Wandering Around In a State of Wonder

How could these beautiful irises not be enough for a day or a lifetime…and yet we always look for more. Perhaps our obligation to the world is  more like expressing our jaw dropping appreciation.

 

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Wandering around in a state of “wonder.”

 

Mind Wanting More (an excerpt)
by Holly Hughes

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.

The wonder of enough:

I deeply believe we are all doing the best we can. (even when it seems like we are not) Include yourself in your circle of compassion. I have grown to cherish our imperfections, the messy business of living, the falling down and getting up, the joy that arises out of the blue. The fact that not everything works out the way we had hoped – and that we sometimes don’t have a clue what the next steps should be. To love and be loved.  To help and be helped.  To accept our differences. To pay attention to all the beauty and all the support we receive. To laugh and to cry. The miracle of the everyday. It is enough and I am grateful.

NOTES

Note 1:) I am home once again, finding my bearings, catching up, grateful for these last weeks of summer and  a heart overflowing with rich, significant, joyful  and life changing memories. Thanks to all who were part of my adventures from coast to coast.

Note 2: ) I appreciate, you, dear readers. I find it incredible that you take the time to open my weekly emails, and when you can, read what I write. Thank you! Take heart and courage as you wake up each morning, doing the everyday things that need doing. Stay curious and pay attention. And with that, making the world a better place for those around you. See you next week, Trudy

The Universal Language of Generosity

My eight days in Calgary and the Rockies left an imprint on my heart and on the hearts of several others.

I will tell you only about one aspect and that is the arrival of 12 Japanese at Wellspring  Calgary. They arrived, after four days of hiking in the Rockies, full of life, enthusiasm and an overflowing wellspring of goodwill.

Wellspring Calgary

Our Japanese visitors were prepared with beautiful slideshows, inspiring talks in English and Japanese, many beautiful gifts and a high level of engagement with the participants.  Perhaps it was their red and blue t-shirts that brightened the space. Maybe it was the 107 hand drawn and painted Etegami Postcards displayed for participants to select and take away. Maybe it was the way they introduced themselves in a language not their own. It could have been the 200 blank watercolour postcards that one of the Japanese members made by hand from Milk cartons, water and a blender. (that is the short version) Or the dozens of folded origami left as gifts.

Perhaps it was the stories, like the one where they cooked all their own meals during their four day hike or how one of the members at 75 was the oldest woman to climb the Via Ferrata. Or how they beamed sunshine  and filled the air with laughter.

What fascinated all of us, even when they weren’t speaking English, is how they manged to convey emotion and the deep meaning of their subject.  We were all laughing, crying, smiling and clapping. We mostly communicated  in two different languages, with a “little” or rather a lot of help from our friend Yoshie.

There were invitations to come back to Calgary and for Wellspringers to go to Japan, and during the time in between to become pen pals using Etegami.  Etegami is a “simple, colourful folk art(which everyone can do) and is more about sending kind wishes through the mail than it is about, ‘art.’ (Thanks Patricia Madson Ryan) Google translate can also be helpful with translating kind words.

There were more gifts for the new Wellspring, Randy O’Dell House. Art supplies for the Wellspring studio. Generosity abounded by everyone. And yet…there was the serious business of life and death; caregiving and bereavement; struggling with treatment and recovery from treatment.

Let’s just say that language was not a barrier.

The messages conveyed went way beyond ordinary language and opened my eyes to a communication without borders.

And what is more, the kindness and joy of our Japanese guests was reciprocated by the Wellspring staff and members. The warmth of the Wellspring welcome was evident and small treasures were bestowed on our new friends. A delicious bar-b-que, was prepared by the managers. Later, our guests assembled in the yoga studio for a fast paced session called Moves and Rhythms. Once again language was no barrier. Barabara Cunnings, facilitator and co-founder of Wellspring, conducted the program in silence. No language. Hand signals only to indicate that everyone follow her movements.

