Tuesday, March 29, 2011

march madness......

It's easy to slip into the insipid realm of early March, where colour and life has faded into late winter drab. Accumulated road sand and soot covers the lingering piles of snow.  Once dormant and forgotten, autumn discards are revealed again.   Emotions tank.  Energy falters below the safety line.  

The ability to think straight drops into the abyss of complicated confusion.  There are moments when just trying to find a pair of socks that match or a pair of mittens that don't smell foul will lift the lid off your normally rational head! All of a sudden, you find yourself having a meltdown, or worse yet allowing a gutteral screech that sounds very much like a screaming banshee terrorize the air around you.   

March madness is REAL, LOUD and crazymaking!

Sure, the term is used to describe the American College basketball play-offs, but it clearly describes the incessant claustrophia one feels at this time of year.  Or, maybe its just me.  Maybe I'm the only one who suffers from the dips, tanks, falters and drops?  My emotional reaction time is Olympian!  My defenses are up.  My fuse is short.  My energy during the day needs more caffienation.  Every day my biggest wish is to get home and put my jammies on.......... Just get through the day.

How about you?  Does March Madness zap your optimism?  Does it eliminate your ability to seek solutions to simple dilemmas?  Is ineffectual anger simmering under your scaly dry skin just ready to take control of your senses? Or were you one of those lucky buggers who left this bone chilling wilderness for a breath of relief on some warm beach? I curse you!!!!

Last week, a friend of mine, who is struggling through the "one step forward, two giant steps back" syndrome like the rest of us told me that she has tried to just take 5 deep breaths..... Inhale, exhale.... without thinking and fretting.  "I can't even do THAT!" she replied.  We laughed and snuck away for a beer and nachos..... escaping the sharpness of "MAD" while turning it on its side and seeing the absurdity of trying to live through this colourless month. 

It worked.  We met up with a crazy waitress full of vitality. Her madness was UPBEAT!  She kept feeding us beer and checking on us like a mother hen, and our spirits lifted as we began to grasp hold of balance and perspective on the issues we were personally trying to cope with.   

Sometimes taking those 5 deep breaths in March need a little help.... humour, empathy and SUDS.  

Oh wait a minute.......it's almost over!  Bring on April foolish whimsy!!! 

Ontario Specialties, Toronto,
A store chock full of WHIMSY!
April 2010

This week's Photo theme is "March Madness...."  For more shots taken during this month of March, check out Carmi's blog. 

Friday, March 25, 2011


Spring, the season of delight begins with discoveries so enchanting it lifts spirits out of cocoons and offers the gift of wings. 

Softly coloured lightness, delight touches hearts with whisper breezes that tickle like pink feather boas wrapped with spontaneous glee.  

With crocus determination, it turns trouble into carefree bubbles on a blue sky canvas freeing our hope once overshadowed by heavy linen. 

Delight pleases the senses, sending rippling goose bumps up our barefooted limbs until it reaches our lips leaving wide smiles.  Wide eyed smiles.

Delight is....

Daffodil giggles ruffling in tall grass.
Pleasing music strummed by revelation.
Shared laughter of little girls skipping on the street.
Mirth that decorate spiritwings with iridescent flutter finery
Melting chocolate surprises on awakening taste buds
Chickie peeps celebrating their feathery birth.

Delight is......

the dawning of wonder.  
the first note of renewal.
the awakening of love
the yeast rising in joy
the emerging tip of grace
that leads to a wondrous sense of gratitude....... 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

sweet spot

After determined muscle limbering of their legs, torsos and arms, they take their place to begin the warm up together. Just a game of tossing the ball.  The pitcher, approaches the mound, settles his feet into the comfort of his stance, and waits to wind up.  Not with heat.  Not yet.  It begins with a slow melodic tossing to his partner as they find their groove.

The catcher squats down into her position, her right hand inside the supple worn leather glove.  Balanced in the comfort of her body, she lifts her arm straight out to prepare for receiving the pitch. The warm up begins.  Back and forth in a rhythm they have created together.... he pitches, she receives and tosses the ball back to the mound.

throwing and catching
throwing and catching
rhythmic resonance
back and forth
warming up
sometimes in silence
sometimes words of encouragement enlighten
back and forth
throwing and catching.....
touching upon the sweet spot of the glove....
every now and then....
until it becomes more frequent
rhythm found within a sense of knowing
their complementary movement.

