Follow the Trail of Yes

I borrowed my title from Tricycle’s Daily Dharma

– short synopsis emails that show up every day in my inbox. I always end up reading the ones where the title captures my attention. A couple of days ago the title was Saying Yes Wholeheartedly and when I clicked to read the article, a different title, Follow the Yes Trail, grabbed my attention even more.

The article made me think of one of my favourite words, ikigai.  It reminded me of how powerful and delightful ikigai is when we give it time and attention.

Reflect on these questions, especially as they relate to your everyday, ordinary life.

  • what grabs your attention?
  • makes you feel most alive?
  • lifts your spirits?
  • gives you energy?
  • provides solace?
  • brings a smile to your face?
  • spontaneous joy?
  • and meaningful moments

Oh yes:

What do you have that is more than you need? For me, it is books and pens and beautiful paper. This tells us something about ourselves.

And what about the people in our lives? Who do you love? Who are your kindred spirits? What do you love about your family and friends? We don’t need to pretend they have no flaws, rather, for now, just focus our attention on the things you like about them. The ways they have helped you and supported you. The quirks of personality that make you laugh. A look perhaps. an endearing habit. It is amazing how we can take our liking for granted and our criticisms too. And it is easy to complain about what our spouse or teenager or neighbour isn’t doing and forget why we like them.

Of the things you love and the people you love what do you miss out on because you are too busy? Can this change?

In our culture we often co-exist with overwhelm and we forget what it feels like to wholeheartedly dive into the moment where pleasure, joy, and delight can spontaneously arise. If we allow the time.

I love this line of thinking in the Tricycle article:

If you have a new idea you want to express, just do it. What is holding you back? We may think: it might not work. I might mess up. Don’t follow those voices. Just do it. Start right away. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you. If something works, great! If not, that’s fine too. It’s much more fun to live life joyfully than to always be afraid that something may not work.Things don’t always have to turn out the way you planned…just say YES!..follow the trail of yes…

(this next bit resonated with me)

…I don’t want to be the obstacle to what life is offering me. I say, Let’s do it!..don’t dwell on what didn’t happen, or what could have happened but didn’t…Take the leap and say yes!

(excerpted from Spontaneous Creativity by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche)

And you all know that there are times to say NO. Important times. We aren’t talking about formulas here. Just ideas. Things to try and see what happens. And today I loved thinking about the exuberance of Tenzin Rinpoche. It is springtime and the season of exuberance.


1:) I have a Billy Collins poem because it is spring and because April is International Poetry Month. The title is linked to the source.


If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze
that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house
and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,
a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies
seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking
a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,
releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage
so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting
into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day
2:) And for a wonderful experience I suggest the collaboration with the AUSLAND Couch Choir. AUSLAND is the acronym for Australian sign language. Please watch through to the end. When it goes silent, nothing is broken. That is how it is meant to be.  You Are the Voice

3:) Be friendly to yourselves and enjoy the spring. With my heartfelt thanks for showing up here, Trudy


Life Is Not a Bowl of Cherries

Not So Easy

When we are born we all have a few things in common that are tough: we will all grow old, (if we’re lucky) we will all have experience with illness; we will all suffer disappointment and loss and we will all die. Sound gloomy? I wonder what gave us moderns the idea that life should be free from pain and suffering. Our expectations that those “things” shouldn’t happen create the piggyback suffering we so want to avoid.   Suffering on top of suffering. I am no exception.

Of course, when we are holding all the aces it is easy to be philosophical but when the rug starts to move under our feet and we experience the death of a loved one,  scary symptoms,  a harsh word, or any other unpleasant event, it can be hard to rally. There is no off-and-on switch to fix things.

Still, at the entrance to Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron’s monastery, on Cape Breton Island, is a sign that reads:

“Enjoy Your Life.”

Pema, like all of us, knows that life isn’t a bowl of cherries. It can be unfair – sometimes in our favour and sometimes not. However, when we show up for our life with a curious mind, wondering what might happen today, we get to experience more possibilities, within the mundane, to appreciate the joy of being alive, helping others, and being present with those we love. Even when they are not perfect.

