Saturday, April 28, 2007



Recently I grew tired of my screensaver picture and searching for something new and fresh, found an image of a butterfly I'd taken in our flower garden last summer.
Gazing at the image while the computer booted up, one of my favourite stories came to mind. It was about a man who, out for a walk in the bush, came across a butterfly struggling to get out of its cocoon. Being the nice chap that he was, he thought he'd help it out so punctured the sac gently and offered it an easy exit. The butterfly flapped its wings and instead of flying off, fell from the man's hand and crashed to the forest floor where it soon died.
How could I like such as tragic story? Well, because it confirmed my hope that there was a purpose to our struggling. You see, there was a reason the butterfly had to work so hard to break free. By pushing and beating against the cocoon walls, it built up the muscles it needed to flap its wings. When the man unknowingly removed that obstacle, he removed the training the butterfly required to succeed in its next phase of life.
I found the story comforting because it made me feel like there was some grand design behind all my trials and aggravation. I didn't know what that was, but being aware of this way helped me let go of my anxiety and happily get on with the day.
Out on my walk, I began wondering about the story and soon realized that for human beings, it wasn't our extremities that were in need of strengthening, it was our hearts that needed the workout. I began to understand that the more we overcame and the more we triumphed over, the more appreciation and compassion we could hold within. And only with a full and powerful heart would we finally understand what the great teachers were trying to tell us: heaven was right here on earth.
As I kept walking, I also understood that struggling was not synonymous with suffering. Hockey players struggled to make the team, immigrants struggled to make a better life, and students struggled to get their degrees. So what was the difference? The word 'hope' popped into my mind and that got the wheels spinning. Hockey players, immigrants and students were willing to do whatever it took to achieve their dreams, and nothing was going to stop them…because they had hope…and a sense of purpose.
And I thought about my first dog, Morgan. Purpose was what she had: a strong desire to please me. In her final months she had a difficult time walking, so I occasionally had to lift her backside up. She kept smiling through it all: never letting on she was in any pain. She ate well and still let me groom her. The concept of suffering had never occurred to her.
Perhaps suffering is a human emotion related to an unexercised heart. Perhaps those who suffer have no sense of hope or purpose so see no reason to push through the obstacles.
And what if one did break through? Then what? Did life suddenly become a breeze? I returned to the butterflies to see if they could further instruct me. What I learned was that when they emerged, their muscles were strong but their wings were limp. Before they could fly off, they had to take time to pump fluid into their wings and then let them harden.
I could relate to this. I felt like I had a big breakthrough last month when I came to understand the importance of respecting and nurturing all life. But then I found myself doing just the opposite. I then realized it would take time for the words to solidify and become my way. Old habits were hard to break, and I had to start by nurturing myself and allowing myself time for the understanding to set in: to harden. This was what butterfly did, and this was what I had to do too.
And so for now, I will dance through the various emotions of life until one day my heart is strong enough to lift me to the next stage of being…and then…
I will soar.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nurture All Life

I was at Shamanic Journeying and Sweat Lodge workshop and a young woman was telling me about her emotionally abusive husband. I listened and asked questions hoping to prompt her to think about things in a different way. She carried on and on about her grief and there came a point when I ran out of questions and then couldn't listen anymore and walked away. Later, in the sweat lodge, as we were going around the circle and stating what we wanted to let go of, she said she wanted to let go of self-hatred. I was totally shattered when I heard that. What a fool I had been. Immediately I realized what I had done, and when it was my turn, I vowed to let go of the need to analyze everything. This woman didn't need me to help her understand what to do. She knew. What she needed from me was a shoulder to cry on and a friend to hold her close and tell her she was loved - she was so beautifully lovable. There are rarely easy solutions to life's problems, but there can always be welcoming arms. She was in deep pain, and I walked away from her because I didn't have an answer for her. Part of me felt inadequate for not knowing how to help, part of me felt superior for having figured out my life, yet none of me felt at ease in my own skin. All I could do was let the magic of the sweat lodge readjust me back to my centre. "When you feel confused," offered the leader, "sing, dance or chant. That's what the elders taught me. Me, I'm just a baby. What do I know? But the elders – including the earth, the stone people, the tree people – they know. Sing, dance or chant and they will hear you." And so I sang, cried and sweated and in the cleansing found my place of peace again. Before she left, I gave the young woman a big heart-felt hug and my email address.What I've come to know is that my time for analyzing is over. It's helped me get where I am today but no longer serves me. We are in a time of crisis in our planet, in our culture, in our community and in our homes. What more do we need to understand? The answer has been laid out before us already by philosophers, scientists, artists, theologians, mothers and fathers and it is: respect and nurture all life. That's it. It's that simple. Before we can do that, however, we need to help each other let go of the barriers that prevent us from being who we were born to be. The grief, the self-hatred, the fear, the anger, the pain: let's hold each others' hands and help each other let it all go so we can get on with being who we were born to be.Last time, I wrote about having to find a new home for my giant puppy. There was something inside me saying I was trying to whittle a square peg to make it fit into a round hole, and that just didn't feel right with me. Here's an edited letter we got back from his breeder:Amik is doing great. He has been introduced to all of the alpacas and my other dogs and he loves to be around them. I think you may have been right about him needing to be around other animals in a working environment.I have him running loose outside with me when I am out there and he is listening well. He has not growled yet at us or the other dogs, and my one shih Tzu (all of 6 lbs) plays endlessly with Amik and she can get really annoying jumping and such, but Amik loves her and just rolls over to play with her. He is very gentle with her.All doubts were released when I read that. Amik was freed and so was I. There are others in this community who know of the all-embracing love of which I write. For instance, Janice Crawford, of Jan's Hair Affair, was diagnosed with cancer in November and had to give up her livelihood in order fight back. Her friends and family saw that she was wasting precious energy worrying about her finances so set up an account to accept funds. Many of Janice's customers responded and that has tremendously lifted her spirits. The rounds of chemotherapy aren't as lonely knowing others are encouraging her on. It doesn't matter what we have or what we know; it only matters that we respect and nurture all life. We can always offer patience, kindness and a hot drink, and that's what aching hearts truly want…a shoulder to cry on, someone to witness the tears and the hope that comes from such caring. The Highlands Communicator was created to generate good news, so if you have any stories you'd like to share about people whom you've helped or how you have been helped by others, please send them to me and I will include some in my upcoming columns, which will henceforth be called Dancing Along the White Trail.Janice Crawford benevolent fund: TD Branch 3042, account #
posted by The Scamperer @ 2:38 PM

Friday, March 02, 2007


Last June, on the first day of summer, we opened our arms to a new bundle of joy. Alan named the puppy Amik, which in Algonquin means beaver: builder of dreams. He was the cutest little puff ball, and when I wondered what dream he would build, it seemed obvious – a world of joy and generosity.Amik was the first puppy I had, so I consulted different websites and trainers for advice. He was a very smart and determined Great Pyrenees who loved being around people. With the steady flow of guests last summer, however, any consistency in the training was impossible.Amik loved company, especially when other dogs visited too. It was so funny watching him try to keep up with the ones bred for agility. After a good round of playing, he'd just lie down, pant and smile, then get back up and go run some more. He was bigger than the others but had such a gentle nature, no one worried.After the fall was over and most people had left, Amik's temperament changed. There was a longing in him that Alan and I couldn't fulfill. I tried taking him to town for walks and to visit another puppy, but it wasn't enough. He became very frustrated and began lashing out. We called the trainer back and got a new routine for him, and when that didn't work, got an even stricter one.By mid January, Amik was very limited. It wasn't any fun for him and it wasn't any fun for us either. Out on the path, with him on the short lead, I began to cry. What have I done, what have I done. We had such a beautiful, joyous puppy seven months ago and now I had a caged terrorist.I took Amik to the kennel on the way down to the city and talked about him with the owner, Marg, but she had no problems with him at all. After a good chat, I came to understand that Amik was born and bred to be a working dog. He came from an alpaca ranch - from working class stock - and that's where he belonged. Although other Pyrs are great house pets, Amik seemed to have gotten all guard dog genesI thought a lot about it on the drive down and then got caught up in the conference I was attending. The weekend was hosted by The Gaia Centre in West Guilford, and they had brought Matthew Fox in to speak about re-imagining earth community. As part of the event, Carol Kilby organized an "arts as meditation" segment for the second day so participants could get into the creative spirit of re-imagining. To my surprise, and delight, she had asked me to lead the writing workshop. I always thought I had something to teach but none of the classes I'd offered worked out.I took this opportunity seriously and planned my presentation well, but I had a restless sleep at my brother's the night before and woke up with a thick head unable to concentrate. At the lunch break, I adapted my work to what Matthew had talked about, and then with twenty minutes left, I did what I do: I went outside. Walking around the quad with my hands behind my back, I remembered I wasn't alone; I had all my mentors and loved ones with me – in me. I also remembered why I was there: receive for the sake of giving, the sages teach and now was my time to step up and give back.My head was still buzzing, so I walked over to a huge oak tree and rested my forehead on it. "Help me, please," I humbly asked. I then drew good energy from the earth into my feet and up to my head. Soon it was cleared out, and I returned to the class ready to present Entering the Writer's Cave.I do this meditation called the Secret Smile and at the end I feel totally alive and aware. That's what I felt like during the presentation – it was as if this was who I was born and bred to be, and it was magnificent in how wonderfully it all unfolded. I had struggled and I had emerged!Driving home, I knew I had to let Amik feel the same way – I had to let him live out his life's purpose. Next day, I called the breeder and some others and put the word out that a wonderful Great Pyrenees was looking for a guarding job on a farm. And that's when I realized Amik was a builder of the greatest dream of all – the dream that we all live our authentic lives. If all beings were allowed to be whom they were born and bred to be, then joy and generosity would prevail.Now that's how I re-imagine earth community.
posted by The Scamperer @ 6:30 PM

