A Favourite Spot to Simply Sit and Be

 A Favourite Spot or Two

I can imagine that we all have our favourite spots. Probably a few. My current favourite is at the Arboretum in Ottawa. (yes, I am here again) There is a bit of a lookout where I can look across and down and see several different types of trees, water, a bridge, pathways with people walking, yet not too busy. Lots of green and the rustling of leaves. Bird song.  Not exactly a Vista but perhaps a small v vista.

In front of the stone wall, at my spot, is a stone bench that follows the curve of the wall and I like to sit there. This is where my worries vanish for a while and I can take the time to think my thoughts, feel the sun on my face and listen to the birds sing. I often get to smile at a child scrambling up the hill or call out “bravo,” to an older adult who impressively runs up. Nothing dramatic goes on there but I may listen to a bee buzz or lazily watch an ant at work, or spot a butterfly, or simply observe – notice the changing scene – always different each time I show up and slow down. I have no need to identify anything but I often have the need to photograph the scene, so I do that. I bask in that spot with no cares in the world.

Joseph Campbell

Campbell was one of the earlier proponents of having a special place and going there on a regular basis. A place where you allow yourself the privilege of simply enjoying your surroundings and having some daydreaming time. Outdoors in nature, is an obvious choice. However, it may also be a sunlit screened porch and a cozy chair at your cottage. A place where you can doze off and drift away for awhile. And sometimes when you “wake up,” so to speak, you have the answer to a quandary or a brand new idea – all without struggle.

Shinrin-yoku

The Japanese revere nature and in the 80’s they instituted something called Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing.  This was created to counteract the adverse effects of the tech boom.  Much has been written of the beneficial effects of time spent in the forest both physiological and psychological. Therefore, I included links in the notes to a couple of interesting articles. You don’t have to go to Japan to take advantage of this and you can make a point of taking a walk in your own forest, arboretum, or park, and take full advantage of the many benefits.

Something to think about:

  • Nature itself is the best physician. – Hippocrates
  • Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.  – Rachel Carson
  • I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.  – John Burroughs

Trees, flowers, water, sky, clouds, and stars are all part of what bring me joy. I suppose I sound like a broken record but I love the tune and never grow tired of it. And I am sure that all of you love nature too but sometimes even the things we love, we forget to spend time on.  So this is just a reminder, as I sing to the choir, not to miss the ever changing performance just outside our doors. It is good healing medicine for everything that ails us.

Notes

Note 1:)  There are hundreds of articles on Shinrin-yoku from universities, the NIH, National Geographic, NPR, you name it. If you go searching there will be no shortage of reputable articles. But I chose one from the Ontario Parks, because it was simple, accessible and contains all kinds of links for those looking for both the art and the science of the health benefits of nature.  Ontario Parks Service

Note 2:)  Here in Canada. we are nudging up closer to relative freedom as our vaccination rates soar and our infection rates take a deep dive. This is still a slow process but once again there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Note 3:)  Many thanks for stopping by and for all of your heartfelt comments last week. I am honoured to be here every Wednesday and to have you show up. With appreciation, warmest wishes and may you all enjoy your days. Trudy

Living a Long time

Two Interesting Articles

Last week I read two interesting articles on milestone Birthdays. The first one was written by Jane Brody, in the New York times, whom I have been reading off and on for 40 years.  She opened this latest article, A Birthday Milestone: Turning 80! with a question and an answer.

“The secret to a happy and vibrant old age?  Strive to do what you love for as long as you can do it.”

This fits with my experience. I often say that retirement is not part of my vocabulary. There are several reasons for that but the dominant one is that I love what I am doing. Writing my blog, facilitating webinars and programs for people living with illness and playing an influential role in my grandchildren’s lives gives my life meaning and purpose. Furthermore, I should mention, cycling, poetry, nature photography and learning new things. I am lucky to have several reasons to get up in the morning.

Here is the thing.

The work I do is not a job. It’s a way of life, and although I realize that I need to systematically reevaluate how much time I devote to my work I have no desire to give it up.

