Monday, October 31, 2011

I am off early this morning. C.C.'s flying out and I am taking him to the airport. which means.... no time for a blog. I did write one last night and schedule it for posting this morning. But, this morning it is not as well written as I'd like. Not as inspiring as I'd thought. :) It is the clarity of sleep and rising. What seemed brilliant wanes in the light of the moon hovering on the horizon in the early dawn.

Skies are still dark here. As the longest day of the year approaches, the sun slips in a gentle arc across the sky, keeping her light close to the horizon. Night lingers late into morn, pushing back the sun's business of getting on with the day to a later hour. Street lights sparkle. My writing corner is lit by the gentle glow of a candle. I love these late autumn mornings. And must run. Have a wonderful day -- and here's a quote to carry with you as you journey through your day.
Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength. Betty Friedan

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I want to live in wonder (a poem)

I want to live in wonder
to see the world as a new born
baby fresh from the birth canal
slippery wet and squirming
with delight
falling into the arms of love
holding me safely
wrapped in swaddling cloth
sewn with velvety silken
streams of laughter and joy
filling my every breath

I want to be in awe
of life unfolding
right here, right now
in this moment
giving birth to possibilities
to the sights and sounds and beauty
of the world
pounding through my veins
pumping my heart
full of the mystery of this morning
reincarnating itself
from the dark
of night passing through
star lit skies
and moonbeams streaming
into day
bursting at the seams
of my anticipation of the wonder
of what this moment will bring when
I open my eyes, wide
and my arms even wider
to that place where my heart
wide open
to catch rain drops
falling stars and tears
that no amount of tissue can dry
I don't want to say
wipe those tears
I want to say cry,
cry for me Argentina
because no amount of tears will ever wash away
the wonder that I feel
when I live beyond the limitations
of my fear

Fear is the opportunity to be courageous
and I want my courage to drive me
away from that place where I believe fear
keeps me safe
from feeling the pains and sorrows
and slings and arrows of fate
there is no arrow that can pierce my heart
when my heart is open
there is no riptide that can pull me under
when my arms are strong
strong enough to hold on
to love because I know
There is nothing to fear
but fear itself 
And I am born to be
wild and beautiful and free.
Free to cry and laugh and say
I love you because
I do
and nothing will make love stop
nothing can.
I am fearless, fierce and free
and life cannot get the better of me
when I live in the wonder
of being me.

Audio Recording on Saturday afternoon by Louiseg88

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beauty is Here.

People often say that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder,' and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves." Salma Hayek

I saw a beautiful sunrise. Witnessed its rosy hues streaking across the eastern sky. Breathed in its golden aura.

Beauty breathed with me.

I saw a man. Weathered and worn, he walked the street, feet shuffling, one leg dragging. Hands buried deep into the pockets of his dirty green jacket, head down, eyes buried behind a long grey beard. He saw the same sunrise. Stopped. And breathed in its golden aura.

Beauty slipped past me as he walked on by. 

I saw a child. Laughing. Tugging at his father's jacket hem. The father leaned down. Picked up his laughing child and tossed him in the air. Father and son stood captured in the moment.

Beauty unfolded in a moment of grace.

I saw a woman. Homeless. Living at a shelter. She folded laundry. Carefully lining seam to seam of a pair of jeans. She folded them in half, hem to waist band. Slowly, she placed them on top of a pile of folded laundry. Arranged the symmetry of the pile. She ran her hand gently along the fabric. Stopped and rested, one hand atop the pile of laundry. There was beauty in the simple task.

Beauty lives freely in everyday chores.

I saw a young man walking down the street. He stopped and picked up litter. Dropped it into a bin. The street was clean again.

Beauty flourishes in our attention.

I feel beauty stirring in the small spaces, the wide open places, the straight and the winding road. I feel beauty all around and journey deep within to touch its core resting deep inside me.

I know beauty is here. Right now. I breathe. Deeply.

Beauty is everywhere. You are beauty. I am beauty. We are beautiful.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Summits and other distant peaks

When I was married I spent a great deal of time in the mountains. My husband was an avid mountaineer and if I wanted to spend time with him, in the mountains was the only place to do it.

We climbed. Skied. Hiked. I lugged 45lb packs of on my back, trekked for seven days straight in the wilds of the Interior of British Columbia. Slept in a tent on a glacier at 30 below (Fahrenheit or Celsius that's tremendously cold!). Hung from a rope 3,000 ft above the earth and stood atop peaks 12,000 feet in the air.

And I loved it.

It was exhilarating. Exciting. It proved I was ALIVE. It proved my strength. My endurance. My ability to DO.

And I resented it.

And when we separated, the mountains became a persona I did not like. They had stolen my husband from me. They had come between us. They were a force I could not reckon with.

And still I love the mountains.

Their grandeur. Silence. Beauty. Their ability to stand against time and never fall.

And still, I do not spend a lot of time in the mountains.

Haven't skied in years. Haven't schlepped a pack for ages. Haven't hung on a rope and wondered, what am I doing? since our marriage broke down and we took our separate paths.

Because that was the thing about climbing. No matter how exhilarating. How challenging and exciting, there always came a moment where I wondered, "What on earth am I doing scaling up some mountainside, hanging on a rope thousands of feet above the earth, clinging to a slab of rock relying on nothing but my climbing partner, a 1/4" wide length of rope and a little piece of metal to keep me safe? What on earth am I doing?"

And then, focus returned and the summit was attained and I would stand in awe and wonder of the absolute beauty of the world seen from such heights.

It must be how God feels, I mused. To see the beauty from above and know, deep, deep in your soul,there is magic and mystery and wonder alive everywhere.

To know the sun shining down on rivers and valleys and deep dark forests.

To know the wind. The wind. The wind echoing from peak to peak. Caressing mountainsides and valley bottoms in whispers of time filled breath shimming with the stories of the places its been, the sights its seen, the people its met upon its journey across the globe.

I would stand upon a mountaintop and scream. Out Loud. I would dance and laugh and throw wide my arms and spin around and feel LIFE breathing in and out and all around me.

I loved the mountain high. The feeling of being above it all and part of it all all at the same moment.

and then, there was the way down. The path of return.

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero of a Thousand Faces speaks of the heroes journey, the call, the refusing the call, the picking up of the gauntlet, the journey.

And always, the journey ends on the mountain top, goal reached. Destination achieved. Success granted after demons and devils are destroyed, trials and tribulations overcome and obstacles overtaken.

We celebrate the journey up, the summitting, the achieving and leave the journey back as an afterthought to what has happened to bring us here. Into this moment. Into the light of who we are.

And yet, it is in the journey back, the journey down that I find myself searching for meaning. For the essence of my humanity. The fulfillment of my destiny.

In life, we scale mighty peaks, explore deep depths, achieve great heights. We applaud our accomplishments and sometimes, return home expecting a heroes welcome, a ticker tape parade celebrating our achievements.

And often, all that is waiting upon our return is the life we left behind. Our brilliance, our achievements, our wisdom gained on the journey, unnoticed by those waiting behind as we struggle to understand where the 'more' is in all that has transpired.

In November, I am presenting at TEDxCalgary. My theme is the power of our story (and this post is my opening statement)

-- it isn't our achievements that make the difference, it's what we do with our story and how we share our learnings, our travels in time and space and through life that we find that 'meaning', that 'more' we search for that touches other's hearts and minds and awakens them to the possibility of joining us on this exciting voyage of life on earth, in all its beauty, sorrow, complexity and excitement.

I am working on this project as I prepare to leap off the peak of where I'm at into a space I've never been before.

And this is just the beginning.

I'd really appreciate your feedback as I share the essence of my TEDxCalgary talk --  hope you'll travel with me and share your thoughts and insights and ideas of what I share and what you experience.

The horizon is out there. Shimmering in all its beauty.

I stand upon the mountaintop of my excitement and take a deep breath.

it's time to leap.

