Saturday, June 28, 2008

where it lurks

It dawned on me today that happiness is found in a muddy puddle left from the rain. You can't splash around making a blessed mess with gladness if you havent had a good rain.

I'm off to find a few puddles, a couple of streams, and an enlightening lake or two. It's time to take a bit of a breather.

You're very welcome to check out one or two of my previous posts while I'm gone. There's close to 900 of them..........maybe there's sometime in my archives which may catch your fancy? I'd love to know..........

Friday, June 27, 2008


"Where there is poverty and sickness, including AIDS, where human beings are being oppressed, there is more work to be done.
Our work is for freedom for all ... We say tonight, after nearly 90 years of life, it is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now, I thank you."
Nelson Mandela, speaking at his 90th birthday celebration
It is in our hands now. We have work to do. Let's not let him down. Let's not let them down.

handle with care

"You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff." Bono

I've always had a tough time with the idea that a person is only given what they can handle. To me, this falls into the same category as being told "it was meant to be," when someone you love has died. What a pompously dismissive unfeeling attitude that simply shuts off the empathy valve. All conversation screeches to a halt. I mean, how do you reply to this?

"Yeah, the sorry bastard. I guess he picked the shortest straw in the game of life and resilience. Thank God he has only been given all that he can handle."

Suffering may be the place where we grind out our best growth; it may be where our wounds turn into a thing of beauty, but it seems to me that some people are given way more than their share of what they can handle and some seem to BREEZE through life with only a few nicks. Sometimes a person's suffering is more than they can carry. They are so enveloped in pain.......pain so debilitating that they are simply a heap on the sofa, pain so wielding in power that they don't have the capacity to pull themselves up off the floor to seek help, forgotten about by the people who walk by their door yards without a blink of an eye........because, well.........those sorry bastards are only given what they can handle. They'll figure it out, and will learn big things from the experience. Besides they deserved it?

Whats the lesson here? Well, the person has learned that they have a limit to what they can handle. Or maybe that God is pissed off with them? Can't this have been taught in a different manner? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does one believe in a God who holds grudges? I certainly don't.

We all have a tipping point in the game of suffering. Whether we are one of those who is offered the view from that precipice or whether we are one of those who never reach it depends on Karma? I don't know. Strip away strength. Strip away resources. Douse the flame too many times and most of us buckle under the burdening weight of not having the capacity to cope with it all. Then what?

Some people in our lives, particularly the difficult ones, and certain experiences we happen to encounter seem more predestined as means for us to learn big personal lessons. Carl Jung believed, "everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."

Could it be that self-awareness and the stripping of our own layers of ego defenses occur most dramatically under these circumstances? Still, how many layers do we have to shed before our skin is too raw for even the tenderest of touch? Where does Grace enter into the picture? Maybe it's when we allow the internal struggle between sense and nonsense to rest in the cradle of genuflective reverence. Sometimes it the only place where we are helped with our balance.

(this post was inspired after a homevisit a couple of weeks ago. I met with a beautiful woman who has to spend most of her days on the couch in has thrown her a boatload of lemons.....her physical pain was very real, and it was manifested by years of abuse. She was gracious and open to share her story with us..... Her optimism despite her struggles was humbling)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

dumpster diving and an act of kindness.

The other day, as I crossed the street on my way back to my office from a meeting, I glanced down the alley and recognized a man pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair over the bumpy pavement. He is quite recognizable. He frightens people because of how he looks with jail time inscripted tatoos all over his face, hands and arms. He also has an outward gaze that is a combination of vacant and in deep thought about something a little bit crazy.
Buddy and I have known one another for a while now.....his personal story I'm well aware of. He's been to see me in my office a few times, we talk on the phone on occasion and I see him regularly at the market on Saturday mornings where we sometimes chat for a couple of minutes to catch up. He's there begging for money.......or as I have suggested to him....... he's a busker without a musical instrument.

His presence, because of his outward appearance jolts people and often sends them over to the other side of the street. The fear factor swarms him like a shadow. Mental illness, abuse and poverty has plagued him since childhood and has wreaked havoc in the past with the choices he's made, some of which he admits he can't even remember following through on. A few have landed him in the prison system but he now enjoys the longest (years) amount of time on this side of the prison bars. Anyone can see his life scars and their initial assumptions about what he's done and what has happened to him would be some extent. Wounds and scars loudly shout out his story.

Buddy tends to keep to himself.... rarely instigating a conversation though he loves to talk and is always polite whenever we do. That's the part most people don't see. He has compassion. On occasion, he has contacted me to tell me how concerned he is about someone he's met on the street or in the rooming houses he has lived in. He looks out for others.

Today as he pushed an old lady in a wheelchair, Buddy looked even a little bit more "out there," because of what he was wearing, and carrying. Shirtless (which revealed even more elaborate tatooing), his jeans were many sizes too big were rolled up to the knees and held up by a piece of rope used as a belt. His shoes were large, laceless and clompy.....their tongues rolled out the front. What tipped the scale was his homemade satchel made of a green garbage bag he had slung over his one shoulder and under his armpit. It was full of something.

The woman in the wheelchair wasn't someone I recognized. She seemed depleted of energy.... under the mid-afternoon sun. Dressed in a tank top and shorts, she had a large shopping bag on her lap. She looked older than her years, often the case when one lives a life of surviving poverty. Like Buddy, she had lost most of her teeth which made her face sunken. She jiggled along as her wheelchair bumped along the uneven pavement. It looked like such an uncomfortable ride, but she almost seemed oblivious to this fact, seemingly lost in a bigger survival than a stroll through the heart of the city.

What a sight! These two looked like the most outrageous ragamuffins I had seen in a long time. My feeling was that few people dared to acknowledge them directly even though they were as difficult to miss as a flashing neon billboard. Invisible? Unmentionable? Dismissable?

Me: Well, aren't you one lucky lady being pushed by this gentleman.

Buddy: (not yet recognizing me......perhaps he was thinking, who is this crazy woman in a dress wearing bright green sunglasses?) Yeah, we're looking for empty bottles. (pointing to his garbage bag satchel while moving closer to me) Oh! It's you dear! I didn't recognize you. This is Betty. She's my landlords wife. This is our second time out, me and her.