I love how Jane Brody, a columnist,  writes easily about “lost words and grammatical errors,” as she turns 80 this year. I notice the same lapses as I turn 75, but the difference is she has an editor who fixes her lapses  and mine go, imperfectly, out into the world. Yikes! Although in my webinars, when I forget a word, I invite my participants to call it out to me. They always know and generously get me back on track. I was delighted when I came to be emotionally relaxed about those dropped words and could easily ask for help. I simply see my brain as being filled to overflowing and on occasion it springs a leak.

An important part of living well and long is a gentle and realistic  acceptance of the things that may no longer be possible. Brody puts it this way: “If the vicissitudes of life or infirmities of age preclude a preferred activity, modify it or substitute another. I can no longer safely skate, ski or play tennis, but I can still bike, hike and swim. I consider daily physical activity to be as important as eating and sleeping. I accept no excuses. And as you can see I still write…”

Help Ourselves

Brody doesn’t mince words about how we can help ourselves have fewer lost words, fewer aches and pains, and fewer mobility issues by getting enough sleep, moving our body everyday, eating healthy food and not too much, and maintaining a strong and vital social life.  This is where my mind is going now –  the need to make time for these basics. We all know the value of the basics. It is not lack of information that is the problem rather it is lack of consistent action. Not for all, I’m sure.  I suspect that you are much better than me dear reader, but I am ready to turn over a new leaf once again.

Dr. Muriel Gillick

This brings me to the second article, by Dr.Muriel Gillick, a physician who specializes in the care of patients with advanced illness (palliative care) or advanced age (geriatrics), or both. She is also a professor at Harvard Medical School, writes a blog called Life In the End Zone, and she just turned 70. Coincidentally, she quotes Jane Brody this week too, and between the two articles I realized that it was time to re-evaluate my own lifestyle to make sure that I am doing my part. The main obstacle I face due to my work is that I spend alot of time sitting.

Gillick noticed a paragraph in Brody’s article that struck me:

Without regular exercise, she opines, “you can expect to experience a loss of muscle strength and endurance, coordination and balance, flexibility and mobility, bone strength and cardiovascular and respiratory function.”  Translated into geriatric lingo, what she is saying is that to preserve function, the ability to walk, to do errands, even to dress and bathe without help, regular exercise is important.

Of course just like saving money, Dr. Gillick states that much of this work needs to be started when we are young. Of course, when we were young we couldn’t  imagine mobility issues but my kids can. They prioritize exercise and sleep in ways that didn’t occur to me. I took false pride in how effective I could be without optimal sleep. No more, by the way. I know the toll it takes.

Milestone Birthdays

So like all of you, these milestone Birthdays remind us to take the time to question if we need to make some changes. One important point in Gillick’s blog post, which I concur with because I see it all the time is this:

The idea of successful aging has been the subject of both intense criticism and passionate enthusiasm. One problem is that we all want to lead a “good life,” but we may have very different ideas of what that looks like. Sometimes, what we think we need for a good life turns out not to be what we need at all: people who have a life-altering medical condition, whether Parkinson’s or osteoarthritis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may wish they hadn’t developed that disorder but find that they are nonetheless able to lead rich, enjoyable lives.

I follow up with the words of Dr. Art Frank from the University of Calgary:

The ill and impaired may, in the sense of fulfilling life, be far more free than healthy people. The healthy require health as an affirmation that their will is still effective and they must continually prove this effectiveness. The ill accept their vulnerability as an affirmation that the world is perfect without any exercise of their will, and this acceptance is their freedom…we are free only when we no longer require health, however much we may prefer it.”

I so appreciate this statement of Dr. Frank. Yes, I will do my part to remain healthy and mobile.  However, I will never believe for an instant that our lifestyle prevents or cures, in the way we can turn a light switch on and off. I have met far too many people who have done all the right things and still been struck down by an illness that is out of their control and absolutely not of their making.

However, when we have a reasonable lifestyle we do improve the quality of our everyday lives no matter our circumstances. And that is something worth doing.

