what here looks like

The winners of our 3rd annual writing contest! Susan Musgrave tells us why.

the visit

by meg worden

Susan Musgrave comments: “This entry affected me the most, on an emotional level. A mother in prison, visiting with her son and playing a game of ‘Everything-Is-Alright’ in the visiting yard. There is quiet wisdom here, an understanding of both sides – the ‘grumbling hungry hearts’ of the women prisoners, and the zealous law-and-order guards, ‘a vacuum darkened what once may have held the light of reason.’ This entry shows me how we are all in this together, we are interconnected, how razor wire can’t keep love out of our ‘institutions of illusion.’ I love this writer’s description of how she is finally able to see herself as ‘a perfectly unruly and colourful stitch’ that exists beyond herself. Something to aspire to, as she describes her son in the photograph: ‘an amalgam of joy and sorrow and the infinite.’”

The question before the shutter snapped was, “How much do you love your Momma?” It was the first of our three visits during the two years I spent in prison. Aidan spread his arms wide, holding our precious bond intact. A Buddha’s heart beats within each child and I felt Aidan’s open, inspiring me to stretch this experience to its potential for healing rather than harm.

We kissed and played our best games of Everything-Is-Alright, amid a visiting yard cacophony of grumbling hungry hearts and officers with their zeal for law and order, a vacuum darkening what once may have held the light of reason. My surrender, primed by addiction and discontent, was profound. I came to see my tangible prison as a metaphor for why I could no longer maintain a steady breath or feel my heartbeat pound my concrete sternum.

I heard the voice of God in whistles, shouts, defensive laughter and sobs. My practice flowered in this institution of illusion, and my yogic flexibility surpassed my paradigm. My inner revolution became fuel to share asanas and mantras with other inmates as I became aware of the life and soul-saving possibilities in the practice.

In connecting with my son, I experienced the sublime liberation of the complex and beautiful tapestry of all beings. Instead of feeling like an out-sider who had to try so hard to validate my life, I could finally start seeing myself as a perfectly unruly and colourful stitch in something that existed beyond me.

Here looks like a snapshot of a proud mom. Here looks like an amalgam of joy and sorrow and the infinite.

Meg Worden lives amidst the dogwood trees on spectacular Table Rock Lake in Golden, Missouri with her supportive husband, precocious son and adoring hound, Hud. She runs her studio, Blue Lake Yoga and writes a wellness column for The Citizen Newspaper in Eureka Springs, Arizona.

a view of time
by alanda greene

Susan Musgrave comments: “This entry took me to wide open windy spaces, where I was able to put my ‘self’ aside and become part of this prairie landscape. I particularly like the image of the bison: ‘a milling brown shaggy sea’ as it covers the land, ‘that parts and flows around those island hills.’ Past and future seem woven together to become now, where we stand. There’s a sense here of a breath being drawn, and held, then let out, gracefully, without a sound.”

Look at this image and you see the view that I see: pale blue sky, white swirling clouds, brown grass, and on the horizon the grey hills. Neither of us sees the one looking.

Gaze straight across the land, just above it, to the centre of the photo and keep going. Follow that line of sight all the way, without stopping, and you will arrive from behind yourself to just where you began.

The picture does not show the slight curve of the earth along the horizon but I see it as I stand here. My gaze goes left, to the east. I follow it just above the ground as it circles the world and returns, like a boomerang, home to me on my right.

In this way, the view from here explores an ancient symbol: the circle quartered by a cross. It gives me hints about location in space, about looking.

If we walked together toward those hills, you would discover that this land appears flat but is not. It hides long fissures, into which the cloth of the prairie has sunk in gentle folds. These interruptions are called coulees. Trails carve their hillsides, worn by bison feet following their impulse to move over the grassland. Long ago the bison wandered back into the ground. When I look toward the hills, I can see them: a milling brown shaggy sea that covers the land, that parts and flows around those island hills. I am looking into the past.

I try to follow my gaze through time around the curve of the earth, but I cannot find a future that arrives behind me, or at my side, to join me where I stand now. I wait, wondering where the circle is that joins past and future to the centre of this space.

Alanda Greene lives with Sonni in a stone house in a clearing in the forest in the mountains near a lake. She used to do lots of things but does less of all that now and instead does more writing, reflection and exploring meaning (and is the happier for it.)

jimmy & jojo

by joanne lowe

Susan Musgrave comments: “There is so much tenderness and compassion in this ‘letter’ to Jimmy. So much acceptance and empathy in the clear straightforward prose that seems tenderly childlike in its depiction of growing up. It made me think of how easily people pass judgement on the homeless – grouping them as if they are one entity when each is an individual with his or her own story. Why must we be touched by tragedy before we can empathize? The brother here could be any of our brothers. A father, a son, a daughter, a mother.”


I don’t know who had more freckles, me or you.
You were the one who ate all your pea soup and got to go to the circus. I didn’t get to go.

You secretly opened all of the Christmas presents and then carefully retaped them back together – you knew who was going to get what but never told.

Motherless at a young age, you were the oldest of four so you had to babysit us – you’d put us to bed so that you could watch Planet of the Apes movies and we’d sneak right back out again.

You tickled me so much that I laughed until I couldn’t breathe and then I cried even harder.

You took us to the Science Centre and we took off our shoes and shuffled and ran down the long carpeted halls in our socks until we became electric and shocked each other.

You ate all the chips.

You wanted to watch hockey, I wanted to watch The Love Boat.
And you sang “White Christmas” every year at the school Christmas concert, which I secretly loved even though I was thoroughly embarrassed.

You broke the girls’ hearts.

And when you were grown up and had a job you took me to lunch because “that’s what big brothers are for.”

A talented artist – a writer, a painter, a musician – you played the saxophone and the guitar.

You comforted me when I was down.

You are, now, living on the street.
Stepping over the cracks on the sidewalk.
Stealing food.

Living in stairwells and under bridges. Riding the subway or walking for hours.

Long hair, scraggly beard, ill-fitting clothes, wide empty eyes, talking to yourself or figments of your imagination.

They think you’re a bum, but I know different.

I know how special and fabulous you are – my brother, my best friend, taken by schizophrenia. And I know where you are: in my heart, now and always.

– JoJo

Joanne Lowe owns a yoga centre in Toronto, loves spending time with her two fabulous dogs, fantastic friends and family and is looking forward to her upcoming trip to India.

Copyright ©2007 ascent magazine, first Canadian yoga magazine, yoga for an inspired life