WONDER

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January 12. The Ultimate Blog Challenge

I overdid the skiing today, going twice around the golf course. I was aiming to increase my endurance. I know I cannot get any faster. I know I am a tortoise. I felt pretty good after my second round. No sweat! I thought even though I was quite sweaty. I was counting on relaxing and stretching in our mobility class at the gym shortly after. I didn’t count on our instructor changing things around. The mobility class was yesterday. Today’s was on upper body which was not stretching or relaxing.

I am physically tired but I am relaxed after a long soak with epsom salt. My brain is too relaxed and a bit mushy. I am not sharp or focused. I caught an interesting podcast whilst soaking on Tapestry. In this episode Karen Armstrong talks about the value of wonder in a despairing world. Give it a listen if you have time. It is very interesting. It made me think about this morning on the ski trail. I love snapping photos. I want to capture the magic to hold and look at again. It is impossible, of course, but I still try.

It was very foggy today. The grey of the sky was so soft and velvety and the trees with the hoar frost…I was gazing at it all. Then a woman glided by. Her jacket was a peacock blue, so bright and luminous. So beautiful. I tried to capture the wonder of it. She glided away faster than I can dig my camera out of my ski pants. I resigned myself to watch the wonder and beauty of the moment. It did occur to me that I might be just a wonder, too, in my tangerine red ski jacket. I felt awe by the wonder of it.

There are many wonders around us and in our lives that can give our spirits a boost. Sometimes all we need to do is to stop, sit, listen, watch and remember. I’m thinking back again to March of 2011 and my memories of time in Ghana. I’m remembering some of the wonders of that time.

Last Week March 31, 2011

I’m on a countdown of my days in Ghana.  In exactly one week I will be winging my way back home.  Before I came, someone asked me if I have been in a Third World country before.  I guess they were worried about how I will fare.  Or maybe it was because they were surprised on their first trip here and wanted me to be prepared.  And since I’ve been here, people have asked how do I like Ghana.  Does anything about it resonate with me?  Hard questions to answer.  Well, not hard to answer on a superficial level.  As a tourist it is easy to say that I love my stay here.  I can hear the ocean from my bed and the breezes are warm and soothing.  Everything is new to me….my physical surroundings, the people, the politics, the colours…..everything.

On a much more personal level, I am unable to tell what it is that I feel about Ghana.  I have not been homesick the time I’ve been away.  I have not missed my suspended life….the cold or snow.  I have not missed my work.  You can say that I am really away. I do miss my family and my Sheba.  At times, I would really like to have free running clean water from the faucet….water that I can drink and to brush and rinse my teeth with in abundance!  And I wouldn’t mind having hot water to shower or shampoo my hair with.  So, I’m learning to really appreciate what a valuable resource water is.  And I would be able to have that most of the time, had I been staying in an upscale hotel instead of an eco-lodge.  I’m not feeling that this has been a hardship or a deprivation.  It has been an experience.  I have a very privileged life back home.  And I can have a very privileged life here if I choose.  The question, of course, is do I wish such?  I have always enjoy hard work and being an independent woman.

One week left!  Impossible to know if I will miss Africa till I leave it and see..….

TOO MUCH COFFEE

January 10. The Ultimate Blog Challenge

I drank too much coffee today. I forgot myself and didn’t specify that I wanted a decaf when I ordered my breakfast. Since they’ve already poured it, I didn’t want to make a fuss. When I went for a refill, I forgot again! I’ve been a little jittery since I got home. I’m drinking hot water like mad to flush it out of my system. I hope I can sleep tonight. There was a time when I drank coffee all day long at work, came home and had a large mug of coffee before bed and never think of it. Of course in those days of when I was a nurse, I never slept much. I took pride in how well I functioned on how little I slept. I’m sure that I was brain damaged then.

When I retired in 2013 I crashed. The sleep deprivation, stress and everything that was suppressed by fatigue all caught up with me. It took 3 years to catch up all the sleep I missed and to flush the caffeine, the stress and anxiety I had absorbed working in a hospital environment. I also took pride in how well I functioned having crashed so totally and heavily. How foolish and vain I was. Perhaps it’s that Chinese trait of saving face in me. It would have been easier and healthier if I had just stop, curled up and rested. But I guess that’s not who I was/am. Today I am still taking pride in striving, but I am more moderate and balanced.