The Good Life

So, we all get to make choices, when we are privileged to do so, and in the end I stick with what I see as the most important component of the “good life.” Our relationships. Here is our gold. No matter what happens, this is the secret to the well-lived life – taking care of our loved ones and allowing them to care for us. And expanding that caring in ever increasing circles. Sharing our sorrows and our joys.

PS Just the same, paying attention to the basics will always help us to do that.

Notes

Note 1:) Links for both articles I referenced. Jane Brody and Life In the End Zone

Note 2:) A wonderful version of Bob Dylan’s Blowin In the Wind by a French musician, Valentin Vander and 77 musician and singers around the world.  A gift for everyone impacted by Covid.

Note 3:) May you get to spend lots of time outdoors and immerse yourself in sunshine, bird song, blossoms and many shades of green. And please accept my thanks for dropping by once again. I appreciate you! Warmest wishes, Trudy

Musings on On a May Morning

The Beauty of May

In this wonderful month of May, I walk a few times a week. Through the Ornamental Gardens at the Experimental Farms,  the Dominion Arboretum and along the paths by Dow’s lake and the canal. All of this exists in the same area spread over multiple acres of sublime beauty. It is a feast for the senses.

Now I go early morning before the sun heats up the air, even though work projects call out my name.  Furthurmore, they call in a demanding voice, to “do this now;” I hesitate. But I have learned to override that voice. Now, I take advantage of the season, the temperature and the shortness of this sensational spring.

My adventure begins with the aroma from the lilacs. Dozens and dozens of varieties arranged on both sides of walking paths. Their fragrance and beauty in many shades of purples, pinks and white are a feast for my eyes. And if there is truth to aroma therapy, than I am bathed in their healing scent.

As I make my way through the garden I am surprised at the blossoms, which have opened in the one day since I last visited. Today it is the peonies. Their buds are fat and bursting at the seams. Some already made their brief appearance, and they blush with the rave reviews from passerby’s who enthusiastically praise their beauty.

The Arboretum

Crossing over Prince of Wales Drive, to the Arboretum, I make my way across the green dewy grass in this urban grove of trees. So many shades of green and so much variety. The coolness, as compared to the open garden soothes my spirits and the fragrance here is more earthy and fresh, punctuated with bird songs and trills.

I have a friend with me this morning and we gravitate towards a natural canopy providing shade and light. At that moment, I long to put a blanket on the ground, open a picnic basket for lunch and enjoy what feels like a summer day. Not only is it too early for a picnic lunch but I have none of the fixings so we enjoy it as it is before moving along.

I love hearing the birds even though I rarely catch a glimpse of the particular bird that is singing. This morning, however,  I caught a brief peak at a luminous orange wing in flight. A magical moment.

Just sitting and observing is a balm to my spirit, yet the restless mind wants more and soon the water beckons.  As we make our way down the hill and across two picturesque bridges to   wend our way back alongside the lake, I am smitten, once again.

How Brief

Tonight I look through the photos and see the impermanence, resilience, and surprise of nature. But  most of all the fleeting nature of everything alive. How brief is the tender blossom, yet the bud looks so robust.

People too. Everyone told me how quickly childhood flies by, but I didn’t fully understand until my grandchildren came along. How lucky I was and am to have a second chance at living fully in the moment and to appreciate each wondrous stage of their unfolding.

Nature is a good teacher and a good healer. It is possible to stop and  to look! to listen! to smell! to touch! The velvet of a petal, the rough or smooth bark of trees, the coolness of a running stream, the warmth of the sun on your face and the rush of a gentle breeze against the back of your neck.

Just What We Need

It’s all there. At our doorsteps. Cure is not always possible whether it is illness, loss, or one of our 83 other problems. But for those moments, in the beauty of nature, our hearts can soften, our creativity can get a boost and we can be grateful to be alive to witness these wonders.

Beyond your brisk cardio walk, I recommend a daily stroll through the trees and the flowers, across a field of dandelions, over bridges and see what happens. Take it slow and easy. Daydream. Listen. And if there is a full moon and the sky is clear it might just be worth staying up late to see it. Enjoy your precious life.