Me: Nice to meet you Betty. Isn't it a beautiful day? Look how tanned you are!

Betty: Oh yes....I tan up just like a berry.

Me: It looks like you've found quite a few empties. Have you checked the dumpster back behind the building over there?

Buddy: Yeah, we got most of them back there.

Me: It's too bad they are moving the Redemption Centre out of the city soon. I don't know how you'll be able to return the bottles and get the money when that happens. It's going to be hard for anyone who collects them like you guys.

Buddy: Oh, we're not doing that dear. No. We're gonna keep 'em and take 'em back home. Betty's husband collects empties all summer and then at the end of the summer he takes them all in for money and has a big BarBQ for all his tenants. We're collecting for that, right Betty?

Betty: nods. He's does it every year. It's his tradition.

Me: That's a great idea! That's nice of him..... a lot of work for you guys though?

Buddy: Yeah, I ain't been to a BarBQ in a long's worth it, and me and Betty can get out and get some exercise. (smiling his toothless smile)

Me: Well, good luck with your collecting. It looks like you've been quite successful today.

Buddy: Thanks dear. Will I see ya at the market on Saturday?

Me: I think so. I'll see you then. Nice meeting you Betty......

Betty: Nice meetin' you.

They rolled on.............across Queen Street and turned right. My last picture of these two scruffy ragamuffins? They were rolling through the middle of the entrance way of the Crowne Plaza down the street, surrounded by tourists getting off a bus........ It made me laugh as I watched the back of Buddy, his garbage bag satchel slung over his back, buldging with empty containers, sludging along pushing Betty to the next known dumpster..........oblivious of how they looked to the rest of the world...........determined to collect enough returnables to turn into an end of summer party. It truly was a lesson in seeing beauty in another light.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


The van is pulling into the parking lot of the old general store, passing a telephone pole plastered in flyers. One in particular...........with colourful lettering catches the eye......

Husband: WOW.....there's tandem paragliding advertised. I'd love to do that.

Me: Paragliding naked?

Husband: No......laughing.........two people together.

Me: Oh!

Son: You're thinking of the word commando Mom.

Me: Now that's more like it. I'd love to do that.

Son: Going up there naked?

Me: Why tandem of course.
Son: I don't think that's a picture you want in my head, Mom! It's disgusting.

Thank God for car trips, and 10 year olds with big vocabularies and a sense of humour. Given that his goal is to be a stand up comedian, these three ingredients will go a long way to fill his repetoire. So does time spent in quiet contemplation skipping stones with the family dog.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I'm too sexy for my feet......

Just so you know, my days aren't completely full of holy ramblings. I do think about religion more than I used to and this blog has evolved into a spiritual journey of some own pilgrim oddwalk as I grapple with various parts of the "mystery." I think perhaps I've written enough soul lingering for a while. Given that I've had more hits on this little piece of cyber-oz today than I've had in a long time, I see that maybe my last post was too heavy for a Monday morning jaunt. Not a speck of a I'm thinking I'd like to provide a little lighter fare.

When one works on the frontlines and hears many sad stories, and complications leading to suffering, one tends to seek out lighter fare to escape the stark realities. It's the same case in the medical field too.........we've all seen it on TV shows, so it must be true, right? Dirty jokes, innuendos, satire, and personal stories of drunk ups are all fodder for coffee talk in between the stressing times. Our "out of the office" team meetings normally end up in peels of laughter over some crazy story or double entendre moment. And, more often than not, sex talk tops the chatter at the local Tim Horton's line up or out behind the office building where people congregate for some engaging banter. It's just the way it is.

Today, after trying our best to focus on the day at hand, my office neighbour who is outrageously extraverted and a bright blue breath of fresh air in an office where dirges can often be heard filtering through the tepid air rank with post spring flooding...........we went out for a quick walk and a place to sneak a smoke. She doesn't smoke in public for fear of flogging. With environmentally unfriendly non fairtrade java in one mitt and a cig in the other, our conversation led us to filth right away.

We jumped right into telling her that I was thinking of writing gay porn for a publishing company as a way to make some money. I had heard of a person in town, an artist who earns the cash to buy her artistic supplies AND put gas in her car by using another name and sends them off to a harlequin romance kind of company. It seemed like a great way to expand my vocabulary along with my imagination. Why not? If I could get paid to write stories for Svend, then I could focus on the type of writing I really want to write about. She was all for it. The personal jury is out still considering it, but I'll let you know if I choose to. I'm still considering future in politics, so I best be considering this one for a while, eh? Or maybe I've blown it already with the diatribe I've already posted over the course of 3 years...................??

From there our conversation somehow landed on shaving..........and not legs. Much to my surprise, this is more the norm than I had realized. And the colourful language used in my ever growing education on the secrets of the snapper, was hilarious. There I was stuck in a thought that it was predominantly considered a ritualistic thing done after childbirth in Turkey. Turns out people spend THOUSANDS of dollars having electrolysis to eliminate every natural pubic hair forever. My office neighbour's niece did. Don't people have better things to do with their money (like buy my gay porn novels) than spend it on some bizarre and uncomfortable permanent altering? Doesn't it itch?? Ewww..........

As they say in the Miramichi, "Fill yer boots, if it's your thing"'s just not mine.

According to my partner in crime at home who is used to my puffed up ponderings and questions not necessarily acceptable in restaurants where one is expected to dress up and wear shoes, men shave in order for their penises to look larger? What's the point of that if it really isn't big? It seems like false advertising if that's the case. So, there's this moment of exhilarted titilation and then followed by a new moment of reality? It's like craving the taste of a Big Mac and then realizing you've been given the Happy Meal. Well, at least there's a toy. Perhaps it vibrates?

After our free spouting coffee chat, my office neighbour and I somehow managed to compose ourselves enough to re-enter the dirgey office setting, but with energy and food for thought for the rest of the afternoon. And as I was writing up my last assessment report of the day, I thought about how sexiness is a very personal taste............and given that the wall which separates us is made of rice paper thinness, we carried on our conversation until quitting time....sharing some of our own personal tastes.............and some of my ideas for my new writing assignment.