I hope you leap with me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stopping and seeing

He sees it in the juvenile street gangs, who live in fear of death and who propagate fear by inflicting death to banish fear. And he sees it at its worst, as the result of violent emotions bursting into the mind and erupting from the hands. Ed McBain

 I don't notice him when I walk past. Lost in thought, thinking about a meeting I've just had with a Superintendent at the city police, I am not focused on what is happening in the world around me. But, as I turn and walk up the stairs leading to the back door of the shelter where I work, I see him sitting against a corner along the brick wall at the back of the stairway. Completely clad in a red track suit, red bandanna tied around his head, his body tilts sideways, his head slowly moving downwards towards the gravel on which he sits.

I am concerned. From my vantage point above him I can see the bulging below one eye where he sports a large bruise and several cuts.

I know I cannot approach him alone. His red clothing indicates a gang affiliation. His bruising suggests he is hurt. 

I quickly enter, find one of our security staff and ask if he could come and check out the situation with me.

At first, the man does not respond to our security staff's entreaties. His body topples completely to the gravel. There is little discernible voluntary movement.

We continue to bend over the man, asking him to open his eyes, to give us some indication he is conscious of where he is, who he is, why he is lying here on our property.

"Hey buddy, we're just trying to help you," the staff member says when the man finally stirs and moans and tells us to go away.

"Why bother?" the man mutters, adding an expletive at the end. "Nobody else gives a shit about me. Why should you?"

"Because you're lying out here on the gravel and we're concerned," I reply.

That causes him to open one eye. "I just want to be left alone," he mutters as he rolls over. His words are slurred. Hard to tell if from alcohol, drugs or the beating he's obviously taken.

Another security team member arrives on scene. "Hey Joel," he says. "You know you can't lie here. Let us get you some food though man and check out your bruises. Can you sit up so we can take a look at you?"

Joel sighs. "I just want a sandwich. Tuna. I like tuna."  He sounds like a little boy. A hungry child begging for food.

"We can get you a sandwich," the security team member says. He smiles. "Just don't know if it will be tuna, but you need to sit up first so we can see you're okay."

And Joel sits up. One side of his face is badly beaten. His dark skin purple and blue and yellow. There are small lacerations in the bruise. Nothing too serious. Just tiny slits like the skin has been spread too thin and come apart at the seams.

He has tattoos everywhere. Knuckles. Arms. Neck. His black hair is pulled back into a ponytail. A red bandanna is tied around his head covering the top part of his forehead.

He is conscious. Mobile. No other visible wounds. He stands up. Leans against the wall.

"I'm just hungry man," he says, shaking off the outstretched hand of one of the security staff who had reached out to steady him as he stood up. "I just want something to eat and then I'll get out of here."

"No problem," says the staff member who knew Joel's name. "I'll run and grab one for you."

Joel looks at him. Looks at me. Smiles with what few teeth are remaining in his mouth. "Remember. I like tuna."

And again, I see the little boy. The lost. Frightened. Lonely little boy who doesn't understand why life has to be so hard, so scary, so uncertain.

"He can't come in," the security staff tells me as we walk back into the building. He to grab the sandwich, me to go to my office on the sixth floor. I know there's nothing more I can do for Joel. He is in good hands. "He's barred life for excessive violence and drug dealing."

"Thank you for getting him something to eat," I say.

"No problem," the staff member says before heading to the kitchen. "It's the right thing to do."

It is something I hear a lot around the shelter. "The right thing to do." No matter how bad or outrageous the behaviour of others, staff are always doing the right thing for the human being.

In this case, doing the right thing has meant checking up on and providing food to a young native man who cannot come into the shelter because his behaviour makes his presence a risk to staff and clients. His red clothing indicates the gang he's part of. There are a lot of them making their colours visible right now. Dressed all in blue, or black, red, yellow, they strut their colours and swagger around, challenging all to come and try to deny their right to be here.

Awhile ago, a native woman had yelled at me and a co-worker that we had no right to be on this land. "This is Blackfoot land," she screamed. "Get off!"

And the words to an old folk song run through my mind. "This land is my land. This land is your land..."

No one owns the earth. It is all our world. One planet. One people.

And these are our children. They are leaning up against a wall in the corner, falling over. And they are killing each other in every shade of black and blue all across the land.

I didn't see him when I first walked by. And now I do. I cannot stop him from walking forward into a life that is killing him. I can stop when I see him and let him know -- I see you.

Sometimes, all we can do is stop and offer a helping hand. And maybe, in that stopping, he will see himself, even if just for a moment, as someone who matters to this world.

And maybe, he will make it out of the gang alive.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's about Love

She is sitting at a table by a window of the coffee shop where we are meeting. I'd only seen her a couple of times since 1997 when she spoke at an event I'd organized to support an initiative that worked with street teens. Her daughter, a little girl of mischievous whims, her daughter who loved animals and loved to play dress up and teach her little sister to ride a bike, had been on the street. Her daughter was murdered. After her death she lost her youngest daughter to the street too. But just for awhile. She got her back, alive. Thankfully.

The mother and daughter were speaking together at the event. Speaking about the girl they'd loved who hadn't made it out alive.

Today is her 39th birthday she tells me when I sit down. I still miss her. But others, they forget. Not my sister though. She sent me a note this morning.

I reach across the table and touch her hands. I don't have words to share. There are none that will make it all better.

The pain never dies, she tells me. But we must keep living. We must keep being part of this human race.

They are closing the file on her daughters murder. The man who police know committed the crime but was not convicted is dying. They had hoped for a deathbed confession but it seems he will not give up the truth.

We can't search for a killer we know is not out there, they tell the family. And the file is closed and life moves on.

She sits in stillness.

I want to do this, she tells me when I ask her why she wants to tell her story now. I want to do this so that my baby girl isn't forgotten. And so that others know who she really was is not who they think she is because of the circumstances of her death.

"This" is a project to tell the stories of women who have been killed on our streets over the past three decades. Women for whom justice never called. Their murderers never held accountable.

There is a group of committed volunteers pulling the project together.

There is an artist who will paint their portraits.

There is me, a writer who has been asked to tell their stories in words.

And I am beyond words as I sit with this woman and hold her hand and remember her daughter whom I never met in person.

Your daughter is the reason why I created the event you spoke at all those years ago, I say, and I tell her the story of the incident that had compelled me to create "On Soul Street", a benefit concert to support street youth.

I had been given a tour of a facility that worked with street youth. It was a residential program designed to lead them off the street back to the homes where they belonged. Her daughter had been part of the program. She was getting close to leaving street life behind when she went down to the street, for just one night, and disappeared. Her body had been found two weeks later.

Her nickname in the group home was, "Miss Adventure." When she was murdered, the kids in the program put a brass plague on the site in the woods where she had once thrown her street clothes into a fire to signify leaving the street behind. My tour guide had shown me the memorial and I had stood in the quiet of the woods and thought, "Her life has to mean more than just this plague in the woods that reads, "Miss Adventure". And so, I'd written a play with a group of street teens and produced it as the centrepiece of a benefit concert I'd organized.

it had been a seminal moment in time for me. And then I too had fallen on the road of life and lost touch with the group. Awhile ago I ran into her other daughter who had been part of the group I'd worked with to write the play. We were in a store. She recognized me and raced over to give me a hug. She's a mother now. Doing well.

The mother looks at me, her eyes blinking rapidly. We must do this for my daughter, she says.

I feel her there. Her daughter. A living presence between us. A beautiful, laughing, caring presence.

I nod my head. Yes, we must, I reply. I believe we come into this world in love and leave it in love, I tell her. Love is all we can leave behind. I want to write this story in Love.

She smiles. Yes. It's about Love, she replies. My daughter would like that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Home to the heart

Yesterday, there were some fabulous comments made on my post, Give 'Em Back. I appreciated the perspectives shared, and take delight in their ability to enrich my experience and understanding.

It is true -- we want for our children all that is good and beautiful in the world when we know, there is much that is not good and beautiful. And so, we instill in them the understanding that they are capable of handling whatever life has to offer. The good. The bad. The beautiful and the not so pretty.

And still, we their parents, yearn for that childlike state of believing -- it should be easy.