Again and again, it flows as they communicate with body language... signals, words, advice, compliments.....  Away from the rest, they pick up the speed.  He begins to practise various pitches.  Change up, Slider, Forkball, Knuckleball, are interspersed with his signature Fastball. Sweet spot.

The push and pull of power between the pitcher and the catcher continues until they relent a little. Both have strengths to use in the role they play.  An appreciation of each other's gifts moves the partnership into a different zone.  They know that in order to reach that zone.... where the fluidity of their efforts reach mastery,  they must use their physical and emotional gifts.  Caring focus.  Trust in one another.  It happens when care meshes with effort, when confidence meets up with vulnerability.

throwing and catching
throwing and catching....
care meshing with effort....
trust in one another....
complementing oneness

Confidence in their own skin,  in what they bring to the partnership is crucial. Respect and appreciation for the other's gifts is key in order to reach a place of equality. Taking turns leading while encouraging the other to reveal their best allows for the confidence to push the effort beyond any sense of work into a forum of limbered play.  It's the revealing that leads to stripped down vulnerability, when they show each other the raw rough edges of themselves.... It's never perfect.  If it was perfect, there would be nothing to strive for... nothing to motivate, explore, work/play towards.  

What it is, this game of tossing the ball is a deepening of a partnership with the same goal in mind.  To touch upon the sweet spot with heat.  At the right moment.

Out beyond the bubble of timelessness they have formed, a voice calls out............ Play ball!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

lost in translation

When my children were babies, I could distinguish the meaning behind their cries. Crying is the first language of an infant.  A hunger cry sounded very different that a tired worn out baby cry.  An "I'm awake now and want up out of my crib," had its own sound flavouring.  A sharp colicky gas bubble cry pierced my maternal skin as did the wailing from an inflamed ear, but even they had distinctive differences to the tone, volume, and tempo.  I knew how to translate the cry immediately.... from  the moment I heard one of them exhale their first sound.  I went with my maternal instinct to soothe, to console, to try my best to alleviate the pain.   I knew what to do.

Today I don't know what to do.  I can't hear the cry.  I can't distinguish any sounds.  I see weeping all over the place.  But its silent. Not even a groan.  Nothing.  How then do you respond to silent weeping?  Just a nation of frightened shuddering of shoulders wracked with sorrow that spills out of the core of deep pain.  How then do you respond when you know what has caused the pain but it is so massive you have no words or means of trying to comfort?  How then do you respond when you feel that even prayer seems futile? 

My maternal instinct kicks in when I see this... when I feel it from another human.  I want to console.  My desire to reach out to respond is strong.  I want to DO something! My desire to express words of comfort is on the tip of my lips.  I want to say something, but there are no words.  There are no words.  

Like everyone on this planet, my senses are overloaded with images of the devastation and chaos caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I can't even imagine what it is like to have survived this disaster, to have lost friends and family members, to have lost all your possessions, your home, your hometown.  I can't even fathom what it is like sitting and grieving in a makeshift shelter with no food or water, with no power or insight as to what will happen next.  I can't even comprehend what it must have felt like to live through an 8.9 earthquake, then watch the sea wash over the land turning everything in its path into broken dreams, then live through an onslaught of aftershocks strong enough to be categorized as an earthquake all on its own.  

What pierces my skin is the silence of the crying.  The grief of a whole nation mourns with stoicism and I am in lost in the translation of how deep the wounds go.  A country littered with cars on rooftops, yachts marooned on streets, houses heaped like discarded tinkertoys, fields covered in belongings.  Someone's belongings.   I have watched the water roll in, thundering over life that once was and am left shocked and still. Hand to mouth.  Sick to my stomach dread.  I've read first hand accounts.  I've listened to Skyped out reporters trying to get the word out.  

Death tolls.  Ring those bells...... for whom they toll. Dear God.  The silent weeping looms out in echos and seems lost in the translation..........