Notes

PS I forgot to tell you where that graphic came from last week, with the fox. It is a lovely small book that took the world by storm. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charley MacKesy

Note 1:) I wonder if you have a favourite walk where you live. You are welcome to tell us about it.

Note 2:) My big hope is that you are all well and managing the ups and downs of your lives. My other hope is that you don’t miss your unique and precious life. Carpe Diem!

Note 3:) Please accept my appreciation for visiting with me here every Wednesday. I thank you for your company. Warmest wishes always, Trudy

 

tulips

There is no Life Without suffering – yet…

We are creatures of community. Those individuals, societies, and cultures who learned to take care of each other, to love each other, and to nurture relationships with each other during the past several hundred thousand years were more likely to survive than those who did not. – Dr. Dean Ornish

There is no life without suffering

This could also be translated as: there is an absolute universality to suffering; there is no way for any human being, no matter how successful, no matter how wealthy, no matter how blithe of heart, to arrange circumstances such that they will be exempt from the emotional and physical hurts common to all people who have ever lived. This is a given: a foundational reality.” David Whyte

The tricky part of any suffering is that we often think that it shouldn’t happen to me. And then of course we have “piggy-back” suffering. Suffering on top of suffering. Unless we come to the understanding that we too are not exempt, and can let go of the why’s and the why me, and the unfairness, we will suffer more.

Please don’t misunderstand.

This does not imply a passive stance nor do we lie down and give up. It is the acknowledgement of the numerous problems, large and small that we will contend with during our lifetime. And, we turn over every stone and knock on every door to solve the problem and get back on track. I have no idea whether there is deep meaning in suffering. I do know there is deep meaning in living, and suffering is included.

And that’s not all. What is also included is laughter, love, accomplishment, joy, friendship, family in a variety of combinations, coincidences, learning new things, stories, memories, seeing the sunset, hearing not just the first bird song of the day but all of them,  spotting the first crocus or bud or blade of grass…resting, walking, eating, saying hello and good-bye, contributing, comforting…The meaning is in noticing it all, nothing excluded; giving and receiving; doing our bit. Life is a precious gift, each and every moment.  And suffering, disappointment, and loss is included.

As for me, I continue to want more of these living, breathing days.

Notes

Note 1:)  Let us grapple with the challenges that come our way. Ask for help when you need it.

Note 2:) The cheerful Couch Choir from Australia. “With 3222 singing strangers from 48 countries  sharing their voices and a slice of their lives with us.Happy Together – listen here

Note 3:) May you have a wonderful week and I thank you for stopping by here to read my blog. Warmest greetings and appreciation, Trudy

PS I forgot to tell you where that graphic came from. It is a lovely small book that took the world by storm. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

 

How to Help and Be Helped

This is a reprint from a blog post I wrote three years ago. I have been thinking about this as there are always people in need of help, and others who need and want to help. A book that stands out for me is one by Darlene Cohen called, Turning Suffering Inside Out: A Zen Approach for Living with Physical and Emotional Pain. She describes her experience of being helped when she was very ill and required help with absolutely everything.

Being Helped

I found it draining to be helped by people whom I constantly had to reassure that they were doing enough, doing things the right way, seeing me often enough…How refreshing and soothing it was to be tended to by people who were able to approach me directly, without ideas about what they were doing for me… The two approaches produced a dramatically different impact on my energy level. …if you are suffering, the important relationships to you now are those that support the part of you that is vulnerable but struggling to deal realistically with a difficult situation… Now, you need people who are ready to support the aspect of you that must face catastrophe with courage and truth.

Don’t be afraid that you appear too needy to such friends. When you settle into your true grief, you are not wearing on people in the way that people are before they face their suffering…you are encouraging and inspiring to your friends. This is not the stiff upper lip behavior of the denier; this is grief and tears and agony, but it’s real. This difference is palpable to those who wish to comfort you.

