Category: Journal

Green Light

Green Light

~Your submission has been accepted.

Words that delight any writer waiting to hear back on publication of a story.

~Your application has been accepted.

Words that delight this writer waiting on a grant application. Woo hoo!

The purpose of my grant is for a Writing Mentorship with Susan Scott, who has been my editor for a couple years now. She polishes my stories and has been instrumental in helping me get published in Queen’s Quarterly, Nurture Literary, and Prairie Fire (forthcoming). During the 5‑month grant period, we will be working on five separate stories.

Woo hoo!

The grant will also fund a writing course at Sage Hill Writing School. I’m so looking forward to ten days of writing, writing, writing—my instructor is Lorri Neilsen Glenn—meeting fellow writers and hanging out in the literary community.

For these opportunities, I acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Donna Costa |

Thank you. Merci.

Green Light Photo by Carlos Alberto Gómez Iñiguez 

One Woman’s Treasure

One Woman’s Treasure

Sometimes I lose my sh*t. Like when people throw crap in the river.

In the woods beside the river, there is a hangout for locals, with logs in a circle, rickety webbed lawn chairs, and once-ergonomic office chairs. I understand the need to claim a place as your own, a place to meet with friends. (I even wrote about a hangout in my book, Breathing With Trees.) But what enjoyment comes from throwing trash on the ground? Or in the river? My river! My sacred place.

As I stood at the water’s edge, I fumed. It was hard to ignore the rusty metal bars of the patio swing chair discarded in the river. I sang my morning song of gratitude to Mother Earth and apologized for the sin against her. Giving thanks lowered my anger a few notches. Down to mere annoyance. Still, it was challenging to complete my meditation, with that thing triggering my emotions.

The 3Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle. Perhaps the chair in the water was being repurposed, as a trigger for me to explore my emotions?

The next day, as I approached my sacred spot at dawn, a great blue heron lifted off its perch—the discarded metal frame—and took to the sky. A magnificent 5-foot wingspan overhead before it settled on a nearby dead tree.

What a blessing! A heron had come to share my sacred space. I’d seen herons in the river before, but they always waded further up the stream. It had come to my spot because of that piece of metal junk. It cared not that the trash was polluting the stream. It simply made use of what was available to roost, to rest, perhaps to search out fish. It flew in and flew out. There was no anger, no annoyance.

As I pondered this, I remembered the words of Dali Lama regarding another emotion, “If you can solve a problem, what need is there to worry? If you cannot solve it, what use is there to worry?”

Perhaps anger is the same? If there is an action needing done, do it. If there is no action you can take, what is the use of anger?

Right now, the river flows high and fast. But when it is safe to do so, I will don the hip waders that my husband kindly bought for me to use in our home pond, and I shall pull the trash from the river. It does not belong there.

But the memory of the heron will linger on, the treasure from the trash.

Return to the Breath

Return to the Breath

My teacher says that a good meditation is one that you did. She also says we get the meditation we need, not always the one we want. I am participating in an 8‑week training based on Buddha’s Brahma-Viharas, also known as the Four Virtues. These are: Loving Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, and Equanimity/Peace. (The breath work is sometimes called affectionate breathing or mindful self compassion.)

I begin by noticing my breathing, letting my body breathe me. In and out, my chest rises and falls. When my mind wanders, I return my focus to the breath. Then I release the breath-focus and whisper four phrases in my mind.

May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful.

Whom am I asking? Some omniscient god who bestows wishes? Is it my god or your god? Is it all one? I don’t want to share my god right now. Just let me have these minutes with god to myself. Leave us alone please. I bring my attention back to my breath, then repeat the phrases.

May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful.

Perhaps it is not god I am asking, but myself. In what ways do I deny myself? Block myself? Not allow myself to receive?

May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful.

The phrases remind me of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but with safety as the foundation, necessary before all else. Is happiness essential before being healthy or peaceful? Is it even a hierarchy? Or are they all equal, interconnected, like Olympic rings?

Return to the breath.

May I be safe.

I breathe in and out. The energy of Safe resonates through my beingness. I hear: I am that. I cognize the truth—that I am safe, and Safe is embodied in me. I marvel at the oddity of feeling so completely safe in these times.

May I be happy.

There is an expectation to feel the emotion in my beingness, just as I had previously with Safe. Instead, there is silence. Darkness. The breath breathes me as I resist both the silence and darkness. Impatient, I move on.

May I be healthy.

Once again, I feel the truth of it, feel Healthy resonate, a part of every cell of my being. I am that. Again, how strange, yet marvelous, that I feel healthy in these times.

May I be peaceful.

