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Before and After the Fire & The Audition Song

Before the Fire – written Sept. 11

I began writing this post on the first day of school, and then was swept away by the worry of the Kenow Fire in Waterton, and the pressing need to gather a few cherished items from our place before evacuation,  and so I ended up not publishing.

This post that I began was one brimming with optimism for a new year, and even despite the events of this week, these words still ring true. We cannot control all of the external chaos swirling around us right now,  rather we are further challenged to remain steady and trusting from within -wisdom & clarity & love can and often do reign in times of turmoil.

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taken on a recent hike up to Bertha Lake

Particular to this fire event,

the extensive efforts and preparation of the Park and its staff, the different levels of government and surrounding municipalities unifying, the indescribably brave work of the firefighters,

the deep passion obviously present around both honouring the welfare of nature and  preserving the townsite –

ALL of this makes me want to weep about 17 times a day.

 

There truly are countless people deeply invested and committed to  –

our Peace Park.

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one of our favourite spots in the park

After the Fire: written Sept 12

We have a calendar hanging in our kitchen, upon which I only write the truly significant stuff….family birthdays, including the times the kids were born….

weddings,

the time and date of my mom’s death- for several years I even recorded the date of her diagnosis and turning points before she died,

the anniversary of my heart surgery.

Sometimes in a New Year when I am transferring everything to a fresh calendar, I will let a particular anniversary fall away if it no longer feels relevant or important to remember….

or perhaps the healing around the event is simply                 complete.

What is certain, though, is that if an event gets written on the calendar, it’s because it was somehow powerful enough to cut time into a before and after.

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a photo making the social media rounds, taken very near our cabin….credit?

Yesterday afternoon, on our kitchen calendar, I wrote down on Sept. 12, 2017,

 

Waterton Fire.

 

The Audition Song – written on Sept. 5, first day of school

I just dropped off my kids at school and now am sitting in a coffee shop eating a lunch of crackers, hummus, & nuts, and drinking iced tea. The weather is still full-on summer hot and when I asked for an iced tea, my barista actually said ‘So you want your tea iced?’ as if  I hadn’t thought to translate my order to Starbucks language (:

I have not been in this particular cafe all summer and it has been recently renovated, looking quite different but feeling the same, quite black and trendy.  I was taken aback at first by the change.

 

I am still processing this reality of a new year.

For the last few weeks gearing up to September, Olivia and I needed to repeat to each other about a thousand times that it all, in fact, would be all right, maybe even better than all right.

Today, we sang the ‘Audition Song’ from LaLaLand to each other as we headed towards the high school, which has become our new shared ritual of empowerment and courage,

a song all about being true to yourself, true to your dreams.

 

George on the other hand was fine. I acted quite shocked that he didn’t want me to come into the school.  I told him that I had planned on settling him into his desk and giving him a big goodbye kiss. But even he knows I would never actually dream of imposing this horror on him.

 

And so here I am now, sitting in this coffee shop, writing….feeling at once both the excitement around new beginnings and the bitter-sweetness of the years going by too quickly,

realizing for sure that I need to truly commit to myself this year, my dreams. It ends up ringing hollow to my kids when I don’t live by the same standards that I want for them,

 

sing with them.

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play break during the wedding weekend, photo credit: Jonathan Tennant

 

I have not written since Easter. It was a tumultuous spring, then an action-packed, full summer. Our daughter Alex married her love, Ryland, in beloved Waterton.

It was an event that filled our hearts beyond description. I don’t even know how to write about it yet, so lovely and precious it was, but I know that it will be woven in so many stories and writings to come.

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photo credit: Jonathan Tennant

So the summer flew by and my thoughts and ideas I mostly kept quiet, trusting that they needed time and space to percolate in the heat and the holidays, the celebrations and all the hoopla.  Still, in the background, I thought a lot about what’s coming up this fall, for us, for me.

 

 

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The Bear Grass this summer was stunning, magical, abundant.

On our final turn into the high school, I dug deep for one last helpful thing to say to my nervous girl,  feeling as if every single possible thing to say had been completely and utterly worn out,

 

‘This is it. For whatever reason, here you are… in this city, in this family, in this high school. We can’t know how or why, but here you are. And so then both the great stuff and the hard stuff are meant for you. So just be you and trust.’

 

She looked at me as we pulled up, smiled and jumped out of the vehicle.