Darlene Cohen makes me think of my experiences of helping and being helped and how confusing it all can seem. I recall my oncologist looking at me and saying, “Trudy this is not the time to be a stoic. I need you to ask for help, as soon as you need it. That is the best way for me to help you.”

Yet, as time went on, I found it hard to receive the help on offer. It was embarrassing. I wanted to continue to rise to every occasion and brush off the need for help. It still isn’t straight forward. Who wants to appear needy? This is a fear not just when we are ill but as we age.

Reading this book has been a nudge in two ways:

  • Seeing how important it is to be authentic, honest, present and vulnerable when I am in need of help.
  • When I offer help, seeing how important it is to be authentic, honest, present and vulnerable.

Not knowing is ok. Showing up wholeheartedly for whatever is going on is energizing even when it is exhausting. When I am the one helping I do not ever want it to be “a favour,” nor do I want to insist on “proper” expressions of appreciation. As a human these are slippery slopes. The gift of help needs to be a real gift in order for it not to become one more transaction.

We can’t do it alone in life and there is no need to do so. We are here to help and to be helped, don’t you think? This doesn’t imply that we can help everyone nor can everyone help us. But it does imply we do what we can with what we know, under our particular circumstances.

And even when we don’t get it right, in either capacity, we still have no reason to throw in the towel. Cohen’s book is a testament to the human spirit and a nudge to fully accept our capacity to keep on learning how to care for ourselves and each other.

We show up for each other, wholeheartedly, and we learn on the job by paying attention, as we live our lives.

Notes

Note 1:) Sadly, Darlene Cohen died in 2011 from cancer.  Her devotion to people living with chronic illness and her four books are a significant part of her legacy. I am grateful to meet her through her words. Another title for the book I referenced is Finding a Joyful Life in the Heart of Pain

Note 2:) When we need help and when we are helping it’s best to keep our expectations in check. It is easy to expect too much, in both directions. I think good enough is really good enough. It doesn’t represent carelessness. None of us is in top form all the time. Perfection is a myth and can be a serious hindrance to even trying. Let’s strive for being real and doing the best we can at that moment in time with what we know. And let’s accept the help we receive in the same light.

Note 3:) One other word about help. Let’s be thoughtful who we ask for help. Are they capable of doing what we need? Will we feel drained or nourished by their presence? Not everyone we love is able to fill everyone of our needs. Expectations again. Let’s have realistic ones about who we ask and what we ask for, and what we ourselves say yes too. It’s ok to decline a specific invitation to help but to suggest something else we can do instead. 

Note4:) The photos are from my walk this week, in my neighbourhood. May is such a beautiful month, and I hope you get to enjoy it. Thank you for showing up here and reading my blog. Warmest wishes, Trudy

 

Forget Me Nots and Blessings

I love a path like this one. I immediately want to follow it to see where it takes me.  My friend Karen took this photo in her garden, over a decade ago. She said in her email, “This particular pathway is meant to slow you down, carefully putting one foot in front of the other, leading to a beautiful place, a place of rest.”  This is good advice anytime.

Another dear friend Patricia sent me a copy of John O’Donohue’s Beannacht, around that same time. Bennacht is a Gaelic word meaning Blessing. I recommend that you listen to O’Donohue recite it, with his beautiful Gaelic accent. Music to my ears.

Bennacht

Tonight I am thinking of my dear friend Helga, whose spouse died three days ago. She is on the other side of the continent but this “Blessing” is not hampered by time or space.

“Our challenge is not to choose between the fragility and strength of life but to cultivate our wonder by holding both in our heart.” by Mark Nepo

Notes

Note: 1) The blue forget me nots appeared in the garden yesterday and conjured up all kinds of fond childhood memories of my Mother and sister.

Note: 2) For any of you dealing with cancer there is an interesting webinar Thursday night with Dr. Rob Rutledge, Radiation Oncologist and Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University and Dr. Bernie Siegel, retired professor of surgery at Yale and the founder of Exceptional Cancer Patients. This will be an informative evening with two delightful presenters. It is 7:00 PM Eastern Time. (double check) The cost is $20.00 but anyone can register gratis if need be. Link to information and registration.