I feel the energy of Peace. It is different than that of Safe and Healthy. Peace is thing, overlapping my right side, slightly off to the side. It is attached to my beingness, but not centered with me. Or perhaps  I am not centered in peace. Did peace move away or did I? Pulling Peace to me, centering it with me, it covers me like a hollow shell. It does not fill my beingness, but waits for me to welcome it in more fully. Instead, I return to the breath.

May I be happy.

Silence. Darkness. Am I unhappy? Am I blocking happiness? What’s wrong with me? My breath quickens. I grab Peace which I have let wander off. I pull it over me like a shroud. Try modified versions of the phrase, my teacher had suggested.

May I be happy just as I am. May I be happy with things as they are.

Silence. Darkness. What if I find my own phrase, my own words?

May I be joyful.

The earth opens. A geyser of joy shoots up my body, erupting out my crown chakra in crystal droplets of happiness.

May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful.

I return to the breath.

Angel On High

Angel On High

Christmas decorations gather dust on the mantelpiece. Merry reindeer, whose antlers upturn in jubilant salute to the heavens, now slump their calico-clad bodies toward the hearth. A leg-lamp memento from The Christmas Story is switched off, no longer glowing like sex in the window. For the first time, the angel we have seen on high has not fallen from her precarious perch on the nativity’s stable roof. The letters on her angelic banner proclaim Gloria to the deafening silence.      

In years past, when my children were small and decorations didn’t get boxed immediately after the New Year, I would mumble, “La Befana”—the Italian Christmas witch. She arrives on Epiphany Eve to deliver candy (or coal) in children’s shoes. Never a major celebration in my husband’s Italian family, I was happy to toss a few candies my kids’ way in order to use the excuse.

This year, Epiphany has passed, uncelebrated. I flop on the couch and glance at the mantle. It had been an effort to put up those sparse decorations. Why bother? What’s the point? I asked my husband, my lack of enthusiasm in direct proportion to the limited contact with my grandchildren, to the lack of children’s laughter. The Christmas‑with-no-tree was blessedly over.

“I should take those down,” I mutter. Words are the only effort I can muster. The decorations, I know, will still be there tomorrow.

Ennui blankets my soul like the drifts of snow that wrap around my house. I don’t resist the weariness. A minimum of tasks gets completed. Walk the dog. Shovel the driveway. Eat. Library books, unread, are renewed automatically online, only to sit unread again. Day drags into night drags into day. The metallic sound of the mailbox interrupts the tedium. I debate the likelihood of incoming mail versus the lid merely flapping in the wind. I don’t get up.

Across the room, an amaryllis bulb emerges from the dark peat. I mark its growth on paper like the pencil marks that once marked the door frame to track children’s height. Kindergarten, grade one. On and on until I had to reach above my head to score the line.

The plant’s green stem grows half an inch overnight, then one inch, two, each day shooting skyward at an increasing pace. At twenty inches, the upward growth slows, energy now redirects to the bulbous tip which swells in gestation. At the apex, the slit of an opening as the swollen labia-sepals begin their separation, parting unhurriedly to birth the blood-red blossom.

Some day soon, I will emerge from this darkness. Not yet. For now, I wait in expectation, listening, trusting, in the angelic Gloria.

Originally posted Jan, 2022.

Songs & Poems For Year’s End

Songs & Poems For Year’s End


Give me that single word and I hear the raw emotion of Patsy Cline singing, “Why do I let myself worry?”

Indeed, why do we worry? Now I’m not asking what you worry about—it’s easy enough to have a list of reasons—but what is the purpose of worrying?

The Dalai Lama tells us, “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it is not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”       

In the early years of my marriage, finances were meager. Two small children to feed, a paycheque that, according to Stats Canada, was at the poverty level. Living paycheque to paycheque, sometimes no paycheque at all. In time, things improved. Eventually, we sold the house we’d lived in for twenty years. Among the items to be discarded were stacks of past bills and copies of cheque receipts from those worrying times. The emotion attached to the papers was still palpable.

As I shredded the documents, I felt the pointlessness of it all. What had worry accomplished? Nothing beneficial, that’s for sure. Worrying affects sleep, appetite, relationships, performance, and health. But worrying didn’t fast-track payment of the bills or buying of groceries. When we couldn’t do either, worrying didn’t change the facts. (Thankfully, there was always a pot of spaghetti and meatballs simmering at the in-law’s house when our money didn’t quite stretch to the end of the month.)

So, why did I let myself worry? The lyric implies that worry is a choice. To do or not to do. Sometimes doing worry is a habit. It’s what we’ve always done. There’s comfort in the familiar—even if the familiar is painful and self-destructing—rather than choosing something else, something untried.

