Reflections and Adieu to 2020

2020 held a great deal of promise for many of us.  Consequently,  what occupied my mind last year, was the delightful thought of my Mother’s 100th Birthday bash in Victoria, BC, and how much she would love it. My main complaint was too many snowbanks on the street and why couldn’t the city do a better job. If only I had known what was coming that complaint would never have passed my lips.

Little did any of us know that our celebrations and travel plans would be upended. Much worse was the havoc, death and devastation worldwide, created by Covid 19. We all know what happened and how we continue still, to co-exist with this unwanted virus in our midst. Everyone has experienced some form of loss this year in many aspects of our lives. No one I know is sad to see the end of this year. And yet…

It is easy to see all that we have lost and all the obstacles we had to overcome. No wonder obstacles are front and centre, because an obstacle requires our attention. I am not one to say that cancer, as an example, is a gift. I do say this: I don’t want anyone to get cancer, but, since I did, there were things that arose out of the experience that I wouldn’t change for a moment:


  • Friendships deep and abiding
  • The shift in how I work due to my direct experience of cancer -my vocation
  • The reminder that I too am mortal. We all know it, but we can’t picture our own demise today. Getting a nudge allowed me to re-evaluate my life. Kind of like a second chance.
  • Moving to Ottawa
  • My cycling trips
  • Photography
  • Writing
  • My marathon walks
  • My blogs
  • And much much more.

You can argue that all of the above other than #2 could happen without getting cancer. I agree. However, it is interesting to me that most of that list happened during and post cancer.

I believe the pandemic has had a similar influence. When we are threatened, we stop and re-evaluate what is most important, and we often make changes.

Unexpected gifts this year, beyond the obvious

  • My weekly visits to Wellspring Calgary via my Living Well with Illness – Zoom Webinar series
  • My regular walks and important talks with my grandchildren
  • The zoom Birthday party for my Mother – thank goodness for this technology
  • The gift of being with my Mother and our family when she died
  • The book, Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Taking back my Secular Sabbath
  • Moderating regular coffeehouses for the ToDo Institute. Who would have known that I could be good at that?? (not me)
  • Learning not to touch my face. I thought I would never get it, but I did. Flu season in Canada has had a reduction  of cases by 98%, so I guess many of us learned the skill of meticulous hygiene.
  • A “Whatsapp” video call from Japanese friends during their 4 day hike. Since covid we have all become skilled at knowing how to connect with each other across the planet. This won’t change after things are restored to a new normal. We now take this kind of connection for granted, just like a phone call. It was delightful to see their faces, the trail they were hiking and share a few words together.
  • Learning how to draw, sketch, create mandalas… I am now a serious beginner. I dipped my toe in and I am ready for the plunge. 2021 is my year to draw and sketch. This came about because of Covid and my desire to find an expressive art form to work with beyond photography and writing.
  • Kudos to the entertainment industry that turned their creative and imaginative talents  to amazing ways to cheer us all on.

I am reminded just as I was with cancer to take nothing for granted. To cultivate awareness, appreciation and gratitude for the life I am living. I am convinced that it is in ordinary living that meaning, satisfaction and contentment are re-discovered. I can’t stop thinking of my maternal grandmother who had very little of the world’s wealth or status but she was rich in the ordinary ways of living and creating and all that life entails. Resourceful, resilient, full of good cheer and kindness…surely the pandemic has taught us that we all can use more of that.

The future

I don’t have a crystal ball. However, I think it is safe to say that by this time next year things will be different. Since change is the only constant I can’t be wrong. I like to hope that we learn from 2020 and pay way more attention to sound public health policy and budgets to support our epidemiologists and public health sectors.  And to recognize how quickly we can adapt to changing circumstances, even if we don’t like them – think school, work, tele-health… I can imagine that fine minds are already researching new and better ways of learning, working, healthcare delivery and alternate sources of energy, to name but a few.  Not to mention our long term care facilities desperately in need of improvement.

I always imagine that things will eventually get better and that is my experience. So I enter 2021 filled with realistic hope and will cross each bridge as it comes. Happy New Year to you all.


You can clearly see my message to you, at the end of this year. The image is thanks to my good friend, Patricia Ryan Madson, author of Improv Wisdom, one of my favourite books. And the banner photo is one I love that appeared on my desktop a few days ago. I was able to purchase it from Shutterstock and it is a view on Bruges. Bergen Norway by Tatyana Vyc. The reflections and primary colours seemed to suit my desire for a reflective closing of the year and a cheerful welcome to the New Year.

