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Christmas Turkey

December 25, 2010

My mom, sister and I are standing around the island in my mom’s Quebec kitchen, slicing, chopping – getting the various components of the Christmas dinner ready. We’ll have turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash (from my sister’s garden), mashed potatoes and gravy, salad greens, minced meat pie and the never-ending Christmas cookies. Bruce Cockburn is in the background serenading us very “Canadian-like” with holiday spirituals.

Cooking the turkey reminds me of a story my mom tells once in a while, and as a matter of fact, told to us again last night. It’s about turkeys. The turkeys raised by her grandfather – my great grandfather.

He started raising them when she was a young girl. The first year he took them to a booth he rented in the farmer’s market in Pembroke (Ontario). This was after he and my mom plucked and dressed them for sale. In the market with hordes of people shopping for their holiday menus my great grandfather bellowed out to the crowd, “TURKEYS!!! GET YOUR MILK-FED TURKEYS HERE!!!!!”

My mom was mortified and tried to hide under her hat from the embarrassment. To her relief every last turkey was sold and they did not have to go back to the market the following Saturday.

The next year, they went back with another truckload of turkeys, ready to stuff and roast for any family that cared to make the purchase. They did not make it beyond the parking lot with the fresh birds. They were swarmed by the crowd of shoppers and sold out. The fact is my great grandfather was not stretching the truth in his marketing campaign when he mentioned “milk-fed.” He also had a herd of dairy cattle and his flock of feathered gobblers benefitted from the fresh buttery cream, making their meat sweet, juicy and tender.

The year after, the shoppers simply called in on the party line and placed orders. My mom never had to go back to the market again. My great grandfather was still raising the birds when I was a little girl. I have clear memories of watching them bobble around happily under the heat lamp as chicks with no more than a pinfeather or two poking out from their pebbly, naked skin.

And so now, our 2010 Christmas turkey has turned to shades of golden I know you can appreciate. Must go help with the carving and the gravy…. Merry Christmas to you all!

Christmas Eve in Old Chelsea

December 24, 2010

It’s not as cold here as it’s been at other years during the holidays. I ventured out to the barn today with my mom to fill our arms with seasoned, split wood to fill the wood box. As usual I’m making sure the woodstoves are fired up against the possibility of winter daring to creep under the door. I’m watching the woodpecker on the back birdfeeder, enjoying his privacy while the goldfinches pillage the feeders out front of the house. They add splotches of laser yellow to the dark green of the immense cedar tree that gives them safety. 

A wonderful family friend I have known since I was born is here visiting. We soak in the essence of one another, like a sommelier breathing deeply of a fine Bordeaux. Her partner and husband of many years is with her, his large smile pervading the atmosphere. He was diagnosed with cancer almost a year ago and was not expected to be with us for this Christmas season but here he is, the cancer receding, the tumor shrinking. He is one of the most joyful people I know, always joking, teasing and laughing. We fill our time together will side-splitting stories, creating happy memories to nurture us in the days to come. 

My sister and niece arrive, adding to the goodness of the day. We all sit down to a Christmas Eve dinner together. My mom’s spiced squash soup, generously accessorized with dollops of sour cream and toasted sunflower seeds. This is followed by crisp salad greens and freshly baked Tortière (French Canadian meat pie) from the farmer’s wives at the market. Sparkling pear and apple juice. We finish off with the Christmas shortbread and hot tea.  

Now we are “ooooh-ing” and “aaaaaah-ing” over a box of photographs my mom has pulled from the cupboard. Black and white images of my great grandparents and grandparents. Add color to the snapshots of my sister and me in our twenties. The epitome of cuteness in the faces of my niece and nephew as toddlers.  This is Christmas Eve in Old Chelsea.

In Old Chelsea

December 23, 2010

Arrived in Ottawa just before midnight by air, there was quite a bit of cloud cover, so at around 1,500 ft. I saw the ground for the first time. “OMG”, I said, “there’s snow down there.” Living in Arizona, I have not seen that for a couple years! My mom has a friendly old Quebec farmhouse in the Gatineau Hills she has invested many years into restoring. An airtight woodstove in the living room and a smaller one in the kitchen keep the house cozy and relieve the oil furnace from kicking in.