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Olivia not so long ago

 

Audition Song lyrics:

My aunt used to live in Paris
I remember, she used to come home and tell us these stories about being abroad
And I remember she told us that she jumped into the river once, barefoot
She smiled
Leapt, without looking
And tumbled into the Seine
The water was freezing
She spent a month sneezing
But said she would do it again

Here’s to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make

She captured a feeling
Sky with no ceiling
The sunset inside a frame

She lived in her liquor
And died with a flicker
I’ll always remember the flame

Here’s to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make

She told me
“A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us”

So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles
The painters, and poets, and plays

And here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make

I trace it all back to then
Her, and the snow, and the Seine
Smiling through it
She said she’d do it again

Written by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Noble Paul • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

 

 

 

 

 

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what is joy

So the first few weeks of this joy plan proved themselves rather trying.

A friend of ours has experienced an unimaginable and tragic loss, repercussions of a struggling economy are all around us, I sustained a very minor but uncomfortable injury after Christmas that is taking time to resolve, and on it goes.

So much pain, heartache, and uncertainty in the world. Every. day.

 

All of this during my first weeks of publicized joy finding.

 

I never said it would be easy. And calling upon joy does not guarantee her arrival, or does it?

Because when I really think about it, there were moments of pure happiness.

For example,     this.

My gardener/writer friend invited me over to his greenhouse one morning. It was chilly. I kept my big coat on and we sat amidst his heartier winter-tolerating plants and drank hot pumpkin tea and chatted. It was overcast at first, but towards the end of our visit we found ourselves and the plants bathed in cheerful sunlight. He entertained me with his stories and told me about some of the plants in our company.

And this. Reading Harry Potter again, inspired by the news of the recent death of the lovely and deeply talented Alan Rickman.  George and I deciding to take on the 4th and 5th books, immersing ourselves in a world of such magic and beauty-first reading together but then him reading on, eagerly jumping ahead of me. Alex, excitedly chiming in at supper one night as we talked about Harry Potter, reflecting on how her entire childhood was  somewhat defined by J.K. Rowling’s books.

A homemade pizza crust one Saturday night eaten in front of the fire that turned out better than any I have ever attempted. ever. Pure heaven.

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And then just a few days ago we attended the dance show put on by Olivia’s middle school and it was a pure spectacle of joy – a  triumph of creativity, energy, synergy, commitment. Loads of people working together to create something positive and wondrous. My girl swept away by her love for performing.

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Pumpkin tea in a greenhouse, Harry Potter, pizza,  and a dance show.

And then just one more deliciously lovely moment. Cuddled up with George watching a documentary on pelicans that he had been asking us to watch with him for weeks. At first, of course, it was all quite gentle and interesting -pelican behaviours and development, habitat, rehabilitation practices etc.

but then it quickly got depressing as these nature documentaries always do.

Heart-breaking scenes showing helpless pelicans drowning in oil spills, stuck and struggling in fishing nets or with hooks lodged in their throats, their webbed feet deformed by frost bite due to changing weather patterns affecting migratory behaviours. ugh.

It begs one to ask what is even the point of rehabilitation for these birds. What are these poor pelicans even being sent back out into?

 

But even as I ask the question I know the answer.

 

They are being sent back out into life, in all of its beauty and wretchedness.

They are being sent back out into the wild to be with other pelicans, to soar above the ocean waters, and to do that perfectly executed long and straight arrow dive in that particular pelican way. Keeping pelicans in even a beautiful sanctuary is not an answer at all. In fact, if that is the only alternative they are often euthanized.

Life is tricky and dangerous and filled with all sorts of things that could go wrong, events that could very well break our hearts and leave us marred,

but, life, in every form, is also our very greatest privilege and gift.

And to truly experience it and honour it we must be courageous enough to open ourselves up to the fullness of it all, fish hooks, oil spills and all.

For, as the wise women discussed at my last workshop, when we are courageous enough to open our hearts to joy, when we are strong enough to feel, than we are also making ourselves quite vulnerable to sorrow,

all of  it existing within one same spectrum.

We may suddenly find ourselves weeping for all sorts of reasons,

so easily  touched by beauty, kindness, creative acts, pain, despair;

 

The plight of pelicans, a friend’s grief, or a perfectly choreographed dance. All of these experiences  – treasures for the open-hearted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Purse Project and chronicling a year of finding Joy

 

After having coffee with a dear friend last week, I spent an hour or so perusing Chapters and had a bit of a brainwave.

I first need to say, though, that I almost didn’t peruse Chapters – because it wasn’t a ‘productive’ activity.

 

Seriously.