Somethings are difficult to convey. But take it from me. The world is not as bleak as it appears in the news. As human beings we have way more in common with each other than can be imagined. Our DNA propels us towards helping each other, and when required, transcending our own fears and difficulties on behalf of another.

Our Japanese guests and all the people at Wellspring Calgary were an inspiration to everyone who was lucky enough to be there. They personified Kevin Kaminski’s morning greeting:

“It’s a great day to be alive.”

Thank you to our Japanese and Wellspring friends. I think that you are at the beginning of a meaningful and wonderful friendship.

Notes:

1:) The photos on this page were taken by Nancy Wright. Thank you!

2:) My own steep climb up Wiwaxy Peak, (2,706 metres) at Lake O’Hara, is a cliff hanger. Let me just say for now that it was challenging, magnificent, fun and empowering. And not only am I forever grateful, I could never have accomplished it without Nancy, Huston, and Jenn. And countless others named and unnamed, who take such good care of this pristine area in YoHo National Park. So glad that I had this opportunity.

Note 3:) This past weekend in New Brunswick, was a celebration of love, longterm relationships, family, and community. An excellent example of the indepth research on what really fuels health, happiness and meaning. Congratulations to everyone who does their best to take care of each other.

Note 4:) A deep bow to everyone at Wellspring who had a hand in making this such a profound event including staff and members. And a deep bow to you, dear readers, who generously give me your time to read my blogs. See you next week. Live August to the hilt.  Warmly, Trudy

 

 

 

 

“It’s a Great Day to be Alive”- Kevin Kaminski

It is Sunday and since I will be in the mountains for the next few days I am writing my post early.

I want to tell you about yesterday – Saturday. It was a day that comprised everything.

The morning was openhearted joy as my friend Nancy and I welcomed the Japanese contingent to Calgary. Smiling faces, arms waving, hugs and tears of joy. Even their mountain guide, Katsu Goto, of Waputik Canada, was equally congenial and enthusiastic. Happiness!

Some members belong to a bereavement group called Blue Skies. And we were all aware that they landed in Calgary under brilliant blue skies. Seemed like a lucky omen for their days ahead.

 

 

After waving good bye at noon as they boarded their bus for Lake Louise, our next stop for the afternoon was Eden Brook.

 

 

Here we joined with hundreds of others to celebrate the life of a dear friend.

Open hearted sorrow was evident on all of our faces, arms kept busy with comforting embraces, and tears of sorrow and of loss flowed silently.

Such a contrast. And yet…

The day represented in vivid detail the continuum of life and death. Lives fully lived.

The remarkable thing was that the afternoon went way beyond being sad. We were all awestruck as we listened to the stories of Kevin’s life and learned more about this man who so many loved. What was most powerful was how he lived, worked, played, gave of himself, and how he loved. Everyone who spoke told stories of how Kevin overcame obstacles, never gave up and laughed with delight through it all.

Blind as a teenager he lived boldly and refused to see himself as a victim. Kevin stories, came one after another, of learning to drive (in a field), playing hockey, skiing, waterskiing, climbing mountains, starting a recording studio, changing careers, and riding a tandem bike from Calgary Alberta to San Jose California to support cancer patients. Kevin built houses, fished, was a devoted father, grandfather and husband. Nothing was too much trouble. On top of that he was a Paralympian. And he raised hundreds of thousand of dollars for charity.

Kevin was adored by his family and friends, and was an inspiration to everyone who knew him. His family was his biggest love and most important achievement.

It is clear that the way to honour Kevin’s beautiful and loving life is through our actions. Not replicating his but not holding ourselves back from learning, trying new things, loving, laughing, and taking care of each other. Living with outstretched arms.

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela

Notes

Note 1:) Yesterday I was inspired by 12 Japanese who have been impacted by cancer and who are in their 60’s and 70’s. Putting in the effort to train, execute, travel to another country to climb mountains, and demonstrate what we can do to live actively, fully, and joyfully with illness and while ageing.