As everyone said -- it is good that there is more good than the bad, and as Joyce so sweetly asked... if they give back those bits, do they also have to return the courage, creativity, and fiercely loving nature they also got from you?

And the reality is... No. Those things they should keep.

And the reality is... all things must they keep for in the darkness the light shines brightest.

I remember when my daughters were young and I would say, "I want you to grow up to be strong and independent and fulfilled, with unique minds and confident to express yourselves as you are, not as you think the world wants you to be... but can you wait until you move away from home to do that? 'Cause truly, I'd like you to do what I want until then."

Life doesn't work that way and raising children definitely doesn't allow much room for children to be exactly they are if we're constantly working on making the way we want them to be.

I am blessed. My daughters are amazing. Beautiful, inside and out, intelligent, creative, independent, kind, empathetic, incredibly loving and incredibly open to being loved. They are my greatest blessings.

And when I see them struggle, my heart breaks and I know, all I can do is love them, exactly where they are, where they're at.

I remember once when Alexis and I were driving along shortly after she'd participated in Grade 9 in the PARTY program -- they take students to meet youth who's lives have been adversely affected by DUIs and reckless actions they never imagined would leave them paraplegics or limbless.

She was very affected by the activity and committed to call me, no matter what, if ever she needed. "You know honey, if you don't and something happens I will know that somehow I failed you."

"That doesn't make sense," she replied. "If I chose to drink and drive, or get in a car with someone who's been drinking, that's my choice."

"True," I replied. "But if you do it because you are too scared to call home, then I have not instilled in you the belief that no matter what you do, being safe is more important than being afraid of telling the truth."

I never had to test my belief. Both girls always felt safe to call me, no matter what, where or when they needed me to come and get them.

And always, I felt grateful.

For in their call was the knowing -- they trusted me enough to do the right thing.

And that is my greatest learning as a parent. Trusting my daughters enough to know they will do what is best, what is right, what is loving of them.

I struggle with that belief sometimes. I want to wave a magic wand and make the world 'perfect' when in fact, it is perfect, just the way it is. All I need to do is trust the universe to turn up and let life unfold, exactly as it's meant to do.

And in it's unfolding is the gift of the moment, the gift that is sometimes unseen until after life unfolds and we are left breathless with the wonder of its beauty shining in the light and the darkness of the path opening up before us, leading each of us home to the heart.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Give 'em Back (A poem for my daughters)

When I became a mother I worried that I would pass on 'the worst' of me to my daughters. I wanted to come into motherhood clean. Fresh slate. Newborn like them.

But life doesn't work that way. And being a mother definitely doesn't come with a rule book and a money-back guarantee that says, 'do these 10 things and you'll never worry or fear or cry for your children. And if it doesn't work in 25 years, we'll give you your money back -- or maybe your children.'

Being a mother is about worry and fear and tears. Oh sure, there's the joy and the love and the sense of wonder at these miraculous beings who fill the world with such light, and promise.

But there's always the worry and the fear. And the tears. Oh yes. The tears. They fall like a rain in autumn. Unwanted. Unbidden. Driving away the leaves. Pushing into the crevasses. thin streaks of light that shine through the doorjamb where the fit is no longer tight.

Being a mother means knowing the things about me I never wanted anyone else to see, or have, or know, could become part of theses beings I love without my ever intending for them to be shared. Sometimes, I don't even see what in me has become something in them I never wanted them to know or have or be until it's too late. Until they say or do something and I wonder, but I don't really have to wonder, where did they ever get that idea or notion. Because I know. They got it from me. And it is not the best of me they took.

It was these thoughts that prompted the following:

Give 'em back!

I want them back
those things you took
that I never meant to give
they were not meant for you
never really worked for me
to begin with
I wanted more
for you
I wanted beauty
truth, love, happiness
not those things you took
that are holding you
back from being you
they were me
still are
some of them
but they were never meant for you
give them back
and you'll be free
to be
you without the bits of me
that don't fit well
into what I wanted
for you.

Give 'em Back Audio Recording on Sunday morning by Louiseg88

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A new RSAnimate -- Iain McGilchrist

It is Saturday, a day I don't normally blog, but... I wanted to share a video link I found this morning over at Integral Options Cafe. IOC host, William Harryman writes as an introduction to the video, A new RSA Animate is always a cool thing, and this one is no exception. Iain McGilchrist is the author of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.

In this new RSAnimate, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our 'divided brain' has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society. Taken from a lecture given by Iain McGilchrist as part of the RSA's free public events programme.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Get Back! (a poem)

Get Back
Cast in stone
your words
build walls so high

I huddle in the shadows
of the weighty matters
of your opinions

my back
every day workin'
workin' for the man
beneath the heaviness
of your glare

weighing me down
in this place
where you give advice
I cannot fathom

where you’re comin’ from
as I lose all sense of direction
and struggle to rise

above the weight
of your voice
telling me to
get up
get down
get over
whatever I have been
using to keep me from falling
where I split
a part
the futility of trying to get back
up holds me down and I cry

there ain’t no gettin’ up
from being down
so long
I can’t see beyond
the wall of sorrow
pinning me here
to this belief

there’s no up
side looking down on me

you remind me
of my limitations
holding me here
on this side of the street
where I will die
if I don’t get myself

I laugh
crooked teeth
with nicotine and neglect
I cough
and flem spills out
and you step

back to your side of the street
where I don’t scare you

as much
I know

I know
I scare you
but you don’t see me

hiding here
behind the wall of your opinions

holding me down
I gasp for air
but you don’t see me

hiding out in your opinions
building walls
cast in stone.

Get Back (A Poem) Audio Recording on Thursday night by Louiseg88

Thursday, October 20, 2011


The sweetest gift, the only gift, we can give our selves, our community, the earth is our fullest, truest presence. Simply put, our presence is who we are or would be, if we weren't always trying to be someone else " (Roth, Genean (1996) Appetites. New York, USA. Dutton.)

My blog friend Joyce at Peaceful Legacies posted an essay today (What is Beauty?) and a link to a video about Beauty. In the video, The Philosophy of Beauty (Part 1), host and creator, Roger Scruton talks about the importance of art and artists in celebrating beauty and speaks of his fear that in our current state of 'anything goes for art', we are at risk of losing beauty -- and that would not be good for the world. Scruton says, "I think we are losing beauty. And there is a danger that with it we will lose the meaning of life."

Centuries ago, espouses Scruton, artists believed portraying beauty through art to be a sacred trust. The intent was not to shock, but rather, to celebrate the world around us, a world that was chaotic yet filled with beauty that artists shared as a consolation for the chaos.

I like Joyce's question. What is Beauty? It intrigues me.

Many would say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But when 'art' masquerades as beauty in the form of say, a Meat Dress, or a urinal hung in an exhibit as art, then the relevance of beauty is lost in the artist's desire to use art as a medium to make a political or satirical statement.

Years ago I read a study that surveyed different cultures around the world to determine what values we held in common. Beauty was one of the values surveyed but it was not one of the common values held amongst cultures worldwide. Youth was. Good health was. But beauty did not make the list.

Beauty is too subjective, I remember reading in the study. What is beautiful to a tribesman crossing the Serengeti can be profoundly different than what resonates with a taxi-cab driver crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. To the tribesman, traffic congestion could be a beautiful sight if never seen before. To the taxicab driver, a clear road could be the most beautiful thing in the world for him to see.

When I lived in Vancouver, most evenings would find Ellie (the wonder pooch) and me down at the West Van Sea Wall. I would throw a stick into the water and Ellie would joyfully race after it. It was a beautiful sight to see. Her golden coat shining in the evening sun. The water sparkling. The waves rolling in. The sounds. The smells. The texture of the air.


Yet, some evenings a fog would enshroud the world. The beach would disappear from view. Where once the Lions Gate Bridge spanned the strait, only white mist could be seen. Only the sound of traffic on the bridge could be heard.

What was beautiful was invisible. And yet, beauty still existed. Still shone through the fog.