 

I have spent my entire life being caught up with the idea of spending my time doing  ‘important’ and ‘productive’ tasks. I could spend all sorts of time analyzing where this rigid mindset comes from ~ Generally, though, we are a culture obsessed with results and ‘success’.

Perhaps I partly inherited this strong-hold of an ethic from my accomplished head-nurse grandmother, whom I was very close to. Grandma was passionate, loving and had a great sense of fun, but was also extremely efficient, productive, and task-oriented. She was constantly at battle with herself over the hours that weren’t productive, the tasks that weren’t completed.

It makes sense,

I don’t blame her and in actuality completely adored her. Our society was built upon the tasks of hard-working immigrants such as Grandma who had no choice but to be productive and build new lives against all odds.

 

And they did.

 

However, it’s now a very different world; the rules and needs have changed.

It feels right for me to announce that this focus enslaves me more than it serves me.  It makes me distracted,  cranky with the ones I love the most, and often quite negative. Yet, sadly and truthfully, it’s most often how I measure the worth of my days.

I am going to try serving another master: Joy

and see where that takes me.

 

So that’s it. That’s my New Year’s plan and my new practice.          Joy.

I am going to investigate, explore and give full reign to things that bring me

joy.

If this sounds hoaky, simplistic, or idealistic,      I really don’t care.   I am blessed enough to be surrounded by lots of intelligent, successful, and highly artistic people and for too long  I believed that everything I wrote or did needed to be academic or clever and original. I am done with that line of thinking because not only is it paralyzing, but I am a true believer in the deep and abiding worth of simple concepts.

Also, a very wise friend once said to me,

‘Everything’s been done before. Don’t kid yourself. But it hasn’t been done by you.’

 

Also, because I know that every practice is fortified by writing about it and tracking  developments (my friend and I actually discussed this over said coffee),

I am going to write about Joy this year and the places where I find it.

When I wake up in the morning I am going to consider what will fill me up rather than what needs be to accomplished.

 

Last post I talked about being open to receiving beautiful moments.

Let’s just see if setting forth an intent widens the scope and potential of my receptivity.

So, there will be far less ado about what I have done and far more about surrendering to a new way of looking at things. I have been given so many precious gifts in this life, it seems nothing less than a betrayal to not find ways to celebrate their sweet presence. We all know too well that life is short.

 

Plus there’s nothing like publicly announcing something to make it happen.

See.

I said I was going to re-think my blog a bit this year. Plus as soon as I use the word project or theme I get all tingly and excited and inspired and dare I say…Joyful.

So there it is. I gave myself permission to be unproductive and peruse Chapters for an hour with no agenda and an agenda found me.

At any rate, I am pretty sure that it’s a non-debatable fact that the world could use more       Joy.

And,  I suspect that Joy is a direct highway to      Peace.

 

Here, I got you all interested in my Purse Project and I didn’t even tell you about it. No worries, I will in a few days. It’s idea #1 and I just need to flesh it out a bit.

In the meantime, I hope you all feel a little inspired to figure out what it is your lives need more of.

Joy, however, is anything but saccharine or false. It is delight; a fully embodied form of contentment. It’s the smile that finds its own stretch and doesn’t need to be tugged into place. It’s what the morning glory does when it feels the first rays of sunlight on its petals. It’s the splash that sends a feeding fish slaphappy out of the water, and it’s the flick of its tail on its return. Joy is the impulse in the morning that sends you into the kitchen for tea and toast before the alarm has had a chance to ring.                                       Tzivia Gover, ‘Joy in Every Moment’

 

The beautiful image heading this piece is from from Robin Mead! Check out her other inspiring and joyful designs at https://www.facebook.com/RobinMeadDesigns

 

 

 

 

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A ray of light.

I took this photo on Boxing Day.

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In opposition to a world that seems to revel in an endless stream of photos, George is generally resistant to pictures being taken, especially of himself.

Yet, I still took it. I liked that moment. It was peaceful, simple, tech-free.

 

I can appreciate George’s perspective though. During a time when we attempt to document everything, sometimes the refreshing and rebellious thing is to simply not snap the shot, to courageously experience the moment without any need for a stamp of validation.

 

During the Christmas break, we watched the movie ‘Boyhood‘. Have you seen it? The entire movie is a chronicling of moments, random yet telling, of one boy’s life over the course of 12 years.

Snippets. Some of them even lovely rays of light.

 

Let this photo, this gift of a moment that I was thankfully present enough to notice, be preserved as part of the string of moments that will make up George’s boyhood.

Rays of light that find us. Happiness that we are willing to receive. 

