There Are no Small Things

Taking Note

In the course of a day or a week, we are inundated with small things. We most likely don’t like these things, so they grab our attention. You know, when the alarm doesn’t go off, or the puppy gets sick or worse, the car won’t start, or even worse, you work from home, and there is no internet. You hang up from talking to the tow truck and discover no coffee in the house. These things are a normal part of life, but we find them exceptionally annoying, as though they shouldn’t happen to us.

Like a pain in the neck, I’m not speaking about someone, but rather an actual pain in the neck. Having lived a primarily pain-free life (knock on wood), I now have a very stiff neck accompanied by pain. Nothing special, except it is new to me. For 76 years and x number of days, I never woke up and thought, wow -no neck pain. It was my norm. Believe me, when this neck of mine no longer hurts, I will take note of the wonder and miracle of a neck without pain. Of course, my gratitude and attention are bound to fade because unless I put effort and thought into my daily life and note what is working well, I won’t notice.

My friend Gregg wrote an article in Tricycle Magazine called Grateful for Nothing. “When things are going well, it’s easy to take for granted all of the unfortunate events that didn’t happen.” I am pre-disposed to look for the silver lining and be grateful for it, but I admit that today I am looking forward to looking back and saying something like, “I am so grateful that it is over.” This is probably not a good example of living in the moment, as I am very interested in a future moment. Quite attached, actually.:-))

But that’s not all that happened

If I left it there, you might think I am having a difficult time with my neck. You would be right, and that’s not all. Let me tell you about just a few small things that also happened.

Out of the blue, I received a lovely email from an old friend, a philosophy prof with whom I had lost touch, wanting to reconnect. An unexpected gift!

I got a call on Monday morning from my 12-year-old grandson, inviting me for lunch. He wanted to make me lemon sugar crepes. (he had the day off school) For goodness’ sake, was that not delightful and endearing and a complete surprise? How lucky am I.

An over-the-top gift from a friend for a very specific purpose. Encouragement, thoughtfulness, practical, generous and ever so caring words for a special trip I hope to make next year.

An appointment with a masseuse who specializes in necks. She, who doesn’t make calls, called. I, who never answered calls close to my webinars, answered. She, who doesn’t take new patients, gave me an appointment four days later.

The pictures today are my pathway between the avenue I live on and the next street. As I walk that way, I am transported to Oxford or some European town briefly. I love that short interlude, and it brings me joy.

Today spending time with my non-bookclub friends, who graciously welcome me, although I miss many of our gatherings and don’t get to read all the books. Still, the door stays open.

And the Magic Bag. You heat this in the microwave and place it around your neck for 15 minutes at a time. Three cheers and three deep bows to the creator of this soothing compress.

The beautiful red cardinal sings outside my study window every morning and turns directly to look at me. He is probably admiring his reflection in the window, but I like to think he is greeting me.

A workshop

The engaging poetry/drawing workshop I took on Saturday with a wonderful teacher from San Francisco. It exceeded all of my expectations by a mile, and I was left with a new favourite Haiku and a sweet and joyful daily practice.

I write, erase, rewrite

Erase again, and then

A Poppy blooms.

by Katsushika Hokusai

Here is the thing. All of these delights and so much more happened while my neck hurt. In retrospect, while I was doing the poetry/drawing workshop, I forgot about my neck as I did for many other moments during the week. I have forgotten about it now as I write this blog post. Of course, now I notice it again. But I can turn my stiff neck and see my magic bag close at hand, which means relief will soon be mine.

What is all this to say? I suppose it’s that we can be ok and not ok all at the same time. And where we focus our attention determines the extent of our suffering. I am not ignoring my neck. How can I? But there are things I am learning to do, including seeking professional help. We can provide ourselves with temporary relief by what else we choose to do. And if a good cry is needed, take it. Here is another new Haiku I love by Issa, one of the classical Haiku writers.

Napped half the day

no one

Punished me

On that note, I will say adieu, and I honestly hope all of you who are in pain seek help. It’s no time to be a stoic. And consider trying something new to give yourself a different kind of relief. For me, it was the poem/drawing practice that I now play with every day for 20-30 minutes.  We can learn to do many things, and I hope you find something that delights you.


1:) From Wildlife World – a common, cheerful, beautiful bird called the Chaffinch. Listen and watch here.

2:) Yesterday, the 24th, was World Penguin Day, and The Atlantic published a series of delightful penguin shots to celebrate. Here is the link.

3) For those who like poets Mark Nepo and James Crews, there is a free event on Friday at 1:00 PM ET. Here is the link to register.

4) I am thinking of people I know who have loved ones entering hospice this week. My heart is with you.

5:) And I am lighting candles for you all, especially my dearest cousin Sonya, who is having surgery on Friday.

