Image

starting over

I am the kind of person that loves setting goals, dreaming up plans and projects, getting excited about what’s next…

 

yet.

Lately I have also become quite enthralled by the ways the different windows in our house frame the trees, the sky. I look and look, up through the skylight while I soak in the tub or out my window if I lay down for a minute on a Friday afternoon, tired from the week.  Each view is different…

the dance of fall colours and light and weather. I am certainly not overlooking a dramatic vista, I am just in my house.

It’s good to plan and create and act, but it’s also lovely to just sit and look and be.

Sometimes in those moments I even think,

‘This is enough, just this.’

IMG_2546

Olivia said to me the other day, ‘What if I decide not to follow this dream that I have told everyone is my dream. Then what? ‘ And I said to her, ‘it doesn’t matter if you have told the whole world’.

Dreams are fluid and fun and are allowed to change as we grow.

2013-11-19 16.37.44.jpg

Also, the whole landscape of what we thought was real, and even what we thought would always be or what we always wanted,  can change in a heartbeat.

 

The Kenow fire raged its way through Waterton and burnt 70% of the forest. Waterton looks raw and vulnerable but at the same time she is now more powerfully spectacular than ever. She’s wise and has been through some intense stuff. A beautiful wise old crone of forests, giver of life.

 

IMG_9983.jpg

And I know with every fiber of my being that watching her rebirth herself will be pure magic.

 

Dreams can change. And everything that we knew to be true about ourselves, and about what we thought was real can fall away in an instant. I have felt this happen again and again in my own life,

and I see it happening all around me right now in every aspect of our world. Everything we know is being challenged, so then maybe what we thought we wanted, what we thought was important, is being challenged too.

 

This doesn’t mean that we stop coming up with new dreams, or revamping the old ones, or that we live in fear and feel ourselves victims of bigger and terrifying forces we cannot control –

 

but I have learned to surrender to the complex web of unfoldment that I could have never in a million years have orchestrated myself

and trust that even in what is painful and heartbreaking and even in that which feels like utter destruction and devastation,

there are often aspects serving us that we cannot begin to comprehend, even if it’s just a rallying of love.

IMG_0424

 

Next year the wildflowers in Waterton are going to be extraordinary.

We are stronger than we think.

 

Happy weekend of ‘Giving Thanks’ everyone. May you sit and bask in the simple beauty of what you already have and what you see out your windows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image

On what it is to be brave, how I almost burned the house down, and an invitation

On what it is to be brave,

There have been times in my life when people have told me that I was brave, that I  was strong….when I divorced, when my mom died, when I had my heart surgery.

I didn’t feel particularly strong or brave in any of these instances.

In fact, people’s encouraging words in part frustrated me because it felt like I had no other alternatives. I was simply putting one foot in front of the other and moving through my days, my life, doing my best to work with the hand I had been dealt.

What courage, I thought, is there in that,

not realizing that this ordinary brand of courage, this gentle strength, is momentous in its own quiet but important way.

And ironically, I now hear myself saying and thinking these same words to friends who are struggling with or facing their own life-altering events,

‘You are strong, you are brave.’

And I mean these words. And yet these friends deflect my sentiments in the same way that I once did.

I now realize, though, that it in fact takes tremendous courage to simply move through a life. And when it is done with honesty and open-heartedness, I am in awe.

In such lovely and ordinary ways, we are brave.

For example,

My friend who is terrified of flying still gets on that plane because she cannot deny her yearning to explore and travel the world,

and she who is grieving her spouse or parent does so with authenticity, expressing her tears, her anger, her laughter, despite the fact that our culture does not like to talk about grief.

This woman says what needs to be said in that meeting, what no one else will say, even though her heart feels like it will pound right out of her chest when she begins to speak

or another friend doesn’t speak up, because sometimes it is better to be kind than right.

Another woman says no to joining the committee, despite her overwhelming feelings of guilt and obligation, because she knows it is just too much

and she who is overwhelmed asks for help.

