Refresh Your Soul

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What is respite? It’s an interval, a cessation, it’s breathing space. The Cambridge dictionary says it’s a pause or rest from something difficult or unpleasant. I’m not sure about that definition, it seems rather glib. It doesn’t capture the subtleties of ‘respite.’ We seek respite from our young children, who demand our attention 24/7. It’s healthy for us to do so, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that we are taking respite from something ‘difficult or unpleasant.’ We simply need a break from the same demands every day. It could be respite from anything we do every day, or several times a week. ‘Same old, same old,’ we say.

When we are in grief over the loss of a loved one, it’s very necessary to allow our grief its natural expression. But as one year becomes two, and then three years of living with grief, we need respite. For some it’s in finding another person to love. For others it’s finding love for oneself, as well as others. Respite is a very necessary tool for living happily.

My youngest son is learning the importance of respite. He owns a cafe and has been running it for 5 years without a real holiday. He’s now aware of his rising levels of anxiety, broken sleep, and the threat of burning out in his early thirties. He’s devised a plan of self-care, both short-term and long-term. I wish I’d had as much wisdom at his age. He finds ways of delegating and taking days off each week. He’s even found a mentor in an older, successful cafe-owner, who is happy to give valuable advice.

Some of us manage self-care naturally, even in times of grief. We might make a movie date with a friend, or make time for coffee and catch-ups, buy ourselves flowers, or a good book, or leave the desk and go for a walk, or a run. The trick is in making it a regular habit, and not something we do when it’s almost too late.

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When I was in my thirties, I took a desperate week’s break away from my family and home town after two years of enormous stress on a daily basis. It took me seven days to calm down enough to begin relaxing, but by then I had to fly back home and soldier on. It would have been better if I’d had someone to talk to about all my problems before my silent stress grew enormous. Months later, I was whisked off to hospital with glandular fever and borderline jaundice of the liver. It would have been helpful if I’d had enough self-esteem to know that I needed relaxation and creative time without feeling guilty about it. It would have helped if I’d not felt powerless and trapped by life. It would have helped if I’d had counselling.

Years later I learned that we can find respite from our troubles by reclaiming our power. It takes time and practise, but what else are we going to do with our lives? Keep doing the same things in the hope that it will work next time? I did that for years and discovered catalysts could bring about change, which is not ideal. Catalysts are generally very uncomfortable. Finally, through asking and seeking, I discovered that when I changed my thoughts and words for the better, my world changed for the better. I began meditating and then saying affirmations. If I’d been religious, I would have used prayer, but I wasn’t and I didn’t. However, I do believe there is much more going on in the universe than we understand, and I have found great relief in experiencing the non-physical energy that exists on this physical plane. They, or It, are there for us if we tune in and ask. Some of you might think that I’ve found God, and in a sense I have. The Source, or Infinite Intelligence that I trust, is like God or Allah but without religious rules. It helps tremendously to know we are not alone; to know we are loved, and that we only have to ask for help and we shall receive. We can find strength in reclaiming the power that is within us. The life-changer we seek is inside each one of us.

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There will always be light and dark, there will always be the opposite end of a situation, but we can find relief in remembering to look for the better feeling. Does it feel better to say ‘My glass is half-empty,’ or ‘My glass is half-full’? The first one carries the feeling that there is not enough. The second has the feeling of appreciation, even joy. Look at a situation and examine your words and thoughts about it. What feels better? We need time to contemplate what makes us feel better, and to change our words accordingly. I’m not advocating the use of false feelings. We wouldn’t pretend with a smile that our petrol tank has enough fuel in it when we know it’s empty. But we might say with a smile of appreciation that we have enough money to catch the bus that day.

We might say our home is too cramped and crowded, that it’s bleak and depressing. On the other hand, we might say we appreciate having  a place to call home and that it is the home that will launch us into a better one. Which thought feels better? When you go for the better-feeling words, visualise the kind of place you want to live in. Don’t get caught up in the how, or the where. It’s the feeling that is the important part, because as we feel, so we attract. Appreciation will attract more to us to appreciate. You will be surprised at what shows up in ways you might never have thought possible.

