Fix It!

There’s nothing beautiful about this!  This situation is a symbol for all things that can ‘go wrong’. This is one of countless conundrums that can take over time, temperament and wallets, in the swoosh of a moment! This is the babysitter calling in sick early morning.  It is the tire that is flat after you’ve fixed the perfect lunch and feel that you’ve got life by the tail.  And in this case, it is the hoses on my thirty-year-old washing machine on delivery day!

The single day that I don’t teach this week and it was my intention to paint in the studio and wait for the call about the delivery of my brand new washing machine.  This is the day I decided to visit the hospice for afternoon Thursday tea.  It is the day when I was starting my day with a poached egg and a piece of whole grain toast.  It is wild how perfectly we imagine our days.  Well, at least I do.

But sometimes…and not always…there is a challenge lurking around the corner.  It is the news that my loved one is going to die. I stare blankly at the doctor. I feel that I am being dangled helplessly over a giant precipice.

It is that full glass of Pepsi that I  perch on the counter.  I put the ice cube tray away. The popcorn is hot. I knock the glass over and on to the floor.  Broken glass and sticky bubbly, everywhere!  Ouch!

At the point when either event (or something far worse or something much more benign) happens, it is my choice as to how I respond.  My own responses are often surprising, but also, during a certain set of circumstances, perfectly predictable.

I thought it would be a simple thing to disconnect the hoses on my washing machine.  It’s hung in there for so long.  I’ve lived in the same place of 20 years and I’ve never turned off these valves, NOT ONCE.  So, with delivery to happen today, I decided to go to my laundry room and turn off the water and disconnect my hoses before bed last night.  I was already in my pajamas when this story unfolded.

It was 10:45 when I made my first clockwise turn.  I noticed for the first time ever that the handle for one of my ‘nipples’ (I’ve learned that this is what they are called) had broken off.  But, this is what the other one looked like after that clockwise turn.

Panic set in at this point.  As my readers might surmise, the next step was naturally to go to my tool box and to find a set of pliers.  Surely I could turn the nipples to the right, with pliers.  As I madly gripped the first nipple, the pliers slipped around the metal and nothing seemed to move.

I think I made my first cry out to the universe at this time.  It was 11:03. Trevor’s name appears in my cell phone contact list as THE PLUMBER.  So what if it was after eleven at night, right??  I texted Trevor in a wild breathlessness.   I don’t know what I thought he could do from the warmth of his bed.  I just needed a plumber-connect like one might need a psychologist-connect.

I took photos (these photos) and began to communicate a narrative of panic through the medium of text.  When I clicked SEND the photos whirred around and around and never did leave my phone, a feature of my phone/text/approach that is consistent with every other time that I am given one of these life situations.  I was given a message that I could try re-sending. Over time, I deleted the photos and settled back into a state of self-actualization. (At this point of writing I laugh out loud. I think that in the panic, choosing to write is a real stumbling block.  Couldn’t I be painting?  No. As this story continues to unravel for my readers, you will all see that presently I am in a holding pattern.  I can not paint while in a holding pattern.)  From Trevor, I learned that indeed, I needed to turn off the water.  And yes, the faucets should be turned clockwise.

Phone put down, I began to look for a water turn off valve.  I walked upstairs to my computer where I began watching Youtube videos about replacing washing machine hoses.  Oh my goodness.  There wasn’t a single set of valves that looked like those on my machine.  Click Click Click…minutes rolled by as I became saturated with too many ideas, too many calm confident male voices performing such ‘simple’ procedures on their washing machines.

Max, my border collie, looked on with a particular look.  I know he was quietly thinking, “I wish I could roll my eyes.”

I explored my house for all of its personal plumbing lessons.  If I didn’t know my pipes before, I think I do now.

By 11:50, I texted my friend, Wendy.  Her partner is a phenomenal fix-it guy.  But, again, what was I doing sending out SOS messages to my dear friends in the middle of the night?  Wendy is an amazing woman who is busy, with her fingers, hands and arms in so many things!  I thought, too late, ‘Wendy is probably sleeping.’

I went to bed, feeling exhausted and defeated, but not after having a chat with my son in the cold dank laundry room.   He made all of the right recommendations.  His first inclination was to ask for pliers in order to turn off the valves.  (I told him I couldn’t bear any more drama before sleep.)  The second suggestion he made was to turn the water off at the  main valve.  I told him, in my small voice, “Let’s just go to bed.”