My friend leaves her marriage because it is the best thing, the only thing, for herself and for her kids

while another stays in her marriage for the same reasons.

And this one follows a path that few understand or support, yet with deep determination he keeps doing his art and persists in his vision, his passion,

whilst another takes a job because it will pay the bills and that is the bigger priority.

A  mother I know watches her child walk right into a difficult situation even though it breaks her heart but she knows her child needs to navigate this particular storm on his own,

and this friend uproots and moves away because she knows deep inside that it is the right next step for her, even though it means leaving so much.

Another has the courage and confidence to shine when the moment asks for it, but  also knows when it is time to stand in the background in a supporting role.

This woman shows real and uninhibited exuberance and delight in her daily encounters despite this world that presently seems to favour cynicism and guardedness,

and he who has worked for so long in pursuit of his goal finally reaches the finish line and accepts his rewards with grace, while another friend understands when the time has come to walk away.

My friend who has cancer shares with us all her reasons to smile and describes the cherished places where she finds gratitude and hope, just as she expresses her feelings of helplessness and gripping fear,

and another brave soul silently processes the news of her illness because that is her way.

FullSizeRender[7]

We               are            brave.

How I almost burned the house down

My dear life-long friend and I were recently able to get away on a quick and much long-anticipated weekend getaway. I was finally able to see the vacation home that Charlotte and her husband have built along with 3 other couples, a lovely getaway in the mountains.

After arriving Friday evening we awoke Saturday morning eagerly anticipating our day of cafe breaks, walks, and early Christmas shopping. While Charlotte was showering, I went downstairs to put the kettle on for my tea. Mindlessly, as this is one of the most routine behaviours of my daily existence, I filled up the kettle with water and put it on the gas stove. I then grabbed my phone and dialed Dan and the kids to have a quick chat, and see how their night had been.

As I was chatting with Olivia, I began to smell a combination of smoke and burning plastic. I looked over at the stove-top, and noticed that the entire bottom of the ELECTRIC KETTLE, exposed wire and all, was on fire.

Yes, readers , I put an electric kettle on a gas range and almost burned the house down, and not even my house, but my friend’s house that she shares with 3 other families.

As I was throwing bowls of water on top of the stove, I was half-panicking, half-imagining how I would tell everyone what I had done. And as the smoke alarm was going off, I was weakly calling  Charlotte’s name, not really wanting her to come down before I had attempted to peel off the hard pieces of melted kettle off the burners.

The most embarrassing part of this whole story, though, is that neither Charlotte nor Dan were entirely surprised by what I did,

but            they both still love me.

So, if you see me randomly bursting into laughter in the grocery store aisle or while waiting to pick up my kids,

I am probably just remembering what I did.

FullSizeRender[5]

Despite the kettle mishap, we did each manage to find beautiful new boots to buy.

An invitation

I have a few projects on the go right now, and often wonder at when and how they should intersect. They inevitably do intertwine, though, and so it feels right to extend an invitation to my readers to my PeaceCard evening slated for an evening in late November.

For at least the last ten years, I have imagined such mini-retreats~ times set aside for honest connection, meaning, and simple and artful play. I know so many of us crave this, and I also know it lacks in many of our lives.

Women have always gathered. My mother and her friends used to gather so often, whether to quilt and craft, or talk and plan. This is women’s play and it is essential to so many of us, to our well-being. To find out what I have dreamed up for this first evening of its kind, please message me for the details.

HeartLogo

Image

On this is all I will say about politics, connection, and last week’s hero

This is all I will say about politics (for now)

I am going to tell you a little secret about me. I am not much of a joiner.

It’s actually hard for me to admit this because it feels somewhat like claiming a lack of commitment which isn’t at all true. I can be fiercely committed and loyal. 

I have always felt, though, that there can sometimes be something slightly dangerous about identifying too much with a particular perspective or stance. If we become too patriotic, too zealous, too enmeshed with a group,

we sometimes end up leaving out other people, other views, other valid ways of being in this world. It can all get       a little too ‘us’ and ‘them’, though often             

that is the place where we feel the safest.