January 6, 2007


We never remember days, only moments.- Cesare PaveseWhen I think back over the year I feel rich from all the wonderful moments I can relive. Like the December morning when I awoke to find a spectacular scene out my window. The sun was just rising and the mist from the lake was wrapping the trees in frosting. It was so magical I had to go out and look around the bay and down the lake to take it all in.It's amazing how time stands still in those moments of awe.Then there was the morning I awoke to an unsettling email. A good friend and teacher, after a recent diagnosis, died from cancer. He taught me about life and showed me how I was avoiding my responsibilities. Recently I understood what he meant and my life has blossomed ever since. Funny, they say that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. It seems now like the opposite is true too: when the student is ready, the teacher disappears. In letting go of my need for him, his spirit has suffused me with love and guidance for all time.And this morning I awoke to kisses. My giant puppy was licking my face at the same time my unshaved husband was kissing me, and I couldn't stop laughing. What a funny, crazy feeling – so much joy from such a little tender moment.Time is such a strange phenomenon. I find myself asking the same question repeatedly, especially now: where does the time go? But of course time doesn't go anywhere because it's just an illusion, one we've created to give form to our reality.In science they talk about the time-space continuum because time is a measure of the earth's movement around the sun – one rotation we name as one day, and 365 rotations we name as one year.Poets consider time differently:When Time who steals our years away Shall steal our pleasures too, The mem'ry of the past will stay, And half our joys renew.- Thomas Moore, 1779-1852ticking my life away, indifferent clocks everywhere - Mike Garofalo, CuttingsA philosopher said this:The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it. - Jean Paul SartreAnd here's what two composers have learned:The purpose of art is to stop time.- Bob DylanTime is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.- Hector Louis BerliozTime also has a way of converting something that was perceived to be bad into something that can be perceived as good, like loosing a job you thought was so important then finding a new one that better suits your passion.My father used to say when we were struggling with something: this too shall pass. His experience taught him to let go of that which he couldn't change, because over the course of time it loose its importance.Time heals.Time is all so fleeting. Where did the summer go? Where did the fall go? Where did the holidays go?Then out on the trail today I was thinking about time and noticed that when I worried about something, when I got wrapped up in fear, time grinded to a halt. Yet when I shifted the worry to wonder, I moved into a more creative mode and life began to flow again. I realized then that when I was feeling like a victim, time caged me in, but when I was being creative, time had no hold on me. Fascinating stuff.So as the holiday season comes and goes and the New Year lays ahead, I will take time into my own hands, create with it, and let it release me into a scrapbook full of riches.The day is of infinite length for him who knows how to appreciate and use it.- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
posted by The Scamperer @ 6:24 PM

December 28, 2006


One of the exciting things about life is you never know what is going to happen.Yesterday morning I took my puppy, Amik, for a walk and it didn't take long to come upon an adventure. We just got started down the trail when we began to see (and smell, for Amik) animal tracks crisscrossing all over. First we spotted a half dozen coyote tracks converging and dividing, and then we noticed a few sets of deer tracks zigging and zagging. What drama! Right on this spot, a challenge had taken place between aggressive predators whose survival depended on the ability to chase down dinner and skittish prey whose survival depended on the ability to run away fast.We wandered around checking out all the scenarios and what we found, right by where I have a seat overlooking the lake, were four places where the deer had bedded down as well as a lot of droppings. Using my imagination, I surmised that one of the coyotes had tripped on a twig that was hidden under the light bed of snow and the deer, frightened to death by the sound, jumped up and ran for sweet life.What fun an imagination is! Think of all the stories I could write with just that bit of information. Whose point of view do I tell it from, the deer's or the coyote's and which deer or coyote? The young or the alpha? And what if...? Isn't it wonderful to be a human being and be able to create any world you like?Fascinating, isn't it, how December brings out the creative spirit? It's like the heavy darkness pulls down all the useless bits we've accumulated over the year and invites us to let them go. What is left is the truth of who we are. At this time of year artistry of all kinds and shapes comes to the fore and life abounds in spite of the cold and isolation.It's as if the spirit of the season lifts a veil and we can see that we are creators of our lives and not merely puppets of our genetics. Instead of hibernating, we humans grasp life by the horns, put up lights, invite friends over for dinner, and play on the ice and snow. Kindness is shared, songs are sung, differences between cultures are blurred, and for a short time, Peace On Earth really does exist.We're not looking for meaning in life; we're searching for the experience of feeling fully alive, said Joseph Campbell. At this time of year, feeling fully alive isn't about having an adrenaline rush from some extreme event. The thrill of being alive is about connecting with others and contributing to their happiness. Ron MacLean of Hockey Night In Canada said: we are not here to see through each other, we are here to see each other through. This may not sound exciting but when you see an elderly woman's face light up because you took the time to visit, or you start a charity drive to gather boots for needy kids, or you help a loaded-down mother get her stroller through the door, your heart smiles and pumps a freshness through your body that reminds you you are not just a person but a fully living human being, a human being who can choose to create goodness, and a human being who will not sell out their humanity for an impermanent toy or flash of celebrity.We start out as animals, dependent on our family and our pack for our well being. But there comes a time when we must ascend to our human nature and make it our purpose to imagine and create a flourishing world. Let's use the excitement of this holiday season to ignite our creativity and support each other so we can keep it going for all time.With our imagination, determination and sense of goodness, you never know what will happen.
posted by The Scamperer @ 6:04 PM

Monday, November 27, 2006


Socrates said an unexamined life is not worth living, so this being my tenth anniversary as an Amigo, it is appropriate to look back.It all started in 1964 when my husband's dad, Keith, and his cousin Jimmy went to their first Grey Cup. They were dedicated Ottawa Rough Rider fans who had season's tickets and a lot of good times. I guess you could say, they went for the party and stayed for the game.Keith passed on in 1994 so his son (my husband, Alan), along with Jimmy's daughter, Anne, stepped up and accompanied Jimmy to the next Grey Cup in Vancouver. That's when The Amigos began. Keith's grandson, also Keith, joined the next year in Regina, I joined the following year in Hamilton, our son-in-law Tim joined in Vancouver in 1999, son Jacob joined in 2001 in Montreal and now Anne's son Clark, who was named for Keith Clark and is finally of drinking age, has joined this year in Winnipeg.We have a saying: what happens at the Grey Cup stays at the Grey Cup so I can't reveal too much, but we do have a scrapbook of some of the highlights. Through the years, we've go-carted at the Edmonton Mall, had a cowboy-size dinner at the Bar C Ranch outside Calgary, and boat cruised around Vancouver harbour. But as the average age keeps dropping, the only real entertainment sought after is at the party tent where the bands play and the beers are lifted. And even at eighty-five years-old, Jimmy still leads the way.Like any social group, we do have our traditions. Saturday night festivities always start at the railway hotel in each city where we lift our drinks and remember Alan's dad. It's impossible to forget Keith's warm and mischievous smiles. We also have the reading of "An Ode to Gibson," but I can't tell you anymore than that. And then of course there is the post-game pizza party and announcement of the pool winner. These two events are linked because the winner gets to buy the pizza. Young Clark predicted a 26-14 BC win and it ended up costing him $30. Welcome to the Amigos, Clark!I've been a football fan all my life so it was fun to join in, but I wasn't much of a drinker…at first. But now that Alan's family has become my family, I've learned to relax and just kick back and party along. What a great group of people, and in reflecting back now, I finally realize I'm a part of something greater than I had imagined. It's not just me out walking on my trail back home; it's me and my families and fellow Grey Cup fans and all Canadians, and all sports fans around the world, and everyone out there who has stopped what they're doing to kick a ball or play a game. The point to it all, which has taken me a long time to understand, is to love life and have some fun – to come for the party and stay for the game.In examining my life here, I've just realized I've been coasting through without truly appreciating all that I have. Crazy, eh? that I've been looking for happiness when I should have been really looking at it. Oh, boy, and I just had another revelation…what's even more ridiculous is that I've been living my life backwards - I came for the game and was still waiting for the party. Well enough of that!GO AMIGOS!!!!!!
posted by The Scamperer @ 6:14 PM

Sunday, October 29, 2006


I joined the Gaia Centre book group this fall, and the first book we discussed was Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin. It was a non-fiction book about vision questing and how to go deep within and face the demons hiding in the shadows in order to be freed. This sounded very scary, yet I understood how it could be both pure torture and tremendously gratifying at the same time.From my experience, going into the shadows was inevitable on the path to enlightenment, for the journey was about filling the body with light. Sooner or later, there would be no place left to hide, so the traumatic events in the dark, inner recesses would eventually have to be witnessed and honoured.Vision questing was not to be entered into lightly, for without the right tools or facilitation, it could result in psychosis. But done properly, according to Plotkin, it could lead to profound insight that resulted in an awakening.Preparing myself for the endeavour, I answered the two Grail Quest questions Plotkin noted, which were: what ails you, and who do you serve? What ailed me was that I was feeling small even though I knew I was big. And who did I serve - the tyrant who kept me small or the master who revelled in my magnificence? Hmmm.As I walked the trail, I became aware of a glass ceiling hovering over my head - diminishing me. I kept yearning to be big but couldn't because this thing had me contained. I then had the sensation of a snake going up my spine and smashing right through it. What a release I felt - what an opening.But something was missing. I couldn't sustain the feeling, so with my mentor's guidance, I began a vision quest. Taking a blanket outside, I went to a point of land overlooking the water and began fasting. The day was pleasant but uneventful. Night approached and I combed my mind trying to free myself from whatever tyrant it was that was limiting me. But there was nothing; my mind was as blank as the starless night. I chanted, danced, lamented, cried out, and rationalized, yet still had no great realization. As dawn broke, I took my blanket down to the water's edge and asked for my insight to arise with the sun.Instead, my husband came over with a cup of tea and we talked about what I was hoping to accomplish. While out walking on the trail afterwards, and thinking about just that, I got the gift I so desperately wanted. It wasn't earth shattering; I wasn't presented with winning lottery numbers or some great invention to uplift humanity. The phrase that stopped me in my tracks was: You already are who you want to be.I stood there and felt those words resonate in my bones. My back straightened and I smiled slowly and broadly knowing I had just had my awakening. What I realized was, I already was big, but I'd been crouching under the glass ceiling and hiding there for so long that I'd totally forgotten I could stand up and walk tall.The glass ceiling, put there by my mind, was now dismantled by it.A few days later, however, I found myself crouching down and hiding again. This upset me tremendously, for I thought my awareness of the problem had destroyed it – taken all the energy out of it. But that glass ceiling kept reappearing. Then I remembered a hard won lesson - everything is a process. The excitement of the discovery had roused me to stand up, but after a bit, it wore off and I was back in the old energy.Determined to walk tall, I persisted in retraining my thoughts. For I knew the more I returned to the higher plane of understanding, the more comfortable I'd be with it, and the quicker it would become my natural way.I already am who I want to be. The hard work in waking up to that knowing was certainly, I must say, worth the anguish.Struggle and emerge!
posted by The Scamperer @ 2:40 PM

