Climbing Into Spring

Spring Equinox

Spring arrived on the calendar this year on  March 20th, even though this date was not in sync with the weather. On the west coast, it is a different matter. Spring makes a protracted and beautiful entrance long before the calendar date and keeps blossoming into summer.  I miss Vancouver and the Islands during these months.

Here in Ottawa, it feels like we climb into spring. A lovely day – snow recedes and the air has a hint of spring – and then, we wake up to fresh snow and a cold wind. Three steps forward, and two steps back but even if I get impatient I don’t get discouraged. In fact, yesterday, I found evidence that “spring” is close at hand.

Climbing to Spring

Years ago, when I flew back from Japan, I watched a wonderful movie with English subtitles called Climbing to Spring. I loved the movie, which focused on the life choices a young man makes after the sudden death of his father. The big questions arose on what matters most; community; friendship; love; purpose and the healing aspect of the magnificent mountains that can bring us solace.  It contrasts the prestige of a successful securities trader in Tokyo vs the humble life in a remote mountain hut in the spring/summer.

One particular scene that I think about was when the young man and an older friend of his fathers are hiking up the mountain with heavy backpacks. The elder was carrying twice the weight of the younger when the latter collapsed. It essentially was a moment; a lesson about wholeheartedness and state of mind. Goro, the elder, explains to his protege that it isn’t about the weight; rather, it is how you carry it.

As you might imagine, if you are a regular reader of my blog, these are my kinds of questions, and of course, I would love this movie.


It is springtime when I dust myself off, organize my space, make plans, and believe I can climb any metaphorical mountain and a few actual mountains too. I put my boots away, store my winter coats and tires, and have to resist the urge to drive south and westward, toward spring. At this very moment, I hear the wind howling outside my window with a windchill of -15 celsius. Still, each day it is getting warmer and this wind chill appears to be a one-night anomaly. Furthermore, we are alive, and still breathing, on this day near the end of March, and the weather is hardly the most important thing.


I need to say that this poem by Billy Collins expresses my longing, and I will be delighted when this day arrives, as it surely will.

Today By Billy Collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.     –  Source: Poetry

My friend Mary is in Japan on a walking trip and to her delight, she is enjoying the height of the cherry blossom time. She snapped this photo, in Kyoto at Nijo castle, during the cherry blossom illumination festival. No touch-ups. This is just how it looked.


1:) Here is The Atlantic photo gallery for cherry blossoms: Japan; Munich; China; Washington DC and Virginia. Quite spectacular. View here. And thanks Mary MacKenzie for giving me your photo to use.

2:)When all the world appears to be in a tumult, and nature itself is feeling the assault of climate change, the seasons retain their essential rhythm. Yes, fall gives us a premonition of winter, but then, winter, will be forced to relent, once again, to the new beginnings of soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of spring. – Madeleine M. Kunin Swiss-born American diplomat, author and politician.

 3:) oops- I had to sneak this in – see below Daffodil’s Return. Poet and essayist (William) Bliss Carman was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in 1861. He studied at the University of New Brunswick,  University of Edinburgh and Harvard University. He settled in New Canaan, Connecticut, in 1909, where he spent most of his life and achieved international fame.

4:) Throughout my lifetime spring has always represented beauty and hope. It is no coincidence that the daffodil is an icon of cancer. After winter, the promise of spring is a promise of resilience, strength, courage, beauty, and perseverance. A reason to get up in the morning, even when surrounded by a crowd of sorrows.  So, for today, I wish to celebrate the constancy of spring. No matter what has gone on, spring arrives and with it the telltale signs of life: the tiny sprout, a spot of colour, the melting snow, the lightness of my step, the choice of boots or shoes, the impossible sweet surge of joy when the sun warms my face. I don’t want to miss one moment of this. Thank you for being here, once again, and may you enjoy the unfolding of spring. Best wishes, Trudy

daffodilsDaffodil’s Return by Bliss Carmen

WHAT matter if the sun be lost?

What matter though the sky be gray?