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The first step to positive feelings of appreciation is to find stillness in your day. Even if you have to get up 30 minutes earlier, or take time out of your lunch break, try to find a place to sit and just be. You might meditate, or pray, or say affirmations, or write a poem, feed the ducks on the river, listen to the wind in the trees. Getting out in nature and sitting or walking quietly is almost like a meditation in itself.

I recently visited the busy city of Melbourne and was walking in the rain just before 9:00am to the sound of tyres on wet roads, trams clanking, and people walking hastily to work under their black umbrellas. As I turned a corner from Collins Street onto Russell Street, I saw a sign outside a building attached to St Michael’s Church. It said ‘Mingary. The Quiet Place.’ Inside I found a small sanctuary. A booklet told me that ‘mingary’ is Gaelic for ‘quiet place.’ This remarkable haven in the middle of the city is for all people, of any religion or culture. Not only is it a quiet place to reflect, but they run a counselling service, which is open to anybody at a low cost. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all cities had such places? If you’re ever in Melbourne, you may wish to visit this very special place:

http://stmichaels.org.au/mingary/mingary-the-quiet-place/

I invite you to share some of your strategies for dealing with life’s challenges. What has been your most helpful turning point? Maybe you have several. What has been your soul food, your respite? One of mine was the Abraham-Hicks book Ask and It Is Given. The Abraham teachings have helped me profoundly through the years since then. Another has been the work of Lyza Saint Ambrosena, who is based here in Queensland:

http://www.saintambrosena.com.au

I look forward to reading your shared stories.

Wishing you quiet places.

Wendy

Wendy Dartnall is the author of A Wind from the East,

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available at:

http://www.wendydartnall.com

http://www.amazon.com

http://www.barnes&noble.com

and independent book stores.

I am in the wind and the water

I Am in the Wind and the Water

You will find me again, my love.

Come outside –

I am in the wind and the water.

You and I are the same,

Only you have forgotten.

You do not see me, you sense me;

I am what you are.

Only you are in the world of form;

I am in the wind and the water.

Remember who you are,

And you will know me.

Wendy Dartnall, A Wind from the East.

Five things to consider trying from A Wind from the East:                    a-wind-from-the-east-front-cover

  1. When we speak negatively about another, we are really speaking about ourselves. It may be conscious, or subconscious, but we are reflecting what is really inside us, not the other person. When we become aware of this, it’s wise to zip the lips and listen. Listen sincerely, with heart, not from an attempt to be superior, or patronising. I noticed that my late husband Terry would accuse me of doing things that annoyed him,  but they were actually things that he had always done. I learned to listen quietly to his complaints without rising to my own defence, as I always had in the past. Instead, I listened sincerely, letting him say everything he felt like saying, sometimes telling him I was sorry he felt that way, but generally only listening. On one occasion, he wound himself up so tightly, that he walked out on me. He had fought only with himself, but I don’t think he’d noticed. In the book I say: I found that listening closely to anyone who was pointing the finger negatively at another brought awareness of whom they were really speaking about. It was true for me in reverse of course. When I complained about a friend’s irritating habit, I began to catch myself, realising I had the same habit, though I might show it in a different way. It was a deeply humanising realisation, because along with the self-knowledge, it showed me how much the people I attract are my mirror in some aspect. A Wind from the East, p 202. I found this strategy helped me to keep my integrity and sincerity, without engaging in a fight. I invite you to try it with someone who criticises you regularly. Observe what happens. It may take a little practice before you stop going on the defensive and listen sincerely, but it’s a gentle way to break free of the cycle. Write to me and share what you experience.
  2. Affirmations work. Suspend disbelief and say affirmations that suit your needs. Say them daily until they become automatic. They will help to change your life for the better when you say them with sincerity and feeling. Affirmations help us to regain our power. All the great teachers give us affirmations: Louise Hay, Abraham-Hicks, Dr Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, and many others. Affirmations are not a new thing. In the early 1900s, Émile Coué, a French psychologist, used auto suggestion with his patients and gave them the phrase: Every day in every way I am getting better and better. My spiritual guide Anne Cheridan gave me an affirmation that I’ve used for over a decade: I love and approve of myself, I trust in the flow of life, I am safe, I am worthy of the bestWrite your favourite affirmations to share with us here.
  3. Writing to the dying and the dead can help during bereavement and grief. When my husband Terry was dying and too weak for conversation, I would write my thoughts and feelings to him in letters that he would never read, but that helped me in my grief. I continued the practise even after his death, because it helped me to express and work through my grief. It was more powerful than writing in a journal, because I was addressing the loved one directly. Please share with us here if you have used this transformative exercise.
  4. Changing our thoughts can change our lives. Abraham-Hicks tells us that a belief is just a thought you keep thinking. Try to go for the better feeling thought on a regular basis. Choose positive thoughts over negative ones several times a day, and you will find that you become more aware of your habits of thought. You will regain control over your thinking. We have the power to control our own experience. Think about what you do want, not what you don’t want. When you know what you do want, imagine the feeling of it. No matter what is happening in your now, try to get the feeling of what you want as if it has already happened. If you have an experience of this, please share to help others.
  5. Happiness is up to us. It’s a choice. We are bigger than our circumstances and we always have choice. I feel choice is linked to responsibility. From the memoir: I don’t know if it was in a moment or a lifetime that I came to the realisation that I was responsible for my own life… I remembered that we only have the moment we are in; the responsibility for what we do with it is ours. p.103. We are all a mix of the ‘glass half full’ or ‘glass half empty’ person, but when we become aware of our thoughts and behaviour in the moment, we can make conscious choices for a more positive life. Please share if you have experienced choosing uplifting thoughts and actions in adversity.

