Tribute to a Friend

“Later I will tell him: our courage comes out in different ways. We are brave in our bold dreams but also in our hesitations. We are brave in our willingness to carry on even as our pounding hearts say, “You will fail and land on your face.” Brave in our terrific tolerance for making a hundred mistakes. Day after day. We are brave in our persistence.”
― Kyo Maclear, Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation

My dear friend, Bobbie, lived bravely, passionately and his spirit transcends everything that bound him to the earth…I love you and my life has been incredible because you have been here for me…for us.  No words for now, but I’ve sipped coffee this morning in the quiet of the house, Max at my feet, revisiting our friendship.  These are, in part, moments along the way.  But, we spent most of our friendship looking out at others and beauty.  So, I can not possibly share all of the immensity of that.  Know that you were loved, my beautiful Bob.

ACAD third year…and we gathered to celebrate spring.  I will forever be grateful for meeting you.

After meeting you, you were a part of every celebration.  My children love you.  My friends love you.  And we became family, all of us.

Bob is found written into so many journal pages…a few appear in this post.

I will let Ed know…

Gatwick Airport, before the train.

Oh, the places we have seen!  Angel Glacier, beautiful hikes…so many hikes…walks…galleries…Paris, Giverny, London…Argenta…road trips…books, art, family, friends.

I am blessed for having Liz, Janet, Bronwyn, Peter, Artemis, Cedar…I am blessed for the circle of love.

What a Difference a Day Can Make: 2019 at the Vent

Well, Mr. and Mrs. lost the first clutch to Northern Flickers competing for the nest early in the season.  This is the second year this has happened.

But, determined, the Sparrows laid down new nesting for a second clutch.  On Sunday, when I left town, I collected some documentation of the three little chumps that were voraciously eating and the determination of the adults that flew until sunset, feeding these little ones.

I returned Monday evening and couldn’t help but being hit with the complete silence at the kitchen window.  The little guys were in no way ready, with enough secondary feathers, to fledge, so their demise was likely due to the Corvid family that successfully fledged two juveniles just four days earlier.  The two juveniles have been so vocal and so needy. The adult crows have been determined, vigilant and doting parents (if crows can be parents).  In the end, I’m reminded of how brutal nature can be.  I also know clearly that life ends on a dime.  While we wait nine months for the birth of a child, we have no idea the time or the place when that life will end.  I don’t mean to be so ‘dark’  this morning, but I am very much aware of the immediacy of loss.  And, there is no way that we can prepare ourselves.

I am also very impacted by how the instinct of the Sparrows tells them how hard to work for the life of their youngsters.  I’m amazed by parents and their love.  While I never saw it in myself, I now know how hard I worked to keep my children well, even though my resources were always meager.  It can be unnerving when one witnesses parents who are failing their children.  Even in nature, this happens, but instinct tells the adults to nurture and tend, feed and water.  As detached as House Sparrows are from any emotional bond (I imagine) with the eggs and hatchlings, they certainly demonstrate commitment.  Today, I am sad for the empty nest.  I am also very mindful of lessons that the nest teaches me.

This morning, my prayers are specifically for those mothers and fathers who have lost children, through miscarriage or at birth, through illness or through tragic accident.  There is nothing that can be said about this but again and again, “I’m sorry”.  I can not imagine or know.  I was speaking to my Auntie Eleanor, yesterday.  Now in her nineties, still, when she speaks of my cousin Laura Lee who died as a child, she tears up.  When my Auntie Ruth speaks of her daughter, Linda, who passed as a young adult, she also wells up with tears.

Glad to see that Mama was feeding her little ones ants from my garden.

Dad fought so hard. Every time he went to the nest, he turned his back on the youngsters and was vigilant to protect them.

Many Springs 2019

A beautiful walk and picnic today at Many Springs with my dear friends and family.  Throughout the hike, I was thinking about our sister-friend, Wendy, who died this past year.  I also thought deeply about my brother, John. His son was able to join us on this Father’s Day and I felt such heart ache for him.  I didn’t talk about anything that was going through my head though, and instead, made a real effort to frame my thoughts around internal monologues such as,

Wendy would say…

“This day is incredible.”

She would say…

“This picnic is fabulous.”

My brother would say…

“Thank you, Sis.”

I held a lot in today, but that’s alright.

In past years, whenever one of us would pop our heads out of the shade of some bush, asking, “What is this one?”,  Wendy would come back quickly with the name of the flower, or would look it up in her reference information.”  We are always going to miss this and so much more.

I’m grateful for the rituals that we share and for the many memories we have collected, as friends and family.  While I didn’t allow the emotions to surface, I felt them all and that too, is very special.

Some of the brilliance of this day is captured in these photographs, but not all.  We all missed our friend, Darlene, today.  She was also in our hearts.

Many Springs 2007

Many Springs 2011

Many Springs 2012

In 2013, the great flood occurred and my mother died after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.  I went home in June in order to stay with my father through the following months.  I watched the news of the flood from Belleville, Ontario.