Note 2:) Yesterday I was equally inspired by a dear friend whose life abruptly ended.  He too lived boldly and fully, overcoming many obstacles. Never giving up. Giving more than he took. Waking up every single morning and declaring: It’s a great day to be alive.  A deep bow, to Kevin. And sincere condolences to his family.

gardens

A Few Encouraging Words

“Happiness is deeper than just having a good time. It speaks to a type of resiliency, an ability to recover from setbacks.”  Sharon Salzberg

A constant  joy and source of my resilience, throughout my entire life, is reading a few good words everyday. Once again I get to thank my Mother for this gift. From my youngest years she would be writing out little quotations of encouraging words and passing them on to my sister and me.  I sometimes wonder if it is the words themselves that help us or the thoughtfulness of the messengers, who cared enough to pass them on. I suppose it is both. The support of others, cannot be overstated in our lives.

And what about the writer of the original words. Did the author even imagine when they wrote out words on a scrap of paper,  that those words might inspire a human born in a different country, who may speak a different language.

We all need encouraging words from time to time and even when we don’t get them, we can be the person to give them. The giving part is under our control. And surprisingly, perhaps, when we give them to another it helps us to endure what needs to be endured.

Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.”

Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

At this moment I am sitting at my desk, next to an open window. A gentle breeze is blowing. Birds are chirping. When I turn my head all I see are the beautiful branches of green leaves, on an ancient tree, giving shade.

This week, a friend much younger than me, suddenly died. A new baby was born, sister to my grandson’s friend. Overwhelming sorrow. Unbelievable joy. Both keep arriving. Tears and laughter keep us awake. So much pain and so much happiness. Everything can change in a second.

Life is messy and difficult and glorious. Don’t miss it. Pay attention. Start again. Pick your battles. Mend your fences. Be kind. Keep an open mind. And take care of each other. Oh yes, have fun.

There is no time other than now. We are not, contrary to what we think, “going” anywhere. It will never be more rich in some other moment than in this one. Although we may imagine that some future moment will be more pleasant, or less, than this one, we can’t really know. But whatever the future brings, it will not be what you expect, or what you think, and when it comes, it will be NOW too. It too will be a moment that can be very easily missed, just as easily missed as this one. 

From Arriving at your own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness. Jon Kabat Zinn

Notes

Note 1:) Three more days and our Japanese friends will arrive. Safe travels.

Note 2:) Thank you for coming by here week after week. With appreciation and best wishes always, Trudy

The Mont Blanc Effect

In 10 days a group of 12 Japanese hikers, will arrive in Calgary to hike in the Rockies. They are all over 60 and all of them have been affected by cancer. Either they have had cancer or cared for those with cancer. They have also founded organizations that help survivors of cancer and the bereaved. Their purpose is to demonstrate to themselves and others that you can live an active, purposeful and joyful life while ageing  and while experiencing serious illness.

In 2017, they attempted to summit Mont Blanc, to commemorate the first climb that Dr. Jinroh Itami did with seven of his cancer patients 30 years prior, in 1987. Due to inclement weather they had to abandon that climb half way up. They had been training for two years and it was a great disappointment.

 

However, it didn’t stop them. Some of the group climbed different mountains in the area and they all celebrated their effort.

The following year three members successfully attempted the summit again and they succeeded.

The rest of their hiking group concentrated on climbing the eight mountains in Japan known as the Yatsugatake.

Their training continued in order to prepare for this year’s trek in the Canadian Rockies. The picture you see below is the last day of training as they summit the highest mountain in that group of 8, known as Akadake. (2899 metres high) The skills they were working on in this picture were ice breaking in preparation for the Rockies.

I am so impressed with their perseverance because the group is varied in their mountain climbing skill set.  Yet, they all trained hard and long with a mountaineer, over this past four years, to accomplish these feats.