And we all have days more difficult than others. We do better when we learn to co-exist with those days, doing what we can to mitigate difficult circumstances, while not wasting our energy fretting over the “why me” or it’s not fair.” Better to conserve our energy for what brings meaning and joy to our days. Delighting in the company of those whom we love, taking steps towards important purposes in our lives, and offering a kind word to boost another’s spirits, can be a great antidote to distress.

Like today, for me.

For the first time in a very long time my book group met in person. It was a joyful reunion with non stop chatter, laughter, smiles and joyful moments. No matter the other worries or fears that weighed us down, we had a reprieve for a few hours in the company of friends, together at the same table. Amazing!

Many of you are carrying a terrible burden and my heart goes out to you. Life can grind us down. But let’s keep retraining our eyes and hearts and brains to find the light that falls through the cracks. It’s worth it. Getting outdoors every day can be a life saver. And on the days that you just can’t do another thing, give yourself a break from constant striving. Eat chocolate and watch funny movies. Don’t be mean to yourselves. OK. Guilt-free restfulness. Moodling time is good for us.

Here are a few things to listen to and watch.

Laughter and Tears Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock performs Katy Perry’s Roar

A blessing for you today by John O’Donohue  Beannacht

And a song –  Better Together by Jack Johnson and Friends This recording is not the best one but I enjoy seeing the sweet faces of the singers in this video. And I love the song.


1:)The Role of Ikigai in Living Fully with Illness

Ikigai is a Japanese word that means something like, “a reason to get up in the morning.”  What lifts your spirits? What gives your life meaning? In Japan, Ikigai is an attribute of longevity. I consider it an attribute of living well with illness. Ikigai is not positive thinking rather it is about purpose. What are things you consider important to do, and love to do? Nothing changes without action. Ikigai is about taking action- small steps- everyday that allow you to flourish under all circumstances.

2:) My heartiest thanks for continuing to show up week after week. Thank you.


The Best Kind of Fever- Spring Fever


When all the world appears to be in a tumult, and nature itself is feeling the assault of climate change, the seasons retain their essential rhythm. Yes, fall gives us a premonition of winter, but then, winter, will be forced to relent, once again, to the new beginnings of soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of spring. – Madeleine M. Kunin Swiss-born American diplomat, author and politician.  She was Vermont’s first and, to date, only female governor as well as the first Jewish governor of Vermont.  Kunin is currently a James Marsh Professor-at-Large at the University of Vermont at 88. She is the recipient of more than 20 honorary degrees.

Once again, spring has returned.

No matter what happens now, even the ice rain predicted for tonight, can’t derail spring. I received a weather warning on my phone, yet, as I look out my window the tops of bare trees are swaying in the wind and bathed in sunlight. The ice rain will probably happen but it won’t linger.

This is a natural time to start making plans, tentative perhaps, but there is joy in the possibilities. All of a sudden I want to go walking, biking, organizing, and making some other lifestyle modifications. Items that have lingered on my desk are getting out the door. Clothes I no longer wear are bound for an organization that will give them new life. I need less willpower now to get things done. I think of it as the growth mindset of spring. A bit like road cyclists can take advantage of riding in the “draft” of the person in the lead. Our mind/bodies start to flourish as we gravitate towards the light and warmth of the sun. A time for new adventures.

Everything seems possible.

Curiosity stirs and I have been on the search for interesting, kind, and thoughtful people and events, a little off the grid.

Today I discovered Pianist Ruth Slenczynska, who at 97 has released a new album on Decca. She had a horrific childhood, in fact “no childhood,” and she survived. “Take whatever is given your way, find what’s best in it,” she counsels. “Enjoy. Try to make somebody else’s day, they’ll give it back to you tenfold.”  She also said this about her career. ” You don’t become a pianist until you’re past the age of 60,” she states with blunt certainty. “And then you should have something to say that’s worthwhile. If you don’t forget it.” (a sense of humour too)

Right now, I think  we all can use more joy, celebrations, tolerance  and kindness in our lives. At the same time we can step up and take more risks. Of course, when we do that (take more risks) we will have failures. The good news is that we become the people who know how to get back up. We cultivate resilience. We don’t just celebrate success. We celebrate starting again, just like spring, we hear the call to get out there and bloom away.


