Ikigai – small joys – past, present, future

Golden Thread

Living well with illness and ikigai is present-centred. However, that doesn’t mean we forget the past and ignore the future. Ikigai is a golden thread linking these three time spans together. Today I am the cumulative experiences of all that has gone before; some things I liked and some I didn’t. Yet, here I am, and I don’t want to trade places with anyone else. I live with my regrets and try not to repeat them. And I look forward to my future.

In this past hour,  I have been scribbling away on my computer. A friend who lives in Malaysia and whom I have not yet met in person just taped a series of exercises that I and others can use to help my/our necks. She is not the only person who has done this for me. Before writing this post, I did all the exercises she demonstrated. The process of doing the exercises prompted me to attend to what I can do in the here and now and relieved me of a certain amount of anticipatory pain. Not only did it highlight the truth that I am the beneficiary of kindness every day of my life, but it reminded me of all the everyday kindnesses that are woven into that single golden thread.

As I looked through my photos, my mind flew back into the recent past, which shored up the beautiful memories of the people on Gabriola Island and the place. Hence, the photo of Entrance Island lighthouse, just off the coast of Gabriola Island. These memories and activities become part of my repository of small joys and help carry me through both good and challenging times.

Mieko Kamiya

And let’s not forget the future. We all need something to look forward to.  I am looking forward to my road trip to the Maritimes tomorrow, where I get to spend time with my cousins and an old friend I have not seen in 60 years. And, of course, my great-granddaughters – twin girls- will be born soon. There is a program I will help teach in September and a work/leisure trip to Calgary in October. All of these things bring meaning – “a bright future,” as the mother of Ikigai -Mieko Kamiya- writes. Dr. Kamiya was one of the first academics to study ikigai extensively, and I wish that there was an English translation of her book.

Although with Ikigai and Illness, we situate it in the present and determine what we can do now, we are not independent of our past and future. The scope of our lives includes everything. We just don’t want to live in the past, nor do we simply want to dream away the future. We want to live now. Take action now, which is the only place action can happen.

PS Mind you, we can take action steps now for what we hope will happen in the future: research, make a plan, place calls, save money, fill out an application and so on.


wabi sabi

1:) I took this photo in New Brunswick a few years ago, and I look forward to seeing similar scenes again this year.

2:) “10-year dreams. 5-minute actions. Where do I want to be in 10 years? What can I do in the next 5 minutes to contribute to this outcome? James Clear (example doing my neck exercises today…)

3:) “I know now, after 50 years, that the finding/losing, forgetting/remembering, leaving/returning never stops. The whole of life is about another chance, and while we are alive, till the very end, there is always another chance.: Jeanette Winterson

4:) Thank you for stopping by on this hot day. I will see you next week from Nova Scotia. Wishing you cooling breezes. Warmly, Trudy




Starting Early

Let’s Meet at Sunrise

We have a birthday tradition on the west coast -we get up early enough to enjoy the pre-dawn light and watch the sunrise.  Last week on the 13th was my son Rob’s birthday, so we all woke with the birds and headed for the beach with mugs of hot coffee.

There is something special about this ritual. Yet, we don’t do it here in Ottawa. I think it has to do with the easy access to nature  – no cars are required. We step outside and are immersed in the beauty of the sky, ocean, forest, eagles, coastal mountains and the air. Beauty all around. Noone complains about the early hour because we are all bursting with awe and wonder no matter where we look.


We make birthday toasts and splurge with our words, offering wishes galore. And then, as the sun rises on the horizon, we grow quiet. (for a bit) This exact same place is where we celebrated my Mother when she died three years ago, and we continue to do so. A mysterious thing happens when we have a ritual: a place- a few words- a particular time of day… something coalesces, and we come together meaningfully.

Yet, when we get together for a week, it is actually exhausting, and it takes another week to recover—especially getting from Vancouver to two islands with two sets of ferries in the summertime and back again. And especially for the ones hosting us. They are left with laundry, beds to be taken down, dishes and pots and other “lost” items to be found again, and their orderly lives askew.

Still, there is nothing quite like coming together in person. There is never enough time, and it is always worth the effort.