The boys are going to be unshaved.........................thought I'd start a new trend. It'll be right damn may even inspire some holiness.

wanting to know......

Even though your body is always bound to one place, your mind is a relentless voyager. The mind has a magnificent, creative restlessness that always brings it on a new journey. Even in the most sensible and controlled lives there is often an undertow of longing that would deliver them to distant shores. There is something within you that is not content to remain fixed within any one frame. You cannot immunize yourself against your longing. You love to reach beyond, to discover something new. Knowing calls you out of yourself. Discovery delights the heart. This is the natural joy of childhood and the earned joy of the artist. The child and the artist are pilgrims of discovery. When you limit your life to one frame of thinking, you close out the mystery. When you fence in desires of your heart within fixed walls of belief, morality and convention, you dishonour the call to discovery. You create grey fields of 'quiet desperation.' Discovery in the nature of the soul. there is some wildness of divinity in us calling us to live everything. John O'Donahue, External Echoes, Exploring our Hunger to Belong

Our inherent longing to know has the capacity to take us on journeys far beyond our daily living and can awaken sleeping giants in our soul. It is both exciting and it can enrich the ordinary day into one of discovery. We need not physically travel far to expand our inner world.......a place where the unfolding of a mystery can lead to taking steps once thought to be past any reachable horizon. Exploration leads to discovering gems that perhaps one never thought even existed.

We are all miners of the soul.................if we want to be.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

close your eyes and think of me......

Friendships are not confined to age groups. I believe one can learn more from a friend who may be a little older than you or a little younger. It can lead to a special companionship that may last a lifetime of looking at the world with new eyes.

You just call out my name

And you'll know wherever I am

I'll come running

To see you again.

Winter, spring, summer or fall

All you have to do is call

And I'll be there..........

You've got a friend.

Carole King

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Our journey consists of seeking truth, and yet we tend to tuck many secrets in the dark crevices of our soul in hopes that they aren't revealed to ourselves or anyone else in our lives. Why is that? What would happen if we allowed them to see some light by speaking honestly to God? When was the last time you told him a secret? I hear He's pretty good at listening and forgiving....and sometimes He may even whisper a secret back to you.

Friday, June 20, 2008

feast or famine

"Through fear of knowing who we really are and what we want, we sidestep our own resting which leaves us hungry in a famine of our own making."
John O'Donahue

I never want to be left in the famine if I can help it. I look around and think about people whom I have known who knew better..........who knew it was up to them to feed their own destiny and yet couldn't or wouldn't grab hold of the glorious ride of life. Instead, they lurked on the sidelines watched it all march by.....watched their life slide by like it was a game being played by someone else.

I don't want that. Their sad examples push me onto the playing field to be in the middle of the game. I may be scared out of my mind sometimes. I may feel like I don't have the proper equipment or the right gameplan to execute life with the panache and grace of the award winning star quarterback. But I really really want to try. And after the scrimmaging.....the action on the field, let me be brave enough to sit quietly in the bleachers and think about how the game is unfolding every once in a while.

There's no point in playing the game without reflecting on the progress of consider what's working, what's not and what has left a bruise or recognize who else is on the field with you...... There's no such thing as a "do-over" but there is such a thing as learning from a passing, moving interactive moment. Our lives are in constant motion. Our lives are accompanied by a rhythm and a beat which sometimes harmonizes with others, and sometimes reveals to us and others a new personal timbre. It only becomes significantly apparent if we find the courage to quietly listen to it every once in a while. Awareness is fed by the cycle of the doing and the reflecting.

Is one more scary than the other?

We need to be right in the middle of the game, but we also need to seek refuge in the solitary contemplation along the sidelines. Too much of one leads to an imbalance between famine and feast. If we're on the sidelines too much, we may miss a couple of plays on the field we couldn've assumed a role in. If we're in the middle of the scrimmage too much, we can't see the big picture buffet. The key is to figure out our own personal fulcrum so at the end of a day, we don't find ourselves wishing for a do-over.

I guess the best we can do is to try.....and every now and then we will be the one holding the football and crossing into the endzone victoriously. I want to be one of those who does the happy dance in the endzone.
Will you join me in the happy dance?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A bittersweet day.

Today, a group of kids celebrated the end of their wonderful year with a marvellous teacher. This morning, along with their parents and family members, they all congregated in the school gym to receive a certificate and present from their teacher and to watch a montage DVD show, pulled together by their fearless leader, which captured snippets of their life at Garden Creek photos which they had brought in, kindergarten shots and then a whole collage of their Grade 5 year. During the ceremony, each child's name was announced as they proceeded onto the stage to receive their certificate from their teacher. What was the most moving of all was when a child known for his rambunctious energy and unrulyness wrapped his arms around his favourite teacher and gave him the most heartfelt hug in front of 100 onlookers. One after another, children hugged him until tears were rolling down many faces.

One little guy bounced up the stairs and literally flew up into his arms........
Another boy, the biggest kid in the class who deals with big things at home, who is sometimes known to be a bully on the playground stood in front of his mentor, opened up his arms and gave him the biggest bearhug of all. He didn't want to let go.

Tonight, one of the parents arranged for the lodge at O'Dell Park to celebrate over pizza and some games. An hour and a half before the party was to begin, Mr. Slack and 9 of his students met to bike throughout the paths together. All keen to squeeze as many drops of time with this man. Afterwards, water fights and balloon popping games carried them into the early evening. As an onlooker, it was so obvious to see how much this whole class has benefited from his guidance, and his love of what he does so well.

It has been a bittersweet day. They have had a blast....even spent the afternoon in their classroom turning the smart board system into a guitar hero competition. After a long and very fruitful year of learning, where enrichment and extra curriculars were implemented along with the regular curriculum, it was time to close the formal learning books and enjoy each others company as most of them have since they began Kindergarten. Many of them have been together since then. They are a tight knit group of great kids who all have bounced out of their homes every single morning since September eager to learn together. Amazing.

A few captured photos...........of their last full day together. This last one is of my son Max and beautiful Abby, his friend and archrival both scholastically and in the gym playing indoor soccer. They have challenged one another in many ways since they began school together in Kindergarten. All healthy good stretching..........and collaborations.