1:) Pianist Ruth Slenczynska – Article and link to her music on NPR

2:) TREES: For readers who like trees, both the beauty and the science, I have three items today,  all with a common thread – the brilliant Dr. Suzanne Simard from UBC.

3:) An amazing story about bees. “When we think of bee nests, we often think of a giant hive, buzzing with social activity, worker bees and honey. But scientists recently discovered a rare, solitary type of bee that makes tiny nests by plastering together flower petals.” NPR

NPR – Busy bees uses flowers for nests
A second preview of these beautiful nests from one of the great granddaughters of the Woolworth family.Click here.

4:) If you think I am trying to give us a break from the news you are right. Every now and then I find it helpful to explore something a little different, especially when we are going through difficult times.  And I turn to poetry,  music and nature. Nature is a constant and wonderful healer of body, mind and spirit. Thanks to Emma Rooney for being a continual source of inspiration.

5:) I wish you all a blooming springtime. It’s a chance to use your senses to take it all in and sink into the beauty. An opportunity everyday for awe and wonder. Thank you for being here and taking  time to read these musings. Warmest and best wishes, Trudy



Scattering Seeds…

This evening is the end of a good day. It began with a reminder from one of my readers about the 2nd anniversary of a special meditation class I previously attended. The timing is such that I am no longer able to participate, but by chance, today I could. It was a gentle and joyful experience and restimulated my original attraction to this group.

Reminders of heartfulness were popping up in several corners. Wendell Berry’s poem The Peace of Wild Things is a favorite and I have used it here a few times. However, today, at the Forest Bathing Studio, Emma played this short video created by the On Being program and featuring Wendell Berry reciting his poem in an animated backdrop. I found it delightful.

The Peace of Wild Things

It was comforting to be outside and to notice and feel the warmth of the sun and listen to the ice melting. Sparkles everywhere lifted my spirits and I was inspired by a profound James Crews poem, featured on my friend Janice’s website.

Heart Poems

I suggest you click the link on Heart Poems so you can see the commentary. You won’t be disappointed.

Losing Heart by James Crews

It’s not like misplacing the car keys

or forgetting your mother’s address.

You know it’s impossible to actually lose

the heart working so hard in the chest,

resting for only the slimmest of instants

between beats. Yet you wake some days

patting empty pockets, digging through

every drawer in the house, searching

under the bed and couch. In the space

of a night, the hope that burned bright—

flowing like a medicine in your veins—

can drain from the body, leaving you

bereft in bed and getting up only

to bathe yourself in the sickly light

of the fridge, the glow of screens.

Yet you can trust that the heart never

goes far, never abandons you for longer

than you can handle. You might be

driving to work one stormy morning,

scowling at every car that passes you

when it happens again—that sudden

leap in the chest as you see the rain-

slick blacktop shining blue in places

where it gives back the sky, and then

you’re anchored again in that faithful

rhythm by which you love the world.

Spreading Seeds

Today I am simply scattering seeds on this page. True, mostly poetry, but look below and see the luscious spring flowers from Gabriola Island, and also what May Sarton has to say about idleness, or what I prefer to call restfulness or moodling time.


Importance of rest:
“I always forget how important empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. A day when one has not pushed oneself to the limit may seem a damaged, damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room.” May Sarton,   Journal of a Solitude


1:) I invite you to look for flashes of beauty this week. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe suggests: “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

2:) It is shocking to me that I have encouraged my Ottawa family to get my granddaughter Sophie a dog. I know nothing about dogs and I didn’t want a dog but here I am, looking forward to meeting Sasha, in April. She is a  medium Australiandoodle and will be about 40 pounds, for all you dog people. Looks like a great companion for Sophie and I suspect a wonderful asset for the entire family. In fact, we are all excited now.