Despite the myriad of video, photos, newsclips, reports, I am stuck on the image of a battered doll with a broken face lying in the debris.  One child's prized possession... her comfort doll for nighttime.  I so want to reunite that little doll with her little girl.  To me, I can translate this.  It would make sense to me.  If only I could.  Be a Mom.  Console a child by reuniting her with her baby doll in order to allow her to console her own baby.

I want to pray.  What are the words?

I want to console.  My arms are not long enough to embrace.
I want to be able to translate this crying disaster into something I can comprehend.  Maybe if I could do that, I could figure out a way to be helpful. 
I want to let every one of those suffering humans that my heart is wide open to their needs.

But, I am just a small little girl on the other side of the world with no power to do the things I want to do.

Against the magnitude of this ongoing disaster,  my attempts are futile as is any emotion to pray.  I don't have the machinery, the money or the government position to help rebuild a country? 

What is left to be able to do?  Let us silently weep with our brethren.  Let them know we are there in spirit..... as the Spirit that flows invisibly but offers love and strength.  Let us console one for one...... Let us listen to the different cries that will come out of the silence stocism and respond in any way they need us to with our maternal instinct intact.  Their pain is our pain.  Let us never forget that.  Let us not get lost in the translation of what is needed even though the healing will be like climbing the highest mountain barefoot.  

And...... Let us remember that collective prayer needs no words to be effective.  Just fill it with unspoken heartfelt love and be there to listen.  Its the best we can do.

Monday, March 07, 2011


  "Whatever the intellectual quality of the education given our children, it is vital that it include elements of love and compassion, for nothing guarantees that knowledge alone will be truly useful to human beings. Among the major troublemakers society has known, many were well-educated and had great knowledge, but they lacked a moral education in qualities such as compassion, wisdom and clarity of vision."Dalai Lama.
 Besides my parents, there is one person in this whole world who had as much impact on the development of my values and on the choices I made as an adult.  His name is Skip.  Well, his real name is Bruce, but I've never been able to call him that. It would be too uncomfortable!  He's Skip.  Always and forever.  Just like I am Muskie always and forever. 

I'm not alone.  I daresay there are quite a few people out there in "summer camp land" who wouldn't hesitate if they were asked to identify the person who impacted them the most when they were growing up besides family members.  The first name to come to mind for many is Skip. After they declared that, out would tumble a whole canoe full of stories that revolve around a place that remains sacred in our hearts and memories. Alive and well these stories are!  All you have to do is tickle a Kawabi kindred just the chin and BING!  Out shines a story about Skip.  

Some of them would begin by focusing on that sense of childhood fear of this man who generated an untouchable admiration and desire to please in many!  Two thumbs up from Skip and your feet didn't touch the ground.  However, the underbelly of this are the stories of when at age 13 you got caught in the middle of the night performing crazy antics when you were supposed to be sound asleep in your own bunkbed!  I get shivers just remembering how it felt when 12 of us campers who had reunited after a long winter of wishing for camp again, were in the middle of taking photos of all of us on one bed........ with every single flashlight on and a loud cacophony of laughter peeling through the tent walls!  

Through the sound of 12 girls humming like a crowd at a bottom of the ninth world series game 7 with the score tied and the heavy hitter up to bat...... a seriously sharp baritone would cut the air and slice through the loud din! Silence ensued immediately.  For out in the dark on the path you had to take to get back to your own tent was a man who walked those same paths without a flashlight EVER in glow in the dark white tennis shoes.  That's all you could see!  The shoes!  It was probably best not to see the stern brow on his face.  You knew it was there anyways.  

I've never even attempted to write a piece on this blog about Skip because I find it daunting.  Not that I don't want to..... its just that so many conversations, activities, campfires, games, and interactions come to mind all at once.   What underlies all of the stories I share with him are the values he lived and taught daily.  Compassion, love and belonging were expressed through his actions.  Like tasty sweets, they were shared with everyone who had the bloody luck to be under his wing for even one summer.  Me?  I had 12 joyful summers.  

As a camper, I found my sense of belonging and a mentor who cared deeply for every single kid that got off that bus on the first day of camp.  It was his goal always to know the names of every one of us by dinner that first day.  It was his expectation of his whole staff too.  If he was stumped............ he bought you a bag of "tuck."   