I have much to say about my own feelings of this small milestone as it is our last week having a daily connection with this wonderful place, but will save it for another day. It's my son's day to shine.........and to know the joy of belonging to a group of peers he will continue to grow up with. Unconditionally......

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

ecouter, s'il vous plait.

Two more days and schools out for the summer. FREEDOM!!
However, not one elementary school teacher in this province will be leaving for a much deserved rest knowing what grade level or even what school they will be working in come September. They are forced to hold their breath, books and belongings and wait...........until the magic date of August 5th. That's when our illustrious and eternally bull-headed Education Minister will pull together 6 weeks of (insert sarcasm )well considered judicially enforced feedback from concerned voters only to announce that he will continue with his plan of scrapping the french immersion program as well as the daily french lessons children in the English program receive from Grade 1 on in this province. Instead, every single kid entering Grade 5 will be funneled into an intense french immersion program (to be developed, tested and implement between August 5th and September 2nd.) no matter what their personal learning levels reveal.
After that? Who knows?? The kids have a choice to enter middle school in an English stream or carry on in French immersion?
It's all a bit murky....but be prepared for a cold water dunk in the Bay of Fundy. That's how it's going to feel. An immersion into a whole new delivery of curriculum by teachers who pride themselves on their hard work in the preparation and implementation......who won't have a moment to catch their breath while they move and groove to the new twists thrown at them LESS THAN A MONTH before the first day of school, all in the name of being perceived as proactive. Despite today's Ombudsman report indicating that the public engagement or lack thereof was the worst example ever witnessed, Minister Lamrock has dismissed the recommendation of putting any changes off for a year in order to consider other avenues, in order to give the "system," particularly the Principals and teachers some breathing room. Why?? Methinks this has to do with the timing when another election would be looming and all that political silly much for long term visioning.

What's the rush? What's one more year in the bargain basement??

Quality of Learning my ass. ooops, sorry wrong party. Kids Come First........uhuh.....there we go. Kids Come First. And based on my reading and listening of the Minister's speeches since the onset of this cabinet, including the speeches and media comments (oh and personally written emails) targetted at the parents concerned when he decided to rip Albert Street school, nestled in the heart of the city, in arms reach of community programs, university student tutors, and many other amenities to learning, he knows best. Yes, the "father" of our children in this province knows best...........dripping in sincerity it was too. Who gives a flying fig in the process of public consultation when it's obvious that the answers are already known??
In all my sincerity, the approach of this man and the lack of process he followed in his heavy handed manner has completely stripped him of trust and integrity. Humble isn't in the picture here despite a scathing report. Today, he had the audacity to once again dismiss the "people's" representative, basically told Monsieur Richard to piss off because as the "apostle" of education, Monsieur Lamrock knows better because he speaks for the poor neglected children who all seem to be orphaned by parents unable to consider what is best for their own children. It's a slap in the face.

And guess what? Here's the kicker!! I AGREE with his recommendations except I believe french should be taught as a subject starting in Grade 1. Big changes have to be made. French immersion isn't working as it should. Children ARE dropping out of the program in record numbers when they enter high school. Bilingualism is not being met upon graduation. Our assessment scores nationally sit in the bottom of the barrel. Our overall provincial literacy and numeracy scores are still appalling compare to other provinces. (however the testing process is also a complete mess and comparing our test results with that of Alberta or Ontario is like comparing apples to orangutans........AND THAT is most definately another subject for another time). Our school systems DO need an overhaul. Streaming is most definately a problem. So is the fact that we have a multi-tiered delivery of subjects, where some areas don't even have access to french language training (or other really really important subjects for that matter)
What I cannot ignore or not comment on is the fact that fairness was neglected and respect was completely thrown out with the used duotangs and pencil stubs. Our teachers need our respect and support. Our teachers deserve our respect and support and if they are flailing under the stress of implementing the brainfart of a group of individuals who don't know how to follow a democratic process, then we need to speak out on their behalf. Are you hearing any of them voice their concerns and personal anxieties? NO! You know why?? They have been TOLD to be quiet!! Can you imagine?? They aren't speaking out because they have been told they aren't allowed to. Unbelievable.

We place HUGE expectations on the teachers, support staff AND the principals who pursue their calling working with our young ones at the elementary school level because of the importance of developing the solid foundation for lifelong learning. Their jobs are not for the faint of heart, and they aren't doing it for the money! Excellent teachers work beyond the end of school bell ringing. They put in long hours, and deal with many many issues outside of the realm of their vocation. They deserve the respect of the Minister of Education. They deserve to express their expert opinions, and to have the proper time to be able to accomodate any changes expected of them.

If this debacle turns into a reality on August 5th, WHO are the people who will suffer the most? The children! Kids Come First?? Can someone please explain to me what this means?

whatcha thinkin about?

Are thoughts ever random or are they always connected somehow to a hidden scene playing out internally? Are they like little pieces of thread on a sweater you sometimes have an inkling to tug at, and then sometimes know better to leave well enough alone?

Thoughts can drive you crazy if you let them. They can be powerfully overbearing to a point where if you feed them with more thought food, you may lose site of the other more helpful and effectively healthy thoughts. You become a prisoner in a maze of endless alleys. Take a risk on an unknown journey led by a thought wrought with fear and see how it grows..........see how it GLOWS in the dark night. But if you never take that journey does it mean there is resolution in the untugged thought or does it wrestle underground finding it's own fuel?
Thoughts can also spur own creative imagination, which is sometimes the only bright light in a day of drudgery when all that you find yourself doing is completing a list of to dos that don't seem to have any meaning. Ever had a day like that? I actually have one on the horizon.....a put my head down and get it done kind of day where cerebral stimulation isn't on the menu. I've been avoiding it, or them because now I have let the to do list PILE UP HIGH and it will take a day or two of grunt work to get it done. I was more inclined to let my mind wander into the nooks and crannies of stimulating thoughts and havent been focused on what needs to be DONE. Sure, I've been on a series of very interesting mind-full journeys, but now I have to hunker down. If I can.......I keep tugging at a thread......
.........and it makes me all writers have a bit of perseverative obsessive compulsivity in their souls? we suffer from OCD with no exit?
.......and it makes me believe..........there is never a bitter end to a thought, unless you're one of those surface dwellers. Personally, I prefer the attic.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bloom Where you Land.