This morning, at the crack of dawn, I left a phone message with Dan at Dr. Heat and Air.  I  thought it best to get calls out to all the perfectly wonderful guys in my life.  On my own, I have learned to rely on my village a little.  It’s taken time to feel confidence in doing that when in life, I always, in every circumstance, relied on myself.  Certainly, on days like this one, it is good to know really competent people in a variety of fields.  Beats GOOGLE all to heck.  While plumbing isn’t Dan’s expertise, he always gives me an ear and has wonderful recommendations.  Most important, he offers a voice of calmness and causes me to feel that I still have control and I can still solve problems.  He gave me that this morning, as well as another recommendation for a plumber.

I emailed Trevor the photographs.  I asked him for recommendations on name brands for good valves and asked if he would suggest any good ones.  I told him I’d keep him up to speed. (poor guy)

By this time, my friend Wendy was awake.  She sent me a calming message (as only Wendy can do) suggesting that, these challenges are tough.  (EMPATHY, right from the get-go)  Turns out she had put in a huge shift the day before, but that she would leave a message for her partner to contact me.

That brings us HERE.  I poured myself a cup of coffee and made a decision to ground myself.  I began this writing.

And since beginning this writing at around 9:30, Max barked at the front door. My dear friend and Wendy’s partner arrived, two wrenches in hand.  He was in the lowest level after giving Max’s rope a playful tug, two minutes later.  Five minutes after that, with water spraying a bit here and there, he completed the task and gave me directions for turning the water back on.  I stood in my tracks and wept, saying again and again, “Thank you.  Thank you.  It was so hard.  It was all so hard.”  A supportive hug and he was on his way to plant tomatoes and I was left standing, asking…

“What was that all about?”

Challenges are a part of life.  We can discover new things about ourselves by tackling them. We can connect with people through our challenges.  We can be creative and we can create.  Obstacles are not put in front of us as punishments or to make us stronger or even to teach us lessons.  Obstacles and challenges are just a part of what life is.  In the past twenty four hours I’ve learned a lot about washing machines, hoses and a little more about plumbing.

As my friend said, before leaving, “In the end, it’s just water.”

My washing machine has been broken since just a week before my brother’s diagnosis with Stage 4 Cancer.  The fact that a new washing machine will be here by evening causes me a strange bubbling up of emotion.  I know that John’s death and this story are not connected at all.  But, they feel connected.  It is ironic that it took so much energy, brain power and community support to get these hoses disconnected!

 

For the Birds: Early Spring 2019

I feel a bit of a cold coming on.  Max and I just returned from the river and I’ve had two pieces of toast slathered with peanut butter and raspberry jam and I’m presently sipping my third and last cup of coffee.

Before heading to the studio, I want to write a brief post to acknowledge just how beautiful it was to visit the river, in the rain.  Every day brings its shift in weather and atmosphere and every day brings to mind a different perspective, colour and life force.  I am just so grateful.

At the prompting of my friend, Nina Weaver, I read, with great attention, the first chapter of John’s gospel and I felt, as I read, that I am getting stronger over these difficult days.  Restorative yoga has been very beneficial to me, in the fact that daily, I am more conscious of breath…taking in healing and releasing suffering.  It’s a bit of a daily prayer for me now.  Life will always be different, without my brother’s booming voice being a part of it, but let’s face it, I carry him with me.  And so, today, I will bring him with me, into the studio to paint.

Watching the birds at the pond and now the river, is such a part of my mental, emotional and spiritual health.  I can not explain to my readers how entering into the watchfulness and presence of such vulnerable creatures is healing and even sustaining.  Focus moves away from self and ego and returns to the other…and to what is necessary to wholeness and health.  I am inspired every day.

Why did I decide to post today?  Well, I gain much through the act of writing, the practice of writing.  I don’t want to lose touch with that.  It was very hard to be caring for brother at the same time as my computer sunk like a stone.  Yes, I filled some journal pages and I wrote in the margins of my Bible, but writing didn’t feel as available through that period.  Writing allows my heartache to tumble out,  releasing a particular tension.  I don’t want to take the purchase of a laptop for granted, just as I never want to take the act of painting for granted again.

First to come in the spring, were the Magpies.  Then, the Canada Geese, the Mallards and the Common Goldeneyes.  At the same time, before snow left, the Robin’s song could be heard.  The House Sparrows gathered once again, in a flurry, at my back yard bird feeder.  European Starlings, Common Mergansers, Red Necked Grebes and more.  My friends at Frank Lake have photographed so many gorgeous birds.  At my river, I don’t see the American Avocets or the Stilts.  However, I have been amused and in love with interactions with these birds in the past.  I am very much about staying close to home these days; my energy is still quite low and  so, I certainly don’t look for places to go or things to do.  The next few photographs represent a few of the birds I’ve enjoyed this spring and ones that have built up the life force within me.

