Vancouver Island Whale Watch - Humpback

Momentous Moments – they can happen everyday

Photo of Humpback from Vancouver Island Whale Watch

Gabriola, a small island in between Vancouver and Vancouver Island was my home for 15 years. It is known for its gorgeous sunsets, blackberry bushes, artisans, and orcas swimming by the north end of the Island.

Today, I arrived on the Island and during a pre dinner walk along the magic mile*, the most extraordinary event transpired before my very eyes. It was sunset and as I gazed in wonder, the water broke and a black, sleek, giant of the sea emerged. Nothing less than a humpback whale. I have seen dozens of orcas that leave me breathless every single time, but, never in my 45 years of living and visiting on the westcoast have I spotted a humpback.

To see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat at sunset with the coastal mountains as backdrop is nothing less than spectacular.

Research from a brain scientist:

What intrigues although doesn’t surprise me is the research coming forward from Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, a physician and brain scientist at Duke University. She emphasizes  the importance of taking these walks in nature. “Hands down, the best place to reset your brain is in nature. When you take a walk in nature, you’re combining the trance-like state that walking puts you in, with the sense of tranquility nature provides. This contemplative time activates the brain’s default mode network. This is the part of the brain that allows you to unlock solutions to deep problems, and inspires a sense of collective well-being in people. You just need to give it free time to do its job.”


We are busy people, and often worn out by illness and care giving. I will now make a wild proposition for us all, including me. For our good health we need to take ourselves outdoors for one hour every single day.  One hour out of 24.

According to research at the U of Minnesota We can expect these benefits from a daily dose of nature:

Nature heals: it contributes to your physical well-being, reduces blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones.

Nature soothes: it helps us cope with pain as we become absorbed in the trees, plants, water and other elements. We are genetically programmed to respond to nature and we can be distracted from our discomfort.

Nature restores: Our general well-being is impacted by nature, including meaningfulness and vitality.

A walk in a park, a forest, by a river or an ocean. Moodle along to savour what you notice. Slow down for 1/24 hours each day. Refresh yourself with the beauty of nature.

Some people are not in a position to walk an hour but it might be possible to drive to a bench by a river or in a park where you can walk for a little bit, followed by sitting quietly on that bench listening, looking, and smelling the crisp air. Savouring your life and the beauty around you.

I wonder what tomorrow’s walk will reveal? This week may be just the start of a new daily habit and one not confined to an hour on the weekend. I hope it becomes one for you too.


Note 1:) * The magic mile is otherwise known as Berry Point Road, a seaside road on the north end of Gabriola Island, overlooking Georgia Strait and the mainland of BC and the stunning coastal mountains.

Note 2:) I wonder why it is so hard for many people to take one hour a day. I know we are busy and there are a myriad of reasons including illness. Consequently, I am interested in an experiment where we make that daily hour sacrosanct and observe what happens.

Note 3:) I was unable to get my own photo, of the whale, with my trusty iphone tonight. Not enough light and a little too far out. Sadly I didn’t bring my camera this trip. Thank you dear readers for continuing to show up here. I am deeply honoured to have your company once a week. Warm regards, Trudy

“Go ahead – you first”

Recently I posted a piece on Facebook (a rare event for me) about a poet and an academic at Keele University in England, who opened a Poetry Pharmacy “to dispense first aid in order to bring the therepeutic benefits of poetry to the local community and to support mental health.” In addition, I have encountered a spate of articles on medicine and poetry. Prescriptions for a poem along with traditional medicine from Stanford to Columbia.

As one who has always found solace and healing in this literary form, I am not surprised. Poems, carefully selected, are a constant in all of my workshops. And even the skeptics seem to like them.

Today, I give you a poem. I discovered this poem in the summertime and I have passed it on to a few friends as well as a private Facebook group I moderate for people living with illness. Even if you don’t really like poetry I think you will relate to this one. As for me, I love it.


Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.

And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.

We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”

There you have it. In a nutshell. I bet every one of you, dear reader,  has encountered – both giving and receiving- similar occasions of small kindnesses. They can sometimes make our day.


Note 1:) Here is the link to the Poetry Pharmacy

Note 2:) For anyone living with an illness who may be interested in the private Facebook group mentioned above, here is the link. I should mention that I am not a big fan of FB, but for now, this was the best option I could find for people.

Note 3:) Thank you all for the emails and comments this week. With appreciation for clicking on this blog. There are lots of wonderful things readily available to read so I thank you for stopping by here. I will be at the wonderful Wellspring Calgary as of Thursday and going on to see my favourite Mother for a week. How lucky I am.

Looks Like I’m Walking Today

When I was going through my cancer treatment, I kept a blog called Joyful Wrecks.  I decided on the name to illustrate my experience that although I would be looking for joyful moments, and working to create them, I recognized that there would also be moments when I felt shipwrecked.

At that time my granddaughter, Sophie, was two years old, she had a book that we both loved called Grumpy Bird. (by Jeremy Tankard) The book began like this:

When Bird woke up, he was grumpy
He was too grumpy to eat.
He was too grumpy to play.
In fact he was too grumpy to fly.
“Looks like I’m walking today,” said Bird.