6:) Thank you for reading my musings. You, dear readers, are part of my joyful moments. May you have many moments of contentment and courage. The poet David Whyte defines courage this way: “Courage is what love looks like when tested by the simple everyday necessities of being alive.” Warmest wishes, Trudy


Things Are Not Always Like They Seem

James Webb Telescope

For those of you interested in astronomy and the James Webb telescope, you probably read about the six big galaxies, recently discovered that “shouldn’t be there.”

A recent article in The Atlantic concludes like this: “As I’ve talked with astronomers about what Webb has found so far, one word keeps coming up: shouldn’t. Galaxies shouldn’t be this way; the cosmic dawn shouldn’t be that way. (Yet) I find these shouldn’ts delightful. They hint at the well-intentioned hubris of humans, especially the most curious ones, those who wish to determine exactly how something works and why. But of course, the universe says, speaking to us by way of a giant telescope floating a million miles from Earth, This is how it is.”

Coincidentally, on the weekend, I took time to listen to a fascinating interview with the amazing Krista Tippett, and Dr. Vivek Murthy. Dr. Murthy is the US Surgeon General, for the second time.  As an outstanding public figure,  the interview, like the James Webb telescope news, was filled with surprise. His book, Together,  uncovers that the most common condition ailing America is not heart disease or diabetes. It is loneliness. This shouldn’t be either, and yet it is.

Dr. Vivvek Murthy

When Dr Murthy began his first tenure in 2014, he indicated his focus areas, as the “nation’s doctor,” to the US Senate.  He expected to concentrate on obesity, tobacco-related disease, mental health, and vaccine-preventable illness. However, he also travelled the country to talk to the American people.  He wanted to know what they needed. Everyplace he went across the country he asked: how can we help?

What he hadn’t anticipated and what wasn’t even recognized as a complaint or an illness was repeated over and over again from every walk of life: loneliness. This was something he had never considered a public health priority. Yet, it became what everyone wanted to talk about. Every age group; every political party; CEO’s; urban and rural.

And the antidote is social connection. What he has learned is this: “When we strengthen our connection with one another, we are healthier, more resilient, more productive, more vibrantly creative and more fulfilled.”

Siddhartha Mukherjee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning, author of The Emperor of All Maladies states: Murthy’s book makes a powerful case for the role of community and human connection in medicine. He provides cogent and compassionate insights about how to heal the art of healing.


We are interested in curing, here in the West. And when it doesn’t happen we think we have failed. Healing on the other hand is something quite different. Healing is coming to terms with things as they are.

Murthy, is a scientist, and a physician, with a string of accomplishments and accolades a mile long, As well, he holds the top Doctor spot in the US.  When he talks about the crisis of loneliness and rebuilding social connections, he is not coming from a place of positive thinking or a wellness retreat. He is coming from science, research, experience and a mindset that deeply understands the non-negotiables of health – caring and love, for individuals and our larger communities and countries.

He says this: “…and so this is about more than diagnosable mental illness, as important as that is. This is about improving our overall level of wellbeing. And this is where social connection is one of the most powerful tools that we could foster. And it’s so — it seems so simple that just building relationships could contribute to those outcomes that we almost don’t believe it. And if I told you, Krista, if I said, “Hey, I went into my backyard and I made this pill and it’s pretty amazing and it’s free. And if you take it, it will actually improve your health. It’ll make you feel better. It will improve your performance at work. It will improve your grades…

Tippett: Boost your immunity.

Murthy: …Everyone will be happier.” Yeah. You’d be like, “Hey, sign me up. I’ll take that tomorrow.” It turns out that’s what social connection is, and we just have to make that a priority and build — rebuild, I should say — the social infrastructure in our country.”

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. You need one because you are human.” Jane Howard, Families.


1:) Here is a favourite song of mine about friendship and caring for each other. Le Choeur des Jeunes de Laval L’amitie

2:) Vivek Murthy, MD wrote a book. Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World. I just picked it up today from my library. You can take a look at any of the Amazon’s or your library, if it interests you. Here is the link to Krista Tippet’s recent interview On Being Podcast

3:) The word salutogenesis comes from the Latin salus (meaning health) and the Greek genesis (meaning origin). The word caught my eye in an article by Nigel Crisp, in Prospect Magazine,  How Aristotle Can Teach Us  to Build a Better Society over a year ago.

There is a long (but often neglected) western tradition of interest in salutogenesis, the origins of health, which is concerned with understanding the causes of health as opposed to pathogenesis, the origins of disease. This is in some ways the precursor to what is today called “social prescribing,” an approach which sees clinicians prescribe gardening, swimming, singing and other activities instead of (only)pharmaceuticals, making use of the health-creating benefits of each. This is not about prevention of disease but the creation of health—the causes of health not the causes of disease. It takes the positive, not the negative approach to creating the conditions for people to be healthy.