You may wish to click on the image to enlarge.  As well, here are two photographs of Mr. as he returned to the nest with a fish off of the Bow River.  For those of you know me, I don’t know how to pan, so the fact that I managed even two poorly focused images of Mr. in flight, is quite an accomplishment.  Have a beautiful day!

 

That I Would Be Good

Throughout my brother’s illness, I kept thinking…and often said to him, “You were always enough, John.”

I don’t know why I had those words on my heart.  And I spoke them often.

I spoke to one friend about my inclination and she said to me, “You, your brother, I am more than enough!”

With the death of one of my great mentors, Jean Vanier, this past week, I listened and listened again to his past recordings.  I read over things that he wrote.  I remain completely convinced by his view that love exists when we embrace those who are most vulnerable.

A baby born to its parents is put into a position of utter trust and vulnerability.  It can do nothing to earn or keep or appreciate your hard work and your giving heart.  The infant child can only receive love.  To be ill in body or mind, or to be dying, leaves a person in the same vulnerable state of being as was once experienced as an infant.  This coming and going of humanity leaves all participants in a place of tremendous sacredness/holiness/grace and belonging.

As I consider my own challenges, I need to remember that I am good, for the simple reason that I am.  I belong in a circle of belonging.

Sometimes the world can tell us differently.  Sometimes our own heads can try to convince us that we are ‘not enough’.  There are days when we act like squirrels, gathering in ‘stuff’, thinking that somehow that ‘stuff’ will make us safe/secure/better.  There are days when we forego time with our families so that we can work harder and earn more so that we can provide more, when all our families needed most was our presence.  We need to reflect upon that presence.

To each of my readers, “You are good.”  Celebrate your wondrous design.  Have a dance.  Listen to the words to this song.  Have a great weekend.  Thanks, Hollee, for sharing birthday dinner with my family. Thanks to Cayley, Shawn, Erin, Doug and Steven, Linda and James for Dragon Pearl feasting and Crave cake! Thanks, Steven, for the jazz invite in the middle of the week.  Thanks, James for attending with your ol’ Ma.  Thanks, Wendy, Tammy, Karen, Lauraine, Jas and Dan for Sunday jam at Mikey’s.  Thanks, nephew for almost daily “I love you”s by text.  Thanks, Dad, for 5:00 Skypes.  Thanks, Val, for connecting with me in real time and in dreams.  Thanks, Erin, for restorative Yoga. Thanks, Kath, for studio painting time, bird watching, dog walking, teaching big kids and small.  Thanks Mary, Pat and Janet for tea and snacks. Thanks, Facetime Friends, for all of those online messages. Thanks, John, for everything you were for me in life and how you inspire me now.  It’s been a good week.  I love you because love never ends.

That I Would Be Good
That I would be good even if I did nothing
That I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
That I would be good if I got and stayed sick
That I would be good even if I gained ten pounds
That I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
That I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
That I would be great if I was no longer queen
That I would be grand if I was not all knowing
That I would be loved even when I numb myself
That I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
That I would be loved even when I was fuming
That I would be good even if I was clingy
That I would be good even if I lost sanity
That I would be good
Whether with or without you
Songwriters: Alanis Nadine Morissette / Glen Ballard

My Brother Called Me Sis

This post doesn’t have a lot to do with the title.  Eventually, I will write about the recent loss (death) of my big brother, John.  I may not grieve as others do, but usually it gets expressed somehow through creativity, either the lack of it, the complete stoppage of it, or the manic pouring out of it.  Writing is one of those expressions.  If you think that what I do is ‘unhealthy’, then I suggest that you forego these practices when you are grieving.  I haven’t judged the grief of others and I expect that the people who care about me will do the same for me.  I’m sorry if there is any aspect at all of my grief that is off-putting or frustrating for you.  I can only tell you that your discomfort with me or what I do, in no way equals the discomfort that I am experiencing presently.  Maybe I should write about things in a paper journal where it doesn’t make anyone embarrassed or uncomfortable.  Maybe I could burn the words or hide them at least.

I went to a restorative Yoga class last night.  I can’t believe what an hour was spent with myself, my beautiful daughter practicing next to me on her mat.  But once I got out and into the parking lot, I couldn’t stop crying.  I think that all we can hope for in grief is for some release now and again…some relief.

Today, I feel angry.