Many Springs 2014

Many Springs 2015

Many Springs 2016

I didn’t take a photograph of the Sweetvetch (Hedysarum (sweetvetch) is a genus of the botanical family Fabaceae, consisting of about 200 species of annual or perennial herbs in AsiaEuropeNorth Africa, and North America.) that was dominating the walk today, but just now read that its roots are a very common and well-loved source of food for Grizzlies.

We didn’t spot any Western Wood Lilies today or Bracted Bog Orchids.

 

Yellow Lady’s Slippers

Blue Columbine

Aromatic Juniper

Wild Violets

Dodecatheon pulchellum, commonly known as pretty shooting star, few-flowered shooting star, dark throat shooting star and prairie shooting star, is a species of flowering plant in the primula family Primulaceae.

Paintbrush

Western Anemone

Losing Isabelle

*ALERT  this is a personal post.  If personal posts make you squirm, go no further.  While this post digresses at points, from its subject, this is what losing a person does to another.  Loss causes people to evaluate and re-evaluate mostly everything. Grief acknowledges in everyone, their humanity, both as it applies to the person who has died and as it does to the people left behind.

Since my brother died, this is what my family room work station looks like.

The Milk-Bone box contains treasures for a very special friend who was enduring invasive surgery at the same time as John was settling in at home, for as long as he could remain, as was his wish.  In tandem with these two life-jolting experiences, a dear friend of mine died, leaving me absolutely crushed.  Wendy was a huge strength for her circle of friends and for me and we were left, devastated. I continue to hold her husband and daughter in my quiet prayers.  I still have not posted that parcel.  It has, however, left the upstairs dining table, moved to the coffee table and then found its way here.

The photographs…well, I am meticulous about archiving and these are all that remain of the former stacks and stacks of loose photographs, a project in documentation that I began in 2007.  Apart from these, all photographs are sorted and stuck into over twenty albums containing archival paper.  All photographs, apart from those my readers see here, are documented.  Something about losing my oldest brother, set this chaos in motion.

Something clicked inside of me.  I don’t know if it was a click-on situation or a click-off situation, but, I’m just accepting what it has become.  A positive example is the switch that was turned on and found me back in my studio, painting.  And for this, I am very grateful.

Now, about losing Isabelle. (I am still ill-prepared to write a tribute for my brother, but one day, I will).  This is not a tribute to Isabelle as such, but a heartfelt response to the news that my first born has lost her Granny and I have lost a friend.

With the news about Isabelle’s death early on Thursday morning, I pulled the albums dated ‘late 1970s’ off of the shelf and I noticed an obvious absence of bric a brac or photographs.  This caused me an immediate sadness. I am left, in my mind, at least, experiencing loss (again) and want to reflect upon my time with Isabelle.  I find visual images really help me with that when I can not conjure up pictures in my head.  In this case, I have nothing to look at.

Through the loss of marriage and the pain of divorce, in anger and fear and incredible loss, it appears that I cut a chunk of my life away.  It looks very much like I did not have a camera, but I’m pretty certain I did.  If we look back at our lives, some of us selectively edit them, don’t we?  I think that is what is so interesting about memory.  We might, even to others, exaggerate a story of a memory that is particularly sharp within us.  Or, we might interpret the events in a slightly different way, forgetting related sadness or retelling in a way that might be more complimentary of our own behaviours.   Don’t we always, as characters in our own lives, wish to be viewed in best light?  Historical fiction is, by far, my favourite genre for just this reason.

One day I’ll write down the story about how I arrived at the place where I fell in love with and married Isabelle’s son.  Certainly, it is a story that even my dearest may not know.  But for this moment, and for the purpose of this reflection, I want to aim this ship toward the subject of Isabelle.

I have, in my belongings, only two photographs of Isabelle as I remember her in 1979.  I am sharing one of them here.

This photo is not, nor will it ever be framed and sitting on a mantel.  But, it represents a moment of complete and utter happiness, a wintry night in 1979.  And Isabelle was there.

She held concern for me and did her best to take care of me.  In those years, we had very little and with her first grandchild on the way, Isabelle would appear at the door to our basement suite and pad pad pad down the stairs, arms filled with bags of groceries.  She welcomed us to many beautiful meals and shared in her traditions of Christmas baking.

It was Isabelle who showed me how to buy vegetables in bulk and who canned with me at my small gas-burning stove.

Once we welcomed my daughter into our family, Isabelle was a remarkable Granny and their bond remained incredibly close right up until the late hours of June 5th.  I find myself writing and deleting/writing and deleting so many acts of love that Isabelle demonstrated along my journey.  I suppose I want to keep them close to my heart and alive in my own memory.

I am grateful that my daughter has always put her family first and equally treasures her husband’s family.  This is a quality to be deeply admired in today’s world.  Bonding with family creates a fabric of love that is strong and endures pain and hardship.

With the loss of my marriage, Isabelle continued to embrace me.  We were able to continue to visit and to share laughs.  I will always be grateful for that.  We were two women who loved my daughter with an insatiable love and that will never go away.