 

2016 has wrapped her arms firmly around us already, hasn’t she?

It is a tentative and uncertain relationship that we have at first with the New Year. We don’t know her yet,

but yet we tend to want to believe that we can mold her and control her.

We forget that her events, her adventures, her surprises, her lessons, her inspirations, her happy and her dark times,

are not yet for us to know.

 

The best we can do is relax into her arms, trusting in her love and wisdom.

 

‘Boyhood’ ends with a poignant line,

A girl that Mason, the main character, has just met says to him,

‘You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kinda thinking it’s the other way around. You know, like the moment seizes us.’

 

May you be seized by innumerable moments and rays of light in 2016. Happy New Year friends!

A reminder that the next PeaceCard workshop will be held on Thursday, Jan. 21 from 7-9pm. It promises to be another lovely evening of connection, play and stillness. Message me for the details if you are interested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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Another first day on another September, seven years ago.

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My Heart Surgery & Recovery & 10 beautiful things that got me through ~

It has now been a while since my open heart surgery, and it feels as if the time has  come to talk about it. Olivia said to me the other day, ‘Mom, do you get tired of answering people when they ask you how you are doing?’ My answer was ‘no’~

It was a significant thing to go through and it touches me that so many people were and are still so genuinely concerned.

Heart surgery is not uncommon. Most of us can name people we know who have gone through some sort of procedure to address a heart condition.

I am now connected to these people.

No one, however, can really prepare you for the invasiveness of heart surgery, nor for the accompanying feelings of overwhelming vulnerability that accompany allowing your heart to be stopped, worked on,
and no one really likes to talks about that crippling underlying fear

that things could go wrong.

For the first several weeks after surgery it was all I could do just to find ways to process all of my feelings and accept the complex experience I had been through and begin to heal.

How grateful am I now though?

My heart is fixed thanks to the truly spectacular wonders that modern medicine and technology have gifted us. I feel energy and vitality building in me that I have not felt for years, perhaps even never felt.

Nor is it possible for me to feel and see the world in the same way after having had major surgery. Everything looks just a little different,

a little brighter, a little simpler, even lovelier than before.

There were, of course, magical moments that will never leave me – shining moments that really got me through and helped me feel and know for sure that everything would be ok –

Here are my top 10…

1) All the big love that came to me before surgery. Flowers, messages, prayers, cards, hugs….Friends and acquaintances offering up love and support and letting me know that they were thinking of me. Right up until I went to sleep the night before surgery, I was still receiving new messages and feeling virtually held up by everyone.

2) Great parking spots the day before surgery and the morning of, as trivial as that may sound. Others had complained to us about the mess of trying to find parking at the Foothills, but for us it was literally a snap. It seemed as though just as we would pull up right in front of the hospital, someone else would pull out with smiles and waves. It was absolutely seamless and helped me trust that in even in the most mundane of ways we were being looked after.

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3) Having my kids with me – It felt really important  that all three of my kids were nearby. I needed to feel them close, I needed them to be a part of all of it and understand what was happening rather than imagine the worst. I wanted them to see the preciousness of life that is more deeply understood when we come into close contact with trauma, sickness, recovery, and healing. My mother taught me to not shy away from these facts of life and I felt a responsibility to extend that important teaching to my own children. And so the kids were there at the hospital before, during, and after surgery…in the waiting room for hours and hours with their cousins while I was in surgery, on the hospital grounds running and playing under their Auntie’s supervision, on hunts for ice cream or treats with Glenna, and holding my hands during the days after as I started taking my little laps around the halls. Alex carefully watched over my vitals and supervised visits and messages from friends. George played numerous games of Battleship with Glenna between hesitant visits to my room when he would offer me quick kisses, and Olivia stayed close until everyone else except Dan had gone back home to Lethbridge. She helped me dress, checked my incisions, waited on me, meticulously mothered me.

4) An unexpected angel of reassurance -It’s difficult to describe the fear that I felt as my body was being prepared for surgery at 6am on the morning of April 8. Even the two Ativan that they gave me weren’t quite enough to completely calm me. However, after I was wheeled into the surgical suite on the stretcher, something happened that I will never forget….A doctor came up to me, whom I had never met, and told me he would be assisting in my operation.

He then told me that it was going to be great, and that if he was having open-heart surgery, this is precisely the team he would choose. We chatted for a bit longer, and then he left to carry on with his preparations. It is difficult to describe the power of that interaction, but the comfort that he gave to me extends even into this day.