Today, I went to the studio.  I set up a comfortable place for Max.  I prepared my birch panels.  The Gesso will cure for 24 hours.  I messed around with some other stuff out there.  I sorted through my music.  I nested.

(just a sec…Max barking! door bell ringing! thump thump up the stairs)

Okay…so, how can I be angry?  This just happened!

Does my sister know me?  Mama bird??  Is that not the sweetest mug that you’ll ever see?  I am consumed with birds!  Thank you, Valerie Jean!  Thank you, Jean Pierre, Louis and Eliane!  I love you.  Any of my readers consumed by grief, please read the brilliant book by Kyo Maclear, Birds, Art, Life.

And, yes, about thirty minutes have passed since I wrote the words, “Today, I feel angry.”  And…again, I cried my face off.  How can I feel sad with so much love surrounding me?  How can I get angry?  It’s just the way it is and I accept it.

From the outset of this post, I wanted to write about parking.  It seems just one of those frustrating things that comes up now and then.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve had many hours spent at various medical buildings throughout the City of Calgary and over a very long period of time.  I’ll never forget the time that I couldn’t find parking at the Foothills Hospital on one visit, not in Lot 3, anyway.  I had an appointment.  I was already late when I decided to abandon my drive around and around and around practice and drove to the complete north end of the building.  To negotiate my way back to the Special Services building, I passed many couples where one partner was using a walker, or a person was in a wheel chair being pushed by a loved one, and even passed an obviously distressed person, a person feeling just like I was.  And on that day, I was in no position that I could assist or help and I flew by these people, ending up 45 minutes late for an appointment I felt I desperately needed at the time.

There are families who arrive at hospital late at night in order to meet up with a loved one who has arrived by ambulance.  There are Chemotherapy, Dialysis and other out patients who must endure repetitive and taxing appointments in various buildings around our city.  There are young fathers, racing to be with their partner for the birth of a child. There are the caregivers and loved ones of people who have been, gratefully/desperately/ horribly sadly, admitted into Hospice care.

I’m writing this post while I’m angry because I think a discussion needs to be opened up about paid parking in some of these situations.  Most incredibly current for me is the fact that I was issued a 65.00 parking ticket by Indigo, a private agency, likely hired by Intercare Chinook Care Centre in order to provide a ‘fair’ public parking solution for the families of residents and for the hard working employees.

I missed the ten day window for paying this ticket, given that I was planning a funeral and dealing with other matters and so just the night before last, I paid my ticket with the penalty, a total of 85.00.

Apart from the Hospice parking, there is an option to walk blocks away to street parking, that is also monitored for its two hour limit.  Anyone opting to use this street parking, would have to return to their location every two hours in order to move their car.

So, it was Holy Saturday afternoon, April the 20th.  I put my regular six dollars in for three hours of parking.  That parking would take me to 12:56 in the afternoon.  When I returned to my car at 2:28, my violation notice was waiting for me, tucked under my windshield wiper.  There were four other cars in the lot.  I stood in the parking lot and wept.  I was thinking to myself, “It’s Holy Week…it’s Easter weekend.  Everyone is home with their families today.  I am here with my nephew and my dying brother.”  It was at 3:00 am on April 21, that my brother died.

IMG_0870

I’ve archived here, ‘some’ of the parking receipts spewed out from the lot machine over the time that my brother suffered.  Is it a bit of a thorn in my side?  YES!  Do I have suggestions or solutions?  No!  But, I truly believe that this is a matter that must be discussed for solutions.

IMG_0869

I’ve turned my seething frothing anger about losing my brother toward this matter.  It seems ‘small’ of me.  Oh well. The efforts made by the Chinook Hospice staff and management on behalf of our family was of the highest caliber.  If ever I have opportunity to evaluate the program and their treatment, I will assign the venue the  highest accolades.  However, if given the opportunity to discuss parking, I will vehemently respond with the fact that there is a need for analysis and change.

At a time like this, it just makes me wonder what has happened with our world/society that we have perhaps lost compassion along with progress and maybe we traded in kindness for economic growth.

 

Gramma Reads With Royalty!

I didn’t wake until 10!! What??? The dreams that I had in the wee hours of morning were, again, of brother, but they were earlier dreams, back three months in the weeks at hospital, so less traumatic than recent dreams. That’s good, isn’t it? I poured out of bed and clicked my heels together! I had slept!! WHOOP! Whoop! But, QUICK! QUICK! This was the day that Gramma and Steven and Steven’s Mommy and Daddy were heading for the Seton Public Library, eager to enjoy the program, “Reading With Royalty”! The program would begin at eleven and there was still Max to get out and coffee to be had!