Sunday, October 22, 2006


My son's friends were married recently, and we were invited to attend the celebration. Magda and Andreas have spent so much time with us here at the lake over the years, they've become like family.The wedding took place in the Niagara area, and we made a weekend of it since our three kids and their families were invited as well. This was nice since we don't all live in the same area and have a chance to be together often. It rained most of the weekend, but we made the most of it by bowling and just hanging out. It was fun.The groomsmen met us at the majestic church with umbrellas, and as we settled in the storm outside was quickly forgotten. The stained glass windows were glorious with their height and colour. They depicted various stories, and I noticed that all the people had golden auras emanating from their heads. The wedding party was elegant, the acoustics sublime and the priest was quite funny. It was a memorable ceremony.The reception took place at a vineyard and the room was warm and intimate. The master of ceremonies kept things rolling through the speeches and presentations and the meal was plentiful. And then it was time for the father-of-the-bride's speech, and his love for his daughter was obvious from the words he chose. His memories were of good times and bad and of a relationship that had matured from father/daughter to one of mutual respect. And then they danced.And then I cried.I went to the washroom and sat there feeling so sad and alone, longing to hear those words and feeling that love from my own father. But he died young, and that wound ached so bad. I tried to tell myself that Richard wasn't only speaking to Magda; this father was speaking to all daughters, including me. Sobbing, with my face in my hands, I saw my dad smiling at me and I began to calm down. And then I remembered a quote a student had given me: Refuse to be seduced by what is past and over, and what cannot be changed. Remember: more important than what is BEHIND you and what is AHEAD of you is what is IN you.And I began to let go of the hurt. My mind raced around the memories of the past and future and finally halted on what was within. Lifting my head and straightening my spine, I felt tremendous pressure around my heart. I couldn't tell if it was clenching or releasing. And then the words heart of gold came to mind, and I knew the discomfort was coming from a very tight muscle being relaxed after a very, very long time.More important than what is BEHIND you and what is AHEAD of you is what is IN you. What was in me was a heart of gold. It had always been there, but I had allowed myself to be seduced into thinking that holding onto those old memories that couldn't be changed was more important than living with an open, loving heart – a heart of gold.Then I remembered the stained glass windows and the gold emanating from the holy men and women and I felt a unity with them, a belonging to this great, vast universe. Maybe that was what they were trying to show us, maybe that was what all religious stories were trying to teach us: refuse to be seduced away from your true nature; instead, embrace your heart of gold and let it light the way.And so as Magda and Andreas start their new life together and get tugged at by all the seducers out there, I hope they never forget the love in the room that first day, and know it will always be there to nurture what is most important in them.
posted by The Scamperer @ 11:43 PM 6 comments

Thursday, August 24, 2006


My granddaughter was up for a visit this summer, and when she kept up with me on my swim, I was astonished at her power. Two years ago she stopped halfway and waited at a neighbour's raft, but this year she stayed with me the distance and sprinted home. I applauded her and suggested if she was interested and found the right coach, she could be an Olympic champion. Gabrielle loves horses so didn't spend much time considering the possibility. I on the other hand began wondering what I'd like to be a champion of, and it didn't take long come up with the answer.There are certain attributes needed to master most anything in life and they are: self-discipline, high concentration, a sense of total determination, and practice. I learned this not from a Master of the Arts, a Master of the Sciences, or a Master of Sport. I learned this from a Master of Love: Swami Chinmayananda. He wrote in the book I love YOU: Letters to Children:1)self-discipline,2) high concentration and 3)a sense of total dedication are all auxiliary factors. They prepare us to give love. But nothing helps us in the art of loving as practice itself. Love breeds upon love itself…to love is the only means for cultivating love.Our first few attempts may not be quite successful. But let us teach ourselves by repeated fall: watch how a child learns to walk – what industry, consistency, courage and heroism! How many falls, yet up stands again the baby to try once again to walk by himself. And, the child, in the end masters it all by himself; so too, in "the art of giving love" to others in the world, he who has the heroism, masters it through some of his early falls and stumblings.I've had to remember those words a number of times this summer. We've had a steady stream of visitors coming and going and have been trying to train puppy Amik as well. At times I've succumbed to exhaustion and let my emotions get the best of me. I began to bark at my husband and got resentful of little Amik; all that I had learned seemed to be slipping away.Knowing this was not who I wanted to be, I got back on track by doing some deep breathing and The Secret Smile meditation. As a result, I decided it was time to make some changes.I asked for help and it was provided in many pleasant ways, for instance, some people I had never met before were coming up for four days and one was a caterer and brought a few gourmet meals – yum! Then Gabrielle woke up early and relieved us of a few of the 6 a.m. puppy walks. Another great help was when our dog trainer came over to provide further guidance on how to teach Amik to be gentle.Val Dillon specializes in working with aggressive dogs, but she also helps in getting puppies off to a good start. Her wisdom not only helped me with Amik, it helped me with giving love to all. Her philosophy is: praise good behaviour, ignore what you don't like, and take passive physical action only when necessary. "A leader is confident, calm and always in control," she said.It's so wonderful not to be angered by disobedience anymore. When Amik acts up we just show him how we want him to behave and it's over. The energy work I do is all about living from the centre where the heart and mind are connected, and Val's way is another expression of this. Peace has returned.While out scampering, another Master's words came to mind, those from Wayne Gretzky: The highest compliment that you can pay me is to say that I work hard every day, that I never dog it. So off I go to make the beds yet again, and I do it with a smile on my face and with purpose in my heart. For I am determined to create a nurturing harbour: a place where kindness and generosity abound. Like a baby, I may stumble and need some help, but I too will use industry, consistency, courage and heroism to succeed. This is important to me because with all the angry people and angry weather out there, someone's got to show – not tell, but show - the chldren there is another way. If I walk with peace and nurturing in my heart, maybe others will have the courage to do so too.The road to being a champion is not an easy one, but it is simple. With self-discipline, concentration, determination and practice anything is possible – even a world filled with love.Imagine!Comments: whitetrail@sympatico.caVal Dillon – 705-455-9832
posted by The Scamperer @ 12:46 PM 0 comments

Saturday, July 22, 2006

AMIK – Builder of Dreams

As a writer, I tend to look at things not just as they are but also for their symbolic meaning. For instance, a sunrise isn't just about the sun peaking up over the horizon; but it's about hope for a new beginning. And a sunset isn't just about the end of the day; it's about letting go of what was and trusting that something wonderful will take its place. So when a series of synchronistic events collided on the first day of summer, my husband and I put aside all rationality and let the moment take us, for there had to be a poetic reason for what had taken placeOn Monday of that week, I was at a philosophy circle and we were discussing death and dying. I thought I had let my Great Pyrenees, Morgan, go emotionally, but I guess with her ashes still on the bookshelf and her picture leaning against it, I hadn't. I pondered why I thought I still needed her and when I realized my true nature, I knew I was being selfish and had to let her move on too.So Tuesday morning after I scampered about doing some chores, I gathered myself and the urn and headed up to the highest point of land and began a ceremony. I said my thank you's and goodbyes, and at the strike of noon, a good breeze came up and I released her to soar above. "Remember who you are Morgan. Remember who you are."The next day, our neighbour Shirley came up with the people who bought her cottage to show them how everything worked. The friends went off for a walk and Margaret took a wrong turn and ended up at our place just as I was telling Shirley about Morgan. "Oh," said Margaret. "We were just offered a puppy this morning. Are you interested?""What kind," I asked just to make conversation. My husband and I had talked about getting another dog, but then we realized we'd been enjoying our freedom."A Great Pyrenees," called out Fred. Alan and I looked at each other and our jaws dropped. What are the odds? "Let me call the guy and see if it's still available," said Fred.Next thing we knew, we were driving down to Lindsay to meet the breeder and the puppy, and again we talked about whether or not we wanted to do this. Neither of us was strongly for it, but the circumstances were just too odd. Our plan was to see the puppy and tell the breeder that since this happened so fast, we needed the night to think about it. But when we pulled into the parking lot and saw him, we knew we were dead.Steve and his daughter greeted us and introduced us to Tyson. What a happy little fella! People walked by and he was just so friendly – and so too were they. We of course had to take him home with us. Steve's wife had written up some notes on how to care for him and when I saw that their last name was the same as my husband's, I knew this was meant to be – that there had to be some greater design at play.The little guy cuddled up on my lap all the way home while Alan and I talked about his name. Tyson was cute, but our kids associated it with the boxer and thought it had bad karma. After a day of calling him puppy, we settled on Amik. We were supposed to go canoeing in Quetico Provincial Park and Amik was one of the lakes there. When we looked it up it meant builder of dreams, and so it stuck.As I wrote in my journal what had happened - letting go of Morgan's ashes one day and magically receiving Amik the next – I began to wonder what dreams he might help build, and the best dream I could think of was one of a world filled with kindness and generosity. And darned if that's not what he brought to all who met him his first weekend home– kindness and generosity. His joy and excitement and innocence and dependence made us all better people.You know, maybe we should have called him Sunset to remind us of the joy that can come by letting go of what was and trusting that something wonderful will take its place.

June 2006

Gone to the Birds

It’s been a month now since I’ve been scampering, and I must say my walks certainly have a different rhythm to them. Whereas trundling was relaxing, scampering has been more aggressive and instead of being contemplative it’s more energetic. I like it! I have more vigour and more interest in accomplishing things now. Just recently, I tended the garden, finished the first draft of a one-act play, worked on my journal and wrote some poetry. Life has been very good.
I haven’t totally given up on being reflective though; it’s still an important part of my life – my way. So near the end of my walk I take off my shoes and try to listen to the earth through my feet. I’m not very good at it yet, but I continue to try. Terry Fox said: dreams come true when people try. So armed with my new mantra - failure isn’t about falling down, failure is about not getting back up again – I continue to try and to readjust to my new way. It’s a more harmonizing way and maybe that’s all Mother Earth is trying to tell me: take care of yourself dear one, and carry on.