But what can we choose instead?

For one, we can choose to take action. As suggested by the Dalai Lama, doing so can shift your mind from focusing on the problem to focusing on solutions. 

Another worry antidote is gratitude. Author Alison Wearing proposes a “ridiculously simple thing to do”—give gratitude—to lift your day. Say/sing good morning the moment you awake. Thank your bed, your pillow, the blankets. “Thank […] every damn thing about you.” (Fellow writers, check out Alison’s memoir writing program!)

One of my favourite gratitude greetings is this poem by Robert Louis Stevenson often used as a wedding prayer or table blessing.

Another form of giving gratitude is the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address. There are various translations, long and short versions. These words that come before all else put your worry into perspective by recognizing the many gifts already bestowed on us.

Kryon, as channeled by Lee Carroll (Dec 8/21) says to imagine yourself in the future when your problem is over and solutions have been found. You don’t know now what the solutions will be. You don’t know how solutions will happen or how long they will take. Nevertheless, project yourself  to when it’s over, to how that’s going to feel. Take on those feelings and bring them back to your Now time. In NLP terms, this is called modelling your future self. Powerful, indeed.

Love music? What’s your favourite worry song? Mine, of course, is Patsy. There’s something homeopathic—like cures like—in listening to worry wailing. Before you know it, you start feeling good. (Yay, Neil.)

I’ll admit that it’s not always easy to not‑worry. Will it always be a work in progress? With practise, will the feelings of the solution state (gratitude state) become the default state of being?

Worry or not-worry? It is a choice.

And freedom of choice is a true gift.

For that, I give thanks.
Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

Originally published Dec 28, 2021.

Painting Lessons

Painting Lessons

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending a paint night hosted by Moses Lunham. I first met Moses in 2018 at Museum London where he held a class in rock painting. Each finished rock displayed one word of the Seven Grandfather Teachings. Truth rock sits on my desk, always in view as I write. Some rocks, like Respect and Wisdom, grace my herb garden, a lovely reminder when I’m picking Gaia’s bounty.

I’ve been following Moses Art on Facebook since we met, but my schedule never synchronized with his paint nights. Until this one. It helped that it was a Zoom gathering.

You may have guessed from my book title, Breathing With Trees, that I am enamored of trees. Just like one of the characters in the story, I am building a tree wall in my writing office. Life imitating art.

Each piece on my wall holds significance. The metal tree sculpture was added when I published my book. The framed birthday card of birch trees and a John Muir quote was a gift from my dear friend, Colleen. There’s dried cedar from an ancient forest where I hiked with my son. When I saw that Moses’ paint night was to be Falling Leaves Moon, I knew I wanted it to be part of my tree wall.

My past experience with painting was limited to rock painting at Museum London and grade nine art class. The art materials were inexpensive. (Moses sent me a picture of the supplies needed, available at any dollar store.) During class, Moses expertly angled the camera while giving instructions, knowing precisely when to zoom in on the palette as he mixed his paints, when to zoom out to show the whole picture, giving a wide viewpoint. He talked while we worked. About the painting, about his culture, about the technique.

The hours flew by and, before I knew it, I’d finished my painting. I examined the result, comparing it to Moses’ canvas. My leaves were too big, my sky too dark, the fallen leaves too many. Worst of all, my trees looked like cornstalks, not trees. Disheartened, I left the painting on the easel, determined to paint a new one the next day to correct all the errors.

Life got in the way and, for the next week, I didn’t have time to paint. I’d see the painting every time I stepped into my office. After a few days, my inner critic softened. I began noticing what I liked about the painting. The blue of the moon, the arc of the earth.  I remembered the joy I felt in creating it.

On morning walks, I began noticing the fallen leaves. Fat linden leaves and thin larch needles. Pointy pin-oak, jagged beech, gingko fans. Tree shadows on the sidewalk reminded me of the play of light and dark in the painting. I discerned bare trees silhouetted against the morning sky. Trees with a graceful central branch. Bifurcated trees with Y-shaped branches as if giving a blessing. Yes, even, stubby branches that looked like cornstalks. All different, co-existing. Accepted.

Slowly, I realized that paint night wasn’t about having a thing to hang on my wall. It was about creating a relationship with Gaia, becoming attuned to her colours and shadows, to her beauty. Paint night was a chance to experience the sacred. To find acceptance for myself. To reframe mistakes into learnings.

It’s true, my picture didn’t look exactly like Moses’ painting. It wasn’t supposed to. We are all different. We each bring unique perspective to creation. Isn’t that a gift!

Chi miigwetch, Moses and Gaia, for the painting lessons.