Program Description:

Reading With Royalty

Celebrate inclusion and diversity with our new glamorous family-friendly storytime program, led by local drag queen and king performers. Supported by ATB Financial.

Audience: All Ages – Ages up to 5

Gramma was picked up on a morning that felt oppressive, wet, chilly and grey! But how to turn a frown upside down? I was so happy to see my family and especially pleased to be sitting in the back seat with Steven who was nestled under his fuzzy blanket and constantly taking in his world through the windows, through the mirror and through the eyes of his Gramma. Together, we were about to be captivated by the magic of Seton.

Upon entry, the first piece of wonder was found in the huge YMCA swimming pool. What an amazing facility. Steven was in awe!

Gramma was captivated by the sculptural elements and a sense of flight throughout the facility! While I didn’t capture very strong images because of the back light and my lack of knowledge about the camera, I recommend to my readers that they take their own field trip to the venue and enjoy. Bird lovers, be surprised and fall in love with the themes.  Christopher Collins was the talented sculptor who created the birds.  I hope you will enjoy his imagery as they are so much more specific.

As we entered the Seton Public Library, we took in the aesthetic and the excitement first, but quickly discovered the helicopter!  The helicoptor carried on with the theme of flight, as did the suspended pinwheels.  What a glorious space and what a magical investigation for children who find these amazing flying machines in stories that they read!

It wasn’t long and we began to gather for the special event, “Reading With Royalty”.  There was excitement in the air!  The Seton Public Library offers graduated seating in amphitheater style for gatherings such as this one.

Not new to the Calgary Public Library children’s programming and Rhyme Time, our family nestled into a spot sandwiched between other grandmothers and their grandchildren and people who never miss Rhyme Time with their children.  Some were talking about the Fish Creek location…others, the Quarry Park location.  If you haven’t attended one of these programs, this Grandmother highly recommends! 

Today the MC was Tara and she did an amazing job!  My daughter and I were both moved by the land acknowledgement that was done, in such a way that children might understand.  We were prompted by verse to touch the land…as the acknowledgement was given and it was very special.  Tara then balanced the program of stories read by local Drag Performers and verses that were sung and acted out by the children.  This way the children were better able to pay attention to the two stories that were presented enthusiastically by L J Nailz and Oiliver Twirl.

Sending a link, here, to the kid’s book list that honours themes of inclusivity, creativity, acceptance and pride through the program, Reading With Royalty.

Oliver Twirl: drag performer and enthusiastic reader of the book, The Princess and the Pony

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton is a story that naturally breaks down assumptions.  It explores that sometimes warriors just need cozy sweaters.  There were laughs that came up throughout the reading of this book, especially with the use of the word, ‘fart’.  What is toughness, anyway?  What does it mean to be a warrior?

Tara, MC on behalf of the Seton Public Library

L J Nailz reads Quit Calling Me Monster

 Quit Calling Me a Monster by Jory John and illustrated by Bob Shea supports children in their identities and their unique personalities.  It presses up against the act of labeling or naming.  It encourages ‘excellent manners’.

Steven is blessed to have this woman as his Mommy.

During the conclusion of the program, the performers were asked about their favourite music and what things they enjoy doing.  Oliver Twirl shared the fun of playing around with both masculine and feminine clothing.  Their favourite music included bubbly theater pieces and punk rock.  

To end, three large Dress Up trunks were brought out and children spent the next part of the morning playing dress up and pretending.  It was a great deal of fun although Steven, at his age, was just eager to do the stairs and to make his way back to the front seat of that helicopter!

Steven is blessed to have this guy as his Dad!

I am always impressed by the variety and the quality of programs offered by our Calgary Public Libraries.  It is with gratitude that we left today’s experience at Seton, feeling a part of a wonderful and diverse community here in Calgary.  Thank you so much to those who organized the program, booked the story book readers, pulled together the resources and covered these topics with finesse.  A very wonderful experience was had at Reading With Royalty!

Now, Gramma needs a nap!

Gramma Goes to the Lake

I’m skirting around the subject for now. I sit at my brand new computer, feeling like I’m recreating everything. In my vulnerability, I’m going forward, after a long period of sitting in what felt like dampness.