Nurturing has been in my awareness a lot recently. After my dog, Morgan, died, I found I had a real need to transfer those instincts. The only others around were the birds, so they became “my kids.” Chickadees, blue jays and nuthatches came in the winter; rosy-breasted grosbeaks, northern flickers and cowbirds came in the early spring; and robins, grackles, hummingbirds, and purple finches visit these days.
Naming birds, I've found, leads to a curious phenomenon. I remember the first one I ever looked up in a book was the nuthatch – or “ass-up” as it is affectionately called. Before I knew its identity, I looked at it very carefully, noticing all its markings and observing its behaviour. But when I found it in my book and had a name for it, it seemed less remarkable. I don’t know why that is. So I tried to pay more attention to the chickadees over the winter, but even when I had them eating out of my hand, I couldn’t decipher one from the other. Sure some were skinnier or some had a rusty breast, but my untrained eye couldn’t find the key to their uniqueness. I will try again when I see them next. (Anyone have any suggestions?)
Another thing I’ve found curious is how different creatures come into my life and teach me different things. Birds really have taken over from my dog now. Sometimes Morgan would mother me and show me how to pay better attention, and sometimes I would mother her and comb her fur. Sometimes she would get me to groom her because she knew it would calm me down. It was quite a special relationship, and I feel that way with the birds now too. It’s so wonderful that they’ve built a nest in the fascia right outside my studio door. I can’t wait to see what hatches. Meanwhile, I’m right here if they need me – not that I’d imagine they would.
One of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen here are baby robins jumping out of their nest and taking their first flying lesson. Mom and dad were overhead keeping other birds and me away, dive bombing us if we came close. It was so cute how the chicks tried to run and take off. Mostly they waddled and did face-plants.
Another bird that has me intrigued is the turkey vulture. They're probably one of the ugliest birds in the world with their big, black bodies and little, red turkey heads, but I could watch them soar all day. I think they’re beautiful…and graceful…and free… and I feel that way myself just watching them. Boy I’d love to catch a ride somehow. Two came so close the other day, I thought they were going to offer me one, but they were just teasing. Here’s a poem I wrote about one of the lessons I've learned from observing them:

Turkey Vulture

To soar above…

All rules…

And expectations…

To soar above…

Maybe the next transformation of this column will be Flying Along the White Trail.



May 2006

Here it is May, again - a year since I wrote my first column. It came about after a group of friends and I discussed what our dreams were and how we were going to go about fulfilling them. In first year media writing at Ryerson’s Radio and Television Arts program, one of our early assignments was a personal essay. I quite enjoyed that and thought it was something I was meant to do. But I got busy with other writing and soon forgot about it. This last year, fulfilling that desire, has been a dream come true. There’s nothing like doing what it is you’ve dreamt about and having the result meet the expectation.
I started trundling along the White Trail eleven years ago when I got my dog, Morgan. She, like most dogs, loved to snoop, so instead of forcing her to move at my athletic pace, I went along with her playful one. In so doing, I was treated to many wonders, many stories and many lessons. The most important insight was: All the answers are within; nature balances us so we can hear them.
Last year, as I wrote Trundling Along the White Trail, I searched and searched for answers, and the questions were: who am I, and why do I behave this way? I had lost a sense self: a sense of whom I was, and it was making me feel heavy, lethargic and numb. I kept reading books looking for answers, and the advice was there except I wasn’t doing anything about it. Nature, too, was telling me to struggle and emerge - everyone and everything was - and thanks to a bear, I finally got it.
I was out on the trail on a lovely day mid April walking with my shoes in hand, when thirty feet ahead, I saw a big brown guy the size of a couch scamper away. The bear had just woken up and would have been very hungry. It could have attacked me but it didn’t. I stood my ground and all of a sudden I noticed my heart was lifted and I was feeling very powerful. At that moment, I felt protected. I knew I was not alone and that there was more to life than what can be seen and touched. I had read about the oneness of all life, and understood about it, but I had never felt it like that before.
This knowing, this feeling of connection to a greater realm was what I had been searching for. And now that I’ve crossed its threshold, it's time to come out of hibernation and start scampering on.
Joseph Campbell said: “Life is not a process of discovery. It is a process of creation.” So I started by renovating a sleeping cabin and making it into my studio. A friend donated a pullout couch to replace the bed, I found an old school desk and rug in the basement, the lamp was coming from the garage and I brought my musical instruments up too. Nothing matches, but that’s okay. I’ve always wanted my own space, and now I’ve got it. It’s time to get out the list of the hundred things I want to do in life and get on with them.
Reflection is a good thing, but only as a means to an end. At some point, I’ve come to realize, you have to stop thinking about what you want and start being who you want to be no matter what. The point of all my struggling was to define who I was and who I was not and then to emerge - to choose who it is I want to be. This act of creation is both far-reaching and humbling for it aligns me with the energy of life itself. Life is creation; creation is life.
So off I go alone now, picking up the pace - scampering into the wilderness. I have no idea what will come of it. This monthly column may wind up as a personal essay, a short story or even a collection of photographs and poems. Who knows? But isn’t mystery what makes life exciting.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

April 15, 2006I emailed a copy of the column I wrote on The Senses to Dr. Glenn Morris, my Chi Kung teacher, and he thought it was my best yet. I replied saying, wait for the next one; it was going to be about the metaphor I noticed while working in the sugar shack. Except he didn't wait; he died in his sleep April 1. At first I thought it was a bad joke, but when the shock wore off, I realized he had one more lesson to teach me. Here's what I never got to send:TRUE SWEETNESSAs I hauled buckets of sap around our sugar bush, the line from the movie The Power of One came to mind again: "All the answers are in nature, if you know where to look…and how to ask." Walking around emptying the 200 pails, I couldn't help but think there was an answer for me here. Trees being tapped, sweetness flowing, fire blazing in the belly of the evaporator: these were the elements of great myths. I just didn't know what the question was.
A few days later, while feeding the fire, I gazed out the window and watched the sap drip from a tree up the hill. All my senses were awakened and the answer began to flow.
We're like trees, it seemed. We all have sap flowing, but not everyone gets tapped into. Those who do must leave the comfort and safety of their home only to be put through a huge, life-changing ordeal.
Here's how sap is processed at our sugar bush: first, it's collected in pails; then it's gathered and tossed into a huge vat; then it's funnelled into the evaporator where it starts getting hot; then it gets really, really hot; then it's poured through a filter; then just when it thinks its trial is over, it's put into a finishing pan to be purified even more. Finally it's filtered one more time, bottled, and voila, the transformation is complete.
As it turns out, the story of sap becoming syrup is one of nature's examples of the myth called The Hero's Journey. Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz, and Luke Skywalker, in Star Wars, go through the exact same process. They are thrust out of their homes, sent on a journey, struggle through numerous ordeals, have one last test, and then become aware of who they truly are. Taking a step back, I realized this is exactly what we all must do if we want to become our true, sweet selves.
"If you don't go out into the forest, nothing will happen and your life will never begin." I understood this concept, but there was still something missing.
The next day, back at the sugar bush, I asked for clarification and heard: "In order to be purified, one must pass through the heat." And then I understood that no transformation happens on the couch. Insights may occur, but transformation (like wisdom) only comes from bringing together knowledge with action. If action is limited, or the fire within is only smouldering, the journey will be long. But if the fire is roaring, progress will be rapid and the sweetness will come quicker.
I wish the story ended there, but apparently it does not. You see, beside the evaporator is a bucket of sap. We use it to slow down the processing if we have to go out for another pick-up. And as I was getting ready to do just that, dilute the boil, I realized I diluted myself too – I watered down my own power, and my own flavour, with feelings of inadequacy. How sad that I afflict myself in this way. But with awareness comes power, and if I want to experience my true nature in its purest form, I must stop. For the sweetness I am seeking in life won't come from chocolates or cake or ice cream. It will come from boiling off all the debilitating thoughts, people and actions that water me down.
So it turns out the question I was seeking was: Why am I still not who I want to be? And the answer is: Turn up the fire and stop diluting yourself.
I was telling a student that Glenn's life's work was about gathering information on religion and the martial arts, bringing it all together, and then boiling it down to its sweetest form – the course he set up and taught. And as I thought about that and the maple syrup process, I realized his last lesson: Struggle and emerge. We're all conspiring to show you the way.Comments:
posted by The Trundler at 9:10 AM 1 comments

March 15, 2006

I went to a surprise birthday party for my cousin in California in February, and shortly after I landed my whole body shook as my senses woke up. It seemed like forever since I’d last smelled, tasted, felt and heard life. The colourful, fragrant gardens; the luscious, fresh berries; the warm, afternoon sun; the crashing of the waves: how sensational it was to be alive again!I returned home with a fresh desire to perk up my home and my choices, for I realized I’d let a part of me fall asleep under the blanket of snow. It was time for some new flavours, some new scents and some new vistas. Funny how I hadn’t noticed the void before I left, but I guess that’s what happens when we lose things gradually.Writers are told to pay attention to the senses in order to bring a story alive, but I’ve realized there are more than five senses to depict. What about the sense of direction, the sense of time, the sense of decency, the sense of style, the sense of justice, and of course there is the totally misunderstood common sense. And what do we really mean when we say coming to our senses?Some people say we are slaves to our senses, and I know what they mean. The smell of a hot apple pie or the look of an iced carrot cake has seduced me and won many times. Yes, I know what it is to be lead into temptation. A friend told me the path to happiness is one of restrained passion. I’m sure that is part of what he meant.On the other hand, our senses can set us free. I'm thinking about how a taste, a smell, or a song has transported me to a totally different place. How wonderfully connecting that can be!Does this make any sense?On my morning walk, while standing on a bridge on a snowmobile trail deep in the pine forest, I remembered something I had read: “by being aware through all our senses together we merge with the infinite stillness all around us.” (Peter Kingsley interviewed in Parabola, spring 2006) And as I stood there listening to and watching the cascading water, smelling, tasting, and feeling the crisp air, I fell into a state of attention and respect: a “fluid awareness without any effort.” And in that state, all answers could be heard. I then realized common sense isn’t about coming up with the right answer because it’s obvious to all. Instead, common sense is about coming up with the obvious answer because all senses are open and aware to understand it.So when they say: “Come to your senses, girl!” They are saying wake up - wake up all your senses and the right action will become obvious. Perhaps this place of stillness is where the sense of direction, the sense of time, the sense of decency, the sense of style, and the sense of justice come from too.Before I had the chance to be with that thought, my husband came by on our two-up snowmobile and offered to take me for a ride into the countryside. Back there, the silence was stunning, and it was hard to imagine anyone else in the world. I realized that lack of overwhelming sensation can be a gift too because, like being in a deprivation tank, it made me pay attention with my whole being for something to connect with. This complete awareness again led me to the stillness, a place of being fully alive.I've now realized that flirting with one or two of the senses can distract from the true gift that can only be received when actively attending to them all. Kingsley called the senses "sacramental instruments," for they lead us to an awareness of the state of grace that is all around us and in us. So whether I'm in the silence of the sleepy winter or the fullness of the succulent summer, it's obvious the senses are gifts to lead me back home to the state of love.
posted by The Trundler at 9:09 AM 0 comments