Dreaming the Infinite

Dreaming the Infinite

It came to me in a recent dream that life is a cycle of patterns. A pattern of cycles.

From All-That-Is, we individuate and incarnate to live as humans, only to die and return to the Collective Source, to All-That-Is.

Life—death—life. That is the cycle.

Or, if you prefer, Life—Afterlife—Life. 

The cycle is endless. Infinite.

Even when we incarnate as individual beings, a part of us remains connected to the Infinite during our earth time. Then we shed our earthy selves and fully return to the Collective.

In my dream, I pondered the Infinite, wondering, “How big is infinity?” My dream-mind wandered to big business, big ag, big pharma, and other political, educational, and health care infrastructures. Perhaps these mega conglomerates once began as an unconscious attempt—arising from our Soul’s memory—to re‑create the immensity of the Collective Source?

Too big to fail is a term that became popularized based on the 2009 book and subsequent film of the same name. TBTF is a theory that certain corporations become so large and essential that their failure would destroy the economy. Therefore, the argument goes, these businesses should be propped up by the government at all costs. But what if the government infrastructure is also failing?

All around us, we are seeing the dismantling of old systems as thousands leave their jobs. By choosing in favour of bodily autonomy, in favour of sacred DNA, in favour of free choice and informed consent, people are faced with not knowing how they will feed their families, whether they will lose their homes, or how their children will be impacted. It could be terrifying. Yet, as the systems break apart, I am seeing people rise like the Phoenix to create new systems. It’s magnificent and awe-inspiring.

One area that particularly fills my heart right now is the remodelling of education. Small student groups have formed, commonly called pods. How deliciously appropriate that these learning groups should have the same collective name as that of whales and dolphins—the spiritual knowledge keepers of the planet.

These human pods have lower teacher to student ratios and offer more individual attention, bonding, and diverse curriculums with nature-based education. (This model is suggestive of the methods once used by Indigenous cultures around the world, subsequently expunged, and now, enjoying a resurgence.) This teaching method instills a love and respect for Gaia, although many of today’s children are being born already aware of this connection. These children have enormous potential for healing earth and crafting system changes.

It can be challenging to be optimistic in these times. I, too, can find myself stalled in worry, fear or anger. But more and more, I focus on the positive changes I see around me, those groups saying Sayonara to Social Media, building intentional communities, forming new political parties. These are evidence old systems are being replaced.

Years ago, a Chakra Meditation was channeled to me and it is appropriate now to share it with you. May it bring you comfort and resilience, and remind you of your Divine magnificence to find your way forward.

Feline Friction

Feline Friction

Witches, ghouls, skeletons.

Hallowe’en is a time for things that go bump in the night. It is the time of year known in Celtic traditions as Samhain (pronounced sawein). It is the division of the year between summer and winter, between the light and the dark. The old and the new. Death and rebirth.

Symbolic for the times we are living, yes?

This time of year is when the veil between worlds is said to be the thinnest, allowing spirits of the deceased to come forth. Costumes and masks were intended to hide us from the spirits and to scare them off.

All Saints Day, or All Hallows, is a Christian day to pay respect to martyrs and saints. It was strategically set on November 1 to counter the pagan Samhain. All Hallows Eve, then, is the evening before, now known as Hallowe’en (e’en being a poetic form of evening.)

In some practices, this is a time valued for the ease of communication with the ancestors and spirit guides. Instinctively, I find myself visiting cemeteries to tidy up the graves of my loved ones—brother, father, grandparents—and to communicate while there.

This year, I also find myself in an online course, Channeling as a Profession. Having practiced shamanic journeying for many years, I am familiar with working with spirit guides and power animals. As a writer, I feel stories are channeled messages from Creative Source. In this latest workshop, I’ve been channeling my spirit guide, Magdaleina, and her messages of wisdom may become a regular part of this newsletter. This is her first shared message.


Be kind.

Be kind to each other. Whether different or the same, be kind.

We are all one. Of the One.

Do not let your fear or so-called logic overrule your heart. Peace is heart-centered. Without peace, you have nothing that is valuable to the eternal soul.

Be still and find your inner peace. Calm, it is.

From this, grow your heart. Find it. Water it. Let peace grow your heart.

All will be well.

Photo by Sašo Tušar on Unsplash

The Blurring

The Blurring

“You just paddled and rowed, and you got to there. You got home.”

David A. Robertson, Black Water
Draw-a-line-in-the-sand (meaning)
(intransitive) To lay down a challenge; (idiomatic) To create a real or artificial boundary or distinction between (two places, people or things) ; (idiomatic) To indicate the threshold or level above which something will become unacceptable or will provide a response.