I haven’t drank this much coffee since until today. I think I will be OK. It’s only 2 medium cups whereas in my younger golden days, it was many, many cups. It was my way of staying awake and on my feet. I still like to be alert and on my feet but I don’t need the caffeine to do it now. It’s fresh air and exercise. I had plenty this morning on the ski trail. It was early and I was all alone in a white winterland. It was beautiful. It was wonderful. It was marvelous.

Hmm. I’ve had another cup of hot water. I think I’ve tapped out much of my jitteriness. I think I will do some stretches to further relax me. I’ve been sharing thoughts and memories from 2011 this month. I will carry on the theme. Today’s share is on retirement.

THIS THING CALL RETIREMENT – OCT. 1, 2011

Retirement has been on my mind for awhile now.  It seems like that is what we should strive for….all our lives.  There is this message to work hard so that one day in the far off distance, we can finally do what we REALLY want to do.  I don’t hear THEM, whoever they are, talk about doing the thing that we want now.  And why don’t we? 

I’m feeling that it is not yet my time to retire from my profession.  There is still things for me to do and learn within that framework.  And to tell the truth, I still love what I do.  I’m feeling power in that knowledge. I’m feeling a great sense of freedom….to do what I like and to stop when I don’t.  I’m rethinking what ‘work’, ‘retirement’ and life mean.  I don’t think one needs to stop working in order to have a life.  One needs to do what gives him a sense of worth, a sense of joy, accomplishment…..to have a life.  And of course, we need balance.  Too much of anything, even a good thing like work or leisure time, is not what living is all about. 

And do we ever truly retire…from life?  I hope not.  I hope that when I am ‘tired’ of, or not physically able to work my present profession, I will find another something or another that has given me so much in return.

QUIRKY MOMENTS

January 9. The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Monday afternoon. I’m sitting here in the middle of my chaos trying to tap out some words for today’s post. The dishes are not done. The pot of turkey soup is still sitting on the stove. But I have had my ski in the park. What I know for sure is no matter how tired or rotten I feel, a ski in the park can do wonders for my well being. It can build me up so I can tolerate the slings and arrows coming my way.

I got my cup of tea. I’m ready to write, but wait. Oh, darn! I have to hang up the load of laundry I did this morning. It’ll be just a few minutes and I’ll be back. And so it goes. Life can get better than this. I am sure but right now, I’m still struggling

I am doing the best I can. I am doing damn good actually though I do have my quirky moments. I haven’t been fortunate enough to have a ready ear when I need it but I am that ear that listens. It’s not a bad thing. I must be a good listener. I hope so. I’m lucky I have this space to tap, breathe and revitalize. The keyboard has been one of my best friends. It’s been talking and breathing for me for a long time. It tells my stories and stores them in a memory bank. Thank goodness for that. It’s keeping me afloat for this writing challenge. Here’s another memory from Ghana.

LAST DAYSApril 16, 2011

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And so…I’m having one of my quirky, restless moments.  Often, it doesn’t help to talk with anyone.  Most times, nobody is at home. And when I was messing with FB and my mouse, I ended up with friends I didn’t think I asked for. I had to use the remove button.  I wonder if anybody noticed.  Ooops!  I didn’t think I was that discerning, afterall, don’t numbers matter…the more friends, the better?   And so here I sit, with my glass of wine alone on a Saturday night.  Does it matter at this stage in one’s life?  I’m remembering all my self-help stuff and thought:  Now is the time for it ….. The Four Agreements.  The fourth one being, always do your best, no matter what the best is at the moment.  My best for this moment is to wine and write away my quirk.

I did not fully appreciate or use the beach at Escape Three Points in Ghana till the end of my vacation. There was this day when there were no guests and everyone else had gone somewhere else surfing or some other place.  I was alone for a few hours with only the workmen working on the foundation for a new chalet and girls in the kitchen.  The beach was empty….my moment had come.  I waded into the shallow pool between the rocks and sat down.  It was not an easy process for the rocks were uneven and rough on the bottom and the water was quite buoyant.  I bobbed up and down a few times before I could get myself set down.  The water came up to my neck.  It felt wondrous.  After awhile I thought maybe I should give swimming ago or at least float on my back.  But I was ALONE. I thought I better not fool around with an ocean and no life jacket.  The surf can be very strong, even though I was protected by the surrounding rocks.