February 8, 2006

One of my deepest, most lingering regrets in life is the way I chose to react during a sporting competition: a provincial basketball championship twenty-six years ago.The team accumulating the most points over the home-and-home series would emerge the Champion. My team lost the first game by about twenty points and had to come back strong on our home court. We came out inspired and at half time were slightly ahead. As time wound down, however, so did my hopes. We were losing our edge, and the possibility of closing the twenty-point deficit was quickly diminishing. With three minutes left to play, I gave up and was immediately benched. Even more humiliating, though, was being lectured to by a teammate: "Where's your dignity? We can still win this game!" Why hadn't I thought of that? Why was winning the medal my only goal? To this day, I regret not finishing that game. I regret not understanding the bigger victory.Sports teach us many lessons about character. And at the end of the day, isn't that what defines us as human beings? For character, and not the medals we wear around our necks, is what lifts us from our animal nature to our humanity. In Salt Lake City four years ago, I watched Jeremy Wotherspoon tumble just after the start gun went off in his first race, and I wondered what kind of character he had. Would he let his incomplete medal collection define him or would he show us what it truly means to be a champion? The motto for the Games was: "Light the Fire Within." I thought that was wonderfully inspiring for children. However, for adults and Olympic medal hopefuls, it really fell short. Lighting a fire takes only one strike of one match. Feeding the fire and maintaining it so the coals don't die out takes a lot of work and a lot of character - especially on a rainy day.Jeremy Wotherspoon had been training and competing for a long time. Over the years he’d learned where to find wood and how to maintain his fire - if he wanted to. He was a champion and as such was tested over and over again.Four years ago, Jeremy could have given up. He had gone for gold and failed. Why bother making all those sacrifices for another four years? But something inside him saw the bigger victory.The following year, Jeremy Wotherspoon won his 49th World Cup race and became the most successful male long track speed skater in history. I was so happy for him: so pleased that he will never have to linger with regrets: with unfinished business.This month, Jeremy will once again be competing at the Olympics. He has taught me that the big victories aren’t the results of lighting the fire within: of one day’s work. Big victories are the result of maintaining the fire within, which is a lifetime’s work. I’ll never be able to go back and finish that basketball game, but maybe I don’t have to. Maybe the bigger victory for me is in understanding that I am not a Champion or Loser based on the results of one day; I am a champion because I haven’t quit trying to be the best me.As I sit back and the think about what I’ve learned from Jeremy, I see that the lesson goes beyond sport. I now understand that passion - whatever ignites it, be it love of a game, love of another, or love of an art (like writing) - will be tested. A Champion will redeem him or herself and endure, because that’s what a Champion does. If we want to feel fully alive, we must wake up to and, more urgently still, accept this challenge, for it is the greatest victory of all.
posted by The Trundler at 9:07 AM 0 comments

December 20, 2005

Earlier this fall I was at the 25th anniversary reunion of my university graduating class, and it was wonderful to see how we kids had matured into adults with rich lives. Our bodies and faces were mostly the same, but there was an inner quality that connected us at a far deeper level. I guess with twenty-five years of living, the tough shell around our hearts had crumbled a bit exposing a little more of our true selves.One of the classmates I became reacquainted with is also a writer. She has a son in the army who has completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, one of her plays is about how mothers of soldiers deal with their emotions and experiences. One of the lines is: "Answer the gut-churning question: Momma, what have I become?"We emailed back and forth about the Warrior archetype and how integral they are to each culture. And then she floored me with these words: “the way of compassion is not for the faint of heart; emptying oneself to accommodate the pain of another is an act of courage unequalled by any physical act of war. It is the gift of saints, good actors, and good writers and is manifest in the countless, anonymous acts of decent people everyday.”I’m embarrassed to try and write any more. What more could I say? “The way of compassion is not for the faint of heart; emptying oneself to accommodate the pain of another is an act of courage unequalled by any physical act of war.”I found myself confronted and comforted by those words recently when I had to put my beloved dog down. My eldest stepson said he wouldn’t have had the courage to be in the room with her when it happened, and I would have felt the same way when I was his age. But now, I couldn’t imagine not being there. I guess my heart is ripening.I cried, and I still cry, when I think about Morgan, but then I smile and fondly remember how she brought me back to life, how she reconnected me with nature, and how she preciously, graciously…patiently unwrapped the gift that was within me.When she came into my life, I was a writer who was afraid to write. But she made it safe for me. She protected and guided me as I trundled and stumbled along. Morgan demanded a walk twice a day, and it was on those walks that I began to hear my inner voice. It was also on those walks that I was inspired to write Neesa’s Backyard and most of these columns. As she lay dying, I emptied the grief from my heart and prayed over her:May you be happy.May you feel loved.May all your suffering be healed.May you be at peaceAnd so at this holiday time, I will remember her gift and use it to inspire me to do the same for others. Yes, I will enjoy unwrapping the presents from under the tree, but more importantly, I will look at the people around me and see if they too need to be unwrapped. That is the greatest gift I can give, for if we don’t find the courage and compassion to unwrap our children, what will they become?May all life be happy.May all life feel loved.May the suffering of all life be healed.May all life be at peace.
posted by The Trundler at 9:06 AM 0 comments

November 23, 2005

If I had to pick one word to describe how I’m feeling these days it would have to be withdrawing. The sun withdraws, the animals withdraw, and so too do I. The bulky sweaters, cuddling up, and slower pace all make me feel as if I’ve joined the other hibernators for the season.The heaviness settling into my bones almost feels comforting, as if it’s bringing my centre of gravity right down to the earth itself. With nowhere left to fall, I cozy up on my favourite rock and look out at the shadow side of life: no frolicking children, no chittering chipmunks and no soaring vultures to catch my attention. All that’s left is the sound of my own soul – breathing. And at this stage in life, the silence is divine. I feel a peace in it that is so settling. It wasn’t always that way though.Sally Kempton, in the November 2005 edition of the Yoga Journal wrote: “Loneliness, like fear, is a threshold emotion – you have to pass through it if you want to enter the inner world.” I smiled when I read those words for I knew exactly what she meant. When we moved to the lake ten years ago, my husband often travelled for work while I spent time alone. Unlike living in the city, where there were cafes, neighbours or family to distract me, I was face to face with my loneliness. Being isolated as I was, I created a routine to keep my sanity. But the more I began to walk the land and listen to my intuition, the more I could let go of my pacifiers, my safety nets. After a while, I began to communicate with my inner self and found I could trust its directions: follow the path to the left, take your address book, wear your hat. Once I could hear the voice and then more importantly trust it, I never had to feel lonely again.It seems that darkness, like loneliness, is also a threshold emotion. You have to pass through it to enter the inner world: a place of peace, love, creativity and wisdom. In the past, I’ve withdrawn mostly to the darkness. There, the negative emotions, such as fear, self-pity, and yearning, gripped me too tight and made for very long, despairing winters. Choked of inspiration, my energy level plummeted and I became only a shadow of myself. Like the other hibernators, winter was a time for me merely to survive.But now I don’t mind the darkness. Nothing is all bad or all good, and as I become more aware, I know I always have a choice - I can either let the darkness take me down or lift me up. To let it elevate me, I calm myself - breathe easy and smile - and wait patiently for its gift. Every time I’ve done this, I’ve been rewarded with a golden seed of inspiration. It may take an hour, a day or even a week or more, but I don’t panic, because I’ve learned to trust my feelings and wait for the buried treasure to be revealed.The effort is worth it, for the unearthed seed is a ticket to a greater state of being: a state of wonder and awe; a state of clear vision and great wisdom; and a state of love and healing. And in this place of heavenly splendour, my seed blossoms into a masterpiece: one I couldn’t even begin to imagine on my own.Withdraw to the light. Haven’t artists gone crazy or dependant on drugs to get there? Perhaps it’s because they tried to take a shortcut, tried to slip through a rabbit hole bypassing the darkness. But there is a reason for the process, and it must be honoured and trusted to truly serve its purpose.So this year, instead of dreading the darkness, I’m withdrawing to it willingly. There, I will look for the seed to my next story and when I find it, I will withdraw once again and use the gift I’ve been so generously given to help others connect with their own inner light.
posted by The Trundler at 9:05 AM 0 comments

October 4, 2005

The sun is shining, my mind is open to the possibilities ahead on the trail, and whoosh a song begins to play in my mouth like a delectable appetizer:Slow down you’re going to fast,You got to make that morning last.Just kicking down the cobblestoneLooking for fun and feeling groovy…Not a care in the world, my feet barely touch down as I skip along the once-again moist earth. And though the dying season drives forward, life insists on continuing its dance. How fantastic that the life-size sunflowers, the tenacious green oaks, and the silent soaring vultures are still about to partner with.Around the corner, the musical main course begins to announce itself: turn, turn, turn. Approaching the pond, quietness settles in, and my frolic becomes more grounded, more rooted in this new scene - in this new song:To everything (turn, turn, turn),There is a season (turn, turn, turn),And a time for every purpose under heaven.A time to be born, a time to die;A time to plant, a time to reap;A time to kill, a time to heal;A time to laugh, a time to weep…It occurs to me that just as plants, bugs and animals come and go, so too do the people in my life. Some share a day, some a season, some a few years, and some - but a few - have so perfectly entangled their roots one can hardly tell where theirs begin and mine end. These people are treasures and forever feed my soul.The memories of those who have paraded through my life become nourishment to draw on: my schoolmate’s calm wisdom, my good friends glorious smile, my old boss’s guiding hand. Their presence, however short, has enriched me forever.Yet like the trees surrounding me, I have grown not only because of the kindness shown, I have also matured because of the scat dropped. The greedy child, the indifferent clerk, the judgemental acquaintance all remind me of who I don’t want to be, so keep me growing straight to the light.People are always coming in and out of our lives effecting us in unplanned for ways. Like the woman in line at the health food store talking about her favourite tea (now mine), or the strangers we sat beside at a wedding who told us about a magnificent camping spot which we then visited, or a woman I met at a piano recital who became a good friend.And then there was my grade four teacher. It was Mr. Crane who introduced me to the beauty of music. He guided my class through Mozart’s opera, The Marriage of Figaro and Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. He printed out the lyrics for Where Have All the Flowers Gone and Dona, Dona, Dona and showed us how music could be political.One of the songs I remember learning from him was My Cup Runneth Over, and I still remember the deliciously sweet lyrics.Sometimes in the morning, when shadows are deep, I lie here beside you, just watching you sleep, And sometimes I whisper, what I'm thinking of, My cup runneth over with love . . . Sometimes in the evening, when you do not see, I study the small things, you do constantly, I memorize moments, that I'm fondest of, My cup runneth over with love . . . In only a moment, we both will be old, We won't even notice the world turning cold. And so, in this moment, with sunlight above, My cup runneth over with love . . .And so in this moment of giving my thanks, I can’t help but think of all the people who have been in and out of my life over the years. From family member to friends, from teachers to students, from animals whom I have nurtured to children who have nurtured me: my life is richer for having been influenced by so many. Good experiences or bad, it is through my connections with others that I know who I am.Life I love ya,All is groovy.
posted by The Trundler at 9:04 AM 0 comments