3:) Speaking of dogs, I am now blushing thinking of what I am about to post. A short video called So God Made a Dog. This is thanks to my friend Nancy who is a dog lover and who has a beautiful dog, Levy, whom I grew attached to in spite of myself. Enough already. That’s it. No more talk of dogs on this blog.With the exception of the video. haha So God Made a Dog

4:) Thinking of you all, wherever you are, and sending all my best wishes, hopes, and love across the miles. Thank you for coming by here and for all your lovely emails and comments. Warmly, Trudy

5:) The banner photo is from a small tropical greenhouse I recently discovered in Ottawa and the pink flowers are Japanese double cherry blossoms, from Gottfried on Gabriola.

6:) Links for Ikigai and Illness print copy.

Glimpses of Spring

What I noticed today:

  • The early morning light
  • The dripping sound of icicles melting outside my study window
  • Birds chirping
  • Dirty snow banks are no longer being cleared
  • Lots of water at the intersections
  • Potholes on residential streets
  • Interesting trees
  • Sunset is now 6:00 EST
  • The sun is beginning to work again…
  • A clean car after a head light replacement thanks to Toyota

What I look forward to this month

  • Daylight saving time March 13th  (I understand not everyone is excited to lose that hour of sleep but I LOVE it)
  • The first day of spring on the 20th this year
  • Wellspring Calgary Fridays
  • TD Institute Creativity Cafe
  • Open studio  Saturdays (sketching, painting, doodling in the company of a few others)
  • Study Group Sundays
  • Two writing projects and one video
  • Time with my family and friends in person and online
  • Taking more photos (less cold)


  • Spotting the first tiny sprouts on the sunny sides of the street
  • Receiving a new poem
  • Meeting the family’s new puppy
  • Making plans to see loved ones this summer
  • Walks with friends (depends on the slippery factor)
  • Completing my taxes by March 31st one month early
  • A little more time for making things
  • Removing my winter tires (far fetched)
  • A train ride to Montreal (dreaming)
  • Swimming twice a week (realistic and 100 % up to me)

When the world is in chaos it is a good time to pay more attention to our surroundings and the small things in our daily life.

A number of years ago, in March,  a lovely woman of my acquaintance, who also loves poetry, sent me a poem written by Ted Hooser, while he was recovering from cancer. This poem is from his collection Winter Morning Walks: one hundred postcards to Jim Harrison.


Gusty and warm – Thank-you Ted Hooser

I saw the season’s first bluebird
this morning, one month ahead
of its scheduled arrival. Lucky I am
to go off to my cancer appointment
having been given a bluebird, and,
for a lifetime, having been given
this world.


1:) Many people are in despair right now, if not for themselves, for their loved ones. There is so much that we can’t do because it is totally out of our control. But there are small things we can do so let’s do that. I just heard on CBC radio this evening that an ice cream shop in Calgary raised over $100,000 for the Ukraine relief fund in one day. An ice cream cone for all these people and in winter. Amazing!! A good news story as reported on CTV

2:) I also hold in my heart the 13,ooo plus Russian people who are in jail for speaking out in protest against the war. And they may never get out. May peace come soon.

3:) Take nothing for granted. Every breath is a gift.

4:) I invite you to take note of three specific things in nature every single day that catch your eye (eventually, go beyond the obvious) and jot them down. An experiment.

5:) With the deepest gratitude for stopping by here once again. All my best wishes to you and yours. Take heart. Warmly, Trudy

6:) Links for Ikigai and Illness print copy. I was chastised last week for no links. :-))

In Times of Trouble

“For centuries, leaders throughout the world have turned to poetry for solace and for a call to action. Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who was jailed 27 years for his activism and in 1994 became President of South Africa, regularly recited the poem Invictus during his imprisonment. Invictus, meaning unconquerable or undefeated in Latin, was written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley.”