5) Nurses – My grandmother had a distinguished and respected career as head nurse of surgery. Her and I were very close, and it was her that I thought of most often as I prepared for surgery. I imagined her watching over all of the medical details, and sending energies of competency, perfectionism, and love. Little did I think, though, about this deep professional care extending into the days afterwards, but it did,

as it manifested in the nurses who looked after me.

These women and men talked to me about what I was experiencing, watched my recovery with genuine concern, answered my questions, helped me move, sit, walk, bathe, covered me in warm blanket after warm blanket,

and showed me how to receive and be completely taken care of when I had no other choice.

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Margaret Filchak

6) Other patients – Cardiac patients are encouraged to get moving as soon as possible. It is very important to start working the heart again. So the halls circling around the cardiac rooms are continuously peppered by people in their hospital gowns shuffling slowly along, often with family members walking along beside them. There are chairs dispersed for rests and visits, and it can feel a little like a turtle marathon with much encouragement and smiles coming from other patients and their families.

‘Oh you are moving well, good for you!’

‘And what did you have done – bypass or valve work?’

‘How many days are you at now?’ (everyone remembers their surgery date like it’s their birthday)

It is a such beautiful and inspiring thing to witness,

how quickly and naturally communities form wherever we are. It seems to me that, generally, we are all out  to support one another even when we are struggling and in pain ourselves. It is by far one of the most beautiful thing about human nature, this urge to form connections whatever our circumstances.

7) My beautiful chair– A few days before surgery Alex and Ry decided that my favorite chair should be moved from the living room to our back window. This is the great big, pillowy, floral print chair that Dan bought me for our first Christmas together. As soon as I saw my beloved chair tucked into the corner of our sunroom. I actually felt a little excited about my recovery as I imagined myself tucked deep inside of its cozy warmth, cup of tea and a pile of books by my side. Dan put a little antique wood table that had belonged to my grandmother at the chair’s side, and Olivia decorated the table with a little cup of flowers.

This was where I sat for a month,

receiving visitors, coordinating, watching Netflix, reading, drinking copious cups of tea, and watching Spring unfold.

7) Food – Before surgery, when people would ask me if there was anything they could do  I would say, ‘Well, yes, you could bring us food.’ I knew for sure this was the one area where we would struggle. As you all know, it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to shop for and feed a family and I am all about nourishing and healthy food, especially during times of stress and healing.  Let me just say that we were very well fed, and I am convinced that food is always one of the very best ways to help. Thank you, thank you, and thank you to everyone who helped in this way.

9) Walks in the sunshine– As soon as I got home from Calgary my little walks around the cardiac unit transformed into walks up and down our street, on the arms of my husband. We walked and walked and walked, many times a day, willing my heart to gradually strengthen and heal. The weather during those first few days and weeks was absolutely perfect, warm, and regenerative. Often, we were stopped by neighbours offering up hugs and words of encouragement and I felt as deeply loved and cheered on by our friends as I did by my surroundings; by our street, by the houses, the trees, the sunshine, by all of it.

10) A shift from fear and waiting towards trusting and being. Even though I had great faith in my brilliant and well-respected surgeon, and deep hope for my future, open-heart surgery was  an event I had been fearing for a long time.

We all have major, transformative events in our lives that shake us up; deaths of loved ones, health issues that catch us by surprise, ends of relationships, and so on. These sorts of events always have the power to drive us deeper into fear and or resentment, hold us hostage, make us distrustful of life, paralyze us –

or

They can make us more determined to find the light, the adventure, the play, the stillness, the ways to love, the reasons to celebrate, and the courage to take those brave leaps towards our dreams.

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Grandma Carol’s Garden 2015; Garden theme ‘Full Hearts’

Once again I am restored and choose happiness.

Thank you, dear heart.

First Ever Guest Blog!

My dear friend, Lyndon Penner, and I are each guest-blogging for each other this week. Lyndon has written on the subject of peace, and I have written a piece for his blog, ‘Jadecypress: One Voice Calling out from the Garden’  that fits within his subject matter of nature and gardening. Please visit jadecypress.wordpress.com to find more of Lyndon’s beautiful writings as well as my contribution. Lyndon Penner is a gardener, CBC columnist, environmentalist, author and teacher. It was a both an honour and a joy to collaborate with someone I deeply admire, and whose friendship I treasure.