September 21, 2005

I was out for a canoe ride on a gorgeous, calm August day when I came across several water lilies stretching out and embracing life. Each reflection was perfectly clear and my imagination was captured in the mysteries of life.Paddling along, the idea of a lotus flower played in my mind. I remembered a hint of a story about the opening and closing of its petals representing an eternity. I tried to recall the complete story but all that came to mind was the image of a god being revealed as the lotus unfolded.As it turns out, the lotus is a metaphor for rebirth, which is strange to be thinking about now as the leaves fall, the ferns die and the nights grow longer. Perhaps though, that’s an irony of time; it’s cyclical yet eternal in the same moment.In public school, time felt linear – one way going forward. In high school, the line stretched two ways with both a future and a past to reflect on. In university, the books I studied illustrated the circular nature of life, and funny, that’s when time seemed to speed up. In my thirties the circle stretched out more like a spiral; it completed itself but wasn’t ever exactly the same.Now, as I live close to nature, time seems more organic: contracting and expanding like lungs breathing in and out – like water lilies opening and closing. Spring, summer, fall, winter…spring, summer, fall, winter. A year can feel like an eternity. A year can pass in a heartbeat. How odd.Perhaps we are most reflective in early fall because in the stillness between the two seasons we can catch a glimpse of our centre, our place of bliss. Photographers have long since recognized the magnificence of transitional times. They call dawn and dusk magic hour, and prize it for its divine lighting.Ticking away, time can enclose us - define us. Trap us? Ticking away, it can shut out the experience of eternity. I always thought that if I had a B&B my slogan would begin: If you only have two days but need a week… Eliminating the constant reminder that time is passing allows us to unwind to our natural, intuitive rhythms. Relaxed, we are free to fully experience the moment at hand.There are occasions in life when time stands still, when our breathing slows down, and the beauty of life seeps into every pore ~ relaxing every clenched muscle. Is that what mediation is? Intentionally releasing the shackles of time and relaxing into eternity?Yogis breathe about four times a minute and consider the rest of us to be panting. If we slowed our breathing down would we be in tune with a more natural life? Would we live longer? Could we transcend time? If we can play with the other dimensions: stand on a box to be higher, eat too much food to be wider, or stretch out our arms to be longer, why can’t we play with time?They say there are masters in the East who can. They see life more like a flowing river and can hop onto the shore or swim upstream anytime they want. What is our Western mindset doing to us? Making us slaves to our desires and trapping us in time?One thing I’ve learned about the mysteries of life is: they don’t reveal themselves according to any schedule. They unfold in their own organic nature. So, since there’s no use trying to make sense of life, I will stop, go watch the sunset, and relax into the stillness of the moment.Comments:
posted by The Trundler at 9:03 AM 0 comments

August 10, 2005

At eleven and-a-half years old, my dog’s hips are getting pretty bad, so we haven’t walked the trail much together lately. But then for some reason – even after a very difficult night – she wanted to head out.It was such a wonderful feeling to have her there snooping alongside me. Here we were together again in our own little rhythm. Stopping and starting and taking time to notice the details, we fell into the pace of life that surrounded us. Soon the ideas were flowing and writing wasn’t a chore anymore. I had been struggling with a piece on smiling, but when I got moving again in the bush, the words just came.About midway Morgan wanted to keep walking, and so did I, but I knew she didn’t have the strength to go further and then return. This time, when I said we were going back, she didn’t fight me. It seemed like she was there for me – she was teaching me something again.I’d been feeling unbalanced and didn’t know why. When I returned to the trail and my trundling pace with her, it all came back. My power comes from my connection to nature, and I hadn’t taken the time to recharge in a while. I get so much nourishment from the land; each step brings me back to my creative centre. Morgan took me out one more time to remind me of this.On our return, here’s how I finished the story:There’s something about the sun shining while walking in the woods that makes me want to smile. Life is glorious then, and everything feels right in the world.I notice that when I smile, my body feels relaxed; all tension dissolves when the corners of my mouth lift. Even if I’m having a stressful time, if I smile, tension melts blissfully away. Another thing I noticed about my body when I smile is that I feel confident; I know who I am and I’m happy about life.My eyes even get into the act when I’ve caught the true spirit of smiling. If our eyes are mirrors of our souls, then smiling eyes must reflect the divine spark within.Some folks believe that our organs release powerful secretions that nourish our whole body when we smile and produce toxins when we’re angry, fearful or under stress. Full body smiling is healthy, and it really does feel good.Another thing I noticed about smiling is that when I do it, I automatically feel playful. My eyes light up, I’m fully alive and I have a little dance in my step. Time also passes so much quicker when I smile; I’ll have covered a whole section of the trail before I know it.Some people think smiling at funerals is a sin. I’m sorry, but I can’t help but smile when I remember a person fondly. Once the shock and pain of the loss passes, a smile is what connects us forever. For instance, I was sailing in my dad’s dinghy. He’s been gone for over twenty years now, but when I caught a lifter and went speeding ahead, I felt his presence in my smile. It was like he was hitching a ride and sharing my excitement right there with me and through me.If I had to pick a word that best describes the feeling of a smile, I think it would be Amen, or Om as some would say. I like to draw the word out into four beats: Aaah-aaah-men, and then the silence from which it came and returned to. Aaah-aaah-men - aaah-aaah-men: I get the same peaceful feeling from that word as I get from a smile.And what’s more peaceful than looking up at the full harvest moon and seeing the old man (or in some cultures – Grandmother) smiling down. Perhaps s/he’s there to remind us that if we want to relax, feel confident, playful and loved – in other words, be who it is we are meant to be – all we have to do is connect with a smile.No, Morgan won’t be with me here much longer, but her smile will forever bring life to mine.Marci Mandel is a writer and Reiki teacher. Her children’s novel, Neesa’s Backyard, is available locally or online at
posted by The Trundler at 9:02 AM 0 comments

August 10, 2005

Imagine there was peace in the world, and within. Then what would you imagine?I’d imagine that each time it snowed, the flakes would be a different colour. Then you could look outside and know if it’d snowed overnight. Or when you shovelled the rink or sidewalk, the snow banks would be like rainbows.Imagine the silliest food combination, like macaroni and cheese with salsa and hot sausage – oooh that sounds good actually.Imagine instead of starting the day with a coffee and the news, you started it with a box of crayons and an easel of blank paper.Imagine cars could fly. This is especially appealing to me since I live on a boat access lake. I could fly to town, get my groceries, and fly home without having to unload my bags into the boat and then out again. But then, I don’t think I’d like it if other cars were cluttering up my sky.Imagine once a year you could meet someone who died – maybe like on your birthday you could warp time. I’d like to meet my husband’s grandmother. She sounds like such a kindred spirit.Imagine Canada added a holiday in February. Maybe it could be a consequence-free day. No matter what you did, it would be forgotten – maybe it already exists – February 29th??????? But then I don’t remember.Imagine if sunsets were spectacular every night. Would they still be entrancing?Imagine you could escape gravity by saying a magic word. You wouldn’t need cliffs to jump off of; you could float up over the lake and then say a magic word and take the plunge. You also wouldn’t need ladders.Imagine feelings were as respected as ideas. We probably wouldn’t be second-guessing our instincts.Imagine instead of watching a movie, you could press a button and be transported into it. You wouldn’t get a speaking role but you could be an extra on a set maybe in Tuscany or the Yukon.Imagine you were a political leader. What level of government would you chose? What would be the first thing you’d change? I’d be the Prime Minister and throw lots of money into research on ecologically friendly energy production. I think the health of the people is directly related to the health of the land.Imagine if bumblebees didn’t sting. You could keep one as a pet and pollinate your indoor plants.Imagine you had to eat potato chips in order to get enough fibre in your diet.Imagine you were happy all the time. Would it get boring?Imagine your essence was to create. What would you generate? I’m working on another book.Imagine clothes never got dirty or wrinkled. My 88 year-old mother-in-law said the electric washing machine was the invention that made the most impact on her life - allowing her some free time.Imagine every generation could sing the same songs and not just the national anthem. Actually, I experienced this in the Dominican Republic. Grandparents and kids were up singing and dancing to their Latin superstars. It was so uniting.Imagine schools encouraged imagination more than memorizing facts. Think of all the inventions in all the different fields we could experience. Think of all the ways to use that creativity.Imagine a pink elephant.
posted by The Trundler at 9:01 AM 0 comments