Lines have been drawn in the sand.

But have you noticed the blurring? It’s subtle, but there.

See the couple trying to conceive? On the advice of her physician, no jab due to the high rate of miscarriage. Maybe after the birth, she says. But infants have died after ingesting v’d breast milk. Maybe after weaning then. Long term effects on fertility are unknown. Do you want a second child? The family’s line in the sand softens to encircle her and await the newest member of the family.

See the teen athlete. He wants to get back in the game. Will jabs be mandatory? To play, to travel with the team? He’s too young for the shot…yet. But soon the age will be lowered. What about Health Canada’s report of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining round the heart) following the jab? Cases are mainly adolescents and young adults, more often males than females. It’s only a small percentage of cases, you say. Unless, of course, your child is one of that small percentage. The line wavers…

See the funeral. The relatives sit, distanced throughout the church, masked in grief. The church has said her visible face isn’t welcome. Does she pay her respects and push her point? It’s not the time or place, she decides, to create a disturbance. (Some might argue it was precisely the time. But it was her choice.) Instead, she sends flowers and condolences, then sits in her garden, full face to the sun and sings, “If You lead me, I will hold Your people in my heart.”

Notice and observe.

See the blurring of the line as it is washed away by waves of compassion.
Photo by Lifeofmikey on Unsplash

What if Choice is a choice?

What if Choice is a choice?

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

~Benjamin Franklin


What does that mean to you?

How much do you value it?

As a teen, it meant being able to choose my own clothes, my own friends. Makeup, parties, boyfriends. Whether to kiss or make out. When to go all the way.

My decisions didn’t always have the best outcomes. Blue eye-shadow—ugh! Gold wire-rimmed glasses—I’m really a silver gal. A few high school chums are still around; many I no longer know. The parties are a blur. The boyfriends…meh. One went to jail for something that isn’t even a crime today. Another is still here 47 years later.

But the freedom to choose, whether the decision was good or bad, was mine. All mine. Therefore, the results from those choices are mine as well.

This freedom to choose, to live my life, is what I reflect on now. Where are we as a society without the freedom to choose?

I try to imagine what my teen years would have been like if my mother had made my freedom conditional, “You can only go out with your friends, to the mall or dance if you are on The Pill.” Honestly, I probably would have jumped on that, “Sure, no problem.”

Today we know the potential long term effects of the pill—blood clots, stroke, heart attack—but back then we didn’t. And what I know about my body and how it responds, that decision as a teen would not have had good outcomes for me now.

What if my mother said that when I was 13?

What if when I was 18?

Does it make a difference?

When is a teen old enough to make their own health decisions? This is one of the questions I raise in my novel Breathing With Trees.

What if that decision is influenced by a person in authority, a teacher perhaps? When does it become coercion? Abuse? If there are conditions attached, is it free choice?

Now, what if it wasn’t my mother imposing the rule, but the government?

“All females from the time of first menstruation until their 21st birthday must be implanted with Essure.”

Essure was a metal coil device installed in the fallopian tubes. It was claimed to be a safe, long term, and pain-free form of birth control. Turned out it caused fibrosis and blockages, perforated uteri and frequently resulted in hysterectomy. But, hey, it did prevent pregnancy. Often permanently. (It was discontinued in the U.S. in 2019, two years after it had been discontinued in other countries.)

What if you couldn’t go anywhere without having the procedure? What if there was no liability to the manufacturer, because the government gave them a free pass?

Is it ever okay to let the government mandate our medical decisions through coercion?

What if everyone was forced/coerced/bribed to take Vioxx? Here’s a free lottery ticket if you take it. You can go to see John Legend, Blue Rodeo, or Skratch Bastid if you take it.

“Come on,” you say. “Vioxx is for arthritis, not everyone will get that.” You’re right. That’s my point. That’s probably a bad example though because Vioxx was pulled from the market after one-third of the people taking it died of heart attack. Let’s try another example…

What if Thalidomide was mandated to all pregnant women? It helps with morning sickness, acts as a sedative and, you know, we women are supposedly a hysterical bunch. But I guess that’s another bad example since it too was pulled from the market after causing birth defects.

Accutane, Baycol, Bextra, Cylert, Darvon, DES. Opioids. The list goes on. Supposedly “safe” drugs later pulled from market. How many side effects or deaths does it take before a drug is pulled? One? Fifteen? 13,627?

But I digress, because this isn’t about the drugs per se. (And it’s not NOT about the drugs, ya know what I’m saying?) It’s about tying our freedoms to drugs and medical treatment. Or else… That, my friends, is coercion. It nullifies free choice.



Think about it. Please.

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

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