Note: 3) I am grateful to all my readers, for your continual show of support by stopping by here on Wednesday. There are many, many wonderful things to read in this digital age, and it all takes time. I appreciate the time and your kindness that you give to me. Warmest wishes to you and yours, Trudy

POEM

Beannacht
(“Blessing”)

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O’Donohue ~From Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

 

Languishing – an Old Fashioned Word

There is a name for the blah

This week an article in the New York Times caught my eye. There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing and it was penned by Adam Grant, author of several best sellers and  Wharton’s top-rated professor for 7 straight years. As an organizational psychologist, he is a leading expert on how we can find motivation and meaning, and live more generous and creative lives. He began noticing how he, along with friends and colleagues, were finding it difficult to concentrate, and some complained of fuzzy brain. Their spark had somewhat dimmed.

“It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing. Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021. As scientists and physicians work to treat and cure the physical symptoms of long-haul Covid, many people are struggling with the emotional long-haul of the pandemic.”

I think languish is an entirely appropriate word to describe these times. I look around and see lives on hold, the bounce gone from their step, and although manageable, still, some anticipatory angst as to what’s around the corner. Grant suggests a few helpful tips that can be helpful should you find yourself living at a lower light. This is the one I liked.

Focus on a small goal

The pandemic was a big loss. To transcend languishing, try starting with small wins, like the tiny triumph of figuring out a whodunit or the rush of playing a seven-letter word. One of the clearest paths to flow (see below) is a just-manageable difficulty: a challenge that stretches your skills and heightens your resolve. That means carving out daily time to focus on a challenge that matters to you — an interesting project, a worthwhile goal, a meaningful conversation. Sometimes it’s a small step toward rediscovering some of the energy and enthusiasm that you’ve missed during all these months.

I love “just-manageable difficulty” and I will try it myself and let you know my experience. I am not languishing this week but I certainly have had days when the description fits me.

As for flow:

it is that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away. During the early days of the pandemic, the best predictor of well-being wasn’t optimism or mindfulness — it was flow. People who became more immersed in their projects managed to avoid languishing and maintained their prepandemic happiness.

I find flow when I am immersed in something I love doing. It can be making slide shows with my photos; riding my bike in a beautiful and scenic area; listening to certain music; weeding in the garden; researching information, sometimes writing and many times reading. And always doing my Wellspring Webinars.

Notes

Note 1:) Thank you Adam Grant. Here is the link to the article.  Sadly you may not be able to access it if you aren’t a subscriber of the NY Times.

Note 2:) We had a spring snow today. This might be a relative of a soft day in Ireland when it is grey and drizzly. They sound rather poetic, but…yet, these photos were taken on Sunday on one of my favourite walks at Dow’s Lake in Ottawa. Sometimes this and sometimes that.

Note 3:) Many thanks for coming by. I appreciate you and I hope you stay safe and find some flow in a “just manageable difficulty.” See you next week. Warmest wishes, Trudy

Teahouse Practice

Teahouse practice

Teahouse practice means that you don’t explicitly talk about Zen. (or any other spiritual practice) It refers to leading your life as if you were an old woman who has a teahouse on the side of the road. Nobody knows why they like to go there; they just feel good drinking her tea. She’s not known as a Buddhist teacher, she doesn’t say, “This is the Zen teahouse.” All she does is simply serve tea – but still, her decades of attentiveness are part of the way she does it. No one knows about her faithful attention to the practice, it’s just there, in the serving of the tea and the way she cleans the counters and washes the cups.  (Excerpted from an interview with the poet Jane Hirschfield, and Bill Moyers.)

From the time I first read this interview, many years ago, it has stayed with me. I suppose because I wish I were more like that and I’m not, and because when I meet that rare person who is like this I am so deeply touched and enlivened by their presence.