I had booked myself in to be with Steven that week. My body felt nothing but exhaustion, but when I had the chance to hold him in my arms and then watch him, giddy, ‘running running running’, I felt as though I had levitated somewhat into another world, some place above. The mire of wet mud that had been pulling my legs downward, suddenly let go and I was connected to other aspects of life and living. Most importantly, I was connected with my grandson, a personality who has more than once, shared with me the powerful innate sense of ‘being’, fully being, apart from everything but the sensory core of wonder. In a strange way, this is the exact same wonder I had been present to with my brother.

After breakfast and teeth-brushing, we loaded up the stroller with the big yellow truck and headed out on our adventure. It was with an openness to the world that we examined a pile of old leaves pressed up against the protection of a stair well, felt sand under our feet, threw sand into the water (stoop, back over head, release, stoop, back over head, release, a rhythm again and again…a series of new mechanical actions, each time followed with a laugh) and made observations of geese. While Steven wasn’t aware, Gramma was also silently moaning that she didn’t bring her Canon, as a male loon drifted by on the silky smooth lake water.

My own drifting movement through the muted spring background kept me present, concerned and in keen observation. “These are important times,” I thought to myself. “This grandson of yours is learning and practicing and discovering all of these moments and making new connections. You had better not miss out on any of it.” Morning was a gift.

This morning is a gift. I will be brave today.

A Broader Experience

My friend, Wendy, used to delight in really unusual words.  I enjoyed the fact that sometimes, late in the evening, a word would show up in my text messages.  It might be absquatulate or blatherskite.    

I never really understood until now, what a wonderful thing that was…that my friend shared words with me in the night.

(Weird blog post alert…go no further if you are in the mood, more, to tune into Netflix.)

Lately I’ve been having a very narrowing experience that has turned out to be exquisitely broadening at the very same time.  About art, these last ten years, I’ve said that my visual world and sensory interests have become very specific…it’s as though my visual world is in close-up and while shrinking, has become utterly complex.  This started happening as it related to the act of walking. (circling the same pond every day for almost six years/walking a loop at the river every day for the past two.)

It was right about that same time, that I started taking photographs.  Until that time, I had never had an interest.  I think I was wanting to capture a moment.  Birds became a part of that experience, simply because I would find myself standing still in front of a landmark; a bush or a tree; and I would analyse, in a very sensory way, the impact of light, atmosphere, sound, the smell on the air…and from a concentrated state, I would see more than what I anticipated…a Bald Eagle gazing down at me, from mere meters away, water dripping off a branch, a bright yellow bird flitting through low brush.  In standing still, my world expanded.

I guess I first noticed this while spending time with Mom during her journey with Alzheimer’s disease. To give an example,  I remember once leaving a lady’s wear shop, Pennington’s, after an hour of shopping with Mom.  Once stepping through an inside door and into the entrance way and before moving on through the outside door to go to the car, Mom stopped.  I stood behind her, hoping that no other customers would either leave or expect to enter.  I gave her time.  I looked at her face.  Her head was tilted back and her eyes were closed.  I asked, almost in a whisper, “Mom, why have you stopped?”  She said, “Listen.”  It was then that I stopped rustling the packages weighing down my arms and stood still.  There was a very quiet but constant hum of air pushing its way from a vent above our heads…had I not stopped, taken pause, I would not have shared that moment.  After a short while, Mom just moved on.

When the events of my life, over months and even years, became very focused…it seemed that the world continued to bustle as usual…rushing…filling…overflowing and moving on.  All the while, my own focused days became slower.  They became extremely sharp- edged.  They became very specific.

These recent days… for example.

Since mid January, there is a particular rhythm to my days.  I know that particular rhythm through the events that occur, predictably, around the clock.  I find myself in the very same place at any particular hour.  Some times it feels as though I am reliving time.  Some would liken it to deja vu. The name plates beside the doors change, but the events do not.

It was a day like every other except that one of the temporary name plates read, Milton Born With a Tooth.  I drifted past because, well, a person just doesn’t stop in front of some one else’s door and I was, after all, in the rhythm of my schedule, the very same that I had lived the day before.  But, Milton’s name stuck with me.  Didn’t his life somehow intersect with mine?  YES!  I’ve written, over time, about my love for the river.  This passion began while living in the University of Lethbridge residence, perched on the edge of the Oldman River in southern Alberta.  Graduating with my degree in 1977, I had established a connection with the river that would, as it turned out, never be broken.  It was in the mid 80s, here in Calgary, that I became engaged with the group, the Friends of the Oldman River as Ralph Klein’s government seemed to be pressing ahead with the construction of a dam that would, in my view, impact our indigenous brothers and sisters, the environment and encroach horribly on species native to the region.  I was appalled.