July 27, 2005

I’ve walked the trails out my back door many years, listening to my inner thoughts. Some have been insightful, some have been downright wicked and some have left my heart longing. But this week, I finally stumbled upon the treasure of wisdom I’d been searching for.The insights gained have been numerous and several ended up fictionalized in my children’s novel, Neesa’s Backyard: a book about a girl who, with the help of an oak tree, learned about nature and herself. One of the stories was about Neesa’s encounter with the miserable cold wind. Eventually she sees that nothing is all good or all bad, including the icy wind, and ends up dancing with it. I often contemplate the dualities on the trail. I’ve experienced that getting stuck in one of those energies can cause a lot of unease. A teacher once said, “To transcend the dualities, stop and have a cup of tea.” And my friend, James, said, “Where there’s tea, there’s hope.” I munch on all these ideas while I walk.The wicked thoughts usually have to do with plotting vengeance on some deceitful lout. As I walk, I imagine witty comebacks I coulda-shoulda said, thus proving my superiority – at least to myself. I’d get worked up into a rage on my hike and then send off a scolding email when I returned. Pretty immature, I know.The longing usually took up most of my time; it was like I was addicted to feeling inadequate. I’d remember, or invent, bits of history to support my theory in order to keep the addiction raging. In fact, science does show that emotional responses are chemical reactions and therefore can be as addictive as heroin. No wonder I keep going back to the same “if only this had happened in my life, I’d be happy” scenarios. I’ve been addicted to feeling like a victim. Here’s a piece I wrote a while back. Brace yourself for some gloominess.MINING THE DARKNESSThere are days when the wheels fall off the vacuum cleaner, a friend doesn’t listen, another publisher’s rejection comes in the mail, and I wonder why I keep trying. Darkness settles in and I feel separate from all that matters.Then my dog pants waiting for her walk, and thinking I can escape to a place where it all will make sense again, I concede. We head out to the trail and wind our way around new puddles. I feel as heavy as the water-drenched earth. Will I too grow from this downpour?We pass a tree stump, remnants of a once grand poplar. Now it lay humiliated by a beaver: stripped of its bark and limbs and left to rot. But this grand force of energy refused to accept this act of terror and sent out new shoots to nobly re-establish its existence, its rightful place in the forest. I stood there, while my dog sniffed around, and wondered why this tree so wanted to live. What was the point? Why was life so precious? I didn’t get it. If there is a life beyond that is constant bliss, why don’t we all just take an easy exit and go there? Why is life worth fighting for?“Keep breathing. You’ll understand,” I heard.We were trundling along the longest loop, so I had lots of time to indulge in the darkness. I was familiar with it, even comfortable. It seemed like I’d been a frequent guest lately.Then I remembered another tree I’d seen. A storm had snapped the back of this once-proud birch, but it hadn’t given up. Even though it was crippled, it proudly sent out new leaves. It didn’t accept its broken back as a reason to give up; it continued, no matter what, to defiantly live.But what for? Why was life so precious, worth the struggle?“Keep breathing, kiddo.”Keep breathing? Keep breathing?????Keep breathing. It was that simple. Let go of desire, let go of purpose, let go of anger, let go of struggle and simply keep breathing. By breathing, the tree gives life to me; by breathing, I give life to the tree. We nourish each other just by being alive and breathing.Keep breathing and you’ll understand that to be in harmony with life is a feeling so precious, it’s worth fighting for - worth fighting the ego for.What I’ve found on the trail, above all else, is a sense of nurturing. I know that whatever is going on in my inner thoughts, Mother Nature is listening and will help me regain balance. And even when I struggle to find a definition for what nurturing really is, she whispers the answer to me through a friend: Be kind. Be generous. Be generous with patience, with attention, with respect, with humour, and with love. Be generous with second chances and giving the benefit of the doubt. Be generous not only with others but with myself as well. Be generous. Be kind. Be happy.I search no longer. Now I live.
posted by The Trundler at 9:00 AM 0 comments

July 14, 2005

Funny how life is: the day I went to town to receive the writing award for the “The Great Pepper Miracle” I was to learn another lesson. It wasn’t a new lesson, but it was miraculous in the way it brought profound depth to something I thought I’d already understood.The day was hot and muggy, so we left Morgan, our Great Pyrenees, inside. But the wind changed and with it came a storm. Morgan, terrified of thunder, heard two claps nearby and bolted out the screen window desperate to get away. On our returned, after finding the torn screens, I donned my bug shirt and hiking boots and went out back while the others searched the shoreline by boat. Letting go of logic, I followed my instincts and found myself back where I first used the phrase with her: “I see Morgan, Morgan sees me. Morgan, come here.”But I sensed she couldn’t come to me. The hot weather and electric skies had weakened her. So I tried something different: “I see Morgan. Morgan sees me. Morgan, go home!” A sense of peace came over me. It was like she’d heard me and was jolted out of her panic. Morgan knew the bush; she knew how to get home. She just needed the strength and idea to do so.I continued to look for her – seeking signs that would lead me to her. But this was June and the bush was thick and thicketed. I could only traverse along the rocky ridges. After getting lost and found several times I realized I had to let go of my search and trust that all would be well. And then Woodsworth’s words came to mind: “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” I believed in the unity of all life, but these words drove it home.I knew then that Mother Earth was going to look after my dog because I had looked after her. I picked up garbage along the trail and released saplings that were caught under fallen branches. I opened screen windows so flies can escape and helped turtles cross the road. I fed the birds and prayed for the water. Never did I do these things expecting a reward, I just did them because it was in my heart to do so.As I picked my way back through the overgrown trail, the song about the cat came to mind: “And the cat came back. I thought she was a goner, but the cat came back.” And I knew Morgan would be coming home for sure. I didn’t know what shape she’d be in, but at least she’d be home. My sense of loss was absorbed into the earth and I found myself smiling.The feeling of certainty didn’t spring from a sense of entitlement. I didn’t feel entitled to Morgan’s safe keeping because I looked after nature. That would be the ego talking. I just try to live on the left-hand path: the path of compassion, instinct and unity. That’s where I find magic and joy. The ego’s path is the right-hand path: one of power, rules and logic. I encounter a lot of struggle when I follow that way.“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” How I wish more people understood this concept – understood it in their bones. Perhaps they’d think again before killing a tickling dragonfly, or maiming a pestering chipmunk, or beheading a toothy snake. Perhaps they’d think again before being careless with energy, or being unaware of their ecological footprint, or being disrespectful of each other. Perhaps they’d think again before making purchases, or choosing their words or teaching their children.We too are nature. But somehow we’ve forgotten this. We’ve forgotten how each one of our lives has impact on the earth and on each other.Morgan came home: tired, thirsty and happy to see me. The miracle was: everything was the same, but it was different. In briefly losing Morgan, I found a greater sense of unity with all life.Measure your ecological footprint at
posted by The Trundler at 8:59 AM 0 comments

June 29, 2005

It all happened because my husband said yes without asking me.My brother was going on vacation with his family and needed someone to look after their pet bunny. “Sure, no problem,” Alan said. “It can stay in the dog’s old pen.” Of course he didn’t really think about the reality of rabbit-sitting, especially since he and our son were leaving on a business trip two days after the rabbit was to arrive.I called Sandy back and asked what exactly Alan had gotten me into. “No, problem,” he said. “It’s just a rabbit. All you have to do is give it food and fresh water everyday. And by the way, we’ll pick him up in six weeks when we come up to visit.”“SIX WEEKS!”“It’s only a bunny,” he assured me.My brother arrived with Pepper and stayed to reinforce the pen, closing up holes that were too small for a dog but big enough for a bunny rabbit to escape through. I went with Sandy to pick my niece up at camp so Alan was in charge of Pepper. On my return, I heard how effective Stalag 17 was. Alan and Jacob, our son, checked up on Pepper throughout the morning, and all was well until it wasn’t; Pepper found a way out. We live in the wilderness where water snakes, turkey vultures and fox also call home, so what chance did a white rabbit with black eyes and ears have in the green grass and brown gardens?Pepper, of course, found the vegetable garden and the boys of course eventually found him there. When the boys closed in, Pepper hopped under a piece of metal sheeting that was leaning against a shed wall. The boys got on either side and were able to rescue Pepper from himself. Not sure about returning him to the pen, they secured him in his traveling cage.Not real fond of seeing animals in cages, which is why the dog doesn’t use the pen anymore, my only other option after hearing the story was to put Pepper in his harness and hook his long leash to the inside of the pen. That way he was safe from vultures and other unwanted visitors, but still had room to hop around.After saying goodbye to Alan and Jacob, me, Pepper and Morgan (my dog, who is also white with black ears and eyes) settled into a routine. Ever since Morgan licked her lips and tried to open the pen door to get in with Pepper, I kept them separate. So, first I gave Morgan her morning hugs and cuddles and put her out on one side of the house, and then I gave Pepper his morning hugs and cuddles and put him out the other side. Sometimes I tied him up in another place so he could munch on some different grass and leaves for a while. All was well.A couple of weeks later, a friend came up to visit for the weekend. The morning started off as usually: Morgan out on the right, Pepper out on the left and tethered to a tree up the hill. After coffee, it was time to take Morgan for a walk and pick some wild blueberries down the lake. As we headed out, I looked up the hill to check on Pepper before we left. I looked and looked again. Pepper’s rope was there, but he wasn’t! After a close look, it was obvious he had chewed through it to gain his freedom – every prisoner’s duty.Thinking quickly, I decided to let Morgan sniff him out and lead me to him. Great Pyrenees are guard dogs not hunting dogs, but I still had faith in her tracking ability. With nose to ground, we headed up and over the hill…and right past Pepper. Fortunately I saw Pepper hiding under the cabin, so I quickly tied Morgan to the tree and had my friend stand at the front of the cabin while I crawled under the back.“How do I catch a rabbit?” she asked in a panic.“Don’t worry,” I said. “You don’t have to catch the rabbit, you just have to grab that length of the chewed-off rope he’s attached to.”What a great plan, I thought, and took my own advice as I bellied closer to him. But as I lunged for the rope he hopped wildly out the front, right past Morgan who immediately took off in hot pursuit only to be harshly reminded she was tied to a tree. My friend was in shock and had thought she had failed me. I untied Morgan as my friend timidly pointed in the direction she saw Pepper go. The three of us again searched for Pepper. This time it was harder because the little rascal had run into the high grass. Morgan was of no further use, so I tied her up again. I tried to find places I thought Pepper might take cover under, but still no luck.Feeling defeated, we went back to the original plan to take Morgan for a walk and pick wild blueberries. The whole time away I felt so irresponsible. I couldn’t even take care of a rabbit! I let down my little nephew and niece. What use was I?When we got back, my friend went in to make blueberry pancakes, and I went up the hill alone to look for Pepper. I had to try. I couldn’t give up that easily.And there he was sitting in the garden nibbling on our pepper plants. I moved slowly toward him but he again ran under the metal sheet leaning against the shed. I got down on my belly and looked in on him and saw that he was closer to the other end. Since there wasn’t anyone around to help, I thought I could take my sweater off and stuff it in this end then run around and get Pepper at the other end. It was a great plan, except that as soon as I made my move, Pepper made his – out the other end. I quickly scrambled to my feet to watch where he was heading. But the rocks were wet and I slipped and gashed open my hand and knee. Hobbling around the corner, I saw Pepper once again sitting in the garden.I knew at that time, there was no way I could catch this cute little bunny rabbit this way, so I sat down on a rock. A sense of peace filled me, and with it so too did a new respect for my furry protégé. Instead of feeling aggressive toward him, I felt compassion. I, too, knew what it was like to feel caged, to feel trapped. So I watched as he enjoyed his freedom.Eventually, he hopped over toward me and came real close. I could have lunged and got him but chose instead to just watch. He came within two feet of me and then turned and hopped away again. Instead of letting anger and worry in, I smiled and watched. He hopped to the far side of the garden and looked at me. Then these words popped out of my mouth - and my heart: “Pepper is loved. Pepper is loved.”And that’s when it happened. That’s when the miracle occurred. With the energy of love in the air, Pepper hopped right over to me and let me pick him up. I hugged him a while and calmed him down.Cherishing the moment, I realized what a gift my husband had given me by saying yes to my brother. If I ever wondered what life was about, this moment would always remind me.
posted by The Trundler at 8:57 AM 0 comments