It happens to all of us, and certainly me too. I speak to this but I have been guilty of sitting up on my high horse     a thousand or more times.

Since the beginning of time, though, that is exactly the point where it falls to pieces. We make it all black and white, see things at face value and forget to look harder in the depths for the clarity and understanding beneath. Feelings are hurt, resentments breed,   wars start.

We forget that we ALL have our burdens to bear and for the most part, we all want the same things.

Love.     Connection.     Peace.

I speak to this perhaps because talk of the upcoming election is everywhere. I will not speak up for a specific party here, or speak down to another one. I do, think, however, that the challenge is to really make this about seeking to understand the issues,

identifying the leaders that truly speak to our hearts and minds at this time, and sifting through the rhetoric and the drama and the posturing until we find the place where we are simply most aligned.              Then vote.

Undoubtedly and thankfully, we will forevermore need to gather and form groups and associations and parties and work for positive change and, to be honest,

there is little that moves me more than people working together to create beautiful initiatives in this world, inspired events, important societal or environmental change.

My hope, however,  is that when we form our partnerships and alliances we can always remember that

It’s not about ‘us’ and ‘them’.

It’s always about ALL of us. 

Connection

Recently, I saw a video documenting people who offered up a minute of eye contact to passers by on busy streets. I have seen other versions of this project executed in different ways, but it always ends up being deeply moving to watch people just seeing each other.

It strikes me that if I was, for an entire minute,  to stare into the eyes of someone who I felt I didn’t understand or that I was at odds with,

something  in both of us would inevitably shift.

FullSizeRender[1]

Even just imagining it feels a little transformative.

Last week’s hero

Last week, the hero of our story was George.

He had decided that he would agree to have his head shaved for the Terry Fox Run event hosted by his school and he stayed resolute in that decision.

It was a beautiful and ambitious event for a school that is known for celebrating Terry Fox’s legacy. Thousands of kids, teachers and parents came from all over our city to walk together, cheer on the memory of Terry (even his dad was in attendance) and raise money for cancer research.

FullSizeRender[2]

When it was time,

George marched up onto the stage with the other brave volunteers and quietly let the stylist shave his hair all the while wearing a sticker announcing that ‘he was running today for Grandma Carol‘.

My beautiful boy who has always had a gorgeous head full of blond hair that I have loved to smell, kiss, ruffle~

afterwards walked back to where we were sitting (a little shakily),

          completely bald.

All at once my heart both broke and grew.

I have long since given up on the idea of finding a one and only hero who always acts in a way that is brave and true and good. Few, if any of us, are capable of that.

But we do get little opportunities, scattered throughout our every days, to have heroic moments.

Yay George, for accepting and rising up to yours.

FullSizeRender[3]

On an adventure…..

On an adventure….

My blog will be short this week.

I know lots of you are busy anyways with all the sorts of new things that September brings ~ back to school and activities, resuming routines, getting organized again.. I am actually headed off on a very big adventure next week and am quite excited about it but also a little (a lot)  overwhelmed at the moment with all that needs to get done before I leave.

So for now, I am going to attend to my to-do list and preparations, and promise you a full report in my next post which will be in 3 weeks, Friday Sept 25.

Wishing you all wonderful adventures, big or small,

as well as trust and ease as we transition into a new season and a busier time.

DSC_0532

Another first day on another September, seven years ago.

Image

On the Moon, the Kids’ Table, and a quietly but surely hovering September

The Moon

These past few weeks we have been blessed with many visitors; both chance encounters and planned visits with friends and family ~Long and casual visits over cups of coffee and glasses of wine, and fun communal hikes to quiet mountain lakes where our hoards of kids jump into icy waters and screech with glee.

This is the kind of fun that only summer can bring and it is so lovely.

One of my favorite moments so far, though, was an after dinner walk to watch the moon rise. On a stroll the night before, Dan and I had admired a spectacular moonrise over the mountains and so we suggested to our friends who were visiting from North Carolina that we go back to that same perfect spot to catch the magnificence again.