Meat dresses. Urinals posing as art. These are not things of beauty. They are statements.

Sure, it is easy to say the fact man created it gives any object an inherent beauty but beauty is deeper than just our ability to make it. Beauty is the essence. The soul. The depth of our world. Art is a reflection of our world and when we let art reflect that which is ugly and sinecure and devaluing of the beauty of our humanity, we create a world of ugly.

We lessen ourselves and the world in which we live.

I don't have an answer to Joyce's question. But I sure am glad she asked it. Because in her asking, I am inspired to give thought to the meaning and the context of What is Beauty?

It is a conversation worth engaging in, just as Roger Scruton's series, The Philosophy of Beauty is well worth watching.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the kindest thing I can do.

Kindness is difficult to give away because it keeps coming back to you. Author unknown
At a dinner some time ago with a group of friends, the question was asked, 'what one word would you want to be on your tombstone to describe you?'

Amidst the thousands upon thousands of words out there, only one came close to being 'that word' for me.


I would want my tombstone to read, She was kind.

Several months later, at another dinner with the same group, one person said, after I'd ask one too many questions about something they were hurting over, "You're not kind."

That hurt. I felt betrayed. A word I'd revealed that was incredibly important to me was used, I felt, to hurt me, to mock me, to deride me.

Truth is -- They were hurting. Badly.

And judging what they said as being meant to hurt or mock or deride me was not kind of me.

Because, while what they said was their judgment, reality is, I was being unkind. I wasn't listening to their pain. I was listening to what they were saying and then, I was using my questions to try to open their eyes to what I perceived to be 'reality'.

Not a good idea. When someone is hurting, crying out to be heard, no matter my judgments of where they're at, the kind thing to do is listen deeply, and if I can't do that, find the kindest way to let them know, I can't do that.

Because in truth, in that instance, my questions, though well-intentioned, were meant to 'show them' how what they were doing was causing their pain.

Showing anyone anything about how they are wrong because you know what is right for them is not a great way to touch hearts and open minds.

It is a great way to shut down communication. Turn off friendship. Break up connection.

Now, I'm not saying what they did is right -- or wrong for that matter. What someone else does is always about them. (Remember. It is not kind to judge.)

What I do is always about me. And I believe that no matter how much pain I'm in, or how badly I'm hurting, or how angry I feel, I never have the right to be cruel.

Using words as weapons hurts, both the speaker and the receiver. Because, no matter how much I justify what I said, or asked, or did, I am justifying my behaviour -- and that means I'm making excuses for myself. And being unkind to me.

I don't want to live with excuses. I am committed to living with Love at the core of my being human, real, authentic. Kind.

These lessons in life, in being kind, are hard won.

When what other's do is unacceptable to me, I am responsible for how I respond. In this instance, I apologized for being unfeeling in my questions and acknowledged I was being unkind -- unintentional, but the outcome was the same. I was being unkind.

But, and there is always the but isn't there! When something rankles under my skin (because seriously, my victim voice really wanted to make this all about 'them' and what they did and nothing to do with me), when it digs in and worries a spot, it's important I move from the pain into finding the pearl in my learning, my knowing, my growth.

And for me, the pearl in this situation is the realization that I truly am, perfectly perfect in all my human imperfections.

And I can grow and expand and embrace 'the learning' to create an iridescent pearl of knowing -- I'm okay. In all my human imperfections. I'm okay.

And so are they.

We all are.

Exactly where we are meant to be. And in that being, we each have choices to become more than we ever imagined.

Me. I'm choosing to shine a light on my soul so that I can illuminate my world in love and kindness.

And in that light, there is always room to grow, to make mistakes, to even, be unkind. Because in my 'unkindness' comes the opportunity to see how human I can be when I just let myself be me becoming kinder!

Which brings me full circle back to where I began this year with a word to meditate on. "Renewal".

Learning from moments where my behaviour strays from grace, renews me. It strengthens my commitment to love me, myself and I, however I am, where ever I'm at. Because giving myself grace to make mistakes and love myself anyway is the kindest thing I can do.

Because, it's not about giving away kindness. It's all about giving up being unkind.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A resolution to love

If you wait around for the world to give you what you think you deserve, you are going to be sadly disappointed when you get it.” – katdish
Eight plus years ago, when I came out of the darkness that was my relationship with 'the bad man', I resolved to cherish every day. To live, in Love, so that all I created in the world was, harmony, peace, joy.

My resolution was firm, my ability to live it every day shaky. My life was in such complete disarray, I had ample opportunity to test my resolve, to pit myself against despair and turn up in Love, in all kinds of weather.

And man. It hurt. It was hard.

I knew I didn't deserve to be abused. But, to have what I believed I deserved -- a world of love, joy, peace, harmony, beauty -- I had to take action. I couldn't wait around for the world to give it to me. As Katdish so succinctly says -- waiting around would only disappoint me with its results.

And so, every day I resolved to do something to create love and joy and beauty in my world.

Every day, Ellie, the wonder pooch, and I would walk in the woods and I would look up into the sky and ask God to carry the burden of my despair so that I could take another step in the right direction.

Every day I awoke and committed to doing one thing, no matter how big, nor small, to create love in my world.

One of the first things I did was to volunteer with a group of people at the church I had started attending. Every Tuesday morning we met in the church basement to make sandwiches for 'street people' in Vancouver's east end. Our efforts were in support of 'mama', a woman who rode her scooter every Wednesday night into the east end, pulling a cart laden with soup and sandwiches that she would distribute amongst the junkies and hookers and lost souls of the street.

'Mama' was in her sixties. She'd been on social assistance most of her adult life because of physical disabilities. She had heart problems. Was over-weight. Was poorly educated. Had lived a very hard life that wasn't getting any easier. And still, she took what meagre money she had and kept giving back to the community.

Her resolve to create a better world, helped my resolve to create love in my world, no matter its disarray, no matter the condition of my heart, or my wallet.

As I spread margarine and piled tuna on the bread, I would imagine my hands were filled with love and that love was flowing into every sandwich I made. I didn't know who's bellies would be filled by those sandwiches I made, I just knew that if I could keep filling them with love, perhaps one heart would be touched in a way that took that soul into a new direction.

And as I spread meats upon the breads, I didn't realize how touched my heart was by the simple act of volunteering, of giving back, no matter my condition.

One Wednesday night I joined Mama on her rounds of the east end. It was not pretty. I was scared. This was an area known for crime. For drugs and drug dealing. Murders were not uncommon. And yet, once on the street, walking beside Mama and her motorized scooter, pulling her cart laden with hot soup and sandwiches, I had no reason to be afraid. Everyone knew who she was. They anticipated her arrival and treated her with great respect and consideration.

People were friendly. Welcoming. Appreciative.

I remember one young boy. Probably no older than 18, who came up to Mama, gave her a hug and chatted as if he'd known her all his life. She called him, "Sonny". He called her 'Mama' and when he left, she thrust a few dollars into his hand and told him to go buy himself a hot breakfast the next morning.

One of our fellow volunteers said, "You know he'll probably go use that on drugs?"

Mama shook her head. "No I don't," she replied. "What I know is that he needs to feel like someone cares about him enough to trust him to buy himself a hot breakfast."

It was a lesson in humility and social justice.

And I resolved, then and there, to never let my judgments stand in the way of ethical treatment of every person I meet.

Sometimes, my resolution is tested in ways I can't imagine. Sometimes, I fall short of my vision of a world where every person is treated with dignity and respect, their human condition honoured with love.

Sometimes I forget. There is no 'us and them'. It is all of us together.

And no matter where I am, Mama and her sandwiches remain a beacon of hope burning brightly in my heart. She remains the measure of what it means to give without standing in judgment of those we serve.

And always, I am reminded to live my resolution to let go of discord and give into harmony, to surrender and fall in Love.


It is another One Word Blog Carnival at Peter Pollock's. Today's word prompt is: Resolution.

One of the things I love about the Carnival is it's ability to awaken memories, to create linkages to past experiences I've forgotten, or simply not connected. Writing about "resolution" reminded me of the remarkable woman I met in Vancouver several years ago. I am grateful.