When we get to the house, the 20 ft. spruce tree in the front yard is lit up with Christmas lights, casting colorful patterns on the snow. There are really only a few inches of accumulation on the ground, but it’s enough to give away the trails around the house where the deer have been checking for sunflower seeds in the bird feeders.

Every time I arrive at her house, she has a pot of her homemade soup on the kitchen woodstove, which she serves with hunks of buttered rye bread from the local Jewish bakery. Sometimes its turkey noodle with whole peppercorns, smoked pork and vegetables or maybe creamy Jerusalem artichoke (from her garden). Always something yummy. This time it’s lentil. I opt for her Christmas Mexican empanadas instead of bread. She only makes these at this time of the year.

My mom has her room set up with wall-to-wall beds in preparation for the kids and grandkids en route for the holidays. “The dorm” as she calls it is ready for us. She has the TV on, muted with some British sitcom, but we never do click the “unmute” button. We talk until we fall asleep

Getting Over People Dependency

December 22, 2010

Have you ever experienced being with people or a person and feeling disappointed that you were not with someone else? Most of us go through this at one time or another. Remember the first time you fell in love? All you could think of was the object of your affection, right? He or she consumed your every waking thought and it made you almost sick to your stomach to be apart from them for 5 minutes. It made no difference what friends or family surrounded you, none of them could compare to the one person that gave you such intense happiness. It was sheer misery without them and you thought you might just have to lie down and die if your separation was extended beyond the 5 minutes.

Sounds dramatic doesn’t it? This is the nature of raging human hormones! It’s part of the trick that nature plays on us, the “chemical attraction” that leads to procreation and the assurance of the survival of our species. We don’t however have chemical dependencies only on potential mates. We get hooked on all sorts of people for different reasons.

One of the toughest things I learned to do is live a couple thousand miles away from my immediate family, especially my mother, sister, niece and nephew. When I lived in the same part if the world with them, they were a major focus of my life. When I made the decision to move away to pursue studies in personal and professional development it hurt not to be near them. I had become dependent on them for being a large part of what made me feel happy. Over the years I went through a process of transferring this dependency onto other people.

It all had a strange effect on my life. It backfired. There was always someone I missed, so I could never feel content. Over the years observing my Elder, Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha, I could not comprehend how she could be so joyful no matter where she was or who was with her. She never appeared to be sad to be away from her cherished family; she obviously enjoyed the company of the people she was experiencing in the moment.

I recall once when a young man expressed that his current mood was due to discomfort over a personal challenge he was having with his wife, who was at the time in another country. Grandmother looked at him with surprise and asked him how a person that was not even in the same country, let alone in the room with him could affect his attitude. The man and his wife were in totally different “universes” yet he was willing to give up the friendship being offered by the people that were in his current universe for the thought of a person that was not even there.

I can talk about this now because I know my happiness does not depend on anything or anyone other than myself. As long as I “externalize” it, I will never be content. I have to be like the turtle that carries its home on its back – be at home in any circumstance. As long as I look to another person as my source, I set myself up for disappointment. It’s that simple and there is no gray area that offers a comfort zone. I can’t even say I depend on God for my happiness, because this is a statement of externalization or separation.

My personal happiness depends on doing the things that give me a deep sense of satisfaction, those activities which are fulfilling to my purpose for existing in this world. In this state of being, I have far more to offer to a friendship or family relationship than I could in a state of neediness. When we can be strong as individuals the results we produce together are so much more magnificent.

Robbi Ann Gunter / Agi’sti Tis’stu

“Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

One Heartsong Part 2

December 21, 2010

One Heartsong Part 1 is here!