There’s joy enough about the house,

For Daffodil comes home to-day.

There’s news of swallows on the air,

There’s word of April on the way,

They’re calling flowers within the street,

And Daffodil comes home to-day.

O who would care what fate may bring,

Or what the years may take away!

There’s life enough within the hour,

For Daffodil comes home to-day.



No Blocking with a Most Unusual Twist

Imagine this:

A few weeks ago I facilitated a webinar called No Blocking, one of my many favourite topics. No blocking is a principle in Improv that helps move the action along and makes the players look good, says Patricia Ryan Madson, Professor Emerita at Stanford University. Things would fall apart quickly if every time a player attempted a line he or she was blocked.

This happens in families and at work. A spouse or a colleague suggests an idea and before we even ask for more information we jump in with how it won’t work. Think of how we block ourselves: I’m too old to “do that” (learn X or go back to school or take up hiking or travel…) or I don’t know how to draw before you have tried. I can’t play the piano and you haven’t touched the keys. (a better response to the question, “do you play the piano,  might be I don’t know. I’ve never tried.”

We frequently block ourselves in big and small ways by default. Naturally, there are things we aren’t able to do for a variety of reasons. Yet, there are many possibilities that we don’t try because of cultural conditioning, internal bias, and habit.

Now, back to my webinar. Two of the participants in that webinar were friends and the next day I got a call.

Trudy, we just came up with a great idea we want to tell you about.” And in the background I hear that second voice, no blocking, Trudy. “I was at your webinar yesterday, where you were         on your soapbox encouraging, “no blocking.” So, we want you to put this into practice, now.

OK. Ok. I agreed. What could go wrong? They are my dear friends.

Nothing went wrong.

On the contrary, I just returned in the middle of last night from a five-day wondrous trip to Calgary, Canmore, and Cochrane, nearby, and also in, the Rocky Mountains. The invitation was a return ticket to Calgary for Friday night, an art course on Saturday, in the mountains, with friends,  and hiking in the mountains on Sunday. This was followed by dinner with my beloved grandson Jonathan and his wife Katie; a surprise afternoon gathering with old friends. another surprise visit to Wellspring to meet the new CEO and have lunch with the wonderful members of the Wellspring team.  Onwards to Cochrane, for my final night with two more friends, one of them my oldest Calgary friend. Wed at noon, I was picked up and taken to the airport for my return flight home.

This was a series of firsts: the first time back to Calgary, since Covid; the first time in Calgary where I wasn’t teaching or facilitating a program; the first time not seeing a physician; the first time I was the subject of a surprise for someone, every single day; the first hike in the area of Goat Creek/Spray lakes, in the Rockies, and the first time I took an art class in public, even though it was just the six of us.  It was amazing!

You can imagine how emotional, enlivening, and even enlightening an occasion like this might be. It was almost four years since I had seen all of those people, except the two tricksters. Yet, when we were together, it was like time compressed in an instant, and there was no idea of what four years even meant. We were overjoyed and it was as though no time had passed since our last visit.


I returned convinced of my conviction that it is only the people in our lives that really matter. That we need to be able to see them. (proximity is important although not a necessity) That kindness is the most important thing. And that we cannot count on tomorrow, however much we expect and desire it. And we need to put in the extra effort to stay in touch and splurge with our loving words, while we can and while they are here. And, one more thing, we have no consistent idea of our impact on others except to say we always every day have an impact. And it is so often some small thing that makes a difference.

David Dunn, a business counselor, and banker wrote an article, that later turned into a book in 1947. One of his principles resonates here: to give voice to any positive thought he had. He even did research to see who might be responsible for something he liked and contacted them with praise and recognition. I have his small book but was reminded of this today when I was looking at Patricia’s Improv Wisdom, another favourite book. And, it prompts me to write to Westjet, following this blog post. Why? To tell them about the amazing person manning Gate B 22 at the Toronto airport last night, who went way, way, way beyond the call of duty to take care of her passengers. It is easy to notice, and easy to forget to formally express appreciation.