Tonight, I got in my van to go pick up my daughter at a friends house. The sky was overcast which gave the night a much darker feel to it, but also made the van feel like a bit of a refuge as I drove on a short part of the deserted highway listening to the soundtrack from the movie, The Mission. The first three songs on that soundtrack resonate a sense of strength and resilience....the haunting, resounding choir fueled my thoughts. It always fills me with pictures of natural beauty, of determination, of working hard to climb ragged peaks.
The music captures the essence of the movie which I saw over 20 years ago now and have never seen again, though the scenes are so clearly etched in my memory that I don't need to. Morricone's music from both this movie and Cinema Paradiso is rivetting in is tragically resilient beauty......where love and faith offer the challenge to overcome our personal struggles.

Listening to the orchestra play to me alone, I was left with a picture of my day that seemed to be bookended with two amazing people. It was a day which began teaching with a strong woman, a friend, who shared some of her personal story with a bunch of 13 year old girls as a way to help them understand the possibilities of overcoming diversity. It has ended with reading the story of another strong woman, a new friend who shared with me in writing, some of what she endured as a child and how she managed to persevere and to overcome horrific personal experiences. Their stories are unbelievably similar..........their strengths are too. I have the good fortune to be working closely with both of them.

Their personal lifestories are fraught with numerous events which for many people would debilitate and scar beyond healing. And yet, these two strong women not only managed to heal their wounds, they somehow managed to overcome what seem to be insurmountable odds to a point where they effectively help others in their struggle. They are at a point in their lives where they can share some of their stories with others as a means of helping, as a way of perhaps finding more salve for their own deep wounds.

I am left wondering how they have been able to do that. I have seen literally hundreds of people who aren't able to cope with half of what these two strong woman have endured..........what is it in them that has allowed them to keep taking big effective steps forward? Where does the strength come from and where did they find it? Can you teach someone how to be more resilient than they are or is it just the individual make-up of these women that has given them the inner tools to forgive?

What is their magic formula.....? I don't know the answer. My best attempt is a guess.

I believe they have somehow learned to bloom wherever they have landed.....where this music is playing....... on earth as it is in heaven. May I continue to be working alongside and with them to learn how to let the petty stresses in life slip away and to be filled with enough water in my bucket to moisten the flowering seeds in my life as well as others.

bleeding heart guides.....

Isnt it funny how the most mundane tasks in life come packaged with instructions.....a guide to follow and refer to, and yet the most important things in life have no such thing? The self-help industry tries its very best to compensate, but most books, videos, and yappity CD's you can shove into the system in your car, miss the mark. Sure, they are full of sagely advice, information and deep thoughts, but they dont help with the biggies. They are promoted as the "answer to all your questions...." as "the key to your solutions......." as "the secret to success........" as "everything you needed to know........." so you think they would help with the biggies. But in reality, they don't. Neither does Oprah. Neither does Dr. Phil. Neither do any of the other high-falootin' Steven Covey/Tony Robbins types.
Lots of direction..........maps for life, mentors who guide, big brothers to teach, consultants who confuse, preachers who coaches who do what??? But when it comes down to the game of life, what do you REALLY get out from a guide of some kind besides confusion?

We have become co-dependents to the gurus out there who are making fast cash on our collective lack of self-confidence. And quite frankly, I dont know what came first, the people with the golden eggs of insight, or our inability to figure things out for ourselves. Did this self-help industry chip and strip away at our delicate balances by providing advice and marketing in a way that has made us second guess our own common sense or are we more messed up than previous generations? What did the folks before us rely on to figure it out? THEMSELVES! Don't you find it really strange that the people who have forked out the most moooo-laaaa to purchase the next best answer to their problems are still the most messed in the head?

It begs the question...........Will there ever be a guide to help us overcome our addictions to these self help navel gazing enforcers? Do we really need so much guidance? Whatever happened to simply getting on with our lives and learning from our mistakes (cause its ok to make mistakes.......perfection is a misguided concept.) and moving on?

Life is complicated because we human beings make it so. Personal growth, learning, loving and interacting is the most difficult tasks we can take on. I guess I am thinking tonight that perhaps we need to learn how to rely on ourselves to make decisions, to think things through, to reflect and pray and reflect some more and most importantly to learn how to love and how to connect with others. And the only way to learn how to do these things is to listen to our hearts.

The answers to the biggies are nestled in our hearts. If we are open to seek out the moments of feeling vulnerable when we are alone and when we are with another person........if we are open to expressing our truth as well as open to hearing it from someone else...........if we are open to understanding that life is a struggle of adding to our personal awareness, then a guide isn't necessary. A set of internal ears, which we all own no matter how closed minded we are, is all that is needed. We are our own guides. We just have to find the lost collective confidence by turning off the TV, by ignoring the yappity CD's, by turning off the talk show "you should do it this way" people and go with your heart.

The heart never is there as our eternally internal, guide. And if we did this, think of the extra cash you'd have on hand to buy a bottle of wine and share it with a friend? Yes, a bottle of wine, some good music, a comfy spot in front of the time constraints..........sounds therapeutic to me. It's too bad we're so busy striving for perfection that we miss out completely that we have the answers within hearts reach.

Sunday scribblings prompt this week is "guides." for more scribblings..check out this site.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


subtle quick flick of the eye
more powerful than words hold meaning
a silent dismissive half gaze
barely mentioned but caught by the one intended
eyes now lost in the fade of the glare
blue into grey wandering haze

the light dims
the light dims
restless dread feeds the hunger
where strength dissolves into sleepless heat
a wallowing mournful need
weeping behind the subtle flicker
blue into grey hazing gaze

the light dims
the light dims

The prey lies unprotected
exhumed in fitfull tossing
waiting for the wolves.
an unsubtle see through grey gaze
as their wants gain focus
as their hunger heightens
their eyes glow danger.
They prepare to pounce
while the light dims
the light dims

It makes me do you keep them at bay? Or, should you?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

reflections on perceptions

This morning I have had to start and restart AND restart my computer in order to make it to this point.....the place where I make an attempt at capturing one of my fleeting thoughts. As much as I am not one to follow directions well, when it comes to this blasted piece of technology, I do what I'm told. It's way smarter than me and I don't have a flipping clue how it works or why or what for. I just know I want it to work................want it to see me as a friendly accoutrement. Gotta be on the same wavelength as my keyboard or it will tie me up in knots of frustration.