One morning when I was feeling down, I remembered the book and on a day when my spouse asked me how things were going. I answered,

Looks like I’m walking today”

What I loved about the metaphor, however, was that I could still walk (do something) just like Bird.

Part of being a joyful wreck was that there were, and still are, times when we all feel wrecked. I remember a time when my right arm was painful because of my “wrecked’ veins from multiple attempts to insert an IV. In fact, one of the chemo nurse’s looked at my veins and said, “I see we are doing what we do best around here, ruining veins.” And we both laughed.

It’s not always easy to co-exist with discomfort and still perceive that today is a precious gift, especially since we are conditioned to retreat from what we don’t like or fear. Yet it makes all the difference to the quality of our everyday life. Right now. In this minute.

There were times my arm hurt; I felt nauseated and I wished I felt differently. I wished I didn’t have cancer. Yet, I still woke up. How good was that! I got up on two wobbly legs. I sat down with my spouse and had a bowl of cereal with a sliced banana. The birch tree outside the dining room window was wearing a beautiful leafy green dress and the birds were singing. The air smelled sweet and had a quality of spring exuberance that was almost palpable. In that very moment life was perfect.

Dr. Morita told his patients, “When climbing a mountain you can give up a hundred times a day, but keep your feet pointed up hill.”

Living well with illness is not about consistently feeling great and simply overlooking the difficulties. It is about not falling in a hole, staying there and allowing your illness to define your life. It means not putting our lives on hold or wrapping ourselves in the cloak of victim mentality. That mentality says: “life is hopeless and I can do nothing.”

Living well with illness is about taking action, small steps, even when not in the mood. We keep our feet moving and pointed uphill.

In the midst of our illness, we’re finding funny stories, learning, resting, moving, creating, helping, questioning, weeping, smiling, loving, caring, showing up, saying yes, saying no, getting another opinion, getting things done, enjoying, appreciating, taking a nap, and finding meaning and purpose while we can. Come to think of it, this sounds like what everyone is doing, including those who don’t have a serious illness.

Why not live with outstretched arms? What do we have to lose? We’re all terminal — we are all going to die one day.

Why not use these living breathing moments to say YES to life! Discover your talents and cultivate them; remember your dreams and act on them; use your gifts to cheer one another on. We never know our impact on the lives of others. We do know that when we live fully, we are more alive.


Note 1:) This is a favourite article of mine because it reminds me to never give up.

Note 2:) So often, I have learned, when I have a tough day, a call comes. Or maybe it’s an email or a word from a stranger or loved one that suddenly turns things around. I am so grateful for those moments and I hope that I can be that person for someone else.

Note 3:) Ottawa is breathtakingly magnificent with all the shades of reds, oranges and yellow. I find myself staring in wonder, not wanting to miss the day to day changes all around me now. Thank you all, dear readers, for brightening my life, from near and far. I feel so fortunate to scribble away on my computer and through the miracle of the internet these posts arrive in your inbox and then so many of you read them. Thank you. See you next week, Trudy



The Risks of the Reality Check

Playing it Safe May Not Always be the Best Option

Ten years ago I asked myself this question: What would I most regret not having done if I only had two years left to live? The answer flashed across my mind immediately.

I would most regret not getting to know my two youngest Grandchildren who lived 3500 km away from me.

The context for this question is that I had finished 18 months of treatment for cancer and I had returned to the work I loved. For the record, Wellspring Calgary was my dream job, and where I had planned to remain until my 80’s if they would have me.

Cancer changed that dream. As a consequence, I would need to make modifications – maybe 80 instead of 85. ha ha.  And yet, when I asked that question, what rose to the top were my Grandchildren. I recognized that this life changing moment would require a total transformation of how I lived.

Realistically, it was a bad idea from many perspectives including financial, medical, personal and professional relationships. I wasn’t in a position to move my life across the country. I could only move myself. It was a decision filled with risk and letting go of proximity to family, older grandchildren, other people I loved and things I loved. Some people called it courageous. Some people thought I was crazy. Others said nothing. As for me, I knew in the depths of my being it was the thing I was meant to do. And I did it.

Best decision

How I did it is a story in itself, and filled with generosity from others. However, let me say this. For any losses, lack of security, and the pain of missing loved ones there has not been one moment of regret. On the contrary, if I were to die tomorrow, those who know me would tell you that the wild and unrealistic decision I made ten years ago was the finest of my life.

Since that time I have made other unrealistic decisions (for me) such as cycling the Cabot Trail at 65 and taking on the building and launching of my website and course development (see note) in my 70’s, for people living with illness. I did my first camping and hiking adventure in the Rockies this summer. And now I have a plan for 75, two years from now, to spend one month walking a pilgrim trail in Japan.

I now do more unrealistic things than I used to. I have more hope that things will work out. I say yes whenever possible, including to myself. Realistically, if my life was audited by the world, from the beginning to this present moment,  I should have more worries, fears and insecurity. But I don’t.


Instead, I am filled to overflowing with gratitude. In all the things that count my life is rich. Family, friends, resilience, wholeheartedness and beauty.