I am very sad for Isabelle’s loss.  I pray for her family at this time and for her dear friends who enjoyed her company over all of these years.  Isabelle will have lessons to teach me through the coming days.  I will watch for them.

The first of these lessons is to, even in your pain, keep those photographs.  Put them in the albums.  It is too late to write characters out of the script of your life.  Shut the covers of the album and tuck them away, but know that one day, these will matter to you.  And you will be filled with a wisdom that carries you beyond resentment.

The river’s high this time of year.

 

 

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

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.

 

What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein

This was another one for the throne room…this does not mean that books in the bathroom are any less interesting than ones on my bedside table or ones next to the red couch, it just means that I choose a different genre and always something a little less cerebral than my preferred reading, fiction or non-fiction.

Another second-hand-book-find, What Elephants Know ended up next to my other books about elephants.  I liked that Jane Goodall wrote a quick recommendation.  “You will be fascinated, angered, and charmed in turn by this beautifully written story.”

Dr. Eric Dinerstein is the Director of the Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions Program at RESOLVE and so I was very interested in the fact that he wrote a novel and I anticipated that the book would be written from a unique and knowledgeable perspective.

This was a lovely book that I’d recommend for students grade five to grade seven.  It was a quick read that left me thinking about the vulnerability of our wildlife and ecosystems.  The protagonist, Nandu, is a beautiful character who, through his young life, teaches about the numerous impacts made upon these, while exposing the reader to the vulnerability of humanity, as well.

I think this would be a wonderful book to read aloud to students.  It is refreshing to find a book that is culturally diverse and can open eyes and hearts to a different human experience.  Grade three students, in their study of India, may really benefit from this story.  Nandu’s relationships with his female elephant, Devi Kali and with the plants and other animals of the Borderlands are described beautifully.

This is a two evening (10 potty visits) read for an adult.  I recommend doing a quick review of the book before sharing with your students/children so that you know the sensitive topics that will come along.  Give it a go.

What Elephants Know

 

 

Five Years Later

Mom Painting

I have lived the past five years without my mother in the physical-her-voice-over-the-phone-physical way.  The night I received the phone call that my mother passed away, I crumbled to my knees.  Mom was my closest friend.  There was NO WAY this could be!  Today, the reality of it is still absurd.

Every event in my life, whether small OR significant…every milestone is a reminder.  Grief never leaves, but ‘softens on the edges’.  For those of my readers who have not yet suffered loss, we ‘don’t get over it’ ever!  In timely fashion, CBC radio produced an amazing program on the subject early this week? end of last week.  Just a sec.  I’ll go find the link.

When my grandson was born, I got a bit of a sucker punch in the gut, some time after the elation and after I drove home from hospital for some much-needed sleep.  Hot tears hit my pillow because in my mind the most heaven-filled experience of my lifetime has been the birth of Steven, so what might that have meant to my mother?  I hurt a lot with the inability to share this precious boy with my mother.

Mom and James 1990 5

Mom with my own son, March 1990.

So, there are always going to be those moments.

What can I do, moving forward?  Well, one of the gifts that my mother gave me in moving into the everlasting is that she gave me the relationship I now have with my Dad.  Let’s face it, Moms and daughters can talk A LOT.  As women they become well-bonded through their experiences and their enjoyment in conversation.  Since Mom gave me my friendship with my father, I am so grateful.  I love that man so much!  We have persisted with our 5:00 pm Skype conversations that began to happen daily when Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, although clearly, our timing is a bit more flexible.  My Dad and I talk about absolutely EVERYTHING and this wasn’t always the case.  I thank Mom for this.  I’m very grateful. Moving forward, I can continue to honour my experiences with my Dad.

P1010153

What else?  Honestly, I am very concerned with the growing incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.  It is a hideous disease and it is also very cruel to families and caregivers.  While not the only debilitating disease that is slamming the world population, it deliberately robs individuals of talents, abilities and knowing.

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As various forms of dementia wreak havoc on aging populations (and this is a bit of a stereotype), we need to explore a number of aspects…health care, supports for caregivers, a more generous perception of personal support workers (paid BETTER and valued for their important work), and financial support for the sake of clinical research.

Finally,  I am interested in spiritual connection.  My mother really valued her relationship with her Saviour.  During my nature walk this morning I was thinking about how human beings are plugged into their devices, around the clock.  My Mom would want people to unplug from those and to plug in to real-time conversations instead.   She would want us to plug in to experiences and to explore the inner workings of our hearts and minds,  no matter our leaning or our ceremony or our practice.  As I contemplate this,  I will take time today to consider my spirit and tend to it.

Let us be gentle with ourselves on our personal journeys of grief.  Time moves on, even though we fight against it.  Today, on the anniversary of my mother’s birthday, I am going to spend time in the garden.  I’m taking my dog walking into beautiful landscapes.  I’m going to try to live an honourable life.  I am going to remember the times of laughter shared with a beautiful woman, my Mom.

1957 Mom and Dad New Years