Instead I started jogging up and down the hard sandy part of the beach.  It felt a bit eery as I was totally alone, under the African sun.  I ran up and down the beach.  When I got hot, I ran into the water and let incoming tide cool me.  When I got tired, I waded into the pool and sat down, sometimes hanging onto a rock when the tide got strong.  Then I got up and did my jogging again, and so on….Towards noon, I headed back to the chalet, got my buckets and headed to the well to draw some water for a shower.  I just nicely got myself showered and laundry on the line when the sky got dark and I experienced my first real African rainstorm.  And did it rain!  I got the laundry inside, lowered the grass blinds to keep the rain from coming in through the screen only windows.  I climbed up to the loft to move the mattress away from the rain splattering in since there was no blind for the upstairs screen.  I collected rain water.

The storm did end and so has my quirkiness.  But I better clean the house like a storm.  Back to work too soon!

SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS

Day 16 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. The sky is grey and snow is coming down. I’ve forgotten how grey and dreary November can be. The snow is welcome. It will brighten up the landscape. I am remembering another scene – of snow falling on the cedars. They were really spruce trees but they’re close enough. The phrase had caught and stuck in my head after seeing the movie. The cedars/spruce are gone. I’m missing them today. It’s nostalgia for those trees and what has past.

The trees are gone and Sheba also. I’m remembering and missing her today. She loved nosing and messing around and under the spruce trees winter or summer. She didn’t mind the snow or cold. We were out almost every day in all kinds of weather. We were as regular and dependable as the mailman.

The snow is still falling but not on the cedars. It is a good day for tapping out the memories. It is a good day for eating spicy pumpkin chili, drinking hot chocolate and curling up with a good book. Maybe later I can coax myself downstairs and finish shortening my new snow pants. Maybe tomorrow will be a good day for cross-country skiing.

IF I TELL IT

November the 10th and day 10 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. No snow but it must have rained overnight. The ground is wet and the sky is grey. It would be a good day for California dreaming. Winter is on the way. What story can I tell today. I’m hoping like the farmer in Field of Dreams, that if I tell it people will read it.

I had dreams of writing even in grade school. I have memories of huddling with a couple of friends at recess to start a story. I bet we gave our teachers a smile and maybe a chuckle or two. Nothing much came out of these gab sessions. How productive or creative can kids get in 15-20 minutes? I know that it’s ample enough time for them to get into trouble. But I was never that kind of a child. I was rather boring. I never got into trouble. I got ran over by a boy on a bike once. I was in my Brownie uniform going to a meeting. My face got smashed into the dirt. I got a lip full of gravel. Still, I worried about getting into trouble.

In grade 8 the principal overheard me talking with another student about not having to study. We were walking back into the school from recess. We were still on our own time. He came to my class and called me out to talk. The other kids in the class thought he was going to praise me or something. They thought I was his pet. Instead he gave me supreme shit. Something like ‘Don’t you dare be a bad influence. Now get back inside!’ I was crushed and shocked for I was sort of his pet. It was rather harsh.

Looking back now, I think maybe it was around the time his wife was sick. She had cancer and died but I don’t know the time frame. But I was still a tender child. I must have gotten over it because I babysat his young daughter on evenings when he had meetings. Then he taught me how to dance for my grade 12 graduation. He was always proper with me. After high school when I was in Saskatoon going to university, he called our house. I answered the phone. I thought he would want to talk to my father eventually but no. He invited me out for supper.

We went to the Marigold on Third Avenue. They had a delicous barbecue chicken. He asked me if I wanted a drink. I ordered a margarita. I don’t know what we talked about. I do remember he told me I should be careful about drinking when I am out with a man. I already thought it a bit improper that he asked me out. But he was my teacher and principal from Maidstone. His advice gave me great pause. But we were in public and nothing improper happened. I am the original Miss Innocent but I have good instincts. I have heard stories that he like young blond girls. Well! I am not blond at all but I was young and supple.



DAY 10 UBC – DEDICATED TO THE ONE I LOVE

Dedicated to the One I Love

It’s Saturday, the day my fur baby left for doggy heaven. We miss her but life goes on as the saying goes. It is true. It does. For everything that happens, the world still spins on its axis as it rotates around the sun. And we are all going along with it. Saturday is still my favourite day even though she is no longer here with me physically. My memories of her are warm and sweet.

I will have none of the bitter sweet stuff. I am careful of my thoughts and what I feed my brain. Loss and the end of things can be/are painful but it is the natural order of things. There is a beginning, middle and an ending to all living things. The challenge lies within our finiteness. We don’t have forever. Time is precious like water. I don’t want it to drain/waste away. This is one of those AHA moments I’ve encountered in this Ultimate Blog Challenge.

