas Merton said, “The deepest level of communication is not communication but communion. It is wordless.”

What can your natural habitat teach you? A spiritual director can accompany you when you share your stories of desire, surprise, fear, hope, and despair. Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp reminds us, “The teaching of compassion, the exercise of the soul, will open the heart. And then nothing will be impossible.”

How do you cultivate compassion through the concrete specifics of your life?

–Pegge Bernecker, editor

Excerpt from Listen: A Seeker’s Resource for Spiritual Direction, Vol. 5.1, “Cultivating Compassion” by Pegge Bernecker, (Spiritual Directors International (c) 2011). Used with the permission of Spiritual Directors International. To order copies or a FREE subscription to Listen: A Seeker’s Resource for Spiritual Direction call 1-425-455-1565 or go to www.sdiworld.org.

Be Still, Go Fishing

Today I went fishing, unexpectedly.

Hustling aboard a boat, no time to reload coffee & creme into an almost empty mug, my skin prickled a shiver, even beneath three layers and a wool cap. I hadn’t intended to fish, and was merely loading boats–helping out in a fishing derby. Instead, a seat and invitation opened; I jumped in.

After a hello to our fishing guide and two girlfriends,  I turned, lifting my gaze, upstream.

The river caught my pulse.

A  forgotten prayer pattern erupted within me–my old friend, psalm 46:10a:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

“Be still and know that I am.”

“Be still and know”

“Be still”

“Be”

Today, an unexpected fishing pulse catches me, still. Life is prayer. Simply, be.

I’m hooked.

ps: guess what’s for dinner?

What hooks your attention?
Please add your reply


Survival, Reunion. A new year story to remember.

Reflecting over the past decade, I remember the best New Year, ever. After the worst year, ever. Here's the remarkable story:

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December Solstice Blessing

...offering you an invitation to awaken to this present day and night, this new season unfolding.

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Where Are You From?

Where are you from? Who are the people, places and experiences that shape and form the amazing critter of you? My son, Justin, wrote these words two months before he died.

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We Remember. Lives In Review, 2009

November 4, 2009: Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna, Alaska, holds a remembrance memorial day. My contribution of spiritual care for the doctors, nurses, health care providers, staff, and families is to create “Lives In Review” — a one page snapshot of everyone who died at CHP or Heritage Place during the previous twelve months. I read the obituaries, then write a slim glimpse of remembrance. This was shared today. We remember.

Lives in Review …
Central Peninsula Hospital, Soldotna, Alaska

Through time, our lives become a web of relationship and experience, joy and sorrow, finding the significant in the ordinary, and delight in the extraordinary. Imagine this: more than eighty clipped obituaries have fallen from my lap, and now scatter at my feet. All mixed up, no longer in chronological order, some lay face down. All around me are black and white faces—a smiling, silver-haired woman with spectacles, a probing look from a rugged young man with a brown goatee, a decorated war hero, and a tanned woman whose eyes shine with brilliant kindness. Each portrays a snapshot in time. There is a bit of chaos around me as I begin to pick up tattered newspaper clippings. But soon it will pass.  I, like all survivors who remain living when someone dies, will move breath by breath into the task at hand, into the next moment in time.

Everyone who works and serves at Central Peninsula Hospital and Heritage Place knows this to be true. It is also the experience for twenty-eight spouses, hundreds of brothers, sisters, and parents, 197 children, and more than 650 named grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. It is true for coworkers, neighbors, aunts, uncles, and parents who knew one of the ninety-seven men and women who died this past year at CPH or Heritage Place. Although they no longer breathe beside us with a visible presence, they do live when we remember and recall their unique, particular lives.

Who are these remarkable people we remember? Forty-eight women, forty-seven men, and one child. Emily Hazel Kitchen is the elder, at age 99. The youngest, an infant. Only six were born in Alaska. Most everyone else arrived to join parents, siblings, children, or for “our final adventure together.” They come to The Great Land to serve in the military, travel as missionaries to Nome and the Kenai Peninsula, fly airplanes, build infrastructure, fish, hunt, homestead, raise families, and educate young people.

Family members share how men and women helped to start “the first ambulance service in Soldotna,” the “tourist center,” a “hot lunch program in Nome,” a “Christian based vocation school for youth in rural Alaska,” the “Peninsula Art Community,” “Gryphon Photography,” “Log Gift and Jewelry,” and the “Soldotna Senior Center.” With nicknames like Grandma Grape, Patman, Tootie, Banner, and Dr. Pipe, each person has a story.