Oldman at Maycroft Crossing

Well, Milton Born With a Tooth and the Lonefighters Society were angry too!  Imagine that, all these years later, I should find myself bringing my books and my scrapbooks to share with Milton Born With a Tooth?  That I’d be visiting with Milton…his family members…during such a sacred time as this.

At this point, my readers are asking themselves, ‘how is this connected to your subject, Kath?’  Remember, please, my original premise…that in the workings of my narrowing life, my experience is broadening.

Yesterday I attended a marvelous book discussion at the Fish Creek Library. The book, Separation Anxiety, by Miji Campbell was easily read in the week following our February book discussion. I’m smitten by this group of women… so smart, fun and accepting. While my days are very overwhelming, generally, and while I need to be very responsible and engaged as a caregiver, I will move sun and moon in order to carve out time for this book discussion group.

I slipped in to the room and on to one of the last remaining chairs, just as the moderator was making introductory remarks and introducing the author, Miji Campbell. Her face was open and the feeling in the room was relaxed and welcoming. In the corner, there was a display of very nostalgic items that resonated for me and captured easily, my own narrative as a little girl, growing up in post war/cold war Canada. There was a Barbie Doll case… A Midge doll… some old black and white photographs.

The book discussion was remarkable.  There were interesting questions and engaging responses from the author.  I listened with great interest as the relationship between mothers and their daughters was discussed, topics of birth order, mental health, anxiety and the stigma attached to treatments for such anxiety or even the act of seeking out treatments. The conversation was a real exploration of wellness, a topic that I dearly need to explore right now, but struggle to set aside time for such reflection.

As I was listening, completely engaged, my mind began to piece together wee bits of information that Miji was sharing, connections that had not been made by me while reading the book.  It was as though a light went off when, suddenly, I realized that for years, I had taught with Miji’s mother.  And even more startling was that I was good friends with her oldest sister through my University experience.  At the conclusion of the afternoon activity, I sprung out to the neighbouring Safeway store, in order to access the ATM machine and fly back to the room where I could purchase my own copy of the book and have it signed by Miji.  As I drove home, I wondered about the various layers of this reading that were intended just for me…also, I pondered what messages I was supposed to connect with through the reading and the characters, who were people very much alive in my imagination and in my memory.

Miji’s cousin, Hughe, took video rather than photo, but I am grateful that he captured our meeting!

I think that in sitting in the stillness, I notice more.  I notice the shift in weather, the changes in people, flavours, reactions.  I make new associations.

This morning, I received a brief text message from a friend.  I think it was comprised of fewer than seven words.  But, the words were potent and remarkable and they gifted me with a daytime of support and love.  How easy it might have been, given my past engagement with schedules, events and social media, that I might not have ever realized just how much power a message has…to heal…to wound…to break…to mend.

On Friday morning, I folded clothes and put them away, created just a little bit of order in my seeming chaotic life, these days.  I relished the folding…the simple pleasure of the uniformity of it…the way the order gave me a sense of space and breath.

On Saturday, I went for a drive outside of the route that has become my routine.  I was on sensory overload.   Has this ever happened to you?  There was almost too much to take in.  What an amazing and complex world we live in!  For every vehicle on the highway…a life living…a complex human being, overflowing with challenges, joy, questions, family, self-awareness, belief…open sky…melting ice on the water…stones kicked up…tires spinning…a huge machine beneath me.

Revelation is an act of noticing and being fully conscious to your life.  The protagonist, young Douglas Spaulding, of Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury was the one who taught me that specific lesson.  I want to come back to the revelations of these past months when my world stops shrinking and begins to grow again; when I am in my life as a player more than an observer.  I am wanting to remember that I am grateful, but not in a self-help-book-kind-of-way, but in a really authentic sort of way.    I think it is an important thing to see the beauty in the enormity of the sadness/challenges that face today’s human family.  I think that it is not so much about hope, but about presence.  When I am fully present, I am open to delight, surprise and revelation.

In the meantime, send one another messages.  Create a care package for some one who never anticipates receiving anything at all in the mail.  Place a treasure on someone’s front door step.  Bake cookies.  It all counts for magic in the end.

 

A Morning at the River: March 4, 2019

Life is both brutal and beautiful.  It is impossible to sift out the bits, and take only the ‘good’ bits..  And while some contend that you can choose happiness, I beg to differ.  Life is about the entire spectrum of what life brings.  Some days, you just step out in faith.  Some days there is a bitterness that the warmth can not permeate, but you step out anyway.  This morning, was one of those for me.  And, look!  Mr. was waiting with a striking bunch of Magpies, with a brilliant blue sky as their backdrop.  Never before have I heard a Bald Eagle making sounds with the breaking of bones, much like you might here from a dog chowing down on a soup bone.  It was an amazing experience.