Dr, Itami, who created Meaningful Life Therapy for his cancer patients back in 1981, realized that purposefully challenging yourself to go beyond your usual comfort zone was helpful in fighting cancer. His patients discovered new found physical and mental strengths that they didn’t know they had. They all went on to live full and active lives, many of whom lived much longer than originally predicted.

Besides the challenging aspects of climbing and hiking mountains, Dr. Itami’s patients were schooled in the arts of haiku, calligraphy, drawing and painting. Lending a hand to others, through ordinary everyday ways, as well as larger community endeavours. All of his patients were, and are encouraged to take on an active role in their own treatment and to learn the necessary skills of co-existing with uncertainty and the natural fear of death.

If you dropped in on one of his study groups you would hear a lot of laughter. Turning our attention to finding humour, even in the darkest hours gives our spirits a boost, if not our immune system. And focusing on what gets us up in the morning – our purposes, also known as our ikigai, allows people dealing with serious illness to live fully, accomplishing small controllable actions everyday that each person considers important to do before they die.

When I look at this photo, all I see is a group of joyful people having a great time. It makes me want to do whatever they are doing.

And guess what? I will get to experience my own challenge, as they are off scaling mountains. Thanks to a dear friend I will do a hiking/camping trip at Lake O’Hara in YoHo National Park. This is a stretch for me: camping; hiking in the mountains; encountering wild animals…and all the associated shinkiness that can accompany new things.

I have referred to my cycling trips as my personal challenge. Now I can add this next adventure. One thing I know is that when I came down off the Cabot Trail, my first big cycling trip at 65, I knew I could take on the world. It is time for a booster and apparently Lake O’Hara not only has mountains to climb but they are situated in one of the world’s most beautiful areas. Lucky, lucky me. Good luck to my friend Nancy who will be shepherding this newbie.

And good luck to our kindred spirits from Japan. May they have a successful and wonderful experience in the Canadian Rockies. There are several people looking forward to welcoming them to Canada.

I have learned a lifetime of lessons from Dr Itami and my Japanese friends and continue to do so. We have no idea when our last breath will come. But until then, Let’s sing while there’s voice left.

Notes

Note 1:) My friend Yoshie along with the group will be doing a presentation at Wellspring Calgary on Thursday afternoon August 1st. Please check the Wellspring Calgary website for details. So happy to be able to meet them in Calgary. Okinawa, Japan, is one of the Five Blue Zones in the world where people live the longest and most active lives. They attribute this to lifestyle factors and Ikigai/purposes.

Note 2:) Thanks to Nancy Wright for boldly taking me under her wing to camp and climb in Lake O’Hara.

Note 3:) You will see no more talk of weather on this site, at least until December. As Seth Godin says, “weather or anything else that’s not in our short-term control, can become an excuse and a distraction. If you can’t do anything about it, it might not be worth your focus an energy.”  I write this with a sheepish smile since I teach this exact message. And yet…reminders are needed and welcomed. I refuse to say that we are having a heatwave.

Note 4:) It is summertime and still so many of you continue to read this blog. Thank you! You and my grandchildren are part of my ikigai – my reason for getting up in the morning.

Do Whatever Works – until it no longer works. Natalie Goldberg

My attention was captivated by these words last Saturday Morning:

A Tender and Forgiving Practice

Maybe the first rule we should begin with, if we want meditation to be in our life for a long time, is: Don’t make a rigid structure and then chastise ourselves when we don’t live up to it. Better to keep a limber mind and develop a tenderness toward existence.  —Natalie Goldberg, “Rules for a Long-Term Relationship

These words showed up in my email, thanks to Tricycle Magazine. I subscribe to their Daily Dharma, mostly for the surprise of moments like this, when my heart does a leap of joy at such generous notions. And my mind readily transforms the word, “meditation,” into a synonym for all practices we take up, whether it is exercising, writing, attempting to live well under the same roof with another human being, not being so angry, or any number of promises we make to ourselves.