4:) Wishing you all a lovely week. I hope what is needed happens. And what happens has the best outcome possible. HB; PW; SB; SA; VM and so many more. Thank you for your kindness in stopping by here and reading my musings and scribbles. Warmest greetings, Trudy

PS The banner photo is one I took six?? years ago in Mexico on an amazing photography trip with wonderful people.

What Exactly Is It that Makes You Great?


It was Mother’s Day weekend when my six-year-old grandson Michael Thomas asked my 86 year old mother, his great grandmother, a question:

He looked at her with a quizzical expression and said, “Great-grandma, what exactly is it that makes you great?”

She was momentarily speechless.

“Do you think it is your apple pie,” he added.

She paused and said, “I don’t think so Michael Thomas – maybe it’s my chocolate chip cookies. What do you think”

“That’s it,” he exclaimed with delight, as the rest of us looked on in wonder.

I love this story and I love telling it, although it has been a while since I last thought about it.

Recently, however, I think of it almost every day. Why, you ask? Because I am about to become a great-grandmother myself. So the question has resonance.

My oldest grandson Jonathan and his wonderful wife Katie, both in their early 30’s are pregnant. (that’s how they describe it) And not just one baby but two – twins- with an ETA of July 13th. The date is significant because it is also the birthday of the twin’s grandparents, my son Rob and Jonathan and Michael’s, mom, Nancy. Rob and Nancy also share that birth date. Pretty exciting.

What I do know is that everyone in the extended family is delighted with the news. And these twins will be deeply loved by all of us.

This still leaves me with the question to ponder as to what will make me a “great-grandmother.”  My Mother was surely that and she set a high bar. It won’t be my knitting, although it could be my Christmas cookies. The wonderful thing about becoming a grandmother and now a great-grandmother is you keep getting fresh starts.

Tomorrow April 13th is my Mother’s Birthday and she would have loved this good news. Three years ago she died a blessed and loving death at 100 years, three months and 13 days. When I think of a great-grandma I think of her. This is a new threshold for me and I haven’t stepped through the door yet, but it is ajar, and I am peeking in with outstretched arms.

I already notice a renewed interest in how I can stay flexible and active. It’s not about the exercise I or you do three times a week but how we use each day as an opportunity to gently move our bodies. As a consequence of this interest, I have been reading the research of Dr. Joan Vernikos, former Director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division. I find her fascinating. I know how easy it is to get enthusiastic and to just as easily lose interest, so I am researching sustainability.

The truth is, I want to be able to get down on the floor and get up again under my own steam so I can play with these little ones. So, I am hopeful that implementing everyday movements will help me do this. I also want to be able to look over my shoulder so I can back up my car. According to the research Dr. Vernikos has done, this is possible by consciously making simple changes in my/our daily life. Let’s see what happens.

When my Mother was 100, she still went to her exercise class, made her bed, washed her dishes, took short walks, dressed well; put together squares for quilts; learned to use Zoom and other video conferencing formats, and did what she could to stay active, engaged and healthy. She would remind us to do our part to stay strong and flexible, both physically and mentally. This wasn’t easy during COVID. Still, she always did what she could and she didn’t fuss over what she could no longer do. Like, drive her car. “There are lots of other ways to get around,” she would tell us.

So, there it is. Great news and an existential question for this next phase. What do I want to do, and what can I do, in order to be a “great” grandmother? In a way, it’s a non-material legacy question, for us all.

And it mostly comes down to this: how we live today.

Our legacy isn’t about how much money we pass on (although that also is nice, for those who can) or how public a life you’ve lived. Instead, it is understanding the impact you have on those around you and finding ways to do it better.

Lyndsay Green, Canadian sociologist, and author of The Well-Lived Life: Live with Purpose and Be Remembered, says it best:

“It’s about accepting responsibility that you’re important to people. Not taking our life and relationships seriously while we’re alive is doing a disservice to yourself and the people you have a connection with.”

I have always loved the poem Famous – by Naomi Nye and here is the last stanza. (I read it today by replacing the word famous with “great.”)

“The last stanza from the poem Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye

“I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,

or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,

but because it never forgot what it could do.”


1:) Link to a previous post about my Mother, which is a guide for me. Click here

2:) Congratulations to Jonathan and Katie –  I love your enthusiasm.

3:) The banner photo from 2007, includes Jonathan, the about-to-be father, Michael Thomas, the curious one, and Sophie, the 18-month-old in this photo. Sixteen years later, there is another grandson Rowan and twins are on the way. How lucky am I!

4:) As I write this post I have had a cardinal and a downy woodpecker outside my window. They have been entertaining me all morning.

5:) This week I am thinking especially of my Mother; PW; SB; CR; and the twins. :-)) Life and death are with us every single day. Let’s take nothing for granted and do our best to be kind.