My warmest and most hopeful wishes to you all for a healthy New Year and one where we can breathe a little easier, in all areas of our lives. With appreciation to each and everyone of you, trudy

Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Everyone

I find it hard to believe that tomorrow is Christmas Eve, even though I am not the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge. In fact, I am fully on board for the festivities of this season. I think about the beautiful tree where every decoration is hung with a story; the delicious food we cook and eat reminds us of our traditions;  incredible music from around the world fills our home, and the kind words, toasts, stories and joy experienced from the youngest to the oldest, oft brings a tear to our eye. Even though this year our festivities are quieter and few of us gather, we can still be meaning makers, momentous moment spotters, cheerleaders for celebrations of all kinds and  hopeful and pragmatic realists.  Let’s light a candle every night as a reminder that our grit and perseverance will pay off and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I give you my annual quote from GK Chesterton:

“What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.

As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation.  I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking.  I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it.  I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them.  I had not even been good – far from it.

And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. . . .  What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still.  I have merely extended the idea.

Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.

Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dollars and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking.  Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.” 


My wishes

I leave you with my wishes that life will give you strength and courage to work with all the trials facing you and that you are living with, right now. May it be balanced with the capacity to find beauty, truth, joy and love in the midst of your sorrows. For those of us who realize our good fortune, at this time,  may we take nothing for granted, cherish these moments, enjoy our days, and reach out to those who need us.

May you stay curious and open to surprise. And as H Jackson Brown says: May your life be crowded with unexpected joys.” 


Note 1:) From the bottom of my heart I wish you the best that life can offer.

Note 2:) This tree is a watercolour of my friend Patricia’s tree from long ago. The banner is from Shutterstock.

Note 3:) I thank you for your kindness throughout this year. I never take your reading my blog as a given, or for granted. Consequently, it is an honor for me to have you here, and in the spirit, of the best of this season, I send my warmest greetings to you and your loved ones. See you next week, Trudy




When Giving is All We Have by Alberto Rios

When Giving is All We Have by Alberto Rios

One river gives
Its journey to the next


We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

When Giving is All We Have


Note 1:) Thanks to Janice for introducing me to this poem. It seems just right for the giving season.

Note 2:) Last Sunday, my small Ottawa family had our 2nd annual book exchange. A gentle evening where we exchange books we bought for each other (by previously drawing names) and sit by the fire for a couple of hours and read together, with our favourite chocolates close at hand. Oh yes, also, a glass of wine and a hot chocolate for the children. It is our adaptation of the Icelandic tradition of jólabókaflóð . We love it.

Note 3:) This favourite Christmas tree is outdoors, in a courtyard, in old Quebec city. I took this photo, a few years ago when my book club held our December meeting there. It was a huge success and something to look forward to again. We can create amazing memories close to home. 

Note 4:) With so much thanks for your kind words and continuing to show up here and read this blog. I am so lucky. A deep bow to you all. Please do your best  to stay safe. Warmest wishes, Trudy

Note 5:) The final word is always for those going through heart wrenching times. Please take time to care for yourself and reach out for help when you need to do so. Here is a special poem that speaks to me. I hope it is helpful to you.

Adrift by Mark Nepo

Everything is beautiful and I am so sad.
This is how the heart makes a duet of
wonder and grief. The light spraying
through the lace of the fern is as delicate
as the fibers of memory forming their web
around the knot in my throat. The breeze
makes the birds move from branch to branch
as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost
in the next room, in the next song, in the laugh
of the next stranger. In the very center, under
it all, what we have that no one can take
away and all that we’ve lost face each other.
It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured
by a holiness that exists inside everything.

I am so sad and everything is beautiful.



westcoast snow on holly

Affection – the Humblest of Virtues


Affection is the humblest love-it gives itself no airs. It lives with private things: soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, the thump of a sleepy dog’s tail on the kitchen floor. The glory of affection is that it can unite those who are not “made for each other,” people who, if not put down by fate in the same household or community, would have nothing to do with one another.

Affection broadens our minds: of all natural loves, it teaches us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who ‘happen to be there.’

Made for us? Thank God, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.”  C S Lewis

This particular excerpt from CS Lewis has always appealed to me. I suppose it represents what I find in my own large, extended and crazy family. A motley crew for whom I have the greatest affection and am also aware that they have affection for me. How lucky is that.

In an era of continual judgement about everyone’s shortcomings I come to value the human capacity to be able to tolerate each other’s foibles,  blind spots,  and just plain old fashioned mistakes. Along with all the wonderful things that we love about each other the whole catastrophe is what makes up our lives.

It is the same with friends. We will all disappoint each other from time to time. It can’t be helped. Life is not about ensuring that everything is designed perfectly just for me, or you, or the next person, all the time.  This is so easy to say but at a deep level it is so very true. Like death, we all know it will happen to others but harder to picture that it will actually happen to me.