Failure to always live up to our own standards and all of our promises,  can be the slippery slope to begin “throwing sticks at out heart,” as Rumi reminds us Not To Do.

The longer I live the less inclined I am to browbeat myself or anyone because we slipped up. It seems to me that human failing is built right into our DNA, just like death. It will happen to all of us. We are born and if we are lucky we will get old, and at some point we will all experience ill health and death. And in between the beginning and the end we will have time to experience the highs and the lows and the great possibilities that ordinary moments bring. Including the moments we disappoint ourselves.

When I then clicked on “read more” of Natalie’s article I came to this delight. Do whatever works – until it no longer works. The generous spirited Dalai Lama says things like this. So twice in the last 13 months I an indebted to the generous Natalie Goldberg, not just for her writing advice, but for her wisdom on living.

I am not big on formulas, but this advice is not just kind, I think it works well. No reason to be mean to ourselves and no reason to give up. We brush ourselves off and begin again. And we pay attention to what works for us and when and how to adjust our expectations and strategies, when things stop working. What stones to overturn and which ones to walk around. What structures to put in place and what to remove. Just because we failed to eat well today is no reason to discard the desired goal. We have another opportunity tomorrow.

Dr. Itami (Meaningful Life Therapy) encouraged his patients to have a variety of daily practices, such as creative pursuits, helping others, visualization, looking for humour and establishing short-term meaningful goals to work on everyday. These, and more enhance the quality of everyday life. Criticizing yourself for not “measuring up” was not part of the plan.

Although Natalie’s article is about caring for her relationship with Meditation, it is about so much more. Encouraging words for living our perfectly imperfect lives.

Notes

Note 1:) A delightful incident in the above article: Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who was then in his sixties, was asked by a woman practitioner, at a retreat, how he kept his practice alive. He smiled a wry, sweet smile. “So you want to know my secret?” She nodded eagerly.  “I do whatever works and change it when it no longer works.”

Note 2:) On July 13th I am lucky to celebrate, although  from afar, the 50th birthday of my son Rob. He will be cycling the 336 km (206 mile) ride from Seattle to Portland that day. The magic is in the ride. OK, he wants to do it in a certain time too.

Note 3:) Hope you get outside as much as possible while the summer days are filled with warmth and light. When I was a young girl I thought summer was the same amount of time as the school term. Imagine the timelessness of those summer days. Many thanks for stopping by. See you next week. Warmly, Trudy

 

 

A Great Day – “we woked up!”

When my granddaughter Sophie was 2 years old and I was going through chemo, she and her Mom came to visit. On the first morning, I heard her stir, and when I entered her room, she stood up in her crib and announced enthusiastically, “I woked up, Nana.”

There is nothing like a two year old in the house to make you stop and enjoy the moments. Every little thing from cheerio’s, to blackberries, from an ant or a bird or her stuffed pig is sheer magic. Jumping in one spot, getting into her car seat by herself, singing and playing the toy piano, and relishing every bit of her vegetarian chilli. Passionate about life. Holding nothing back but giving herself away, all day long.

This memory came to mind when I read what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author, distinguished professor of Psychology and Management, and thought leader, had to say on “waking up.”

“Wake up in the morning with a specific goal to look forward to. Creative individuals don’t have to be dragged out of bed; they are eager to start the day. This is not because they are cheerful, enthusiastic types. Nor do they necessarily have something exciting to do. But they believe that there is something meaningful to accomplish each day, and they can’t wait to get started on it. Most of us don’t feel our actions are that meaningful. Yet everyone can discover at least one thing every day that is worth waking up for. It could be meeting a certain person, shopping for a special item, potting a plant, cleaning the office desk, writing a letter, trying on a new dress.