“Once we stand heart to heart, I live in you and you live in me, this is the gift of remembering.” ~ Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha

One Heartsong Part 2

Fox Feathers and his friends became so enthused with the message of the songs that a wondrous thing occurred.  The band began to sing in harmony.  The voices of Winter’s Promise and The White Heron of Peace were loving and gentle.  Sacred Healing Lake and The Shining Face of the Sun Reflected on the Water gave song that was steadfast and true.  Joyful Wee Person and Black Panther Kachina Woman sang with the heavenly sweetness of an angel’s kiss.  Rose Rabbit, Beautiful Butterfly Woman and Painted Rainbow Brook sang with voices of joy.  Cougar and Noble Young Warrior sang with richness and nobility.  Fox Feathers had become a very fine songster indeed, and his voice rang out with playfulness and strength.

Before long, many others came to sing in unison with Fox Feathers and his companions.  They were all shapes and all sizes from every variety of homes in the world.  They had one special thing in common – the desire to sing in harmony with open hearts.  They became known as the Children of Happiness who sang the One Heartsong.   Their song grew to be the strongest voice in the land until peace, harmony and caring was in the hearts of everyone.  The dream of Fox Feathers had come true, and with it, the hopes and dreams of all the children.

Robbi Ann Gunter /Agi’sti Tis’stu

“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it. ~ Oprah Winfrey

One Heartsong Part 1

December 20, 2010

“Yes life can get muddy, but remember the Lotus grows in the darkness of places, and out of the muddiest of waters, purity knows no obstacle.” ~ Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha 


One Heartsong Part 1

There once was a young man by the name of Fox Feathers who dreamed of being a fine songster.  Alas, the  melodious voice he fancied fell short of its envisioned perfection.  Simply stated, when he sang, the fox-man sounded like rusty hinges on an old barn door.  Being the cheery sort that he was, Fox Feathers merrily continued to practise at his musical whim, content that someday something would come of his dream.

Now, it so happened that Fox Feathers was in the habit of mixing with a certain crowd of individuals that could not bear the thought of an accomplishment being made without their participation.  God forbid they should be on the outside of any good deed.  And so, before long this company of eccentric pals was soon meeting regularly, in the pursuit of choral enlightenment.

At first the band demonstrated every plunder against harmony imaginable.  Some sang so loudly they drowned out the voices of the others.  Others sang out in places meant to be silent.  One dragged a melody to its death and then refused to sing at all.  Some were too timid to compete with the loudmouths.  Another beat his drum faster and faster thinking only of the fried noodles and shrimp he would eat afterward. 

Soon, the choir grew tired of its musical squabbling and began to listen to the words of the songs.  These were songs about sharing and companionship.  They spoke of peace, harmony and cooperation.  Entire verses were dedicated to the idea of caring for and respecting all of the families of the Earth Mother, and for the Mother herself.

To be continued…

Robbi Ann Gunter / Agi’sti Tis’stu

“You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible.” ~ Deepak Chopra

Experience of Geometry

December 19, 2010

“Be in Nature, stay in harmony with Nature, it is you…Learn of Nature, then understand yourself!” ~ Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha

Here is another short excerpt from the book I am writing…

“Indeed,” agreed Grandmother.  “The mystery of All That Is cannot be explained.  We can only catch glimpses of its true nature by the patterns it shows to us in life.” 

The little rabbit became very still once more as an expression of puzzlement crept across her face.  The Wind Spirits had been alerted to the continuation of Grandmother’s story and discreetly tiptoed in as lightly as angel-cake.  Even Grandmother Sun paused in her descent toward the horizon to listen to the forthcoming chapter. 

“Grandmother?” queried Rose Rabbit, “Does the All That Is show itself to us in all things that are round?” 

“Yes it does,” answered the wise rabbit, whose fur had begun to reflect the golden threads being woven into the western sky.  “Yet it more precisely reveals the true nature of itself not in the geometry that is seen, but in the geometry that is experienced.”

Robbi Ann Gunter / Agi’sti Tis’stu

“The creatures that inhabit this earth-be they human beings or animals-are here to contribute, each in its own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world.” ~ Dalai Lama