This is the spot.

FullSizeRender[32]

If you are ever in Waterton Lakes National Park, do sit in these red chairs and admire a view that never ever gets old and will surely restore your faith that all is well.

We gathered in that spot, and waited.

And waited, and waited, and waited.

And waited.

We hadn’t checked the moonrise times, nor did we realize that there can be such a great variance from night to night.

But we had promised our friends that it would be a spectacular full moon and we wanted to impress (as if the moon could possibly be our show to arrange) and so we waited some more.

We visited, and the kids threw stones in the lake as kids always do, and we shivered as the mountain air grew colder, and we jumped up and down to stay warm, and we walked up and down the shore of the lake, and we laughed and teased about how long it was taking, and we told jokes, and we got impatient, and then we waited on some more.

And then finally, eventually, this happened, as it has happened since the beginning of time and will forevermore.

IMG_3926

photo by Andrew Stillwell

And why don’t we think to look more often?

Because, oh gorgeous and radiant sun, you have everyone’s complete adoration,

including mine,

but dare I say that              You –          magical, mystical, and wondrous moon,

you are the one that actually holds my heart,

You pull at me and retrieve me, you restore me, you comfort me, you return me to me

again and again.

And so we all heartily agreed that she was more than worth the wait, and we clapped for her performance. Happily we stood there together and even sang every song we could think of that featured her, including my favourite moon song of all time.

Moon River,
Wider than a mile:
I’m crossin’ you in style
Some day.
Old dream maker,
You heart breaker,
Wherever your goin’,
I’m goin’ your way…..
Two drifters,
Off to see the world,
There’s such a lot of world
To see.
We’re after the same
Rainbow’s end
Waitin’ round the bend,
My huckleberry friend,
Moon River
and me.

And then, becoming more chilly and tired, we walked home.

Thank you, dear moon, you beautiful and enchanted thing.

Once again you have worked your magic.

the Kids’ Table

Another one of our summer delights has been the Netflix show ‘Chef’s Table’, a new series that provides an intimate look at the life and work of the world’s best chefs. This is a fascinating show that juxtaposes very different styles and personalities, but truly showcases inspired creativity and passion for food and excellence in general.

I could endlessly watch shows about food and creative pursuits of any kind, but even our kids have been quite riveted. So much so, that they felt excited about creating their own food extravaganza for their movie party last week.

FullSizeRender[33]

Their culinary choices would not be considered healthy by anyone’s standards but their presentation certainly deserves high marks.

I highly recommend Chef’s Table.  Dan, of course, loved the Italian chef  –

‘Every time I open a cheese like this, I get emotional. In my blood, there’s balsamic vinegar. My muscles are made by Parmigiano’     Massimo Bottura,

and I was deeply heartened by the second chef, Dan Barber, who promotes farm to table eating and shows us that even though there are massive obstacles, it is entirely possible to re-think and make our relationship with food on this continent.

a quietly but surely hovering September

We all know it’s near. We can feel and sense the nearness of September and summer’s end. We are still basking in the sunshine, swimming and playing outside, going on trips, but our minds are beginning to re-organize and plan and strategize about how this fall is going to go.

It’s inevitable.

The promise that I have made to myself, though, is this…

I will deeply enjoy these days and weeks, what is left of summer,       but

I will resist stressing about the transitioning.

We will find ways to celebrate and welcome the shortening of the days, the slow but certain turning of the leaves, the preparations, the still leisurely time with family and friends.

And when I plan what this year will look like, I will pause and consider…

what fills my soul, our souls,       where does my work want to focus,     what keeps my family connected and at peace,      what needs to be let go,      what builds community,

and from these intents and understandings,  I will find our priorities and the coming structure to our days.

FullSizeRender[34]

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.”
Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Image

Summer’s end, our girls, and a haircut

Summer’s End

I have been back in the city this week, preparing my kids for the school year to come,  formulating future projects,

and working through the loads of paperwork piled high on my dining room table.