It is easier if each night before falling asleep, you review the next day and choose a particular task that, compared to the rest of the day, should be relatively interesting and exciting. Then next morning, open your eyes and visualize the chosen event—play it out briefly in your mind, like an inner videotape, until you can hardly wait to get dressed and get going. It does not matter if at first the goals are trivial and not that interesting. The important thing is to take the easy first steps until you master the habit, and then slowly work up to more complex goals. Eventually most of the day should consist of tasks you look forward to, until you feel that getting up in the morning is a privilege, not a chore.”

― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

Children and certain adults are great examples. Sophie at two was aware, in her own way of the joy of waking up. My friend John who died ten years ago was also aware of this great privilege. In a phone conversation shortly before his death I was telling him about a particularly great day.

He gently reminded me that they are all good days. “You woke up,” he said. And I agreed. When I hung up from our talk, at that time, I thought about Wu Men’s little poem written hundreds of years ago that I love. I pass it on once again. A little gift for today.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.
Wu-Men (1183-1260)

Notes:

Note 1:) The seminal work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

Note 2:) You pronounce his name like this: (Me-High  Chick-sent-Me-High) Once you know, it’s easy.

Note 3:) I am always appreciative of you stopping by here. Many many thanks. Enjoy this beautiful summer month, wherever you are and find those magical moments to celebrate your days.

Sail boat Trim tab

Summertime

When you live in a northern climate, summer is short. I suppose that has prompted me to organize my life loosely,  by seasons. What that means during July and August, is spending more time out doors. Taking advantage of warm and sunny days while I can. I don’t always practice what I preach, however, so that is why I am writing about this.

Mind you, as I sit at my desk typing words, my window is open and a beautiful summer breeze is tenderly brushing my face and hair. An enormous maple provides shade to this room and the branches of green leaves reach up way past the top of this three story house. I am almost outside while being inside. And that is the slippery slope.

Walking, cycling, moodling, picture taking, can often be reserved for leftover moments and my purpose is to give them prominence on my calendar. My tendency is to get glued to my computer and I want to resist my tendency. Overcoming resistance is easier said than done. However, it’s a skill worth cultivating, since it can interfere in all manner of creative projects, carefree afternoons, and long bike rides with a picnic lunch in our cycling box. Furthurmore, it can wreak havoc with anything important you want to do if you are the type of person who weights everything equally.

The secret to following through on important things like moodling, practicing your guitar, writing a book or painting a picture, is giving them more weight.  Consequently, this will require you to say no to the dozens of competing purposes crying out for your time. Let’s face it. Life is filled with interruptions and some of them are way more important than others. If we continue to let everything interfere with our important but not urgent purposes, we will find days slip away before our very eyes and we come to the end of another year and wonder where all the time went. And we notice, yet again that we haven’t started or continued with the things that matter the most.

It is hard to picture that my time will run out. I intellectually know it to be true, yet, it is hard to picture that it will REALLY happen to me.  Knowing that, can change everything. It may seem contradictory, but it doesn’t make us run on the treadmill. Rather, it reminds us to step off the treadmill and use our time for the things that matter most.

“We have two lives; the second begins, when you realize you only have one.”

A beautiful poem by Mario de Andrade (San Paolo 1893-1945) Poet

None of us know how many more summers we have. So, let’s relish this summer in the best way we can. Don’t turn it into a project, rather take the matter of summer seriously and gently. Maybe have a morning where you take yourself outside and contemplate the clouds, or notice the birds and flowers. Be open for surprise and drift a little. Deliberate drifting outside on a warm summer day isn’t procrastination. It’s living.

Don’t you think our work and obligations in life take care of themselves because we show up. We don’t need to remind ourselves to go to work. We, of course need our work, and it can provide a great deal of meaning to our lives.  And we also need play. Playing games on our devices may prove distracting but it is rarely rejuvenating the way a walk, picnic, or making something might.  We all know what lifts our spirits and makes everything seem better, after the fact, even if we don’t get it ahead of time. (exercise is one example) It is worth the effort of overcoming inertia and even  pain, to get outside, breathe, smile, and count our blessings. Celebrate, create, have fun.