6:) I deeply appreciate you reading my Wednesday posts. Thanks, once again. Enjoy these days. Here in Ottawa, it seems we went from winter to summer and simply skipped spring altogether. Best wishes, Trudy


Joy and Pain are Tangled Up Together


Sometimes, we need a reminder of what really counts. Take today. Cherry blossoms drop gently to the sidewalk in Vancouver. I want that. It’s April after all.

Here in Ottawa, we have ice rain; thunderstorms;  falling branches from the weight of the ice;  power outages; collisions and my car is encased in ice. I don’t want that.

Still, I am warm and dry and have had the company since 3:30 of my 12-year-old grandson. This is good.

But there is more. Someone I love to the moon and back, was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. She and all of us have been waiting for the results of the CT scan since Monday morning. With each hour we grow more agitated. Why aren’t we hearing anything? How inconsiderate! It seems like an eternity. It is bad enough to have cancer and now we wait to hear if it has spread. I don’t like this either.

I did get distracted by the banner photo taken by my daughter from her office window and tidied up by her brother in Vancouver. And I admit, in spite of myself, that there were some striking, glistening scenes outside every window. Still, joy was in scarce supply today.

It’s Relative

Still, as I selfishly moaned about the inclement weather in April, my sweet relative was having sleepless nights waiting to get a CT scan back. Has her cancer metastasized or is it confined to the original site? This answer makes all the difference.

At 7:00 this evening she got the call. It is confined to the original site. We went from the devastation that she has cancer to the joy that it is highly curable. The pain of the cancer diagnosis has shifted already. Not because it isn’t serious, shocking, hard, and life-threatening. But it hasn’t spread. And there is a treatment available that works well.

Now we are filled with relief and joy. Yes, joy. I could care less about the weather. It doesn’t matter anymore. Joy and pain are relative.

Inciting Joy






Coincidentally I recently started reading, Inciting Joy,  the best-seller by poet and essayist, Ross Gay.

Within the first four pages, he writes this:

“But what happens if joy is not separate from pain? What if joy and pain are fundamentally tangled up with one another? Or even more to the point, what if joy is not only entangled with pain, or suffering, or sorrow but is also what emerges from how we care for each other through these things? (my italics) What if joy, instead of refuge or relief from heartbreak, is what effloresces ( the action or process of developing and unfolding as if coming into flower) from us as we help each other carry our heartbreaks?”

I find these three lines filled with hope and kindness and wisdom. None of us are going to escape suffering. The good fortune to have people we love, who we are able to care for, in their time of need, is a great gift. This has nothing to do with advocating suffering and sorrow. Rather it is about acknowledging it as a fundamental part of life and not hiding from it. In fact we can consider, as Ross Gay suggests, that “joy can emerge from sorrow. It might draw us together…and help us survive. It’s why I think of joy, which gets us to love, as being a practice of survival.”


If you have not been to a cancer centre it may surprise you to hear the laughter and experience the joy along with the tears that go on there. It has nothing to do with being positive or ignoring hardship and suffering but is way more about not doing it alone. It is life-giving!

And with this note, I will close. My wish is that everyone waiting for results gets them soon. They won’t all be what we want. Some will be bad and some will be worse. But don’t go it alone. It is no time to be a stoic. We need each other. We are in this together.

I posted this poem back in October but I want to do so again because it is in keeping with this post today.





For When People Ask by Rosemerry Whatola Trommer  (thanks to the poet and

I want a word that means
okay and not okay,
more than that: a word that means
devastated and stunned with joy.
I want the word that says
I feel it all, all at once.
The heart is not like a songbird
singing only one note at a time,
more like a Tuvan throat singer
able to sing both a drone
and simultaneously
two or three harmonics high above it—
a sound, the Tuvans say,
that gives the impression
of wind swirling among rocks.
The heart understands swirl,
how the churning of opposite feelings
weaves through us like an insistent breeze
leads us wordlessly deeper into ourselves,
blesses us with paradox
so we might walk more openly
into this world so rife with devastation,
this world so ripe with joy.


1:) I dedicate this song to Sonya, my cousin, who is a ray of sunshine and to my grandson Rowan who taught me this song when he was in Grade 1.

You Can Count On Me

2:) Beautiful cherry blossoms from the west coast. Not sure which one of us took this photo.

3:) Making Art is Good For Your Health NPR

4:) For those of you who honour Passover or Easter may you enjoy these significant days.

5:) Spring is coming; information does get to us; healing takes time; all of our relationships take care; curiosity; tenderness; time; forgiveness and courage. And a little love and kindness go a long way. Something like my favourite Haiku by Issa:

Little snail

Slowly, slowly

Coming Mt Fuji


Thank you for reading my scribblings. All my best wishes for a good weekend, Trudy