Skip led us in song, taught us new games that opened up the whole camp property into a place of adventure.  He handpicked his staff and gave them his blessing and complete trust to lead their little packs of campers through a memorable time learning how to swim, how to sail......... how to canoe....... how to shoot an arrow..... how to sing a round of Fire's burning....... how to make new friends and work as a group. 

On the first night of my second year on staff, Skip wanted to talk to me.  He had brought along the two female senior staff with him, so I knew right away it was serious.  Much to my genuine surprise, he wanted to talk to me about my contribution as an Assistant Counsellor the summer before.  Not that I had screwed up completely........ With an assertiveness but also with compassion, he told me that he was disappointed in me as he had expected more from me.  He saw me as a more proactive leader than what I was showing. 

I was pretty stunned by the whole encounter and couldn't understand why he had to have these two staffers with him.  Until he explained that he wanted them to take me under their wing.  He wanted to make sure I had the best guidance that summer so I would be ready to take on the role of Counsellor the following year.  He wanted me to succeed as the Leader he believed I could be.

Needless to say, I worked my ass off that summer.  If Skip thought I had it in me, and he wanted to see it shine, well dammit I was going to prove to him he was right!  Though my confidence took an initial knocking, by the end of the summer I was 16 years old, I felt an even greater sense of belonging and a good feeling that I too had left an impression on the lives of my "campers."  

One of the most important aspects of that "SKIP TALK" night was how it opened up our relationship to a place where he and I could talk more about so many other topics.  True, there was still a sense of reverence one has for their mentor, but there was also an levelling of our interactions.  Adult to adult.  He put his trust me.  I put my trust in him.  He gave me responsibilities and guidance, and I fulfilled them as I tapped into my gifts.  We learned the human side of one another.  We worked together.  I thrived being on his "team."

A couple of years later, Skip approached me one evening during pre-camp.  He asked me if I would join him in talking to an Assistant Counsellor who needed some guidance.  All of a sudden the big staff girl shoes were on my feet.  It was my turn. I was the one who would follow through with this staff person and help her process the message from Skip, but also be by her side that summer.  It certainly surprised me, but I was honoured to play this role.  Passing on the values.......... passing on the compassion, love and belonging.  Developing trust.  Developing deeper interactions with one another by sharing.  Growing in leaps.  

Along the way, this staffer and I became lifelong friends. :)  Oh, and let me add too that one of the big girl staffers who was with me the night I got my talking to?  She's very much in my life still....... We all may live in different provinces, but we are in touch almost weekly.  Thank you facebook! :)

Years later, after many accumulative moments of shared feelings........ I returned to camp for a 40th anniversary reunion.  It had been 15 years since I had walked up the camp road towards the Lodge.  This time, I was accompanied by my own family.  For the first time, I was introducing them to my home away from home.  A place they had heard so much about had finally become the real thing........ the sweet scent of pine needles scattered on the soft ground in the woods, the tall trees that allowed only slivers of sunlight to pierce through, the sounds of laughter, boat motors, water play........ the cool breezes.... it was all there as we got out of the car and walked up towards the buzzing of the people there for the same purpose as I was.  To relive, reunite, rekindle, relight once again.   

As we ambled up to the top of the small hill on the road, I saw in the distance this man whose blonde hair had a little more grey in it, wearing a golf shirt, shorts and those glow in the dark tennis shoes.  He stood there waiting to greet us and I realized that I hadn't seen him since the night of my wedding reception where we danced together, Muskie and Skip.... mentee and mentor.  It took every single muscle in my body not to go right into a sprint towards him.  It felt like I had just completed the Amazing Race and he was standing by the finish line!  

I held my composure right up until I stood in front of him.  His arms went right around me like a big bear as I proclaimed..... "I'm home!"  

"Good to see you again Muskie..."

Tears? Oh yeah!  Both of us....   Then Skip turned his focus on my daughter whom he had never met in person before.  

"You must be Martha.  Welcome to Camp Kawabi.  I hope you will call it home too just like your Mom does because you belong here too." 