As I write this, it is also pouring rain outside and inspiration, to be honest, is eluding me.

So I sit here, not quite knowing what to say next,

which can feel harder as the weeks pass and this blog builds and I know that more of you are reading my words. Thank you, by the way, to everyone who has reached out to me with heartfelt expressions of support and encouragement. You do make my days.

Suddenly, though, I feel a self-imposed pressure to inspire and move, even on a day when I am not feeling particularly inspired or moved myself.

And so here I sit today, writing about, writing through, the greyer times,

because they are very real too.

When the rain is falling, when I am not at all sure of my next move, and when I have heard too many personal stories of loss and heartache in a week to maintain a steady grip,

there is still so much to say.

photo[19]

Peace, I know, is not a holiday destination. It does not solely live on a gorgeous white sandy beach as the ocean waves crash and lull,

or in Waterton,

amidst the wildflowers and the mountains or under a spectacular sky –

though it can certainly feel so much more accessible in those kinds of places.

It is here, too, within my steaming cup of black tea as I tap away on my computer, planning and paying bills, and writing emails.

photo[18]

For if it does not live here, it can’t be found there either, no matter how beautiful the surroundings.

Wherever you go, there you are.          (Jon Kabat-Zinn)

The trees are beginning to change in this land where our summers are so short,

and our back lawn is already speckled with fallen leaves.

Friends are asking me what I have registered my kids in this fall and my September calendar is almost filled up.

Fall. Beautiful fall. You are almost here. You are here.

As a wise mentor once reassured me,

‘As long as you are living and experiencing, there will always be new things to say, new material,

and so this ever-changing peace project will continue into another season because, for me, it still feels like the worthiest of journeys,

and so I welcome fall with open and waiting arms,

ready for her gifts.

Our Girls

photo[20]

Here it is ~ My  favourite photo from our block party this past weekend,

from a night when I took very few photos.

It was the loveliest of evenings on our street. The afternoon began with heavy rain and we were late to begin, but then a calm happiness gently descended on us all.

For the past nine years on the night of the block party, I have filled my house and steps and front yard with outside friends and family, food and much hoopla,

but this year I did not.

If you felt left out, please accept my apologies and know that I love you but also understand that I desperately needed to just keep it quieter this year and re-acquaint myself with my neighbours, new and old,  and re-discover, quite simply, why we are here,

why I am here.

This photo is why.

It is the snapshot that I wanted to freeze and store forever because in the very witnessing of it my heart was full…

A line-up of girls from our street, performing ‘the cup song’.

All different ages,

girls that I have known and watched from their childhoods now becoming such strong and interesting young women – peaceful rising forces of good and beauty in our world,

singing and playing with their younger neighbours who so look up to them,

and caring and looking out for them in turn ~

modeling strength of character and individuality

when powerful and inevitable peer pressures impose on them from everywhere else.

On this street they/we are all safe and loved and understood, young and old,

as we take care of one another, affirming our interconnectedness.

This is why we are here,

this is why we are ALL here.

 

And the other best part….

being able to trick scooter down a closed down street with a friendly and captive audience.

photo[22]

Haircuts

George, too, is transitioning into a new grade with a new teacher and, this week,

he suddenly decided that he wanted his hair cut short.

For almost all of his life, his hair has been longer.

DSC_0157

Doctor Westwood

I even used to call him my Little Lord Fauntleroy, because he reminded me of that main character in one of my favourite childhood books,

with his long blonde locks and blue eyes.

My beautiful baby boy ~

I read once, though, that we must be careful to convey to our kids that we enjoy watching them grow up and change,

rather than constantly telling them that we wish that we could keep them little and bottle that cuteness,

and oh my goodness, he was cute.

So when George asked me if I thought it was a good idea if he cut off his hair, I replied, ‘Go for it!’

My smart, kind, wonderful nine year old boy is blossoming into the wondrousness of all that he will decide to become,

and I am a firm supporter of the idea that a little re-invention

is always good for anybody’s soul.

photo[21]

Whac that mole!