To read more writings and thoughts on "Resolution", please go visit the One Word Blog Carnival host -- Peter Pollock.

You'l be glad you did. And... so will we!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Them. Us. Not me. Not you. (A Poem)

Was it them?

Was it us
or was it them
who said
we didn’t
what they said
we should have done
when they did
what we wanted them to do
but didn’t know
how to ask to get
what they wanted
what they said
was ours for the getting
if we just
trusted them.

That’s why it’s true,
They created the mess
we’re in
not me
not you
but them
so they should clean it up
even if we messed it up
trying to get
what they had
that we wanted
because of them
we are too
far down the road
to look back and see
what we did
to get us here
was what they were doing

It Was Them, Not Us.

If you take the us out of them
you’ll still get
us looking at them
and them looking at us
what’s the difference
between us and them.
It’s simple you say
they have
what we want
and they want
to keep it.

Why can’t they just
give it
to us
and then we’d be
just like them
seeing us
as someone
other than

Them Not Us - Audio Recording on Sunday night by Louiseg88

I wrote this, inspired by my friends Glynn Young and his post, Occupy #All of the Above and Joyce Wycoff at Peaceful Legacies and her post, yesterday, Political: Yin and Yang of OWS. Thanks my friends for continuing to inspire me to do more, write more, create more! and then, I recorded it at the prodding of my friend Nance Marie at A Little Something -- she put up the gidget yesterday for her friends to share their poetry and voices: Voices and Friends. Poetry Reading.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

From the dock at Barry's Bay

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. Epicurus
When I was a little girl, my parents entertained, a lot. Big dinner parties with many people. People they knew well. People they'd just met. People from all over the world. Their hospitality was legendary. My three siblings and I all knew we could invite anyone over, anytime, and they would be welcomed. That there would always be enough food, enough room at the table for one more.

Sunset over the Bay
I dreamt of such a house when I grew up. I dreamt of entertaining with such flare when I had a home of my own. I always hoped my dream would come true.

And it has.

Last night, we celebrated a late Canadian Thanksgiving. Liseanne, my youngest daughter, was quite disjuffed that C.C. and I were not here for traditional turkey fare last weekend, so I promised to create the event this weekend.

It was supposed to have been a turkey dinner. I'd phoned Liseanne on Wednesday to remind her to take the turkey out of the freezer in the garage and put it into the fridge. She'd forgotten to do it Wednesday but did remember Thursday morning before she left for work. She did forget, however, the bit about 'put it in the fridge to thaw'. Thought it would be more effective-- (it was frozen rock hard, she said and she was late taking it out) -- if she put it in the sink in the kitchen.

No cold water bath. No ice.

Just a dry sink and a warm house in which to unfreeze.

And that is why we feasted on plump juicy farm fresh chickens last night (and a rib eye steak for my brother-in-law who detests eating anything that once had feathers).

didn't want to risk poisoning our guests with a questionable turkey.

My brother-in-law was delighted. "Thank you Liseanne," he said as he walked into the house and gave her a hug.

"You're welcome," she replied. "I did it just for you."

"Thank you," another guest commented. "We're having turkey dinner tomorrow night. You've saved us from two in a row!"

"You're welcome," Liseanne replied. "I did it just for you."

It didn't matter about the missing turkey. In fact, the story of the missing turkey added a great deal of hilarity and ample opportunity to rib Liseanne about her culinary talents -- she and her boyfriend Ryan did make a Chocolate Quinoa (gluten free) cake to prove she can cook.

And she can. Cook. It's the clean-up after the big mess up that she struggles with. And boy, can she create a mess in the kitchen! From a dropped egg on the floor to cocoa powder drifting down like an ash cloud to batter spilling everywhere, Liseanne knows how to leave evidence of her cooking behind!

C.C. of course, weathered the storm of Liseanne and Ryan's kitchen escapades with grace. They descended upon the kitchen just as he was preparing the two birds for the oven. (yes, we had to cook two big chickens as we were 15 for dinner and in spite of my best efforts to find a fresh turkey yesterday, we had to resort to the plumpest, juiciest, biggest chickens we could find at the market -- which were delicious!)

While C.C. stuffed and trussed the chickens, and I peeled and chopped potatoes for my 'famous' roast potatoes, Liseanne and Ryan darted in and around us, hunting for baking powder and cinnamon and all the other ingredients and asking germane questions like, "does it matter if I didn't mix the dry ingredients together before putting them into the wet?" or, when asked, 'what does the recipe say about preparing the pan?', replying, "Nothing."

'Read the beginning of the recipe.' I suggest.

"It just talks about how good the cake is," Liseanne responds.

'That's the preamble to the recipe. Not part of the recipe itself." I explain. 'Read the first steps.'

"Preheat oven to 350F. Oh." Pause. "You mean this bit. Lightly grease a 9" springform pan." Look up. Smile innocently.

"Yes. They always tell you how to prepare the pan at the start of the recipe."

"Well that's silly," she replies. "Everyone knows you don't put the batter in until the end. Why don't they just tell you what to do then so you don't have to go back and read the beginning."

Ah well, I'm sure she'll figure it out one day.

On this day, she has figured out how to simply be part of creating a special day to remember. From a guest she invited because she knew there would always be room at the table, to filling water glasses to organizing seating arrangements, to greeting everyone at the door with a warm hug, Liseanne helped make my dream come true.

And all that was missing was my eldest daughter Alexis. She did Skype in later in the evening. My laptop moved around the table and everyone had a chance to say hello and get caught up on her news of life on the coast. It wasn't quite like having her here, but it was the next best thing.

Epicurus is right. Spending time wishing for things I don't have takes away from savouring the joy and wonder of what I do have.

And what I have is a world of love. Of joy and laughter. Harmony and bliss.

I have everything I've ever wanted. Everything I could ever imagine, right now. Right here. This is life.

The photos are from my week at Barry's Bay. I just wanted to share some! :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

the Leap. Part 2!

Dusk was just beginning to settle in when I walked down to the shore. Ursula and Andrew were getting ready to go to friends for dinner when C.C. and I had returned to Barry's Bay. A night on our own, we opted to stay in and enjoy our last night on the lake.

But first, I needed to dive in.

The weather has turned. Gentle rain falls like angels wings fluttering on the breeze, it caresses my skin as I walk through the trees to the water.

I'm debating. Fast and furious.

Seriously? It's only 13C out (about 56F). It's cold. There's no sun. You don't have to do this.

But I do.

Have to do it.

It's my deal. With me. With life. With the Universe. I will leap. No matter what.

I stand at the end of the dock and give myself a pep talk. All the things I know about why jumping in is good.

I'm not convinced.

OK, I ask myself. What will it take?

No clothes.

Excuse me?

No clothes. Nada. Swimsuit off.

I look around.

The rain is so gentle it's barely visible against the water's surface. The trees on the far shore reflect back to me the silky darkness of the depths.

There are only four cottages on this bay and two of them have been boarded up for winter, the owners retreated back to city homes where they await another summer on the bay.

Andrew's brother and sister-in-law are home next door. Lights shine out through trees that are quickly losing all remaining leaves. There is no one stirring about.

C'mon. You can do it, the voice of 'cast your fate to the wind' cajoles me. Take it off.

I look around again.

No animals appear to rescue me. No boats upon the lake. Just me. A gentle rain. A soft evening light and the water. Dark and mysterious waiting for me.

I remind myself again why leaping in is good. It feels great when you get out. It's invigorating. It's fun.

Fun? Oh right. This is fun.

I stare some more into water. Maybe there's some deep sea monster lurking?

None appears.

If you take your swimsuit off you'll have no choice but to jump in, the voice hisses. You can't stand here naked on the dock.

Sometimes 'the voice' makes absolutely no sense.

And so, despite my voice of reason's attempts to drown that other voice, I strip out of my swimsuit and leap.


The water hits me.


I dive to the bottom.

It's dark.

(Did I mention cold?)

I swim upwards.