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

 

The Wind Bites

I woke up this morning, intending to drive to Lethbridge to visit my Aunties, but there’s some snow and a great deal of blow!  So, I decided to cook a huge feast of a breakfast for two of my adult children and to hang out, cozy, with them.  Afterwards, Max needed to get his exercise, so he and I headed out in the car and steered our boat to the river. We just returned and are warming up.  It was a dramatically different scene from just yesterday when the sky was blue and the earth revealed the decay that is always so familiar in the autumn.  Indeed, apart from a skiff of snow on Christmas Day, everything was brown this year.

I have enjoyed the holiday because it has given me time to walk the river’s edge in daylight and observe the activities at the Bow.  I have been watching the male and female Bald Eagles build up the railings on their nest.  My photos are taken a great distance away and so I have no real concerns that posting these will tease out the weirdos who exist in the world to hurt and interfere with nature.

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Setting geese and ducks to flight while doing a reconnaissance.

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Keeping eye on a fly-fishing dude.

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I Saw a Heart in the Tree

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Male Bald Eagle, delivering new railing material.

Today was such a contrast to the past couple of weeks!  I pulled out my camera from under my coat in order to snap a quick photograph of a young raptor before he became aware of Max and I and took flight.  I had a chance to really get a good look and, according to information on line, with so much mottling, this is likely a sub-adult of maybe two or three years of age from the same parents that I’ve been watching for about four years.  I got a good look at him when he took flight.  Interestingly enough, he returned to a tree just a short distance from the nest, so I have a feeling he was, in all of this cold blustery wind, seeking out the warmth of home.  Thing is, if Mom and Dad return at some point this afternoon, they’ll be their usual ‘hard ass’ variety of parents and aggressively send him on his way.  That sort of makes me sad. I know he’s just wanting a taste of a nice fish or something.  Here are my photos…very out of focus, so I wish you had been there.

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I’m now seeking permission to include a photograph posted on A Guide To Aging Bald Eagles by a photographer named Ron Dudley who has a very clear photograph of a Bald Eagle, classified as an Intermediate Adult.  I think that this is what I saw today.  I’d like to begin using the proper vocabulary.  So, stay tuned, but in the meantime, my readers might want to go to this website for clarity.

With gratitude to photographer and amazing birder, Ron Dudley, I was given permission to publish this screen shot.  As I experienced this Intermediate Adult today, this is what I saw when he/she was closer to me.

 

 

November 22nd

I began to write this blog in 2005.  On November 22nd of 2005, I wrote THIS.

Today happens to be Thanksgiving Day for our friends in the United States of America.  And so…I think of them.

On November 22, 1963, I was sitting in a sharing circle.  My teacher, Miss Goodrich (I could never figure out why she wasn’t Mrs. Goodrich) was talking to us about pets and that we would be having a special sharing time in just a few weeks. (I brought my dog, Honey.  Thank you, Dad.)  We were captivated by the conversation.

Then, our principal came in.

She was a female and short.  I don’t remember her name.  She wore a pleated skirt.  She approached my teacher, who was sitting in a short chair as a part of our circle…a student chair…it was very tiny.

The principal whispered something in our teacher’s ear.  Immediately our teacher began to cry and tilted her head to the outside of the circle.  The principal placed her hand on her shoulder and then left.  Reaching in under her sweater sleeve, Miss Goodrich, took out a folded handful of kleenex and wiped her eyes…holding the tissue, she looked up at us.  I remember her face.

“Grade Threes.  I want you to always remember today’s date.  Today is November 22, 1963.  Today is the day that our President has died.”

I was a little Canadian girl living in Battle Creek, Michigan.  While in the United States, I sang the anthem…I held my hand to my heart…I pledged allegiance.  I never questioned my nation-hood….I moved every two years and I adapted to whatever circumstances or place I was given.  In 1963, I was in Riverside Elementary School the year ‘our President’ had died.  I would never forget.

Nor have I.

As I always do, at the beginning of High School Learning Strategies class this morning, I took a moment to acknowledge the words that my teacher had given me so many years ago.  This year, I am 63…and yet, I have never forgotten.  I remember the adult crossing guards weeping at the cross walks, the adults and children crying…I will never forget the absolute devastation that my little community felt on that day.  And so, again, tonight, I remember.