What could be a better way to build bridges and peace in the world than for two writers who respect and admire each other to come together and collaborate? I am reminded of how CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien used to get together and compare writings and possibilities, and while I wouldn’t dream of comparing myself to these two giants of literature, I like the idea that through the ages, writers have been encouraging and inspiring and supporting one another.
Karen is a dear friend of mine, and I asked her to write a guest post for my blog. To my delight, she agreed and asked if I would write one for hers! I was thrilled to be able to do so for her, but also a little intimidated. Karen’s audience is different than my audience, and could I really write something that would appeal to her followers? I am not a flavor everyone enjoys, and that’s fine with me, but it’s also good for me to get out of my box and write something for a different group of people.
I think it’s so important that whatever we do in life, we encourage and help each other. I am always so happy to see groups of people working together for a common good, rather than to see people with a common dream at odds with one another, which is too often the case.
If you are an artist, and you paint, I think you should find other artists and encourage them in their painting. Talk about your work together. Support and build one another up. If you sing, find other singers and see what you can do together. The same for musicians. Or sculptors. Or ceramic artists. If we all worked together in our respective fields, wouldn’t the world be a better place? I have a friend named Cheryl who does the same thing for a living that I do. We are quite equally matched in terms of skills and expertise, and when I was really down and out Cheryl went through her contacts and found some extra work for me at a time when I really needed it. This is unheard of in many other professions. Chefs do not share recipes. Graphic designers do not share ideas. Yet gardeners often come together to help each other out. I know someone else who does the same work that I do, and she sees me as a threat. She is nice to me in person, but behind my back she would do anything she could to sell me up the river. I feel sorry for this woman and how insecure she is. How much better would life in our world be if we combined our collective talents rather than try to stamp out anyone who might be better than we are?

Winter is a hard time for many of us. Especially prairie dwellers. Even those of us who grew up here in 30 below and are accustomed to the cold do not necessarily enjoy it. There are different kinds of winter souls. There are some who purchase snowmobiles or cross country skis or toboggans or snowboards and just make the most of every minute. I have friends who long for snow so they can get out there and do winter sports. I am not one of those people, but I am envious of them. How, in the long, dark days of January and February (and often into March and April) can we keep the faith and go bravely forward? It is cold outside; often too cold to be outdoors, and many of us begin to feel the effects of short day light and cabin fever. It takes a stalwart and hardy person to live here. As a gardener, winter is especially hard for me because my income is severely reduced and I am usually stressing about money, but never mind that. Winter is hard because we live in a harsh land; a fact often overlooked when we consider the conveniences of “modern living”. Having gardened in the tropics, I now understand the value of winter. Winter gives my soul a period of rest. There are no weeds to pull in February. There is no grass to mow and no harvesting to be done and no insects to contend with. The trees cast long shadows as I sit by the window and at night I can hear their twiggy fingers tapping against the glass. The garden in winter is at rest. The snow is beautiful. It is peaceful. There are so many on the globe who have never seen snow. Here, we see it for so much of the year we take it for granted. The snow covers the ground, and beneath it the perennials and the small creatures are all resting, all asleep and tucked away, waiting the return of spring. Sometimes, I sense their peacefulness as they dwell in their grottoes beneath the snow and earth, and sometimes I am sure I can feel the spirits of bears and skunks and bats as they slumber in forgotten caves and tunnels in the mountain. How full and beautiful our year is because of the rest that winter brings. We have so glorified “busy” in our society that we have forgotten to rest, to be peaceful, to lie down and let the gales sweep over us. Winter reminds us to be still and to await the return of longer days and songbirds, and winter is a good teacher if we allow it to be.

Finally, the last thing I would like to remark upon is how beautiful the world is. It is so very easy to become despairing, to lose hope, to feel lost. With climate change and the tar sands and the corruption of our government (among other things), it can become so tempting to throw in the towel and feel like there is no point in even bothering with trying to make the world a better place. The world is still very much a worthwhile place to be. There are so many reasons to hope. When I speak at universities or gardening conferences, people are always asking me about native plant restoration and things they can do to help the bees. I see young people give up their seat on the bus for an elderly person. I have seen young men gallantly hold open the door for women, and I have seen strangers offer up radiant smiles to me for no other reason than we are passing each other on the street. The sun still rises, and it is lovely. The full moon is as gorgeous as it has ever been, and the stars still shine on. The ocean still offers us the songs of whales and the forests still offer us moss covered rocks to ponder and contemplate. The world is a beautiful and hopeful place, if we want it to be. As you go through your journey this week and this winter, I wish you hope and beauty. I wish you peace and collaborations, and I wish for you the knowledge that you can make a tremendous difference in this world.