When I look back on these ten days, what stands out the most are the people –  Rob’s Birthday; the walks in the city; water taxies; the sea air everywhere; strolling to the point to watch the sunsets; walking the labyrinth; sunrise on the 13th;  Rowan’s delight with the west coast; the Tea House; the ability to do my Wellspring webinar without bringing my computer; my friend ironing my clothes; the vegetables; watching a most beautiful film with friends at 8:00 AM on Saturday morning…so many small joys and moments when I noticed and felt the caring we all had for each other.

The Rudbeckia and the Bee

And here is a little something I can share with you. This was captured by Gottfried a few days after we left the Island:

VIDEO-2023-07-19-15-55-33  less than one minute (The cones they harvest – right now for themselves- are full when they start. The bee works in perfect circles, and later you can see their legs filled with them, like big sacks.)


1:) What summertime rituals or traditions do you have that create memories and meaning?

2:) A bittersweet aspect of my trip to the west coast was not having enough time to see special friends as much as I longed to. And the joy of waking up in the morning beside the sea with those loved ones who were there.

3:) I learned this morning that my friend’s former son-in-law died quickly of a heart attack while hiking. He turned 54 on July 3rd. (My son turned 54 on July 13th) It reminds us that we don’t want to take anything for granted. Each moment is a treasure. 

4:) May you find what you love and do it—summertime fun. See you next week, and thank you for taking the time to read my posts. Warmest wishes, Trudy




Bittersweet – a quiet force


Bittersweetness is not, as we tend to think, just a momentary feeling or event. It’s also a quiet force, a way of being…an authentic and elevating response to the problem of being alive in a deeply flawed yet stubbornly beautiful world.”  – Susan Cain, author of Bittersweet

Here I am, with my family, back on Gabriola Island, once again. This also happens to be the third year anniversary of my precious Mother’s death. Bittersweet comes to mind, as we remember the glorious 13 last days we had with her. Days filled with laughter, joy, great food, swimming, music,  eagles, sunshine, tears, sadness, words, happiness, fresh scones, chilled wine, flowers, comfort, pain, loss, liberation…everything all at once. And all in the early days of Covid.

A window opened up, and we got to walk through, from one side of the country to the other, to join our family and celebrate this woman we all loved before she died. It may be hard to grasp the magnanimity of this time. And the great good fortune to participate in such an extraordinary good-bye. As we reunite here after these three years it is with an overwhelming sense of gratitude that we are able to look at the entire container of lives lived and not hide from the shadows nor get blinded by the light. Equanimity is one word. Gratefulness another. Bittersweet, perhaps the best description.

Myth of Normal

There is something liberating in coming to grips or to peace with the myth of normal.  Knowing full well the obstacles, impediments, and hurdles all of us have faced during a lifetime and, still, to be overflowing with gratitude that not only are we still standing but we have so many stories of significance, and why it is all worth it. This applies to each of us.

When we can shine the flood light on the whole of a life and not follow a narrow beam on just the things that we don’t like – we can appreciate precious moments. Ichigo Ichie, as the Japanese imply, is the idea that we take nothing for granted. The implication that every occasion is a treasured moment.

I suspect if we could get rid of the myth of what constitutes normal (meaning everything is going according to plan) and acknowledge the reality that all lives contain multitudes of things that do not go according to plan, no matter how hard we try – well, I think we would suffer less. It would be expected that loved ones get sick; drivers do stupid things, including us, and relationships get fractured, as do bones.

And, here we are this morning, eating the most delicious, made with love, cheese scones in honour of our mother. “Here,” is a Japanese Tea House, on Gabriola Island, hand built by our friend Jim. The most delicious cheese scones were made fresh this morning by my grandson Rowan, under the tutelage of the same Jim, who, amongst so many other things is a professionally trained chef and patissier.

Furthurmore, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the Coast Salish sea is calm. Still, we may wish that an orca swims by, even though we have eagles, hummingbirds and sailboats in our line of sight. It is natural, even “normal” for the mind to always want more. As Holly Hughes writes in this excerpt from her poem:

But the mind always
wants more than it has—
one more bright day of sun,
one more clear night in bed
with the moon; one more hour
to get the words right; one
more chance for the heart in hiding
to emerge from its thicket
in dried grasses—as if this quiet day
with its tentative light weren’t enough,
as if joy weren’t strewn all around.
Poem copyright ©2004 by Holly J. Hughes, “Mind Wanting More,” from Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems (Grayson Books, 2017). 