1:) Now you know why I am a day late with my blog. A first, except for a technical problem a couple of years ago, and worth it. 

2:) I hope it inspires you to say a gracious yes to an unexpected gift. This is not as easy as it sounds and I see the importance of it. It is humbling and loving, and even life-affirming.

3:) Sartre: “The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.”

4:) Mary Oliver: “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.”

5:) Thank you so very much for stopping by here. I hope things are as good as they can be and a reminder that we can deal with our struggles, even though we wish they didn’t exist. Very important to add: “when it’s raining, and you have an umbrella, use it.” In other words, if there is something you can do to minimize, influence, or change untenable circumstances, take action and also ask for help. Best wishes, this spring. It is now official, spring, that is. Warmly, Trudy


Flowing Moments


According to the Cambridge dictionary, flow means: to move along in a stream, as water does. An aside – what originally got me interested in Japanese Psychology, was a book with the intriguing title of Playing Ball on Running Water. Next came The Tao, and my favourite Verse 8-Man at His Best is Like Water. The truth is,  water has been a part of my life since childhood, and the closer I am to water, the better I feel.

So, as I was noticing and thinking about moments this week. I thought of how water flows along in a stream and how my moments seemed to flow gently from one to the next, this week.  It may be pragmatic rather than poetic,  since every intersection in my neighbourhood has a river, as the snow melts, and the water freezes and melts again.

I relate to the descriptions and observations over the ages and cultures of water going around obstacles, wearing down rough edges, seeking its own level and changing in a moment. If you have lived by the ocean, you know how the ocean or lake can change in a matter of  moments from calm to crashing waves. The boater needs to be alert, skillful and adaptable. You learn to read the weather. And you can be mistaken.

Changing my Mind

I was mistaken this week about dog (Sasha) sitting. My daughter’s family drove to New York City for spring break. And I said yes to stay with Sasha, and Ryan the cat. This may seem like nothing special but for me a non-cat and a non-dog person, it was a very big YES!

I was worried about how this might unfold. Still, here it is 5/7 days and we are all still standing. It helps that I’ve learned to speak dog. Fortunately, Sasha is highly evolved and patiently teaches me her language: a cock of the head, a sun salutation; a woof, two woofs and a bark. Rather like morse code. And our walks have been interesting. She has no regard for the ice or the rivulets and although not that big  at 40 pounds we make for an odd sight as she pulls ahead and I am holding the reins.

Anyone who knows me would be surprised to see how I have adapted and I thoroughly surprise myself. This is what comes from trying to have an open mind and saying yes. Actually, I will admit that I too love this fluffy and gentle dog that has taken the whole family under her paw and basically brings nothing but joy to the household. I just didn’t know that I could do this on my own.

A bonus on the weekend was a four hour workshop with Oliver Burkeman. It was held over two days on Designing Your System for Creativity. (a roadmap for imperfect creativity) The program was excellent, for me, and it gave me good ideas for my own webinars and workshops. Learning new things is a forever aspect  of my ikigai.

Four of his suggestions that I like for getting around roadblocks when it comes to projects are:

For a writer- my book doesn’t cover all the bases. He calls this the textbook fallacy that you think you need to address every bit of the topic but all you need to do is lead the reader across a series of lily pads through the water. Only a text book needs to resemble a textbook.

I’m torn between two different paths forward. Decisions don’t depend on seeing the path; they reveal the path. When you are stuck with two compelling choices, it matters less which one you choose. What is important is to take a decision and that will reveal the path. Maybe down the road you change your mind but not making a decision, nothing happens.

Everything’s too up in the air for me to  focus right now. And you expect this situation to change, when, exactly?

Write down in one sentence, a daily deliverable you could complete tomorrow. A commitment to take one step forward…maybe a 30 day committment to do tiny sketches or take a photo or walk 50 steps. Or prepare five slides for your ppt. There is freedom and liberation in small accomplishments everyday. We don’t need great ideas rather we need to show up everyday and do something. Those great ideas emerge through the doing. And you all know i am not talking about productivity or the treadmill. I am talking about the things we say we want to do or try or learn and we don’t get started because of “obstacles.”