Remembering my Mother on Her Birthday

Yesterday was my Mother’s 101st birth date and I hosted a zoom gathering for my extended family, in her memory. I put together a slideshow of memories including our 13 days together last July, before her death. As I looked around at all the zoom windows I felt my Mother’s spirit in all those loving faces.  Her qualities of  acceptance, appreciation, kindness, good humour, forward motion, and  wholehearted love for the world, her family and friends, kind of made her irresistible. Rather like the old woman who served tea by the side of the road, we all liked to just hang out with her. It is a beautiful legacy.

I miss her and I see her everywhere.

Here are two tiny poems for Poetry month and I dedicate these to my one-in-a-million Mother.

Separation by W.S. Merwin

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

The Window by Rumi

Your body is away from me
but there is a window open
from my heart to yours.

From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.

 Notes

1:) It is worth the effort to create family gatherings. We need each other and in the end our friends and family are truly what matter the most.

2:) “Love is the answer to most of the questions in our life.” Jack Johnson. Listen to the song here – Better Together

3:) Thank you for stopping by once again. Warmest and best wishes to you all, Trudy

 

The Important Concept of Yutori

This morning I began a new plan, or rather, I have revived an old plan. As soon as I dropped my grandson off at school I went directly to Dow’s Lake for an attention walk. This walk is not  to get my heart rate up but rather to  lift up my spirits. Although heart related, it is a measurement of a different kind. This practice requires slow walking, awareness, and my camera. What a beautiful 40 minutes I spent walking by the cattails, listening to the red-winged blackbirds and sinking into the wonder of nature.

Stopping to take a photo at whatever caught my eye or simply to listen to the feathered choir and notice the graceful draping leaves of the weeping willows bursting forth all along the lake shore of my stroll transported me for a time.  The short 40 minute journey highlighted how easy it is to involve ourselves in beauty and how easy it is to miss out. Not, just with this unfolding of spring but so many other aspects of our life too. We need to take the time and use our attention if we want to activate our senses to the life around us.

On Being Project

There is a concept, brand new to me that I also discovered today. The Japanese word is Yutori. One of my most favorite poets,  Naomi Shihab Nye, discussed it on an  interview with Krista Tippet  and the  On Being Project. (link in the notes) Naomi  tells how she encountered this word.

I just came back from Japan a month ago, and in every classroom, I would just write on the board, “You are living in a poem.” And then I would write other things just relating to whatever we were doing in that class. But I found the students very intrigued by discussing that. “What do you mean, we’re living in a poem?” Or, “When? All the time, or just when someone talks about poetry?” And I’d say, “No, when you think, when you’re in a very quiet place, when you’re remembering, when you’re savoring an image, when you’re allowing your mind calmly to leap from one thought to another, that’s a poem. That’s what a poem does.”

And they liked that. And a girl, in fact, wrote me a note in Yokohama on the day that I was leaving her school that has come to be the most significant note any student has written me in years. She said, “Well, here in Japan, we have a concept called yutori.” And it is spaciousness. It’s a kind of living with spaciousness. For example, it’s leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around. Or — and then she gave all these different definitions of what yutori was to her. But one of them was… and after you read a poem just knowing you can hold it, you can be in that space of the poem. And it can hold you in its space. And you don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently. And I just love that. I mean, I think that’s what I’ve been trying to say all these years.

Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of numerous poetry books, including Famous (Wings Press, 2015). Excerpted from interview

Yutori

I encountered this word, after I came back from my walk. I then tracked it down in several places and understood that it accurately explained my outing this morning. It was the conscious slow down to allow me to savour the world around me. The refusal to rush. No talking. The stirring of what I love and have been missing for too long. I simply stepped into absorption with nature and with no agenda except to see. Spaciousness opened up.

I can imagine that all of you have had  experiences of spaciousness. It is easy for me to imagine how it  happens with a poem, music, and other meaningful moments. Yet this snippet from the interview hints at the many more opportunities we have to savour our everyday.

There is a spot on my walk, where I will take a photo each day to see spring unfold. Slow time is underrated. I picture the bridge as the path to slow and spacious time. Just like the young Japanese girl intimated. You don’t arrive early by going fast; you leave early to arrive early.