I’m learning when to turn off the tap. There’s no point in bashing my head against the wall on things I can’t change. I’ve only hurt myself. It is insanity to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Things are not complicated but we make it so. I am having fun and learning as well in this round of the Challenge. Sometimes it is challenging, trying finding the time to write every day and read others and comment as well. But I also find it motivating. I just do the best I can. We are all different. I admire those who does it so well. I try to return visits when I can.

As you can see, I AM finding my way around this new WordPress thing. In the end it turns out the same. I was stuck on the classic version. I hung on with tooth and nail – till they took it away. I was forced into changing. The change is good for my brain’s neuroplasticity. I was hanging onto Sheba hard, too. I couldn’t hang on forever. I have my sweet memories without the bitter part. She was the most pretty and happy girl. I love her.

PATIENCE AND STICK-WITH-IT-NESS

So here is the thing. Life is full of distractions. My attention span is getting shorter and shorter. I often don’t follow up on my plans and practices. It’s part of my humanness. But here I am, showing up again. This must be part of the practice. I’ve given up on perfection. It’s hard to maintain. It is not possible. There is a flaw in me, everybody and everything else. It is part of the universal struggle. Life and nature happens. That is the law. There is no blame.

I am struggling these August days. Mornings are darker and cooler. I miss the light and warmth of those summer days when the sun rises by 5:00 am. Then, my sunroom was bathed in bright light and warmth. I was infused with its warmth and brightness. My unease is a response, a signal that autumn is on the heels of summer. No need to worry or panic. It is my nature’s response to the shortening of the days and lengthening of the nights. I’ve been this way forever and a day.

It is time for me to accept and come to terms with this part of me. I have. I’m doing so much better after having Sheba in my life. Her physical leaving was difficult but it is nature’s cycle of life and death. Nothing can change that. And so I grieve and miss her. Some days more than others. Then the grief changes. It grows softer and I’m left with those tender precious memory of her spirit and our time together. I sift through the lessons learned and strength gained.

I raised her from scratch at 2 months old – with just one book from the library and a largest dog crate from PetSmart. Boy, it was a tough go for quite awhile. I expected a puppy to have breakfast and walk together with. I did have that but it took years instead of days. There were so many days that I would moan and groan. There were many days that I almost gave up. Her beauty and brain were her saving grace.

She was so pretty. She would shake a paw and then the other paw. She could crawl and roll over in no time. But she did jumped alot and was scared of everything. I knew nothing of dogs. I knew nothing of  a Border Collie Lab mix. Sheba was that EverReady Bunny. We did alot of walking. We went to off leash parks. We got into trouble here and there. I lost 20 pounds with all that exercise.  In the end, she and I were a perfect pair, soul mates. She taught me the rewards of patience and stick-with-it-ness.

I’ve come full circle. I am dogless, Sheba-less. I’m not quite the same though. I am stronger and more accepting of how things are. I am more accepting of how I am. I cannot force myself or others to be other than what we are. But I can change the way I think and see. I can choose to see my glass half full instead of half empty. I can accept my vulnerabilities and work with them instead of fighting against my natural tendencies. It’s sticking with me now. I now longer run away from my shadow self.

 

 

SHEBA IS OK. I AM OK

I’ve been having more frequent moments of missing Sheba the last couple of days. It has been acute today. I haven’t gotten around to storing her bowls yet, but I did bag up her Kong bed yesterday. It did make me feel better in moments. Other times it gave me such an acute longing and missing her. Fourteen years is hard to erase and process.

Though both we and Sheba knew that our time together was coming to end it is still very difficult. Towards the last couple of months of her life, Sheba stopped sleeping in the bedroom with us. She retreated to the livingroom or the sunroom. Perhaps she was preparing us. So my tears come. My tears flow this morning as I biked down the alleys we used to walk. I see that the squash grower has planted potatoes this year instead. Memories, images and tears come as I pedal.

I tell myself I have to do something else beside cry. So I practice riding with just one hand on the handlebar, then the other. I’m not good enough yet to use one hand on and to signal with the other. I can manage a quick scratch of my nose. I practice looking behind me for traffic. I want to get enough confidence to ride down busier streets. I still have goals. I’m still interested in improving my skills of living.