Second chances

For many people this month is painful. And it is often because of fractured or disappointing relationships. I am a believer in second chances and mending fences. Blame it on my Mother and Grandmothers. They were all like that, and believe me, I am so grateful.  There is enough suffering in the world and if we can do anything to ease that suffering within our own circles of influence than I am all for it.

This month, affection is my current favourite word. It rises to the top of my list every year in December, as this season prompts so many memories of joys and sorrows. Affection for all the perfectly imperfect people who have been part of my life and a humble affection for my own humanity too. We are all in this together, so let’s make the most of it.

May you create moments of enjoyment, and experience affection every single ordinary day.

“I don’t think I’ll last forever,” said Peach.

“That’s okay,” said Blue. “Not many folks do.

But until then, you have me, and I have you.”

-Peach and Blue, by Sarah S. Kilborne, 1994


Note 1:) It is true that there are many things wrong in the world but there is a whole lot going right. To experience more of the latter, take a news fast, and walk around your neighbourhood instead and nod and smile at the people you meet.  It shows, even with a mask.

Note 2:) One activity you can safely do during Covid is take a drive through your town or city admiring all the lights people have put up to brighten the darkest night.

Note 3:) Thank you for reading my blog each week. I appreciate your notes and encouraging words. Please take care and stay safe. Reach out to friends and family and find ways to celebrate at a distance. See you next week. Warmest wishes, Trudy

A Few Good Words to Tide Us Over

I have four  special poems tonight. It could be a dozen but I am restraining myself. A torrent of poems have recently come my way and poetry needs to be shared. Furthurmore, it is even better when spoken aloud. You may decide to do so in the quiet of your own room or  read one or two to a friend.  These are all self explanatory (my kind of poem) and need nothing more from me. Enjoy and take them to heart.

I Worried by Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers

flow in the right direction, will the earth turn

as it was taught, and if not how shall

I correct it?


Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,

can I do better?


Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows

can do it and I am, well,



Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,

am I going to get rheumatism,

lockjaw, dementia?


Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing.

And gave it up. And took my old body

and went out into the morning,

and sang.


AS IF TO DEMONSTRATE AN ECLIPSE by Billy Collins from Nine Horses

I pick an orange from a wicker basket

and place it on the table

to represent the sun.

Then down at the other end

a blue and white marble

becomes the earth

and nearby I lay the little moon of an aspirin.


I get a glass from a cabinet,

open a bottle of wine,

then I sit in a ladder-back chair,

a benevolent god presiding

over a miniature creation myth,


and I begin to sing

a homemade canticle of thanks

for this perfect little arrangement,

for not making the earth too hot or cold

not making it spin too fast or slow


so that the grove of orange trees

and the owl become possible,

not to mention the rolling wave,

the play of clouds, geese in flight,

and the Z of lightning on a dark lake.


Then I fill my glass again

and give thanks for the trout,

the oak, and the yellow feather,


singing the room full of shadows,

as sun and earth and moon

circle one another in their impeccable orbits

and I get more and more cockeyed with gratitude.


Winter; Tonight; Sunset by David Budbill from WHILE WE’VE STILL GOT FEET.

Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,
My shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first

Through the woods, then out into the open fields
Past a couple of trailers and some pick up trucks, I stop

and look at the sky. Suddenly: Orange, red, pink, blue,
Green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.

I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age
And I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening.

A prayer for being here, today, now, alive
In this life, in this evening, under this sky.


Note 1:) Have I told you before how poetry can heal, provoke, sooth, calm and help us to bear the unbearable? It can also make us laugh and lighten the load and inspire us to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Look at this tiny Haiku from Issa that encourages us to make our way slowly, imperfectly, one step at a time.

CLASSIC HAIKU edited by Tom Lowenstein- I just pre-ordered this new book.

Little snail,
slowly, slowly,
climbs Mount Fuji.  by Issa

Note 2:) I read that sales of Christmas trees have tripled and quadrupled this year with people decorating a tree for the first time. It makes sense to me that we all need extra light and warmth and comfort. I love walking in my neighbourhood with the glow from the lights and the brilliant moon.

Note 3:) I received a gift from my daughter yesterday. An advent village with my favourite Purdy’s chocolates. It is a fun and warmhearted gift and I was the lucky one, along with the grandchildren.

Note4:) I hope you find time for playfulness this month. It may not be your traditional holiday but with imagination and a little effort you may surprise yourself with something brand new, or something old that you dust off. Thank you for graciously reading my blog. I deeply appreciate you. Warmly, Trudy