Summertime in the City

What Is Your Plan for Summer?

From my perch on the third floor of my friend’s house, I have a bird’s eye view of the outdoors. Take this morning – several shades of green, branches and leaves in motion, casting shadows on the brick wall behind them. After last week’s heat wave, a light breeze through my generous windows refreshes. It is a perfect summer day.

Besides the sound of the robins, cardinals and sparrows, the overarching sound of new construction coming from the next avenue reminds me of the joy I felt all summer of 1993. This was the year our house on Gabriola took shape before my very eyes. The constant noise and disruption sounded different to me, than it did to my neighbours, who found it annoying. I try to remember this whenever I get impatient with the dust, big trucks and noise that is part and parcel of building a home. Instead, I think about how the owners of this “house under construction” anticipate,  watch, smile and often worry over this exact same scene that may trouble others.

Sometimes, the noise makers sound like a large gong is being struck, which again changes my experience to imagining Tibetan monks in their saffron robes somewhere in the Himalayas—a call to pay attention in this present moment. Every now and then, there are several moments of silence where the songs of the birds dominate. By all of these sounds alone, I know it is summer.

What is your plan for summer? What might you do in the summer of 2024 that you will remember fondly? Something new, perhaps. Something old that you haven’t done in a long time? I remember my childhood summers as though they were yesterday. Running barefoot in the grass, seeing the sparkling dewdrops nestled on flowers and leaves, swimming in the Northumberland strait for most of a day –  in and out of the warmest water, north of the Carolinas. And eating peas, tomatoes, and strawberries off the vine, warm from the sun.

Now, I no longer run barefoot, concerned about ticks and Lyme disease; the fresh-picked veggies and berries come from the farmer’s markets; swimming when it happens is in a lake rather than the ocean. However, what does happen is long strolls along the canal, through public gardens and trails and parkways with beautiful trees. No longer planting and weeding but rather taking photos of flowers and trees, thanks to the labour of others. We adapt for so many reasons.

Arugamama

One of the most valuable pieces of information I have taken away from Japanese Psychology is the concept of arugamama. The reality of seeing things and others “as they are” rather than trying to fight or mould reality to suit our preferences. The truth is things we don’t like happen to all of us – from the mundane to the devastating. Acknowledging what is, especially when we have no direct control over it, and putting our energy into what we can do something about provides us with the confidence and equanimity to keep our boat afloat even with a temporary halt to forward motion.

Permanent peace of mind is a false narrative for most people. As Dr. Shoma Morita puts it, something more reliable is available by cultivating a curious mind. A flexible mind. A mind that can adapt itself to changing circumstances.

One thing we can all count on is change. Nothing stays the same. This very moment is completely unique and will not return. As far as I am concerned, this is a good thing because new, fresh moments keep arriving. We keep getting endless opportunities to do things a little differently, learn, discover, and cultivate joy in being alive.

So, once again, we are in the beginning days of summer 2024. The seasons come and go, year after year, and each season brings its own colour, movement, smells, sounds and tastes. I find it interesting to look at my life seasonally and reflect on what is important for me to notice and experience during this particular time.

What can I do in summer that is uniquely summer? That is something we can each ask ourselves. What memories will we make, and with whom? Do we have special foods or family times that we make room for? How will we spend our precious days this year?

Don’t you find our own lives have seasons, too? Certainly, I can see that I am in a different personal season than I was 13 years ago when I arrived in Ottawa. And if I look ahead 13 years into the future, if I am still alive, I will be 91. Good grief. Maybe there is some mistake. That is an astonishing fact to digest because the last 13 years went by so quickly.

Consequently, this is a reason to pay attention every day to the wondrous fact that we keep waking up. Let’s consider doing at least one wonderful thing to acknowledge the gift of each brand new summer day. Here and now, in the summer of 2024. I would love to hear about some of your favourite things you get to do.

Notes

1:) This is the summer of my granddaughter Sophie’s graduation from High School – tomorrow, in fact. Her university plans in neuroscience are set for September. Congratulations, Sophie! You worked hard for this.

2:) All the photos today are taken by Rob in Vancouver. The green fern that looks like it is growing out of a tree – is – sort of. It is called the Tasmania Tree Fern and is located in Van Dusen Gardens, Vancouver.

3:) May you have meaningful and joyful moments every day, even through hard times. We never ignore or deny the brutal facts, but we don’t have them dominate every waking hour.