I love hearing from others who experience their own strength, courage, empathy and love. It uplifts us all.

Best love to you until next month.

Wendy

The only way I’ll get wings is to stand against this wall in my youngest son’s cafe. But that’s okay, I’m still flying high.

Wendy at Belaroma 2015

A Wind from the East is available from http://www.wendydartnall.com, http://www.amazon.com, http://www.barnesandnoble.com, http://www.bookdepository.com, and independent book stores.

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Choosing thoughts to create your life.

I baked a new recipe this week and took a photo of its shiny, sticky, inviting self. It’s from my favourite recipe blog http://www.alicebakesacake.blogspot.com.au. I shared it with friends. Today I look at the last two slices, thinking about the sweetness combined with sour; the subtle notes of cardamon and freshly made coffee. Pomegranate molasses gives a sharp lemon flavour, complimenting the dark sweetness of dates and soft brown sugar. Kind of like life. The sweet and the sour, with coffee our constant companion.

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Sweet and sour. Positive and negative. Yin and Yang. Love and loss. Happiness and grief. Life is spiced by the existence of eternally opposing forces. Abraham-Hicks calls it ‘contrast.’ Every human being experiences contrast; the light and dark of life. They are both temporary, and we do have choices. We can choose to think about what we want in life and hold to those thoughts, no matter the ‘reality’ of events as they appear to be. It’s what all the great teachers tell us.

Louise Hay says, ‘It is only a thought, and a thought can be changed.’

You might say in response, ‘Well, that’s no help. Look at my bank balance! How can I feel happy about no money when the rent’s due?’

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Byron Katy might then respond to your fears with ‘Is it true?’ You might reply ‘Yes!’ Or you might say ‘No. I get paid tomorrow.’ Whatever your fears, Byron’s process of examining thoughts, helps you to see the illusions that fear imposes on your life.

There are people who see that their bank balance is zero and the rent is due at the end of the week, but they remain optimistic that ‘something always turns up.’ And for them it does. Mostly. Not in the way you might think, but in ways you might never have been able to imagine. My stepfather was one of those people. He never had much money, but he always had enough. He was content and enjoyed life with cheerfulness. ‘Don’t worry, something always turns up,’ he’d say. Life works in mysterious ways if you just get into the feeling of what you want.