Notes

Note 1:)Here is the podcast and transcript to the interview for those who are interested.

Note 2:) An angle on the bridge – April 7th, 2021

 

 

 

 

Note 3:) Thank you all, for reading last week’s blog and sending me comments and emails. I was touched by all of them. I appreciate each and everyone of you and send all my best wishes that you stay safe and resourceful through this next challenging phase of the pandemic. More importantly, “may you take time to notice that you are living in a poem.” Warmly, Trudy

PS I took the banner photo this morning too. It is the small pond in the marsh.

Disenfranchised Losses

Last evening I met with two friends on Zoom to catch up. All three of us had lots to say about many things but as so often happens now, we spoke of Covid, vaccines and with caution – some of the disenfranchised losses that we  experienced due to the virus and its varients.  According to Kenneth J Doka,  a grief expert, disenfranchised grief is made up of the disappointments and losses that are hard to acknowledge, when worse things are happening to others.

It could be things like: a missed graduation or a 100th Birthday party; no more sports for our teenagers; not getting to see our grandchildren or the once in a lifetime trip cancelled. There are other things like not being able to help a dear friend who is ill or a parent who died in long term care without us.  And so much more. The slippery slope happens when we look around and see the truly heartbreaking loss experienced by some of our friends and family, and we feel like we have no right to complain. It is a bit like the conundrum between caregivers and the person they are caring for. The caregiver often feels like they can’t complain because X has cancer or some other serious illness.

This is why we must avoid unnecessary comparisons of all kinds.  When we compare  pain, loss, treatments, disease, or wealth and status…there is no end to it. The bottom line is, we all have sorrows and joys in our lives and we meet them where we are, with who we are, and with what we know. We get to acknowledge our own suffering, without the requirement of fitting it into a graph.

Sometimes We Need to Wallow

For instance, my teenage granddaughter was grumpy, miserable and very discouraged this week. With all the bad news of going into a full blown lock down once again and schools closing, she was fed up.  Her parents weren’t thrilled with her attitude, but on second thought they got it, when she said, “don’t you see, I just need to wallow for awhile.” It reminded me of when she was a little girl and had a little pink cloth that she held whenever she was sad. She once said to an older cousin who babysat her, “I know you don’t want me to cry but I need to cry for awhile.” A few minutes later she said, “I’m done now,” and hopped down from her chair and started playing.

There are times when we all need a pink cloth and a little wallowing time. We don’t need to worry that we are turning into the whiner or complainer. We are simply acknowledging that life currently feels the pits. Be careful of the expression, “at least.” I don’t find it helpful and it risks being dismissive of the person who is suffering. That person might even be you.  We are allowed our own wallowing time, and when we are ready, we get back up and move along, with an awareness that we also have things to appreciate.

We All Need Dreams

One of my friends suggested that when we go through difficult times we all need to have something to look forward to. She thanks her visa card with every purchase, because she is accumulating points to fly out west in August, to see her beloved family. Her visa card now brings her joy because she thinks ahead to that trip. Of course, the trip may be cancelled because of Covid.  Still, she has the joy of planning it now.

While  firmly planted in the present, it is  good to have some dreams. Something to plan. Something to work towards, especially when the situation we find ourselves in can be discouraging.  We mostly do our best to recognize the privileges we have, and when the time comes where we need to wallow for a bit, we meet that unwanted guest at the door and allow the visit. It won’t be permanent. We were made to handle this universality of loss. It comes right along with all the love, joy, meaning, purpose and adventures of a full life. Never forget that we have what it takes and we have each other, whoever those beautiful others are in your life.

Notes

Note 1:) “When sad cry; walk; read; reach out to others; help others; and don’t forget humour” Jim Button

Note 2:) I send spring greetings to you all: stay safe, enjoy the unfolding of spring and find ways to enjoy each other’s company, whether together or apart.

Note 3:) Thank you for coming by. It will be April when we meet again. Warmest wishes, Trudy