I break the surface. Spluttering. Screaming. Laughing. I swim back to the ladder. Climb out. Grab my terry cloth robe and quickly wrap it around my body.

It's actually not all that bad.

Not really all that cold.

Okay, maybe a little bit.

But I do feel just like I thought I would. Exhilarated. (smug too - I don't see anyone else leaping at the opportunity to dive into the frigid waters of a Northern Ontario lake in mid-October).

and.... The worst didn't happen.

No. Not someone seeing me.

I didn't die.

Because truly, that's what I was thinking might happen... The cold would hit my naked skin. Some deep sea monster would swoop in. Startled to see all that flesh squirming about in the water, it would lunge. Grab me into its giant mouth and swallow me whole. C.C., snug in the house, wouldn't know I'd disappear into the belly of some giant, vile monster. Eventually, the absence of my laughter and screams from the water would surface through his concentration of the hockey game and he'd come in search.

and the only sign of where I'd gone would be my swimsuit lying on a towel on the dock.

And it didn't happen.

See, sometimes worry is just a way to avoid doing what we really want to do. Sometimes, worry is just an excuse to hold onto not taking the leap.

I leapt again!

This time, I did it naked.


Completely exposed to the elements.

And I loved it!

Might just have to do it again before we leave today!


May you leap naked into life, letting go of the stories that would hold you back from living in the rapture of now.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I have a working INternet connection today -- at least for awhile, that is.

Yesterday C.C. and I left Barry's Bay shortly after lunch to drive to Orillia to visit Alyssa and Don -- my two wonderful musical friends from The Haven where I spent a week in September. We arrived shortly before 5 but it wasn't until midnight that reality hit me -- I was a morning person surrounded by three night owls.

Seriously. My head was nodding (it could have been helped by the wine) and the three of them were gaily chattering and swapping tall tales while my eyelids kept drooping.

Enough! I cried.

I'm off to bed.

Alyssa remembered she had a crack of dawn start to her day (apparently when you're a night owl a 9am meeting is crack of dawn) and declared the festivities over.

When I met Alyssa and Dawn at The Haven, I was struck by their gentle spirits. We spent three days together in Calgary when they drove through on their way back east and now, having spent more time with them, I know it's true -- we have a lifelong friendship forming. They regaled C.C. with renditions of their songs from The Haven -- Alyssa has put music to hers and last night accompanied herself on the cello while she sang her haunting song of a father's dying wish for his daughter, "The Pendulum". Since I last heard Don's, "I Blame the Horizon", he has tightened up the lyrics and with the addition of beautiful twists of phrase that left me wanting more.

"We write differently," Don said. "Me, I have to write the music before the lyrics. Alyssa is opposite. She writes the lyrics and then eventually finds the tune."

Sitting here this morning in the cozy kitchen of their 120 year old house, I wonder which do I do first -- lyrics or notes?

While we were at The Haven together, I shared my accordion playing saga from my youth. Alyssa, determined to prove to me that the music never dies, hauled in her accordion (Like, how does that happen? I share my misspent youth playing the accordion story with someone who actually has an accordion with them!) and said, "Here. Now you play it."

At first, I demurred. Seriously? Play the accordion? Now? I mean, really. I hated playing it as a young girl, why would I like it any more now?

But Alyssa is one determined woman and eventually, I acquiesced and opened the case.

And there it was inside, resting in its white velvet bed, a beautiful, red mother of pearl accordion. It wasn't the full size like the one I remembered playing long ago, but it was that dreaded of instruments -- an accordion.

And it was beautiful. (did I really type that -- beautiful and accordion in the same phrase? Wow -- how time changes my perspective.)

I picked it up, Adjusted the straps and slipped my arms through, one each side. It felt, comfortable. Natural. Easy. I pressed a few keys. My fingers naturally found the dip in the 'g' chord where the second finger of the left hand goes like my fingers find the 'f' and 'j' on my keyboard when I type.

Da du du. Da du du. The notes came out, my fingers lightly touching the chords. Da du du. Da du du.

I pressed the piano keys. Pushed in on the bellows. Pulled out. In. Out. Like breathing the rhythm of giving the instrument air came naturally. Right hand played notes. Left hand chords. I didn't play long -- not because I didn't want to but mostly because I was embarrassed -- some deep need to 'to it right' surfaced and after just a few short notes, I put the instrument down.

But I remembered.

Ah yes. I remembered. Playing music.

It was there Deep. In my bones. Memory cells long dormant awoke. I remember the song. I remember the music. My sister Anne and I locked in the dining room. Practicing. Well, mostly she practiced. I fidgeted. The metronome keeping perfect time.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Never missing a beat. Always beating time.

I watched the hands on the clock move through the hour. Fifteen more minutes before we could go play. Ten. Five. 30 seconds. 10-9-8-3-2-1.


And I put the accordion back in its case.

I didn't want to play music back then. I wanted to play. Skip the messy parts and just get going. Out there. Out in the world. Experiencing.

Anne wanted to get it right. To do her best. To practice until every note was sweet -- which probably explains why when we did sit our Conservatory exams she always beat me to first place, leaving me to battle for second.

It had been forty years since I last touched an accordion. And still, the notes remained within me. Waiting for that day when I would pick it up and play.

I didn't play well at The Haven. But I played and that's what counts.

I played.

Like I play today, living life right now.

It doesn't matter if the notes or the lyrics come first. What matters is that I let the song within me out. Give it air. Breathe into it. Sing out loud. Dance with abandon. Listen to the notes of life calling me to get outside and experience it -- LIFE.

Like the country and western song says -- Life is calling my name.

I gotta heed its call by living the notes that arise within me in all their messy chords and lyrical notes.

The notes don't have to be perfect-- as Don tells me no song is ever really 'done'. They're always works in progress.

Like life. It's never really 'done' until we're no more on this planet. And while we're here, we've got to sing the song out loud like nobody's listening, dance like nobody's watching and love like loving is all we can do.

Only I can hear the notes in my heart. Only I can express my song, dance it out, play it out, get it out to reflect all the love and joy and beauty I feel within.

And only you can express yours. There is no other song like yours. Whether you hear the notes first or the lyrics. Only you can sing your song for all you're worth.

And when we hear each other -- no matter the notes, let's make beautiful music together singing in the key of life. Singing as if no one is listening -- because if we don't, no one will ever hear us.

May your day be filled with your song of joy dancing all around.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I leap!

The eastern horizon is stippled dusty rose and violet. Streaks of lavender and yellow dance effortlessly through the clouds crowding the early morning sun. In the western sky the full moon hangs low, casting an eerie light over the placid waters of the lake.

All is well in this tiny corner of the world. All is peaceful.

Outside the open window where I sit, leaves drift playfully to the ground from trees growing more and more barren with each passing day. Yellow, gold, orange, splashes of red, autumn in its glory abounds with every glance. The forest floor is littered with fallen leaves waiting for winter's broom to sweep their colourful mess under her white blanket.

Rest my weary friends, the wind whispers to the trees. Rest. Spring will come soon enough. For now, rest.

I am resting.

And playing.

Everyday since we've been here, I have traipsed down to the dock, stood at the end of the wooden slats that march out across the water and breathed. Deeply. Again and again until finally, with one deep breath, I let go of gravity and thrust my body out over the dock's edge to fall into the water.


Gasping, screaming with delight, I splutter to the surface, laughing and yelling in pure exhilaration.

Freezing yet invigorated, I swim a few strokes until my skin is tingling with the cold. No longer able to withstand the water's frigid temp, I scramble to the ladder affixed to the end of the dock and climb out.

The air is warm. Soft against my wet skin. I wrap myself in a giant towel and lay on the dock, soaking up the sun.

We've been fortunate. Fall has fallen and the sun burns down wrapping this section of Canada in unusually high temperatures for this time of the year.

And still, the water is freezing.

But it doesn't matter.

I leap, plummet into its depths and scream with delight.

I am alive.

I am alive.

No one else has ventured into the waters with me. (I think they think I'm crazy).