I took a little break from my sadness. I worked in the front yard. I put myself in every corner, reclaiming every inch of it. I am not letting the neighbour bully and throw her weight on my property. I wonder what kind of person would plant little trees on a neighbour’s property, right along my raised garden bed. I wonder what kind of person would have the Weedman spray pesticide right along that bed of vegetables. I’m wondering but not expecting any answers. Living next to this person has deepened my sadness in these times.

Now it is almost 8 o’clock in the evening. I love sitting out here and watch the sun playing shadows on the garage wall. In other times, Sheba would be laying here beside my feet. She is ok. I don’t have to worry about her now. I’m ok. We’ve had our time together. I am no longer angry with the neighbour. However, I am a little afraid of her venom and malice. I do not care about the row of little evergreens beside the raised bed. They have nowhere to grow but over her driveway. .

 

WEREN’T WE BEAUTIFUL

I am having a bit of a struggle this morning just with the thought of being in ‘locked down’. My daily life activities have not really changed all that much. I do miss not being able to go to the library, swimming Saturday mornings and our Monday, Wednesday and Friday exercise class at the YWCA. The thought of not being able to get closer than 6 feet of another living human being (other than the ones you’re living with) makes me feel claustrophobic and breathless. It’s much like the time I accidentally locked myself in the car. I was in a  panic then. Even Sheba was taking up too much of my air. I had to roll the window down and stick my head out.

I had a talk with myself just a little while ago, put a load in the laundry, made myself a cup of tea and here I am with the poem of the day. The words are beautiful,  bringing to mind of different days and different times. I know the wisdom of being in the NOW. But it is also in our nature to look back as well as ahead. We are a sum of our total experiences. Our body registers pleasure moments as well as those frightful ones that come back to haunt us long after they are gone. It’s healing to recall those golden times evoked by photographs and poetry. I can close my eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, feel the breeze in my hair. I feel the vitality of my youth and the presence of my cousin next to me.

Now I’m soothed and smoothed, sipping another cup of tea. I’m no longer breathless and panicky. I can still feel the warmth of those sunny golden days and the presence of my cousin on this earth, knowing she is an angel in heaven.

Were’t We Beautiful

growing into ourselves
earnest and funny we were
angels of some kind, smiling visitors
the light we lived in was gorgeous
we looked up and into the camera
the ordinary things we did with our hands
or how we turned and walked
or looked back we lifted the child
spooned food into his mouth
the camera held it, stayed it
there we are in our lives as if
we had all time
as if we would stand in that room
and wear that shirt those glasses
as if that light
without end
would shine on us
and from us.

– Marjorie Saiser

 

 

A PERSON OF INTEREST

 

Day 29 of January and the Ultimate Blog Challenge. My cold is not better but it is not worse. I am a bit pissed that I’ve come down with it. I was pleased with myself that I’ve come through a year and a half without one. I was hoping for a 2 year run. I am ever a challenger.

I am staying put again.I’m dropping everything today – the exercise class, my class on Buddhism. No need for me to catch every train pulling out of the station. A part of me is protesting that I shouldn’t be so lazy but it’s only a wee part. The rebel in me says heck with it all. So I’m sitting here, still in my pajamas, tapping out my coughs and sniffles. Oh yes, I stuck my toque on, too. It calms my hair down. I’m looking very much like the tulips, disheveled and falling apart.

I’ve been knocking back my tea. A hot drink is good for soothing the throat and loosening congestion. I’m onto a decaf now. I used to drink coffee all day and night, too when I was working. Having given that up, my body does not like it now, even early in the day. I’m happy with its wisdom. I don’t need to feel the jolt any more. I am jittery enough already and want more mellow. I know the Buddha advocates living in present time. Don’t hang on to the past. There is no past, but I’ve been sifting through memories in old photographs.

Cruising memory lane is not living in the past. I’m doing my archeological dig, the history of me. We study history, don’t we? They still make movies about WWII and the haulocaust. We have museums of art and antifacts. We are the sum total of where and what we have been and through. I used to feel I have no present, therefore, no future. Looking back, I see that I am a person. I had a past and a life. I had people. I did things. My pictures stare back at me. I look like a person of interest. And I am.

Not that I relish having this cold, but I appreciate this interruption. I can sit back/out of my daily routine. It gives me pause to look back down the track of where I have driven my train this month. What have I learned from my tapping on the keyboard? Was I woodpecker in my previous life? What I know for sure is, it is my spiritual practice, my daily prayer. I feel better for being here.