Have you ever had a bad day when everything seemed to go wrong? We all have them. But were you aware of your thoughts and emotions at the time? Were you feeling an undercurrent of anger, or disappointment, or anxiety? Were you attracting more of the same?

Louise Hay tells us, ‘The thoughts that you choose to think and believe right now are creating your future. These thoughts form your experiences tomorrow, next week, and next year. Make your thoughts good ones.’

Wayne Dyer says, ‘With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.’

In their book The Law of Attraction, Abraham-Hicks say ‘It is not necessary for you to monitor your thoughts. Simply be sensitive to the way you are feeling, and anytime you feel negative emotion, recognise that you are – in the moment of that feeling – miscreating. In the moment of that negative feeling, you are thinking a thought of something you do not want, thereby attracting the essence of it into your experience. Creation is the process of attraction; when you think a thought, you attract the subject of your thought.’

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I had a defining moment of choosing my thoughts when my husband Terry was dying of pancreatic cancer. I talk of it in my memoir A Wind from the East because of the intensity of my emotions at the time. I realised I could swing up or down, but the choice was squarely mine. In a letter to Terry, I wrote:

‘Months before you died, I surprised myself with a conscious choice about emotions. You were lying in hospital, and I knew I could never tell you about it. I had arrived home alone to our new house at night for the first time. No Adam, or Abbie, or Poppy. Outside on the terrace, I worked a key into a lock, feeling apprehension, but not of intruders – or loneliness. I slid back the glass door to black spaciousness and silence.

This is how it will be when Terry’s gone. How will I live here alone?

A dull weight similar to depression swamped me on the threshold as I listened to the unfamiliar stillness of our new house and breathed its different smells. An image of you dying flashed in my mind, and my emotions could have plummeted further, but it was a moment of choice, and I did not want darkness.

In the heartbeat before stepping through the door, I chose to sing the house to me. A disembodied high note reverberated through the space as I stepped inside. I gave no thought to what I was singing. My voice flowed with an instinctual note, followed by others, bathing the house with melody. It was not like anything I had heard before, but it flew straight from the heart, making me lighter and safer. I had claimed my home, and it had accepted me.’ Chapter 18, A Wind from the East.

There is a lot of beauty and fun in life. You can choose to see it, or not. We might have to break old habits of thinking, but anything is possible.

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A Wind from the East is available at http://www.wendydartnall.com,

http://www.amazon.com,

http://www.barnesandnoble.com,

http://www.bookdepository.com,

 http://www.readings.com.au, and independent book stores.

There Is No Death.

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Walking Away

You were always walking away,

Deep in your mind,

Taking the next bend before I did,

Sometimes we walked side by side,

Talking, laughing,

Later sleeping

Wrapped in one body,

Breathing one life,

Husband and wife in every cell of our being.

You have gone out of sight forever,

Never will I find you waiting

On a forest path,

At a Y-junction under a green canopy,

Or at the top of a mountain,

Smiling from the summit,

I walk alone, feeling your presence

In the wind and the water;

My soul aches to see you

Walking towards me,

Smiling in the light

Of our love.

I wrote ‘Walking Away’ when I was grieving the death of my husband. It shares space with several poems of mine, and others written by my husband Terry Dartnall, in my memoir A Wind from the East.

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I had never experienced such profound, deep grief before. It showed me much about life and death. I had long felt that we continue to exist after the death of the physical body, but I had little idea how. My husband used to question this instinct of mine. “How can we exist without a body? How can we see without eyes?” I felt we could, although I found it difficult to imagine how exactly.

I feel we remain as energy after the physical body has died, and that the ‘energy’ is conscious. I feel that our conscious energy, or ‘soul,’ or ‘spirit,’ doesn’t need eyes, ears, or a voice for language, because our consciousness doesn’t die. Rather, it continues and expands in knowledge, experience and understanding. At the same time, I’m sure that’s not the last word on it! We’ll never stop learning because that’s the nature of life, of existence. There is a continuum and we’re all on it. Life never stops, whether we’re on this side of it, or the other.