So, when it asked me YET AGAIN to reboot it's innards, I clicked all the right buttons and did what one should always do when one has a choice.........I poured myself a hot bath, and filled the tub with reflective bubbles. Then I slipped in quietly, away from whatever this juice box had to do......check and upgrade systems.

Of course by the time my toe touched the hot water, I had numerous fleeting thoughts filter past me during this exercise. I also had a chance to read a provoking passage in a book, to make a cup of tea, and to watch the sunrise. Lots to ponder, and it wasn't even 6:30 am. Then, I found myself smiling...............smiling because what had happened was an integration where actions, ideas and insight merge. As John O'Donahue wrote, "there is a mirror within the human mind. This mirror collects every reflection." This is what reflective solitude can offer........the grace of unexpected insight.

Wanna know what I learned?

It wasn't anything HUGELY important. It's not an new idea for a money making invention. It's not something death defying or mountain moving. In fact, I think I already even knew this, but needed to understand it in a different light I suppose. It was about perception......particularly about how others perceive another person.

A couple of events have occured already this week which has foisted this concept in my face......making me aware of how others have been perceiving me. I realize that most of our perceptions of ourselves and of others are directly impacted by where we are personally in our we are feeling, what we are thinking, what our own wounding triggers are, what successes we have we see the world, ourselves and others.....even how much sleep we have had can alter the prism. Events, personal experiences, the setting with which a person finds themselves colours the reflective waters through which we see. Nothing is ever totally transparent.

Our perceptual vision is never as clear as we assume it is. So, when I hear someone share an observation of where they think I am, or how I am and it is way off, I understand the vision is murky at best. Even with knowing that, I can still be disturbed with what is shared with me or someone else because no one can really know what's going on inside of me. Most days, I don't even know for goodness sakes. So, how can someone else make a sweeping statement about my state of mind when in fact it is always in fluctuation. Starting and restarting...........and sometimes in need of another restart. Yeah, I think it's best to remember always that our perceptions are really a reflection of our own stuff.

However, when what is expressed hits an inner target, not only can it be reaffirming, it can also be a bit of a revelation. We all have blind spots about ourselves and others. There are parts of ourselves we are not aware of..........yet. How wonderful it is (well, sometimes it's not nice but this one example is.........) when a person shares with you their feelings and it's an eye opener for yourself. It's like a secret has been revealed to both parties.

The other day, I had just finished an intensive counselling session with an individual. It was intensive on several fronts. First off, I was counselling and teaching at the same time because the session included two students who are learning and applying new skills with me as one of their guides. For them, it is a concious transference from the classroom theory to the practical application.....a synthesis of learning......... the ONLY way to really "get it."

There were 5 people in the session, unlike most when it's just me and the individual in need. What I wanted was to make a seemingly artificial counseling environment feel as intimate as it normally would. My awareness of ensuring I was displaying various techniques of the trade while not making it so obvious that it took away from the flow and the seriousness of the session, was heightened. I was, focused and in tune. It felt like a "play within a play," and I needed to be a sensitive director. The session lasted over an hour and a half. It was draining and difficult. But, because it is what I love to do, more than anything it was very satisfying. I had REALLY enjoyed the whole process of helping to facilitate change which comes with insightful learning. As Pip Laguna down on the Lido in Venice enjoying a well deserved vacation, would say...........loveitloveitloveit......

Before there was a chance to reflect on the session, I needed a chance to catch my breath and clear my step out of the mode I was in. So, I stopped to chat with a couple of co-workers about nothing in particular.........just a couple of laughs. It energizes and it helps reconnect to my own life and world. Before I knew it, another colleague, John, walked up beside me and gave me a hug. He told me I looked like I needed one so I figured he could see the fatigue of a full day of counselling and teaching........but I also thought that perhaps I was in need of some sympathy because of a recent change in my work environment which isn't good news. This is where I THOUGHT he was coming from.......MY perception of his perception!!

No made me feel good knowing someone cared enough to leave his office and walk over to put me in his arms for a brief respite. I was grateful for his attention and support.

Yesterday, as I was bouncing back to my office from the friendly neighbourhood Deli I frequent when in need of a cup of tea, I bumped into my colleague again. He too was on his way back to his office joined by our mutual friend Mary. We all stopped to catch up quickly before the onslaught of afternoon commitments. John asked me if I knew why he gave me a hug the other day, and I told him what I thought..........that it was an empathic one. He laughed, knowing why I would need one of those too, but then said........

"That actually wasn't the reason. I hugged you because over the past few months I have seen a transformation in you. And I think we know Who is working on that with you. I think it's wonderful to see you transforming and I'm glad He's there helping you."

In an instant, I felt my whole self flush and blush..a shyness feeling...and before I knew it I was caught feeling very choked up. I didn't quite understand why his observations hit me with such force, and I babbled a bit as I tried to hold onto my composure, which I've never really been good at. I try, but I really do suck at keeping my composure when that blushing button is pushed.

You still with me???................we're coming to the revelation bit. John was right. I have felt a transformation, but it is not complete (I don't think it will ever really feel complete which is how it should be) and it has been going on longer than these past couple of months as I have fed and watered it. A lot has gone into the changes which are occuring internally........some of which I share on this blog, most of which I keep to myself. I have felt changes which manifest in my outlook, in the strengthening of my faith, in how I internally react to external events. It has shaped the way I work and the way I interact with others. It has helped me figure out what's most important to me............what I do value and believe in at a much deeper level than previously. It has opened up the curtains and has allowed me to look out different windows and see YOU. It has taught me that beauty lies in the accumulation of life scars, that learning can be really really hard work.