4:) Thank you for your encouraging words and for continuing to read these musings. Warmest wishes and courage, always, Trudy

Oh So Hot

Good evening, dear people – tonight, I am just stopping by to wish you well from my phone. The heat is oppressive- it feels like 41 Celsius, which is 106 Fahrenheit essentially for three days now.

The lovely nuns – my teachers- who were truly lovely, encouraged us to “think cool” when we were hot along with other more practical suggestions. 🙂

The “thinking cool” is not working, so I will be practical and take myself to the basement for the rest of the evening and night.

The projection is for this heat wave to end in the next few days. Fingers crossed.

Stay cool, and I will be back next week.

Warmly, Trudy

PS My grandson Rowan took the photos in our neighbourhood with his new DJI Osmo pocket 3. He says, “It is primarily a video camera but also takes great photos. What’s super interesting about it is that it’s very small and can fit in your pocket.”

I plan to take it to Japan in Oct to record our hike.

PPS exams are over, and we are all excited and enthusiastic about welcoming summer tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

“In difficult times carry something beautiful in your heart.”Blaise Pascal

John, Blaise and Emma

John O’Donohue introduced me to this quote from Blaise Pascal and today, Emma Rooney reminded me of it. It is thanks to Emma that I decided to do this particular post this evening – driven by beauty and my grandson’s final exams – which require my moral and actual support. For the next four school days, it is the joy and bane of kids everywhere – study, write, relief that another one is down, along with bouts of terror and happiness. And then the freedom of summer. How I also loved summer.

Since I am soon needed, I will let the pictures tell the tale of the beauty that friends of mine and I witnessed this past week.

First, my snail on the front step of my daughter’s. I know not everyone likes a snail, but I find them fascinating, and it is rare for me to see one with his head poked out from under his shell.

And then there is my friend Ann’s good attention skills that allowed her to notice the flicker feeding her babies at the lake. What a wonderful sight.   She took this photo from her window, and I was the lucky recipient.  Just now, another wonder from the lake. Look what is on her window this evening.

Katharine Harvey

Thanks to Emma Rooney, I have something special to show you today. This is a beautiful Florae Installation at the Chester Subway Station in Toronto designed and created by the award-winning multi-media artist Katharine Harvey in Toronto.

“The Toronto Transit Commission awarded the design of integrated artworks at Chester Subway to contemporary Canadian artist Katharine Harvey in 2016. Florae portrays native plants and flowers found in the neighbourhoods and ravines surrounding Chester station. Depicted are milkweed, verbena, trout lily, and blue flag iris colliding together in double-exposed photographic overlays. The playful combination of realistic depictions with abstract interventions pushes the mosaic medium in a new direction.

The innovative use of hand-glazed ceramic tiles imbues these stationary wall works with a sense of movement and of wind blowing seeds into the sky. The architecturally integrated art glass above the entrance features a super enlargement of flowers that expands into clouds and heavenly bodies. The mosaics are finished and the art glass will be installed in early 2021.” Katharine Harvey’s website has lots to take in, including an illuminated Drone Art Show she created in 2022 for the Luminata Festival Toronto.

Here is a short video of the Chester Subway installation.

 These jaunty blossoms simply make me happy. From my favourite Farm Garden

This is all for tonight, and I will see you next week. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for the beauty you love. It is everywhere.

NOTES:

1:) Emma R. also gave me a link to this short video from the National Film Board.  Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying is a short meditation on love, grief, and imagination. The hand-drawn animated documentary was created through a collaboration between mother, elder and narrator Edith Almadi and filmmakers Natalie Baird and Toby Gillies. This poetic piece celebrates life and the transformative ability of art to elevate and transcend us. Through vivid drawings and Edith’s simple yet magical words, the film explores our enduring bond with loved ones who have passed. In honouring her son’s life within the cosmos, Edith’s artworks embody colours, shapes and metaphors that remind us of the timeless power of love, gravity, and grace until our final breaths.

Watch here

2:) Many thanks for the care and attention you offer me each week. I am so happy to be here with you all, and I appreciate all your kind words. See you next week. Warm wishes, trudy

 

 

 

 

 

Time Well Wasted

In Praise of Wasting Time

A few years ago, I got enthusiastic about this topic after a friend shared a book she was reading: In Praise of Wasting Time by Alan Lightman, an MIT professor who is both a physicist and a novelist. I thought this might be worth exploring since I was creating topics for my Wellspring Webinars, and indeed it was.

Recently, I was reminded of the notion of “wasting time.” On a recent occasion, I was with a group where this topic came up, and the person speaking was bemoaning the fact that lately, she was wasting time playing a few games on NYT and felt guilty about not being productive.