I have a friend who can see dead people. Debra* has been able to do so since her childhood, when suddenly seeing dead people turn up in the bathroom would scare her! But she learned how to handle it and she now helps others with spiritual readings. Debra never met my husband Terry when he was alive, but she has often seen him since his death, and he sends me messages through her. Here is an example from my memoir:

I was leaning on the fridge, sobbing, the physical loss of him almost bringing me to my knees. It was pure release, and I allowed grief its own song until I was quiet again.

It is the feeling of absolute loss that undoes us. Weeks later, my bouts of crying were less frequent. I came to understand that a broken heart fills with tears, which flow to capillaries and seep into cells, relieving the eyes of too great a burden. It is the body that holds the immensity of grief.

My body was integrating the deep, sustained emotions of the past year. I began meditating again, twenty to thirty minutes of no thought. Well, that was the idea. Thoughts continued to come and go, but the practice had a calming effect. I even experienced blank moments of no thought without falling asleep.

I longed for Terry, and yet I wasn’t dreaming about him, which surprised me. When I felt his presence in waking hours, I would instantly expect something more palpable, but trying harder to sense him made the feeling of him slip away. My grief seemed to block him.

Although I could not see him, I had a friend who could. Debra would visit and say that Terry had met her in the driveway. Once, when she and I were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen counter, she broke off from our conversation to say, ‘I’m sorry, Wens, I just have to tell you that Terry’s sitting right there.’ She pointed to an empty space on her right.

‘What? He’s sitting his butt on the breakfast bar?’ I said. ‘That’s so typical of him–it’s exactly what he would have done.’

Debra could not have known Terry’s habits–she had never met him. She gave me a reading, which is what she does professionally. It was not long after the funeral, and Terry had a message for me: ‘The Truth is a wonderful thing.’

He also said through Debra that something ‘very interesting’ was going to happen in world finances during the following year. It did. The global financial crisis caused stock markets to crash around the world in 2008. The old Terry would have had a coronary with the stress of that tumultuous time. 

A Wind from the East, page 168.

*Debra Paoletto is based in Queensland, Australia. She can be contacted for spirit guide readings on Skype by first emailing her: dcharlie10@gmail.com 

alone-in-landscape-micah-h… a broken heart fills with tears, which flow to capillaries and seep into cells, relieving the eyes of too great a burden. It is the body that holds the immensity of grief.

In time I also came to understand that my heart was not broken. It had been broken open. There is a world of difference in that.

When Terry died, I began having experiences that showed me he was still around. He felt like a huge and joyous being, and for a while I wrote down our conversations when they sounded in my head. But as time went on, I integrated him more into myself. Now I understand that he is part of me, he is himself, and he is One with All That Is. As the years pass, I see more clearly how everything happens in perfect timing.

a-wind-from-the-east-front-coverA Wind from the East
is available at http://www.wendydartnall.com, http://www.amazon.com, http://www.barnesandnoble.com, http://www.bookdepository.com, http://www.readings.com.au, and independent book stores.

Fearless Writing

Ten years ago I began facilitating a writing group for the blind community in Brisbane. All members are vision impaired, or ‘legally blind.’ All except me and three volunteer scribes, who write for people who dictate their stories, and then read them afterwards to the group. The members named their group ‘Writing With A Vision.’

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We meet once a month and write from prompts. No one is bothered much by writers block. From the very first time I met them, they took to writing like those ‘ducks to water.’ Indeed, it was a process as natural as ducks to water because we human beings have language and we speak our stories all our lives.

At our first meeting a decade ago, I felt like a novice, knowing nothing about blind people. I’d read that some were high functioning in society, whereas others had been marginalised by their disability. I knew that each person at the meeting would have their own practical method of writing. Some would need a scribe, some could still write by hand but were unable to read, others used laptops, or Braille machines. I was there to help them discover their writing voices.

I told them they did not need to fear the mighty pedestal of the ‘writer’ with expectations of perfection. Each one of us has an inner critic that tries to stop us from being creative. It’s the voice that tells us we’re not good enough, that what we’ve created is stupid. ‘Who do you think you are, competing with all the greats out there?’