For instance, before I walked my Grandson to school this morning the sun was streaming into the living room window and the two of us stretched out on the couch and let the warmth and brightness of that sun fall on our faces.We were there for five minutes and decided that it was a mini vacation.

Walking to school, the trees on Fourth Avenue were blazing with colour and sunshine. Blue sky and leaves in hues of reds, oranges and golds. Warmth. Beauty. A curious and delightful child by my side. Aware of my good fortune and knowing that I get to come home and write this blog, something I love doing.  How lucky is that.

Also, anticipating the arrival later today of my son-in-law’s parents. The co-grandparents from the westcoast, whom also live large in the lives of our shared grandkids. We are all thrilled to welcome them.

Ordinary moments filled with meaning.

Sticking Our Necks Out

The way I see it, is that life is not about burying our heads in denial. No. No.No. We see what we need to do. But still, every now and then let’s stick our necks out, and say “I ‘m going for more.” More time.  More love. More  adventures. Different treatment.

There are those given a life sentence of six months who are still here ten years later. There are those who everyone thought was crazy and that crazy idea saved lives. There are those who against all odds achieved, succeeded, lived, created and made their world and the world of others better.

One size doesn’t fit all. There is no prefect formula for living and dying. Consider living with outstretched arms, against the odds and the naysayers. Pay attention. Listen and look. Stay curious. Lend a hand. Trust yourself and live bold with this “one wild and precious life.”

As we arrive this weekend at my favourite holiday – Canadian Thanksgiving -I can only bow to life and to all the people whom I am lucky enough to have crossed paths with during my lifetime. I feel like the luckiest person on earth, and especially to have my beloved Mother, kids, sister, grandkids, cousins, extended family and my forever friends.

Make time for beauty and doing the things that only you can do.


Note 1:) Even though I don’t have my self-directed course complete, I am offering a four week online course, beginning Nov 6th, through the ToDo Institute in Vermont. I am looking forward to finally launching my first fully online program for those impacted by illness. I will post details when they are ready to accept registrations.

Note 2:) I want to acknowledge this thanksgiving weekend all those people whom I don’t know that help make my life easier. Like the people who deliver my packages; pick up the trash; harvest the coffee beans; drivers who stay on their side of the yellow line; aircraft mechanics who keep the planes in good working order; those who made the components of my phone;  the folks who stock the shelves at the grocery store, and the farmers who plant and harvest so much of my food.

Note 3:) And please, dear reader, accept my great thanks and gratitude for reading these blogs and sending words of encouragement. You provide me with many, many meaningful moments. And a special thank you to Dr. Jinroh Itami, thanks to whom I have something to offer and to live by. Always to Wellspring Calgary. With love and appreciation, Trudy





One Hole in the Net and You Slipped Through

Last evening I had a close call. It could happen to anyone.

As an example, while making a left hand turn, a driver doesn’t notice you and travels too fast. This happened to me. There is also the possibility that I was a little bit off my timing. Left hand turns can be tricky. Nevertheless, we came close to a crash, less than a half km from home – not more than 6 inches apart by the time we ground to a halt. We looked at each other through our windows and for a moment time stopped. She backed up so I could carry on through the intersection. We all knew how close we had come.

But the “hole in the net” was there and we slipped through. Nothing happened.

How often does nothing happen to you? Everyday there are people getting the dreaded phone calls, the accidents, the firings, the rejections.  But maybe, not you, at this moment.

Remember during 9/11 when we heard all the stories of people who were saved because: their bus was late; an appointment got cancelled; the car broke down or someone got the flu. It is not unusual in our day to day lives, to experience near misses that save our lives or get the early diagnosis that improves our health outcomes or perhaps the chance encounters that change things for the better.

When I attended an International Morita Therapy Conference at UBC, in Vancouver, I was struck by the advice one of the Morita Psychiatrists gave in his presentation. He suggested that we take a few minutes everyday to take stock of “what didn’t happen.” I wasn’t in an accident; I caught the pot before it boiled dry; I remembered my passport while I was still in the driveway. How fortunate are those near misses – the ones when nothing happens.

A Poem

Could Have (an excerpt)

It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Nearer. Farther off.

It happened, but not to you.
You were saved because you were the first.
You were saved because you were the last.
Alone. With others.
On the right. The left.

Because it was raining. Because of the shade.
Because the day was sunny.
You were in luck — there was a forest.
You were in luck — there were no trees.
You were in luck — a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,
A jamb, a turn, a quarter-inch, an instant . .

So you are here? Still dizzy from
another dodge, close shave, reprieve?
One hole in the net and you slipped through?
I couldn’t be more shocked or

 Written by Nobel Laureate Wislawa Symborska, trans. Stanislaw
Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1996)


Note 1:) October has arrived and I hope to make the most of it. By that, I mean, notice the changing colour of the leaves. It seems simple to say but it is much harder to do. I don’t want to “miss” a single day this autumn. Taking time to notice.

Note 2:) Please don’t hesitate to be in touch, if you have questions or suggestions.

Note 3:) Thank you for coming by every Wednesday. With appreciation, Trudy

Photo by michael podger on Unsplash Thank you.