“Neil Fiore, Ph.D., a psychologist in Berkeley, California, explains, “Research shows that to be productive and creative, you must make time for recreation and relaxation.”

A suggestion from Valerie Burton: Sometimes all it takes to keep your sanity is to drop just one thing,”  Ask yourself: “What item here least reflects what matters most to me?”

Notes

Note 1: ) If you want to read the entire poem look here.

Note 2:) this small photo is the catalyst of last week’s post.  Winnie the bear and Harry Colebourn

Note 3: May you have many dreamy, creative, fun-filled moments this summer, in the company of people you love and like.

Note 3: Here you are again. I am very lucky and grateful that you keep showing up. A deep bow of thanks to you all, dear readers.

A Sweet and Gentle Surprise this Wednesday Morning

On this magnificent day in Ottawa – yes- the sunshine, blue sky and perfect temperatures are the perfect antidote for all my previous complaints. It turns out the gardens loved all that rain and cool air and now after four days of sunshine the plants are bursting forth all over.

This being the case, I am already in a state of enthusiasm, when my friend showed me her latest art acquisition. It’s a tender, meaningful piece of a young soldier holding the front paws of  a small bear, standing on hind legs. She says in passing, that is “Winnie.” I  looked dumbfounded and she added, “you know, the real Winnie the Pooh.”

I didn’t know the back story to one of the world’s favorite characters. She briefly explained that the real live “Winnie” was a Canadian bear cub.  This particular bear cub was found and adopted by a young British/Canadian  soldier, Harry Colebourn,  who was also a veterinarian. He named the young cub, Winnie, in honour of his new hometown of Winnipeg.

My friend was on her way out the door when all of this quickly transpired, so I couldn’t ask more. Nevertheless, my curiosity was piqued and I went looking for the history of Winnie the Pooh. I quickly found a lovely piece on a history site with original photos. It is an inspiring story on the ripple effects of one young man’s actions that influenced a small boy and his Father, A. A. Milne.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometime.” Winnie-the-Pooh

I am often awestruck about ripple effects and how one action leads to untold consequences for both good and ill. We can easily get jaded with all the horrors in the world and overlook, as unimportant, a small act by a man who loved animals. Yet, that series of events resulted in a series of beloved children’s books that brought relief and hope to a war torn world. And have lovingly endured for over 80 years.

“Statues at both the London Zoo and Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo, of Colebourn holding the hands of Winnie as she stands on her hind legs also offer reminders of the bond between a Canadian soldier and a black bear cub that led to the creation of a literary classic.”

I hope you click on the link below and read this gentle and true background on how Winnie the Pooh came to be.  A simple distraction that warmed up my heart.

The surprising background to Winnie the Pooh

Fun Facts:

CBC website on “90 Wierd and wonderful facts about Winnie the Pooh”

Fact 63) Cambridge University’s Pembroke College Winnie-the-Pooh Society was established in 1993. The Queen is apparently a member. They regularly meet at 4 p.m. every Saturday of the full term to drink tea, eat cake and read from the works of A.A. Milne. The annual membership fee is £2 ($3.35 CAD).

Fact 89) A group of researchers in the pediatrics department at Dalhousie University published a report (you can read the spoof) entitled Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood in the Canadian Medical Association Journal’s winter 2000 lampoon issue. The satirical article assigns each Milne character at least one psychological disorder. (there have been readers who took it seriously)

Note 1:) My friend’s dad, so I learned, went to the same British school as the author, A.A. Milne. Hence a little more interest in Winnie.

Note 2:) Every now and then I think we can benefit from an obscure, kind and little story that is ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.

Note 3:) I thank you for opening this blog post and I wish you all a great first week of official summer. I hope to enjoy Friday the 21st,  the longest day of the year, outdoors and in a garden. Remember  Pooh’s advice: ” you’re braver than you believe and stronger and smarter than you think.”