But there is something freeing, enlivening, exciting about that first cold snap of water against my skin. Something, peaceful and beautiful and uplifting in coming out of the waters refreshed to lie in the warm breeze carressed by sunlight against my skin.

I do it because I can. I do it because it's there.

I do it because I want to -- even when my mind is screaming, Step back! Step Back! Don't do it!

My mind doesn't know what my spirits knows.

Oh look, I say to my mind, as I stand at the end of the dock. Resistance is here. I see you fear lurking in the darkness of my trepidation, pulling me back from the edge. I see you.

And no matter how fast and furious my mind scrambles to talk me out of leaping into the ice cold water, I know I will jump.

Because no matter the fear, no matter my resistance, courage is present. Commitment. Desire. Passion. Laughter. Excitement. They are all here too, urging me on.

On, into life beyond the edge of the dock where I stand, out there, into the waters of life -- no matter the temperature, the clime, the calm seas or turbulent waters.

Life is waiting.

I leap.

And life greets me, arms open wide, spirit lifting me up, waters holding me strong.

I leap because I am alive and leaping is all I can do when fear yells at me to stop and I know what it is I want to do, what my spirit knows I must do to be free, to feel alive, to fulfill my purpose, standing there on the end of the dock.

Ah yes, fear is present and so is courage. Always.

I leap.

Monday, October 10, 2011

In search of reflections

Internet access here is through a 'stick', one of those devices that uses satellite or cell phone towers or some such technology to access the invisible web of connectivity out there in cyberspace. It is slow. Cumbersome and thus, I only come to visit in the morning to write and post my blog. The slowness of access makes it difficult to read and post to others -- I am missing my cyber-friends' words and images and presence on my journey -- I shall be back but not until next weekend. For now, I shall post once a day and leave the reading and commenting until I'm home.

Yesterday, Ursula and I went in search of reflections. About to begin our part in the preparations for last night's Thanksgiving feast, we looked at the sun on the water and decided -- cooking can wait. The reflections couldn't.

We set out around the lake in search of beauty, which really doesn't require much of a search because it is everywhere. From golden hues to russet and gold to brilliant red, the trees are ablaze in fall's fiery hues.

But what we wanted were the colours reflecting off the water. The mirrored surfaces of fall glory all around.

I drove. Ursula navigated.

"There!" she yelled and pointed to an inlet where the water lay still as glass and the trees lay upon their surface. The world in 2-D. Hillside reflected on lake.

We stopped and took a photo. Or two. Or three.

Back in the car. On down the road we drove.

"There!" she yelled again, not two minutes from where we had first stopped. Laughing we pulled over. Leapt out of the vehicle. Trudged down a slope, slipping and sliding through crunchy leaves and fading grasses.

More photos. More laughter intermingled with sighs of contentment for the beauty all around.

Ursula is my 'painting buddy'. It was she who first awoke in me the desire to paint. A lifelong artist she would always challenge me to join her in throwing paint on canvas to create a work of wonder.

"No. No." I'd declare each time she'd insist there was an artist lurking within me. "I'm a writer. Not a painter. I leave the spreading colour on canvas to those who can."

"But you can!" she'd insist and I would demur.

And then, when Alexis (my eldest daughter) was 10 or 12, she invited Alexis to paint with her and the two spent delightful hours immersed in colour and paint and canvas.

And I'd continue with my insistence, I'm a writer, not a painter.

Until one day, when Alexis was about 14 she asked if we could go and buy her some canvases. Off to the art store we traipsed, laughing and giggling as we explored the many options available.
When we returned home and set up her painting corner in the kitchen, out of the blue I said, "I think I'll paint with you."

Ursula still likes to remind me that she was right. I was wrong.

There was an artist within waiting to be released.

That was several years ago. Since that time, Ursula and I have shared many painting classes together and many hours communing together over canvas and colour, texture and tone. The difference in our 'style' is evident. A realist, Ursula likes to represent the world in all its beauty through reflecting the depth and glory of what she sees as she sees it.

Me, I'm abstract. I love to throw paint and texture and medium together to see what I can create that reflects the beauty I feel within looking out.

And for both of us, it is the reflection of love and life and laughter and joy and glory of this world we cast upon a canvas, rejoicing in the art of creating for no other reason than we can.

We went in search of reflections yesterday and found the beauty of our spirits reflected in the world around us.

It was Divine.

And then, we cooked and prepared and joined with Ursula and Andrew's friends and family to give thanks for this world we live in.

I can't post any photos but it was glorious!

Hope your's was too.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

The way to laughter.

I laughed last night. Deep belly laughs that rolled up through my body, causing my entire being to shake.

It felt good. Funny almost to laugh so deeply. :)

C.C. and I are in Ontario, visiting friends who have a summer house on Barry's Bay. It is beautiful. Relaxing. Calming and fun!

Last night, after an amazing dinner where we watched the sun set cast hues of pink and violet, blue and orange across the sky, after the last reflection had sunk into the water's inky depth, after the loon call had echoed its last refrain across the valley, C.C., Ursula and I traisped through the forest to their neighbours house for a game of Euchre.

It was there the laughter started. Their neighbours are the brother and wife of Andrew, our host. The land has been in the family since the late 1940s when their father purchased it after immigrating to Canada from Poland via Argentina.

This area is steeped in Polish history. The Kashubian's arrived here over a hundred years ago, settling the area and stamping it with the indelible traditions of their home country. Polish flags fly from every peaked roof. Towns are named after places in Poland and where ever you go, the language can be heard on the tongues of young and old. Journeying through the area is a voyage through the Polish history in Canada.

"Here is the girl guide's camp where I went as a child," Ursula tells us.

Under a canopy of maples turning red, Andrew regales us of stories of his youth. "And here's where the priest held outdoor mass every Sunday in Polish."

I am always so amazed, and thrilled, by the pride of history my friends hold for their homeland and their journeys.

Both Ursula and Andrew's father's fought in WW2 as members of the British Polish Air Force. Both are decorated heroes. Men of honour. Men of passion. These are the men who would not give up, give in or give out against the Nazi onslaught. These are men who fought for their beliefs and their countrymen without thought for their own safety. Ursula was just an infant at the time of the war. She and her mother were deported to Siberia where they lived during the war as refugees. Andrew and his mother were also refugees. Both families eventually made their way to Argentina, living just blocks from eachother. But it wouldn't be until they immigrated to Toronto that they would meet, fall in love and marry. Fifty years later, they are still together. Still fighting with passion. Still loving eachother, in spite of the dark clouds, turbulent waters and often tumultuous currents of Andrew's career taking them across the country.

And now, they have this beautiful home on the lake where they travel every year to spend six months of summer on the bay.

Generous, hospitable, kind and open-hearted, they greet all people as friends. Their welcome is legendary, their hospitality filled with grace and ease.

I can't post photos as I didn't bring my laptop and don't have the cables to connect my camera here.

But it is beautiful.

And now, Ursula and I are off for a walk in the woods while Andrew and C.C. are off to play tennis. We'll meet later for a turkey dinner with family and friends which will be held in Andrew's brother's barn. The floor has been swept, the tables set and everything is waiting the sumptuous meal in thanksgiving of all we have, all we share, all we know that makes our lives full and complete.

Wishing you the best of this Thanksgiving in Canada. Wishing you abundance. Love. Hope. Joy and of course, Laughter.

There promises to be more laughter tonight as Elena and Liz plan on taking on C.C. and me in a rematch (We won! -- a fact which I was coerced Elena and Liz into yelling from the deck in the dead of night to the fanfare of Ursula and C.C. -- fueled no doubt by a glass - or two -- of vino veritas!). Amidst the cards played, the Bower's laid there will be singing and repartee and jibes and jostling for supremacy on the Euchre table. And no matter what you say, between Elena, Liz and myself, we will find the words to a song to match and out vocalize you, out sing you, out yell you down! It's just the way of the game. The way to laughter.

Have a beautiful, loving and laughter filled Thanksgiving.