I didn't know it was showing on the outside.............I didn't know others could perceive and see this. I guess sometimes transformative change happens in small increments that we sometimes don't see it ourselves. Most of what is sacred to our soul will remain a secret we keep to ourselves.....and is only revealed during moments of solitude and reflection when we allow it to be made visible.

This morning, after surrendering power over to my computer to update it's programming and restart itself because it knows how to do this WAY better than me, while soaking in the bathtub, I read this.........from Father O'Donahue's Anam Cara.......

"If you try to view yourself through the lenses that others offer you, all you will see are distortions; you own light and beauty will become blurred, awkward and ugly. Your sense of inner beauty has to remain a very private thing..................... the soul has a shy presence."

and this gem............

"It is wise to allow the soul to carry on its secret work in the night side of your life. You might not see anything stirring for a long time. You might have only the slightest intimations of the secret growth that is happening within you, but these intimations are sufficient."

When I read those words, a whole bunch of thoughts came bounding together like several bits of coloured wool you can knit together to form a design.....offering me a "grace - full" insight as to why i reacted the way i did and why I may be perceived the way I am. What did I learn?

Somewhere along the line, I surrendered some of me to God because that guy knows way more than me....and I dont have a flipping clue how He works or why or what for. I just know I want it all to work......and want Him to see me as a friendly accoutrement. Yes, gotta be on the same wavelength as the Big Guy or it will tie me up in knots of frustration. The start, restart, restart work that seems to happen best during those fear producing moments of solitude......where reflections, perceptions, deceptions and conceptions are stirred and fed, mostly in a private sanctuary....God's on top of it. This belief is transforming me in ways I'm still not fully aware of and seems to appears as a blush when the shyness of my soul is revealed through a crack on my internal mirror.

Oh, and one more thing........I'm not good at keeping this a secret.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

pink delight

Summer is upon us in this part of the big old goofy world. And what's summer without carnivals and festivals chock full of tasty sweet treats?
Carmi, over at Written Inc. has started a weekly photography activity with different themes every week. This week's is favourite snack food.
Now cotton candy isn't my favourite..........not even when I attend a carnival. I'm a sno-cone lover......LOVE slurping on a lime green ice shavings. Who doesn't? yuuuuuummmmmmmmy......
However........ I took this shot at the Saint John market last fall......the colours and the orderliness of the packaging caught my eye. I found it strange to see cotton candy all gourmet like when it should be created in front of your eyes in one of those magical machines found in a scruffy old stall run by a tired looking Carni with a cigarette butt pinched between his lips........oblivious to the ashes dropping everywhere while he swirls the paper cone to catch the pink sugary wisps for your delectable pleasure.
I guess these sterile lovable bags of spun sugar are for another targetted market? The wistful yuppie who has rose coloured memories of their sticking fingered gooey trips to their local circus......? Interesting how memories take on a life of their own.
For more interesting photos on favourite treats, as well as wonderful other photos and stories, please visit Carmi's blog. He's a very friendly Canuck with a good eye, a big heart and a love of capturing life all around him.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself."Hermann Hesse

The repetitive slow pull of the paddle through the water allowing the canoe to propel forward is a rhythm which replaces any stirrings I have in me. I love the feel of kneeling in the vessel, leaning into the gunnel and seat and using my whole body to stretch forward to dip the paddle into the still water and pull it alongside. It is the process of finding a sense of oneness which always stills whatever rough waters lash inside.

Thin places are found in the currents, where life slows down to a thoughtful pace.

Thank you for the quote Paul. It sums up my feelings perfectly.

Monday, June 09, 2008

une petite voyage

Tonight, I had the delight of paddling down part of the Saint John River with my friend Jeff and his dog Milo. We put the canoe in near Mactaquac Dam and paddled down to the boat ramp near my house......along the way, we stopped for a tour around one of the islands which was uninhabited save for a few deer and an old shack that took the brunt of the recent flooding. We saw some wildlife...........two beautiful bald eagles flew right over us. For most of our paddle, we had the whole river to ourselves.

Milo in search of deer.

Jeff on Savage island. Now does this guy really look like the type who sings Bohemian Rhapsody on the top of a mountain?? Yes he does!

Mamma mia, mamma mia........

We were inudated with amazing reflections on the glass calm river........this shot reminds me of a bayou.....kind of mossy look from the debris captured during the flood.

It was a wonderful evening...........can't wait to do it again. Thank you Jeff.

the spot

Is it the process of creativity where we learn to seek out the boundaries and then to cross over them? What if we all stopped at the very idea that what we want we cannot have? What happens if we simply accept these otherly proposed boundaries as the unchallenged status quo rather than to challenge the very line drawn in the dirt?

Swallow hard. Don't allow any drop of conformity escape to join a variation on the rules. Stay within what is acceptable. Don't thrust your unique thoughts onto rigidity. Performing through conforming, where all sing from the same songbook, where all speak the same words, where all ask for the same thing on the life menu........seems cult-like doesn't it, or at the very least a middle school mentality at living life? A missionary position with no creativity stretching allowed?
I want to leap outside this structural window when everyone's looking and begin to paint the outside of the structural boundaries in shades of blue, in streaks of orange.........I want to take my bright red magic marker and write boldly in big loopy passion. I want to run freely on the outside of the boundaries to slurp up the cherry sweet juices to feed my imagination. I want to be the one to push deeper into the wildness where fear teases and tickles all of my sensations so I can feel more alive. I can do that freely in my my creative process.
Can I transfer it to life? Can I be that bold?
Boundaries have meaning..........and are all twisted up in a set of long held rules of conformity. We live and worship in a world which foists a heavy hand holding the conscripted orders that are seen as "good for us........" Some are realistic.........they are for our own good. But others? Untolerable, unacceptable...........challengeable.
We need to be open to manifesting our imaginations as the way to seek out the moments where one yells out for more, where one feels the pleasure of the frontier.........the open fields where love yearns to be consumed. Creativity has the capacity to push the boundaries beyond what is considered "meant to be" to a place where we begin to consider "what can be....." It is there where heightened stirrings fill us with what you are looking for.
It's all in how you see it in your imagination. It's all in finding the field to romp in.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Camp Kawabi Sunday Chapel.