I asked them to acknowledge their inner critic because it would be useful much later on when they needed to edit a finished piece. What we were about to do in the workshop was to create. It was no place for negativity. We silently asked our inner critic to take a back seat and zip the lip!

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The results were beyond my expectations. The group had fun and some even expressed surprise at what they had written about. The prompt I had given them to trigger their writing was a basket of everyday objects. Each person felt inside the basket and chose one thing, and then they wrote from first thoughts, memories, imagination. I asked them to trust their first thoughts and flow with them. “Don’t stop because you think it’s stupid. Write everything down.” I said.  “You can always say ‘Pass’ if you don’t want it read to the group afterwards.”

Everyone wrote and 14 out of 15 people agreed to let me read their story afterwards. A retired scientist said dryly that she never thought she’d write about a plastic funnel, but it had reminded her of an incident. A man said he never thought he would have written about a woman’s necklace, but it had reminded him of his mother and off he went.

It was a joyful and stimulating exercise, and everyone’s comments on each story afterwards were ONLY positive. This was writing straight from the heart, it was new-born. I explained to them that we don’t beat-up on a new-born piece of writing any more than we do on a new-born baby . Instead, we comment on what we like, what is memorable in the writing, what stays with us. Then the writer goes away feeling inspired to write more, knowing what worked, what people liked. Considered criticism comes later, when a piece of writing is presented to the group for critique after several drafts.

This is a method of writing created by Pat Schneider, Founder/Director emerita of Amherst Writers & Artists, http://www.amherstwriters.com, which offers trainings in her method. Her wonderful book Writing Alone & With Others, and companion DVD, explains the method and gives numerous writing exercises. (The basket of everyday objects is one of them). It is an inspirational book for writers, as the title suggests. I belonged to an AWA writing group when I was in Northampton, Massachusetts for 6 months. Years later, when I was invited to meet the blind writers in Brisbane, I felt it would be perfect for them. It is a method suited to both beginner and experienced writers.

Like Pat Schneider, I believe writing belongs to everyone.

Wendy’s writing prompt for January 2017: Write a letter to God. Call him Charlie.

Wendy Dartnall’s memoir A Wind from the East is available from http://www.wendydartnall.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.bookdepository.com, and independent book stores.book-and-author-bnw

Your first Christmas alone

After the death of a partner, that first Christmas without them comes around with a dark inevitability. Christmas is one of the most emotionally evocative times of the year. It holds memories of Christmas past with loved ones, but their absence can make the 25th December seem like a dreadful day of loss.

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My heart goes out to those who are lost in grief on any day of the year, but at Christmas we feel it more acutely because it’s a time when families gather together. If you’re without your partner this Christmas, I hope you have supportive people around you.

I experienced tears and laughter on my first Christmas without my beloved husband Terry. My three adult children had come home to spend the holiday with me. I awoke very early on Christmas morning feeling deep sorrow and decided to get up and make a cup of tea, but my bedroom door handle was heavy when I turned it. I slowly opened the door and found that in the night my daughter Abbie had hung a beautiful velvet Christmas stocking on the handle. It was bulging with presents. I returned to bed and opened them like a child, while the rest of the household slept. Tears streamed down my face as I smiled with joy at the small, thoughtful gifts she had individually wrapped for me. It was a very touching start to the day. Later, we all shared in the cooking and traditional festivities of the day. We had always played games on Christmas afternoon and that year we played ‘Pictionary,’ laughing so loudly it was as if Terry were still with us. Mind you, if he had been, we wouldn’t have been playing ‘Pictionary’ because he hated it!

Each Christmas after that became a little less sorrowful, but I always planned ahead to be with my children wherever it was most convenient for them. We still love being together for Christmas Day.

There’s a well-known poem that I love by Mary Oliver called ‘Wild Geese.’ Mary Oliver has a way of loving the natural world and expressing human emotions through it in her poetry. It has a unifying force for us all. Here it is:

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May the New Year of 2017 bring you peace and joy.

Wendy Dartnall’s memoir of love and loss, A Wind from the East, can be found at http://www.wendydartnall.com.

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It is also available from Balboa Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Readings, and independent book stores.

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