Friday, March 04, 2011


My Mother in Law, Mim's childhood home and summer home
Spencer's Island, NS

To get on a different writing track, I've decided to post stories for the month of March of people or a composite of humans I've had the opportunity to spend time with.  The collection will unfold as their "faces" and stories rise up from my memory bank.  So, I don't know who you'll meet....... because I don't know yet whom I will revisit yet!  I'm excited to try to share snippets of when our lives crossed...... 


Her voice had dry gravel in it to go along with her dusty sense of humour -- remnants of sucking back more than her quota of unfiltered Buckinghams.  "Just like Gswoski," she'd announce proudly.  Then she'd laugh.  A hearty cackle cough as she lit up another to compliment her fourth cup of coffee.  Strong Joe.  No fancy pants frothy drinks for her!  Oh no!
Mim loved her extra scoop percolated Maxwell House, straight up.  She liked her conversations that way too.... especially early morning ones while resparking the embers in the old woodstove.  For the rest of the day, she hid her feelings under a bulky sweater while diverting the talk with sarcasm and bravado.  But in the morning, with a hot cup of coffee close by and a Buckingham lingering between her fingers, she spoke the truth. To me. 

It was when we connected "in the real."  It was when she was the most comfortable in her own skin...... those early September mornings when the haze had lifted, allowing for the sharp blue to envelope the skies and offering slipper wearing crispness in the air.  After a long summer of beachcombing, head clearing, raspberry picking, lobster feasting,  jelly producing, and blueberry pie making, mystery reading, crosswording, flower arranging and just plain putting at a pace completely different than the daily strife of a politician's wife, Mim's whole demeanor was revived.  

Our conversations ran the gamut, but her favourite topics revolved around politics and the news. She was a brilliant woman and maddening too!  So well read.  So bloody opinionated.  Sharp witted.  So much so, that you had to be on your own game to confidently create a rebuttal.  Nothing frustrated her more than having to spend time with someone who spewed out opinions but could never intelligently support them because they were "too God damned lazy" to read the paper. Patience wasn't her strength.  Maybe that's why we got along most of the time.  Like our shared sense of humour, we had that in common. 

Salt air. Tidal breezes.  Being at home.  "At home" didn't represent life in Ontario even though she had lived there for her entire adulthood.  No, home meant being surrounded by the secure familiarity of the place where she grew up. Spencer's Island.  Feeding the fire, listening to the CBC, putting on another pot of coffee, and sitting down to tackle the weekly New York Times crossword, as the smoke drifted off her freshly lit cigarette nesting in the ashtray. 

Mim?  Are you at home now? I believe you are. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

life drums on......

It has been said that we are made up of three persons....
The person we think we are.
The person others think we are.
And the person God knows we are.

How does one integrate these three?  Or are we supposed to strive for that?  I ask because I sometimes get stuck in a place wondering how I could be so wrong in thinking that I was "seen" in one way, but really it was the opposite. 

I ask God......... I receive silence surrounded by ringing in my ears.  Ringing silence.  Maybe the answer is that it just doesn't matter.  Well, if it didn't matter so much, then why is the wound still weeping?

Let it go........... let it go...........  
Listen to the ringing.  
Just be.
Just be your messy imperfect self.
Don't rush it.
You're where you are..... can't rush it.
Never lose your sense of humour.
Listen to the ringing.
God's ringing.
Let it go.
Sit in it for a while. Then, just let it go.....


I struggle with who I am.  At the very core, it seems as though I am the same person.  Why does the colour of my flesh seem unknown to me?  It keeps altering.... shedding layers.  Shedding losses.  Shedding skin.  I've lost half of the hair on my head.  It's freaking me out. Good thing I have a whole whack of it. No one notices but me. My thought patterns still serpentine through choppy waters chartered so many times I do it in my sleep too.  Disturbed sleep.  

March:  In like a disturbed lamb.....

That's reality.  
This year is a replay.  
No way around it.
It's also a remake.... an adjustment along with grief.  
It is what it is. 
And it's almost coming to an end....

The rest of this past year?  
I am loved beyond my comprehension.   
What a contradiction.
It makes my head spin!!!!!