Friday, October 7, 2011

A vote for well-being

At the DI, the homeless shelter where I work, we have submitted an 'idea' for funding to the AVIVA Community Fund -- a 'who gets the most votes' kind of competition that gives you a chance of winning money to fund a charitable endeavour.

Our medical centre is the foundation of our idea. It sees over 5,000 clients a year, many of them with complex and life-threatening issues. It is not funded by government or any other foundation. We have to raise the funds every year to ensure we can provide clients the well-being and health care they need, and deserve.

Yesterday, to support our bid for the AVIVA fund nomination, I interviewed one of our clients. The nurse who'd arranged for me to sit and chat with Jim didn't tell me any of his circumstances, just replied to my query of whether there was a client who'd be willing to talk about his story with a brief, "Jim will do it."

And that is why I came to be sitting across from a blue eyed man of quiet wit and gentle spirit. That is why tears (always the tears these days) flowed as Jim talked about his journey into homelessness, and into this new dimension of his life.

My words cannot do Jim justice. I'll let him tell you about himself.

And before I do, share Jim's story, if you could take a moment after hearing Jim to visit the AVIVA Community Fund and register to vote and then vote -- every single day until October 19 -- it would be greatly appreciated. And please, Twitter, FB, share the story with everyone you know. Help us keep helping people like Jim to live the life they have with dignity and respect. Please, encourage everyone to vote -- you don't have to live in Calgary, Alberta, or Canada. You just have to care to offer your support.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Light in darkness

I should have put the pillow under my butt not my feet.

My feet were fine. My butt. Sore. I wanted to shift. Change the weight from one cheek to the next.

But I didn't dare. We were deep into meditation. Around me, bodies sat still, cleansing the Astral field of our bodies. At least that had been the instructions of our guide, Dal.

"In the creative space of your imagination, imagine your body from just above the heart chakra to the pelvis floor. Cylindrical in shape..." and he went on to describe the zone in which we were to spend some time meditating, and cleansing.

I trust Dal. Am going on three years as a member of this group. I dove into my astral body.

My mind. Was not into diving. It wanted to keep thinking. Busy. Busy. Thoughts herding themselves into corners of the 12 ft high Astral field I was to be imagining.

How many thoughts can fill an Astral field? I wondered.

There always seemed to be more.

I looked up to the light force Dal had also asked us to imagine.

Imagine whatever comes off the walls of your Astral field is whisked away at the speed of light roaring through the top of your field. I washed and scrubbed the interior of my field. And the gunk kept getting whisked away.

Except the thinking about my butt. That thinking hung around causing discomfort throughout the meditation.

Until I sank down to the bottom of the field.

Began washing the black layers of gunk that lay piled on my pelvic floor. I wondered if the gunk was blocking the drain. Was that why I was feeling such discomfort. Such overwhelming fear and sadness.

There was no drain. This gunk too was whisked away by the speed of light and I kept sinking into the darkness.

And then, the tears came.

I couldn't stop them. Wanted to. Seriously. But they kept flowing. And flowing.

I wanted to look around at the others to see if I was the only one melting down.

But this was meditation. I was supposed to be sitting with my eyes closed cleaning my Astral field. Ego has no place in meditation. Which struck me as funny because ego always appears in meditation.

And then I saw it.

Fear. Raw. Visceral. Dark.

And sadness. Heavy. Deep. Numbing.

And more darkness.

So much darkness.

I wanted to run. To pick up my meditative state and high tail it out of there on the breath of a cast-off Good-bye!

I breathed. Grounded my being in earth and stayed. Grounded.

What's behind the darkness?

I kept cleansing.

And there it was.

Light. Beauty. Crystal clear. Prisms of rainbows reflecting off every surface.

It glistened in a deep sense of knowing.



This life.

This wondrous, amazing, incredibly awesome thing called life.

And when we opened our eyes and shared, I couldn't speak. The tears just wanted to flow. Seriously? No one else was crying. What was wrong with me?

Dal smiled. The Astral field is where the emotions live. To be authentic, we have to face the darkness, move into it, immerse ourselves in it and let it flow freely. Only through being it can we be authentic. It is all us. And always, no matter the darkness, on the other side, is light.

I breathe.

and feel the darkness resting in the light.

I am light.

I am grateful.

And next time, when my butt hurts, I'll just move the pillow from under my feet to relieve the pressure.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

For Maureen

In June I wrote of my trip to Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan "in search of my father". It was a spiritual quest, a journey of enlightenment, reconciliation, peace. And while I found little evidence of my father in that place, I felt his spirit on my journey and found many answers I had been seeking, within me.

When my father passed away over 16 years ago, he was cremated. Not a man given to ceremony, he insisted there be no marker, no burial site where those who loved him could visit. Being a man of rigid conviction and strident voice, we listened. After his memorial service (there will be no mass said for me, my father had insisted) we cast his ashes into the bay in a place he loved. A bagpiper played Amazing Grace and we stood on the pier, feeling the swell of the waters beneath us and said good-bye.

In life, my middle sister was 'the obedient one' while I was known as 'the rebel', or, as I was often called, 'the brat'. It was in my father's passing my sister became, 'the rebel'. She could not fathom not having a place marker for our father's passing. "We should put a plague on the side of the pier," she said with conviction.

"The city won't let us," we her siblings replied. "The pier is city property," we reminded her.

My sister didn't care. She had a brass plague made and under stealth conditions, my brother-in-law affixed it to the underside of the dock. It reads, In loving memory of Louis John Gallagher.

Whenever I have been in that city (see I'm still keeping it a stealth operation by not revealing the name of the place), I have visited that spot to say a prayer for my father, and to assure myself the plague is still in place.

There is comfort in feeling it there beneath the pier, just above the high water mark. There is peace and I believe that my father forgives us for having ignored his wishes. Plus, he'd get a kick out of knowing his marker is thwarting bureaucracy, bordering on the 'illegal' placement of signage on city property. That would have made him smile.

Maureen Doallas' essay this morning at Writing Without Paper does not make me smile. It makes my heart ache and my blood boil. Maureen writes about the real and heartbreaking events surrounding her recent journey to her father's gravesite at Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC, "the most prestigious cemetery in America", Maureen writes.

There is so much wrong with what has transpired for Maureen and her family and countless other families whose loved ones are interred at Arlington. So much disregard for humanity. So much inexplicable disrespect for brave men and women who served their country with honour and are now being disserved by the very people who promised to mark their passing with honour and are now treating their gravesites with little concern or consideration for those who come to honour their fallen loved ones.

Uneven ground. Sunken earth. Black plastic garbage bags covering headstones that have been displaced.

These are only a few of the travesties Maureen encountered recently at Arlington and through the course of her journey to ascertain if her father really was buried where Arlington National Cemetery said he was.

Please take a few moments to pay your respects to Maureen and hundreds of others who have been so poorly treated by Arlington National Cemetery they didn't even know there were 'Turf Renovations' as the sign read last week, where once their loved ones rested in peace.

Please read Looking for My Father and leave a comment for Maureen. While I don't know there is anything I can 'do' to change what is happening, I know we can offer support through our bearing witness to her journey.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In waiting (A poem)

It was
a season of sorrow

a time for regret
for sadness
for grief to descend
and wrap her in
a blanket of gloom
not even winter's chill
could remove.

There was
no sense of spring
laying in wait

no burnt autumn colour
calling to her senses

no belief
tomorrow would soon rise

there was only this

this sadness that wept
on a pillow of thorns
piercing her skin
blood dripping red
onto the fire of grief

this too shall pass
they said
this season of sorrow will flow
into a spring
of new birth blossoming

she did not believe them
and she lay

in waiting
for the darkness

to come
and take her

home to her beloved.

In Waiting (2) by Louiseg88

It is another Blog Carnival Tuesday. Inspired by my friends, Maureen and Glynn, (and Nance Marie at A Little Something who keeps inviting people to share their poetry in sound) I not only wrote a poem for today's Carnival over at Peter Pollock's, I recorded it too!

Join in the fun and excitement at Peter's place. Today's One Word Prompt is SEASON.

Click on the link. Get reading. Get inspired. Get sharing!