Whether it is the feisty homesteader in Anchor Point, whose “rustic home in the middle of the woods often surprised visitors because it had curtains on all the windows and was filled with beautiful antiques” or the many men and women who run a boat on the Kenai or Kasilof River, commercial fish in Cook Inlet, hunt, play cards, quilt, pick berries, cook an “excellent apple crisp,” enjoy “morning coffee with the Sterling Bad Boys,” or “saw wood and build houses,” these are the kind of people who mirror the woman who, “loved fierce and was loved fierce in return.” They “receive perfect attendance” for many years of driving the school bus down Funny River Road, served on the “Alaska Commission on Status of Women,” the Soldotna city council, volunteer fire department, and as faculty at University of Alaska, Anchorage, and KPC.

A professional boxer, rodeo rider, ham radio operator, Rosie the Riveter, librarian, carpenter, stock car racer, dog trainer, or “weighing eighty-four pounds soaking wet” they are buried on the Kenai Peninsula, at Fort Richardson in Anchorage, and in the lower 48. Their ashes are planted in a home flower garden, and flow in the Kenai, Kasilof, and Anchor Rivers, in Kenai and Wif Lake, and Kachemak Bay.

Yes, it is true; together we crisscross through the web of time, breath by breath, task by task, day by day. We are grateful. And we remember.

kasilof-alaska-river-mouth-meets-cook-inlet

–Pegge Bernecker, Kasilof, Alaska, November 1, 2009

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Lives in Review … 2009 Central Peninsula Hospital, Soldotna, Alaska

Through time, our lives become a web of relationship and experience, joy and sorrow, finding the significant in the ordinary, and delight in the extraordinary. Imagine this: more than eighty clipped obituaries have fallen from my lap, and now scatter at my feet. All mixed up, no longer in chronological order, some lay face down. All around me are black and white faces—a smiling, silver haired woman with spectacles, a probing look from a rugged young man with a brown goatee, a decorated war hero, and a tanned woman whose eyes shine with brilliant kindness. Each portrays a snapshot in time. There is a bit of chaos around me as I begin to pick up tattered newspaper clippings. But soon it will pass.  I, like all survivors who remain living when someone dies, will move breath by breath into the task at hand, into the next moment in time.

Everyone who works and serves at Central Peninsula Hospital and Heritage Place knows this to be true. It is also the experience for twenty eight spouses, hundreds of brothers, sisters, and parents, 197 children, and more than 650 named grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. It is true for coworkers, neighbors, aunts, uncles, and parents who knew one of the ninety-seven men and women who died this past year at CPH or Heritage Place. Although they no longer breathe beside us with a visible presence, they do live when we remember and recall their unique, particular lives.

Who are these remarkable people we remember? Forty-eight women, forty-seven men, and one child. Emily Hazel Kitchen is the elder, at age 99. The youngest, an infant. Only six were born in Alaska. Most everyone else arrived to join parents, siblings, children, or for “our final adventure together.” They come to The Great Land to serve in the military, travel as missionaries to Nome and the Kenai Peninsula, fly airplanes, build infrastructure, fish, hunt, homestead, raise families, and educate young people.

Family members share how men and women helped to start “the first ambulance service in Soldotna,” the “tourist center,” a “hot lunch program in Nome,” a “Christian based vocation school for youth in rural Alaska,” the “Peninsula Art Community,” “Gryphon Photography,” “Log Gift and Jewelry,” and the “Soldotna Senior Center.” With nicknames like Grandma Grape, Patman, Tootie, Banner, and Dr. Pipe, each person has a story.

Whether it is the feisty homesteader in Anchor Point, whose “rustic home in the middle of the woods often surprised visitors because it had curtains on all the windows and was filled with beautiful antiques” or the many men and women who run a boat on the Kenai or Kasilof River, commercial fish in Cook Inlet, hunt, play cards, quilt, pick berries, cook an “excellent apple crisp,” enjoy “morning coffee with the Sterling Bad Boys,” or “saw wood and build houses,” these are the kind of people who mirror the woman who, “loved fierce and was loved fierce in return.” They “receive perfect attendance” for many years of driving the school bus down Funny River Road, served on the “Alaska Commission on Status of Women,” the Soldotna city council, volunteer fire department, and as faculty at University of Alaska, Anchorage, and KPC.

A professional boxer, rodeo rider, ham radio operator, Rosie the Riveter, librarian, carpenter, stock car racer, dog trainer, or “weighing eighty-four pounds soaking wet” they are buried on the Kenai Peninsula, at Fort Richardson in Anchorage, and in the lower 48. Their ashes are planted in a home flower garden, and flow in the Kenai, Kasilof, and Anchor Rivers, in Kenai and Wif Lake, and Kachemak Bay.

Yes, it is true; together we crisscross through the web of time, breath by breath, task by task, day by day. We are grateful. And we remember.

–Pegge Bernecker, Kasilof, Alaska, 2009

Cap and Hat Yak

Do you believe that hats and caps can evoke, provoke, protect, name, and claim us? ... Hats speak. Headgear tells our story, in subtle, often unspoken sentences and intuitions.

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