This morning, I was supposed to be leading a group in Sunday chapel service. At one point in my life, when I was in my late teens and early twenties living and learning as a children's summer camp counsellor, I led this part of the week every Sunday......with a little help from my friends of course.
Some of those friends have gathered this weekend for a another camp site in eastern Ontario owned and operated by one of our very own. Close to 50 people, camp counsellors of all ages, all of whom lived and worked and grew up on the same camp menu as I did, albeit some at different times over the course of a 40 year timeframe made the trek to hang out together. Due to the circumstances in my family life (my husband is doing very well and has physically recovered almost completely........thank you for all of your concern and support) I wasn't able to make it this time. Next time.
Needless to say, I may be physically present here in my home sitting at my computer, I am emotionally and spiritually at Camp Otterdale, and will "be" with them in that capacity as they gather together to give thanks to life and friendship. The theme of the chapel today is "Moving Forward......" My intentions as to how I was going to organize the service were cast aside and instead I sent the following offering on how music is the force behind our past, our present and our it ties us together in feeling and kinship. I want to post it today to share with you as I believe some of the points I have made are universally felt. I also wanted to share this with any Camp Kawabi kindreds who just may stumble across this blog looking for a bit of nostalgic resonance.
It should be noted that as camp counsellors, we all had nicknames.........all of which have their own stories behind the naming. Mine was Muskie. Yes, there are a handful of people who know me as that and not by my real name. In fact, when I was speaking to a few old buddies yesterday, Muskie was the nom de plume. Actually, I am much more Muskie than I am anyone else..........but that's for another post. So, the names in this piece are nicknames.........
My heart is definately elsewhere this morning.........enjoying one of the most meaningful renditions of what camp was all about..........found in the shared faith of Sunday morning chapels, in the middle of the gathering of friends.


Musical ties that bind.

As I was driving to work the other day, I popped in a new CD my husband had given to me the night before…..John Hiatt’s latest offerings. As soon as the first guitar chords filled my van, his voice starting singing an upbeat folksy tune, I found myself transported right into the heart of the song like it was a familiar old sweater….. like I had worn it before. And yet, it was brand new. How could that be?

By the middle of the song, I was singing the chorus. The words and the tune found me because it had the perfect combination for a great Kawabi classic…….of summer listening in the Hub, in a car on a day off, during a late night campfire in the lodge on a cool August night. Of course, my first act when I reached my office was to scribble out an email to Skagg to ask him if he had heard it yet. I didn’t even have to ask if he liked Hiatt. I just knew he would. I just knew.

I remember a few years back, I was standing in my kitchen making Sunday dinner, listening to Neil Young’s, Harvest Moon, another Kawabi classic that was recorded LONG after I had spent my Muskie summers on the shores of Big Hawk Lake. And yet………there I was physically standing in my kitchen, but emotionally, spiritually…………? I was swaying to familiarity on the front porch of the infirmary….with Luten and Fastback during work crew in 1981?? 1981?? Amazingly, I automatically felt a tie back to a relaxing evening long ago after a hard day of completing jobs around camp.

Music can be timeless.

Music lifts us out of the dust of everyday life and allows us to FEEL a thought. Not only that, it allows us to experience the same emotions, which are also timeless. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. Music threads our hearts together, no matter how distant the space is between us……no matter when. We live in a sea of constant change, while trying our best to “live in the moment”….a song, a tune, even just the right note helps us take a step into our own rhythm, where eternity meets us in the present. It is that feeling which allows us a glimpse to seeing music as the common denominator, as the means to which we connect in spirit.

There are two sensory triggers that pull me back to Kawabi in a flash…….the fresh scent of pine is the first one. No matter where I am when I inhale that aroma, it fills me with a smile and a clear picture of walking up the path from the girls tentline for dinner after a sunkissed busy day.

The second trigger…………? An old song, whether it was one sung after dinner with gusto, or one played on the tapedeck in the craft shop, or a rockin’ tune at a dance, or whether it was a hymn sung during Sunday chapel……….a song from my days as a camper and counsellor envelopes me with sweet memories. I think we all share these two triggers. Some of the songs may be different but the flow back in time is the same, isn’t it?

Music IS timeless……..

It is the golden thread woven into the tapestries we continue to create of our lives lived…. It is the constant that links us to our pasts, that enhances our present, that is anticipated in our future. What I find so interesting is that there are some songs like the John Hiatt song, the chorus by the way begins with the line………”old days are coming back to me……” capture a past thought and feeling so vividly! Amazing.

These two triggers……….the lovely scent of pine and the kind of music which stirs my Kawabi memories are two of the reasons why I have found my home in the Maritimes. All around me is the fresh air pine…………….all around me are songs that could easily be strummed and sung around a campfire with a bunch of Kawabi kindreds. Music is in the fabric of this part of our country…….and NOT just the fiddling kind! Folk songs, the ones with the catchy kitchen party feel to it are here in abundance. And one of them, written by a local Fredericton guy named David Myles floated to the surface last year, won an international award and captured my full attention. I loved it the very first time I heard it.

The first Kawabi person I shared it with was Daisy………I just knew he would LOVE it too. Not only did that, he quickly learned the chords and the lyrics as we plotted to present it to you at chapel today. The second person I shared it with is my dear friend Skagg, who due to circumstances will be going it solo! You know, this song is meant to be in the hands of Skagg……….

It is my hope that this tune will be added to our ever growing Kawabi songbook which contains the golden threads from our personal tapestries……….a song sung in the present, and hopefully for your future enjoyment when you find yourself on your way to work one day in need of the feel of a familiar sweater. May you find yourself this morning enjoying a heart and spirit moment together when eternity touches down on the present as you sing along. I will be singing along too.

here is the song for your enjoyment...........please feel free to let it rip!.........xx (ps, the man accompanying Myles in the video is Thom Swift who is another local musician. He has his own solo album out, and is also a member of a well known band in the Maritimes especially called Hot Toddy.........a bluesy feel to this band......AND I was at this particular concert.........can you hear me in the chorus??)

David Myles performing at the songwriters circle during the East Coast Music Awards. My kids and I had front row seats!!