I had planned to keep this blog post short and I have barely begun. So, I need to reel myself in and come to a close. Yet, there was a stimulating and joyful conversation with a logotherapist in Germany and a specialist in Lisbon on Ikigai and Illness; Kintsugi and the work of Viktor Frankl. I hope it will happen again.

Unexpected treasures arrived by postal mail; phone messages; emails; texts and from readings. These ordinary things enlarge when we take notice and realize how fortunate we are even with our share of troubles.


1:) The banner photo is at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. My son in law is lucky enough to be in attendance for La Traviata tonight. NY looks good in the rain too. And finally a sign of spring and hope from Gabriola Island. Thanks to my family photographers.

2:) I have now taken two courses from Oliver Burkeman and I enjoy them. They are not formulistic (is this a word?) nor is he.

3:)”Nature teaches us simplicity and contentment, because in its presence we realize we need very little to be happy,” Mark Coleman

4:) This also is true. “For all of us there comes a time when the oars fail, when there is nothing left to do but surrender to the great unknown.” Noelle Oxenhandler

5:) We always need to adapt our practices to what works for us. I have stopped going to my 75 minute exercise class and only go for 45 minutes. This has made all the difference. Trust your self.

6:) Finally, I thank you for dropping by. You have no idea how you improve my life as you keep me company here. Warmest wishes and  next week will be spring equinox,  Monday Mar 20th at 5:24 EDT

Wake up Call 2023

Four years ago this month I wrote the following post. Tonight, I had the gift of spending an entire evening with all the women who live on my daughter’s block. One of the neighbors kindly invited each woman, on both sides of the street, to come for a glass of wine, a little bite, and a chance to get to know each other.  Wonderful women all! I had planned to stay an hour and stayed until the end, something I never do. But tonight it was special to get to know all these faces that you wave to.

In the course of doing so, I was reminded once again of the tentative nature of our lives and how things can change in an instant. It was a wake-up call to take nothing for granted. And since I have just now arrived home at 10:30, I thought the wise thing to do tonight would be to find a fitting reprint. And I did. It’s called the Wake-up Call.

“Illness gives us that rarest thing in the world–a second chance, not only at health but at life itself! Louis Bisch, physician, in 1937

When we are diagnosed with a serious illness, along with fear and shock, we start asking dozens of questions.

  • What happens now?
  • What are my options?
  • Will I die?
  • How long might I live?
  • What does this mean financially?
  • What about my children?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?
  • What does this mean for me and my family?
  • How will I tell my Mother?
  • Who will I tell?
  • Will my life get better or am I now on permanent disability?
  • And if the latter, how on earth will I live?

There are so many practical matters that require answers as we step forth into unknown territory. And yet, something else looms large. Many people, including myself, soon discover two additional questions arising to the surface:

What’s Most Important?

What Things Matter?

The answer to these two questions is often the catalyst for transformation. And each of us has to answer them for ourselves.

Illness can provide us with a wake-up call. We can use illness as an opportunity to get down to the business of living. Surviving a plane crash can do it too. ( 5 minute Ted Talk) When we come face to face with our mortality, we can use it to reassess our lives.

I suppose it would be better if we did this without the urgency of illness, but most of the time when things are sailing along, we feel no need to question the status quo.

What is interesting, when we do take up these questions, is how we zero in like a laser beam and quickly separate the wheat from the chaff, as my Grandmother used to say. What is that wheat for you? For most of us, it is relationships.

Old-fashioned notions around love, friendship, kindness, helping, community, telling stories, making memories. And time! Wanting time to live, and to live it with loved ones, doing things that are meaningful. It is rarely about what money can buy and way more about the things that money can’t buy.

We are all creating meaning with every single interaction we have.

There isn’t an encounter, in person or online where we don’t leave evidence of who we are and what we care about. Each time we play peek-a-boo with the child at the next table or smile and say hello to a neighbour or a stranger, or spontaneously buy a bunch of tulips for our friend, we are creating a meaningful moment.