Next Steps…part 2

So, here’s the thing. I have never once done something like walk a 1/2 Marathon, where I finish, and wish I hadn’t done it. I am satisfied after I do the walk. (walk is a synonym for any form of exercise) I am never disappointed with my time. My goal is simple – I want to finish.

And I am always awestruck by the supporters of these community race week-ends. Streets lined with people of all ages, cheering everyone along, plus  water stations; snacks; sprinklers; inspirational signage and live music.  And of course the hundreds of volunteers,  dozens of police, and the emergency medical assistant teams, without whom, no races would be walked or run. Money is raised for charity; confidence is raised in one’s own ability through training and execution; lives are changed through challenging one’s self to take a chance.

As a non athletic person I was introduced to the power of exerting oneself in the company of others, whether for a  community cause or for a  personal goal. The ripple effects go way beyond what I would have thought possible. People get fitter; depression often lessens; other new habits become easier to stick with; friendships are formed and stories become part of family and friend lore. “Remember when…”

Best of all, from my point of view, all are welcome in these races.

Every single age and body type. I used to assume that to take part in something like this you had to be a certain type. One introduction to a race weekend, and those ideas are soon vanquished. People in wheelchairs; people using walkers; people who are blind,  along with those who have other challenging conditions.  I almost forgot the relay teams. A chance to participate without doing the whole race yourself. It is as egalitarian as I have seen, with accommodations made to help anyone wanting to participate.

I am writing about this because all across small town North America, you will find shorter events that people can participate in. It isn’t just about these big weekends. Shorter events are common. Family walk/runs. Fund raisers that are active rather than traditional bake sales. The community improves when multi-generational people, get outside and participate in some event, and maybe have a picnic afterwards. Being outdoors and moving our bodies, even in the slow lane, improves almost everything.

Next Steps

So what’s next? Part of living well at any age is taking care of the basics. Moving our bodies and spending time with others is part of that. For me personally, the next steps are strength training and flexibility.  We all want to preserve our functional strength  –  the strength that helps us get through our daily lives and do what needs doing. As we age, it becomes vital and if we haven’t started we had best get going. Our bodies are so amazing, and although I have neglected my body for seven months, my body still wants to cooperate. Consequently I now want to lend a hand to my body.

Therefore, my new physical goal is to do what I can to improve my core strength. I found a set of basic exercises that I can begin doing three times a week. I upped my chances of success by agreeing to do them with a buddy. Despite the fact that we don’t live in the same city, we can report in to each other from the same page. It may be ideal to have a gym and a trainer but it isn’t always in the budget.

Why all this talk on exercise?

We are designed to move,  just like we need good food and water. We do not, however, need to be action figures or marathoners.  Moving our bodies helps pretty much everything that ails us. It can be as simple or as complicated as we choose. It can be gentle and slow; it can be fun and it feels great! Moving our bodies is good medicine. In general, the best exercise is the one you will do.  Don’t overlook it.

In sickness and in health and in all ages we need to do what we can to be strong and flexible. As a result, most conditions like cancer and heart disease do better with exercise. (Even a little bit.) Nevertheless, always talk to your physician first before exercising, especially, if you have been sedentary or you are living with a chronic condition.

Time slips through our fingers, and there is no sense regretting what we haven’t done. Start where you are is always the best policy.

Notes:

Note 1:) This past Sunday in Halifax, was near perfect weather. Yeah! That was a bonus.

Note 2:) Many thanks to my cousins Heather, Sonya and Barb. You are great sports, wonderful company and I am glad that we are related.

Note 3:) Don’t worry, this is the end of my exercise soap box for awhile. Although, I do want to slip in the great benefit of dancing, for those so inclined.

Note 4:) I love the notes and comments you kindly post and email. Always, I appreciate your showing up week after week. With appreciation and warm regards, Trudy