June 15, 2005

I was walking down a path I hadn’t been on in a long time, and from where I stood, it appeared to come to an abrupt halt. Instead of panicking, though, I trusted my instincts and stayed true to the way. At the end, an opening came into view, and I happily continued on. I find life is like that in so many ways - trust that the path you’re on will lead you where you need to go.This lesson was presented to me another time when I’d found a bookstore north of Toronto that I really liked. I had returned to the area and wanted to stop back in, but unfortunately it was closed down. With some time on my hands, I stepped into a gem and rock store next-door and looked around. It had some beautiful stones and jewelry, yet most memorable was this wonderful, ebullient woman behind the counter. She was the friendly, nurturing type that I immediately felt comfortable with – no criticisms, no judgments, just a gentle, caring manner.We got talking about this and that, and as I was ready to leave, she offered me a gem of wisdom: “If you want to connect with something, like a bird, say: I see the bird; the bird sees me. If you’re stuck in traffic, everything has a pattern you can connect with, say: I see the traffic; the traffic sees me.” Later, when I enthusiastically told my husband about it, he didn’t really understand and just rolled his eyes, until…We were out in the canoe one perfect summer day playing this game we had of looking for a pina colada bottle that had fallen into the lake. I decided to try the phrase out: “I see the bottle; the bottle sees me.” Lo and behold, I spotted a bottle! We had been looking for that bottle for three years, so this was very exciting. I jumped out of the canoe, dove down and retrieved it.Unfortunately it was the wrong bottle. But hey, it was a bottle! I tried again:“I see the bottle; the bottle sees me.” We paddled a bit more. And there…there was another bottle! Again it turned out to be the wrong bottle. But imagine how amazed I was. We had been looking for three years and found nothing, and that day we found two. I was thrilled.I decided to try the phrase out on something else. I have a Great Pyrenees, a big white dog that will not come. I let her run in the bush when there’s no one around, but I like her to stay close by. Well, she had taken off, was nowhere in sight, so I tried the phrase out on her: “I see Morgan. Morgan sees me. Morgan, come here.” A few moments later I heard a panting sound, and out of the bush she came. I couldn’t believe it and thought it was just a fluke, so I tried it again a little later, and it worked again. What a relief it was to be able to connect with her.Then the next day, I was out with her and I let her run again. I began to wonder if a neighbour was around and started to worry about Morgan harassing him. In a panic, I used the phrase, but Morgan didn’t appear. I began to feel like an idiot for letting her go and started questioning myself. Then I began to think about trust and how I was saying the words but not believing in them. So I relaxed my shoulders and my mind and said: “I see Morgan. Morgan sees me. I trust you Morgan. Come here.” It took a few minutes, I don’t know where she was, but she came right to me and let me put her lead back on.It was a good lesson about trust: about letting things happen instead of trying to force them to happen. I find that when I’m in a frantic state and stop trusting myself, trusting the path I believe in, then I’m disconnected from myself, my intuition and I’m alone and lost. But if I trust that all is at it should be, then I can relax, reconnect and continue merrily along.I went back to that store to thank the woman for sharing her gem with me. But again, the store was closed and a ‘For Lease’ sign was up in the window. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t share with her the path she opened up to me. Though I trust she heard me when I said: “I see the Tumbled Rock woman. The Tumbled Rock woman sees me. Thank you Tumbled Rock woman.”Comments:
posted by The Trundler at 8:48 AM 0 comments

June 1, 2005

Movies like Finding Forrester make me jealous: leave me wishing I had a mentor. Movies like The Power of One bring me peace: remind me I do.The Power of One was about a very lonely English boy in South Africa at the time of the Second World War. He met a German professor of music who knew more than just music; he knew about Life. Doc became Peekay’s friend and mentor, and his advice was: “All the answers are in nature...if you know where to look…and how to ask.” At the climax, Peekay trundles off into the bush looking for an answer and realizes a waterfall starts with just one drop – the power of one.Later I heard the movie was based on a novel and bought it hoping to find more insights.Unfortunately, the screenwriter invented Doc’s words, so whatever other lessons nature had for me, I’d have to learn them on my own. I found that if I quieted myself out in the wilds, the lessons were all around. All the answers were in nature, if you knew where to look and how to ask.There was a tree I passed by every day, and then finally I noticed it. It was a dead birch with witch-like arms sticking out pointing in every direction. The day I finally saw it, these words popped into my head: “Which way ya goin’ kid?” I didn’t know where that came from, but I sure knew where it was headed. I had been letting my life happen to me. I had no goals, no plans, no vision of where I wanted to be. Sure, I wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t doing anything about it. (“I love being a writer, I just hate the paperwork.”) Each time I passed the tree, I heard those same words over and over again: “Which way ya goin’ kid?” Funny thing is, when I finally truly believed in myself, and my ability to write, a storm came up and blew the tree over.Then there was this other tree; I think it must have been the result of the same blustery storm. Resting near the top of a Scotch pine was a long, broken-off oak trunk. It was a rather large trunk on only a medium sized pine tree. I found the sight so intriguing I finally photographed it.Lying in bed that night, I wondered what the meaning of it was. Why did I find that oak trunk perched in the pine so compelling?I had noticed later that some of the pine branches under the trunk had turned brown. The trunk had become a burden. Then these words popped into my head: “The burden of fear.” Wow. That was quite insightful for me. I had allowed fear to weigh heavy on my back and impede me from many of the freedoms and joys of life. I was afraid of water-skiing: afraid I wasn’t strong enough. I was afraid of running briskly through the bush: afraid I wasn’t agile enough. I was afraid of jumping off the cliff into the water: afraid of heights. Not anymore! It was like, once I acknowledged the fear, the burden was lifted.“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Funny how I always thought the teacher had to be a person. Now that I’m more aware, I’m finding teachers everywhere, and not just in nature. I’ll turn on the radio and a song will play with lyrics that resonate. I’ll open a magazine and see a picture that inspires me. I’ll be on the internet and follow a link to a site I find profound.And then there are the walking billboards – direct communications from Life Itself. I was at a football game and noticed a guy several rows in front of me stand up and cheer. Then I saw some writing on his t-shirt: “Those who commit will be champions.” Boy, if that wasn’t a lesson for me to learn! I hadn’t been a successful writer because I hadn’t committed to sitting down at the computer every day. So today is day one of my commitment, my plan, my vision to be a writer - no, to being a writer. I AM.I wonder where my next teacher will come from?Comments?
posted by The Trundler at 8:38 AM 0 comments

May 18, 2005

At a sports awards banquet years ago, an Olympic athlete was asked why he thought he had done so well: “Well,” said the young man, “my sports psychologist told me not to think.” I didn’t understand what he meant until I moved to the Highlands and spent time in nature.In my real estate days, while showing a mixed forest to a farmer and his son, I was amazed at what these men could see. As we walked around, they pointed out signs of activity all over the bush that my city eyes had missed. After a few sniffs, the father pointed up a tree to a branch that was missing some bark and said that that’s where the porcupines were dining. “Smelly creatures they are,” offered the son. “Smelly, indeed,” replied the father. Later, we came across a beech tree, and the son pointed out where a bear had climbed. “They like the softwood, ya know. Can get their claws in real easy and scoot right up. See that?” With his help, I did.All excited about my newfound knowledge, I went scouting through our woods looking for bear and porkie signs. I hunted up all the softwoods never seeing any claw marks, but I did see some branches that definitely could have been snacking matter. This gave me the encouragement I needed to keep looking for more signs of life. Search. Search. Search. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.How could I ever be a wildlife lover if I couldn’t find any wildlife?Finally, I just gave up and sat down - I wasn’t going to try anymore. Comfortable and relaxed, I looked out and admired the April sun nurturing the budding landscape.Next thing I knew, something caught my eye down by a tree at the bottom of the hill, and out hopped a beautiful pheasant. What a glorious day. I figured there had to be something in the bush besides bush – I just had to relax to see it. This was my first lesson on not thinking: just being.My second lesson came that fall when my direction in life seemed obscured. Sitting out at one of my inspiration points, I asked for a sign. “If I am a writer,” I demanded, “then a magnificent creature will appear on my walk home.” I then specified that it had to be a beloved deer or a great moose and not just a regular bird or critter. I wanted my sign to be A Magnificent Creature. So off I went, stopping to look over the ridges, into the wind, through the swamps…and nothing. I didn’t even see a common crow or chipmunk.Home I arrived, frustrated and rudderless. I began to hear the birds’ chirping but couldn’t see them: even though all the leaves were down. In fact, I heard those birds all day while I was reading, and for the life of me, I couldn’t spot any.Giving up, thinking I wasn’t supposed to be a writer, I sat down on the dock and brushed my dog. Stroke by stroke, I began to relax. Stroke by stroke, I stopped thinking. Then all of a sudden, I heard two birds bickering with each other, looked up and saw one. And after all the anticipation of a great discovery of a goldfinch or rosy breasted grosbeak, it was just a plain brown bird...A Magnificent Creature!I realized then that all creatures were magnificent whether plain brown bird or mightily antlered moose, young weed-like poplar or majestic old white pine, blade of crab grass or budding Shasta daisy. Just because something was abundant didn’t make it any less magnificent.I understood that athlete then. He was right. You could achieve so much more if you stopped thinking - stopped all that judgmental, negative noise that goes on in your head – and were just in the moment. When I have a question now, I know if I quiet myself, and if possible do something rhythmic like brush my dog, rake the leaves or pay attention to my breathing, the answer will come.And when I want to see A Magnificent Creature? All I have to do is open my heart.