I am who I am.  But, who is that person?  And who is the person I tried to plant seeds of encouragement and support for only to have the flowers shrivel on the stems? For so long, I looked beyond  to what I truly envisioned..... what I BELIEVED was there only to have those beliefs quashed time and again until I second guessed.  Until I began to see it as simply an illusion.  I am the one who saw brilliance! Or was it simply reflections off recycled tin?

Beliefs can stagger into setting cement, then fossilize into tired rituals.  Rituals become whining sighs whistling laments.   I gave up trying to encourage, convince, support.  I never gave up love.  I never gave up love.   Sure, it was smothered by frustration, anger......tantrum drumming. What did it look like from the outside looking at me?   Love dressed in ugly rags instead of youthful glances.  It looked like un-love.  I pushed too hard, said too much,  voice too many opinions.  Hid in fear. I stopped supporting, turned inward, disconnected.

Drifting love, away from home's harbour.  That's where we were. 

You know what's strangely difficult to adjust to?  Hearing my name.  I was always called some term of endearment.  Instead, I hear my name .  It sounds edgy. Formalized.  It makes me cringe.  My own name in his voice. 

OK, so..................

When does one feel the acceptance of the lesson "its the best thing that could've happened?"  When do you understand the meaning of the comment...."You were too much for him?" Surely not in the dead of winter when one is worn out by ruminations too tired to repeat.  Definitely not when one is only a step ahead of lonely, patterned by a single set of footprints on winter's stark palette.

Life drums on, during winter nights when the whole world slumbers under blankets of grief. Can you hear the drumming? It keeps you company as you learn to blend the three ways of seeing who you are.... Growth continues in dark places.  Above the drumming I hear voices of encouragement.  I hear hymns of renewal.

"Light needs dark to stick it in...."
"Healing is fostered by reflections softened by time"
"Follow the gleam...."
"Stillness offers the gift of timeless blues..."
"You have no idea how beautiful you are...."
"You are so beautiful...."

I can feel a lifting of spirits.  Everyday.   Soon spring will be showing its melting moments.  Soon, spring will return into the bodies burdened by winter's pummeling.  Soon, layers of woolen repentance will fall away.... Snowbank fortresses will surrender to temperatures rising.  Life drums on...


Now? The haunting scripts from broken ties don't dominate me.  They return, but they leave.  And when they return inside a reflection, they aren't so loud and obnoxiously prevalent.  I can walk straight when those nasty visitors pop in rather than experience a doubled over blow to the soul.  Life drums on.  Beating hope.  Beating heart.  Beating strength and new eyes that see beauty both inside and out.

Three persons drumming three different beats that begin to blend.
Who we think we are...
Who others think we are.....
Who God knows we are......

ring, ring, ringing........
in the silence there is ringing......
It is where He dwells.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

curry on....

There's an upcoming gathering I would love to attend.  Actually, my preference would be to arrive unannounced and simply sit down at the table where a bunch of beautiful Greenbelters will be dining.  On curry.  However, the gathering, which takes place mid March is across the pond.  Brick Lane.  London, England.  Anyone have an extra few air miles they'd like to donate?  :) 

Brick Lane curry happenings pop up regularly.  Even though I'm far away in the land of snow, I'm always included in the e-vite.  I love receiving them. It makes me feel so special .... so connected to a group of people whom I have met directly AND indirectly through blogging.   Who would've thunk it??  Amazing how our lives can intertwine so beautifully with no clear explanation as to how, when, why.........  

By posting on my little space in the virtual universe, somehow it generated human touches, human heartsongs, human connections that have prompted me to share more openly, reflect more deeply, and most importantly feel a sense of belonging beyond the line on the horizon...........  The way I see it?  The internet has created portals to villages where one can find kindred spirits  offering to share a curry meal with you!

If I could, I would be at Brick Lane with ringing bells on my toes and a humongous smile on my face.  Heaven knows I wouldn't be able to" keep calm and curry on."  Curry?  Yes.  Calm?  No way!  If I could find a way to join this group I'd be as excited as an exuberant lottery winner. 

This week's photo theme is Letters.......... I took this photo last year while spending a day traipsing through another one of my favourite cities... Toronto.  For more, check out my friend Carmi's place.  He posts the most interesting words and letters.