I offered to disclose my cure for this.

I told her I play three New York Times Games daily and don’t consider it a waste of time. Rather, I have listed them as one of my daily purposes, anchored to my first cup of coffee. They are part of my daily ritual, which includes grinding the beans and making a steaming cup of coffee for my enjoyment. This is when I have breakfast and fully enjoy playing Wordle, Connections and the Mini Crossword.

Worldly Standards

By worldly standards, this could be considered wasting time. Still, for me, it is fun and delightful, and it reinforces the connection with family members as we post to our tiny chat group and offer encouraging words and humour for the day.

There are so many wonderful ways not to be productive that boost our spirits and improve our well-being. I am thinking now of my long lingering strolls in the peony garden, dropping off to sleep in a hammock slung between two trees by the side of the lake, or sitting on a bench listening to bird songs. Those of us conditioned to work all the time need to retrain ourselves not just to plant and weed the garden but to sit and stare at all that beauty and luxuriate in the fruits of our labour.

Still, the push/pull of productivity is there even through illness, distress and losses of all kinds. “Rise up and be a stoic. Don’t be a wimp. I should be doing more.”

I am not talking about putting your life on hold. Rather, I am talking about taking time throughout the day to let go of what you think you should be doing. Instead, it is ok to put your feet up because you are weary, not cook today, doze off, smell the roses, and doodle. Maybe pick up a musical instrument. Anything you love to do that boosts your spirits and brings some sweet moments of joy.

Here is a poem along this line of thinking by a beloved American Poet that encouraged such moments:

 

Any Morning

William Stafford

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.

A chance:

Illness and sometimes aging give us a chance to experience our life differently.  We can, if we choose, re-examine all the things we took for granted and possibly decide to try new things or do old things differently.  New ways of eating, moving our body, how we connect with others, work, hobbies, and every aspect of our life are suddenly under a microscope. We get forced downtime, which can be hard to deal with at first, yet wise people in the world, from the oldest traditions to our contemporaries in science, business, medicine and the arts, all speak of the need for quiet and reflective time.

It is important to build quiet moodling time directly into our calendars. I am getting better at this, but it is still a challenge. Not because I don’t want to and not because of a lack of knowledge of its importance, but more from “if there is time left over,” I will…and there never seems to be time left over.

Not surprisingly, my favourite yoga teacher (even though I don’t do Yoga) and my meditation teacher emphasize the gentle art of yoga and meditation. Both of them recently reminded their participants not to be aggressive or push too hard but to be gentle and allow their emotional state to relax so they can benefit from the practice rather than pushing for results. And never ever to be chasing and comparing ourselves to others, but just working gently with what we have and who we are.

Back to Alan Lightman, our MIT physicist.

He reminds us that focusing on the urgency of making every moment count has affected all of our lives, including crammed schedules, speed of appointments, jobs, getting and spending. (I will add ill health to that list) His experience and research demonstrate that we all need activities for fun and amusement. “Time to let the mind rest and daydream…mental downtime is having the space and freedom to wander about the vast hallways of memory and contemplate who we are. Downtime is when we can ponder our past and imagine our future. Downtime, also known as restfulness, is when we can repair ourselves.”

He ultimately discovered, like many great inventors, scientists and sages,  “the need for unscheduled time, the need for an inner life, the need for space without time.” Wasting time engaged in self-reflection, daydreaming, doodling, playfulness and gazing at the ocean are all variations of moodling, and it is not useless. “It may be the most important occupation of our minds,” according to Lightman.

Notes

1:) We are all different. I have no idea what is best for you. When I make quiet time for myself,  create spaces in my busyness, and entertain playfulness, I do better, feel better, and ultimately get more satisfaction and contentment in daily life.

2:) This morning, I described a scenario to my friend, and we agreed that “time well wasted,” was a good blog post reminder. She, by the way, is one of the most highly productive people I know, and she knows how to enjoy beauty and a hammock and moodling on the lake. (in her boat of course)

3:) I love the abundance of peonies these past two weeks. All I want to do is Admire! Admire! Admire!

4:) Summer heat waves started today in Ottawa –  feels like 37 Celsius, 98.6 Fahrenheit

5:) I had the great joy of spending an hour online with Emma Rooney. She is teaching a free six-week nature program for older adults for an award-winning, not-for-profit community support agency – Etobicoke Services for Seniors, on Wednesdays from 1:30 – 2:30 EDT  If anyone is interested, please get in touch with me, and I will give you the contact.

6:) Thank you for stopping by. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need an encouraging word.  Best wishes, Trudy