One of the things I appreciate about author and scholar Susan Cain is her acknowledgement of reality. For example: “No matter how much your culture tells you to smile, it’s not human to simply move on.(when terrible things happen) But that doesn’t mean that we can’t move forward.” Even though it may superficially appear to be contradictory, this reminds me of the work of poet, Nancy Gibbs Richards. She introduced me to the small steadying sail that is hoisted when the main sails are taken down in a dangerous storm. ” The purpose of this small sail is not forward motion, but to keep the boat headed into the wind so that it will not capsize.”

A small steadying sail can be a metaphor for what keeps us from capsizing. Each of us is unique, for all that we do have in common. Discovering our “sail,” most often others,  can help us from capsizing in rough weather. And then we are also face to face or heart to heart with the goodness; the kindness; the help that accompanies tragedy. Even though we may be temporarily unable to steer the ship we can rest in the assurance that we will not capsize.

Love and loss

Every single one of us goes through this many times in our lives. “The very highest states- of awe and joy, wonder and love, meaning and creativity – emerge from this bittersweet nature of reality.  We experience them not because life is perfect – but because it’s not.” Susan Cain, Bittersweet


1:) The banner photo is from Van Dusen Gardens – a grove of astilbe. The postcard from friend Patricia. The s on thanks got cut off.

2:) With respect to last week’s post I did get to experience “collective effervescence,” at the big game on Sunday night.

3:)The air – the sea air is immune system boosting, I swear. I feel like I could lift off and fly.

4:) There are readers of my blog who live in devastated areas of the US like the Hudson Valley and Vermont.  May the waters recede and the reconstruction begin. May you stay safe.

5:) I am grateful for the care and attention you give to these musings. Thank you! And may you have a wonderful summertime week. Warmest wishes, Trudy


Collective Effervescence and other things

Today is exceptionally hot in my study. So I see it as an opportune time to share a poem from 2021 that I posted on a day much like this one.

The poem is a favourite, and I linked it to its online home.

The poem

Any Morning

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can’t
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won’t even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.

By William Stafford

Collective Effervescence

I love this description that a friend recently sent to me. However, I have not been able to track down the exact quote. I do know that there is an entire chapter on the subject in Dacher Keltner’s book AWE, so for now that is the best I can do. If any of you have seen this quote with attribution, please let me know so I can correct it here.

“Collective effervescence is the feeling of energy and harmony when people are engaged in a shared purpose. It is a joie de vivre that manifests when we share moments with others, such as being in a stadium that erupts in simultaneous applause or when a musician returns for an encore performance.”

Coincidentally, I will be in a stadium on Sunday night with several members of my family, a place you would rarely find me. But this quote gave me a new insight as to what these events are all about and I am looking at it with new eyes.

A note or two from Oliver Sacks, great neurologist and beloved human:

“I cannot say exactly how nature exerts its calming and organizing effects on our brains, but I have seen in my patients the restorative and healing powers of nature and gardens, even for those who are deeply disabled neurologically. In many cases, gardens and nature are more powerful than any medication.”

Dr Sacks loved swimming and was often inspired as well as calmed while he did laps. I discovered this tiny -less than a minute – animation of one swimming story, and it makes me laugh out loud every time I watch it. I hope Oliver Sacks’ friends will enjoy it, and if you don’t know him yet, you may decide to read some of his writing.

At the Lake


1:) Japanese friends hiking in June. Always showing up enjoying their adventures and being kind to others. That is my experience.

2:) “I know now, after 50 years, that the finding/losing, forgetting/remembering, leaving/returning, never stops. The whole of life is about another chance, and while we are alive, till the very end, there is ALWAYS another chance. Jeanette Winterson from her book Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (I haven’t read this book but James Clear frequently quotes her and I like his newsletter.)

2:) It is wonderful to be alive and still standing this summer. The trip for gelato last Thursday was a great success and we will do it again at the end of August. Bookending the holiday time with Cassis Gelato. Yum!

3:) I will be travelling across the country on Friday for my son’s 54th Birthday. Many celebratory events are waiting in the wings this summer for their special time. It is always such a joy for me to return to the west coast, even though it is a short visit. One summer, I will hopefully go for a month and get to see all of my loved ones.

4:) May you have idyllic and lazy days in between all the summer activities and fun. A hammock someplace has your name on it. I deeply appreciate you taking the time to stop by here. Warmest wishes, and see you next week. Trudy