Meaning isn’t a big glossy package

that comes with awards. Those are not to be denigrated; it is a wonderful thing to be recognized for our contributions. Yet, even more, a meaningful life seems to be made up of all the small things that go into being a helpful neighbor or offering a shoulder to lean on, or taking time to call our faraway aunt.

Living a meaningful life is available to everyone. All it takes is the courage to let go of what doesn’t matter and start spending your precious time and attention on what does matter.

We are all meaning-makers. We can all lend a hand, love, and be kind.

Stay in touch, OK.  Trudy


Note 1:) I have an interesting blog post to point you to. Publishers Coach. This week’s post was on doodling and before you dismiss it I suggest you read it. The inspiration for her post is Sunni Brown, the author of The Doodle Revolution, who was named one of the “100 most creative people in the world.”

Note 2:) Spring break is almost here. This weekend it starts and the clocks spring ahead. Good news, from my point of view.

Thank you for showing up, week after week. A deep bow to you all. Best wishes, always, Trudy




Japanese words and phrases don’t necessarily translate well into English. Mostly because they contain an essence that we don’t necessarily have words for. I’m on a teeter-totter with wabi-sabi because I think I understand it and all of a sudden I realize it is much subtler than I had envisioned.

This is my most recent iteration, thanks to Nick Kemp, author of Ikigai-Kan, who pointed me to Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture, by Roger Davies and Osamu Ikeno. They break down the etymology of the expression:

Etymology – originating in the medieval

“Wabi is an aesthetic and moral principle, which emphasizes a simple, austere type of beauty and a serene, transcendental frame of mind yet also points to the enjoyment of a quiet, leisurely life, free from worldly concerns.”

“Sabi reflects qualities of loneliness, resignation, tranquility, and old age, while also connoting that which is subdued, unobtrusive, yet tasteful.”

Perhaps ikebana, as suggested by the authors is an example we can relate to. These are not bouquets of gorgeous, colorful flowers that we often admire in the west, but rather ” a few small flowers, wild grasses and branches with tiny buds.”

The banner photo today may not be beautiful in the western sense. I took this photo, in 2014 when I visited this famous, Ryōan-ji dry garden. “The clay wall, which is stained by age with subtle brown and orange tones, reflects “sabi” and the rock garden “wabi”, together reflecting the Japanese worldview or aesthetic of wabi-sabi.”

A little more snooping around and I found these considerations:

For Richard Powell, author of Wabi-sabi Simple, “Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”

Living Wabi Sabi by Taro Gold,  claimed that if you ask people on the street in Tokyo to describe wabi-sabi. “they will likely give you a polite shrug and explain that Wabi Sabi is simply unexplainable.”


In spite of all this indecisiveness, wabi-sabi is now being used, as a helpful concept for reducing perfectionist thinking. That may be technically incorrect, but still a useful misunderstanding. So, even when we don’t get it exactly right or fully understand it, I like to offer “the spirit of it” to people, including myself, as a significant way to accept the impermanent and find the good in our flaws. Perfection is a handicap for many.

To also allow ourselves to be touched by what no one else may notice but you notice and you love it.

Like this photo, which I took yesterday morning,  in my family’s backyard. I can’t explain why I like it so much or how it makes me feel well. It just does. And as I looked at it, wabi-sabi came to mind and heart. And this is the reason I find myself here today talking about it.


1:) Yet another definition: “Wabi-Sabi – the beauty of imperfection, impermanence and incomplete.” This excerpt from Leonard Koren’s definition of Wabi-Sabi comes from his book, by the same name, for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers.

2:) This magnificent 12-minute film on the spirit of being human, aging, love, and the whole catastrophe, as Zorba says. Give yourself the gift of this beautiful love story. Watch here.

3:) Thank you for spending your time here with me. A deep bow! Best wishes as we begin the exciting month of March: Daylight savings time on the 12th. I know some of you don’t like it but I confess to loving the extra evening hour.  See you next week, Trudy