I, like many people all around the world, am shaken by the events in Ukraine. Inspired by their unconquerable spirits, I am dedicating this poem to President Zelenskyy and all the people of Ukraine during this reign of terror. And to all my readers who have family and friends in the Ukraine. May peace come!

Invictus by English poet William Ernest Henley (U of North Carolina)

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.


What Do We Do

There is little that most of us can do about this situation in Ukraine. Yet, it is encouraging that so much of the world seems to care. Although we can do little, we can take care of our immediate surroundings. We can intentionally be kind, extra kind, to everyone we meet. It takes effort to create an oasis of calm, in our immediate lives, but it seems to me we can and need to do this.  A bouquet of tulips for the table, daily walks in nature, listening to music or reading a book. A TV news fast can be helpful and making a donation. Being fully aware of who we are with. And creating occasions for laughter. Laughter and singing, friends and families and neighbours, is a time worn antidote for getting through anxious times.

I’m not talking about happiness here. Rather, I am thinking about life and humanity and how it has always been. The full catastrophe that comes with being born. The crowd of sorrows and the outpouring of love. And the pure chance of where we were born.

Treasure those who are here

Several years ago an old friend had two people he love die in a short period of time. I asked him how he was managing and he told me this. “I have used this loss to become fully aware of how a life can come to an end in an instant. And how I grieve my losses is by treasuring, even more, the ones who are still alive. I now know that I will lose them too, at an undisclosed time. I no longer take my own life or the lives of my loved ones for granted.”

The paradox of not liking, and feeling helpless with what is going on in the world, yet also loving and managing the daily life we have been given. Responding to the needs of our own situations as best we can. It is a mystery – a koan – our life’s work. There are things that only each of us can do.

Thich Nhat Hanh, wrote: Be the Calm One on the Boat- When the crowded refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked, all would be lost. But if even one person stayed calm, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive. It seems to me that President Zelenskyy is that person in Ukraine. A deep bow.



1:) Sunflowers are Ukraine’s national flower. I took the ones here in Ottawa at the Experimental Farm.

2:) My son-in-law’s Mother, Barrie,  captured this surprise rainbow, today. With thanks.

3:) I found a lovely BBC site with nature documentaries and short films. Here is a link to Nature’s Larder- Coral Reefs. 4 min

4:) Music Play for Change- Playing for Peace

5:) Take heart through these challenging days. I am grateful to you, for showing up here week after week. All my best wishes, Trudy

PS I forgot, but adding it now – my small book is now available in print at Amazon. I am sorry it took so long

A Change of Pace – What If?

What if it all works out? Let’s Imagine that for an hour or so.

Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
the sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

I happened upon this poem over a decade ago, during the time I was undergoing chemotherapy. The poem gave me a lift and I thought, “why not?” Why not enjoy the thought of beating the odds. A stoic by nature I think of myself as a realistic optimist. I’m aware of what can go wrong but, still, I know I can find a way to live with what is, and I am often surprised by the unexpected gifts from life.

So I took some time and pictured my treatment working, side effects under control, outliving my Mother, and going to Japan. I am not a proponent of “positive thinking;” rather,  I used my imagination to picture realistic possibilities that would put me on the long tail of the median graph and included a trip for good measure. Of course, I went to work implementing the things I could do to up my chances.  We aren’t in control of outcomes but there are many things we can do to help ourselves.

I was lucky. Those things I described did work out. And I call it luck or grace or some other mystery that I am still here, while others I know who did all that they could do, are not.

The Median Isn’t the Message

Do any of you remember the Harvard paleontologist, Stephen Jay Gould? “Gould was diagnosed with a terminal cancer, mesothelioma, a particularly nasty cancer that has a median survival time of only 8 months from the first diagnosis. After the first shock, Gould remembered that if the median survival time was 8 months, then while 50% of those diagnosed would die in 8 months or less, the other 50% could – with treatment – live for much longer.”  (for those of you interested in statistics and longevity, read my favourite essay by Gould on statistics and his illness  here.) Gould dove into the literature, to see what he needed to do to help himself end up on the long tail of the curve (survival) and went on to live for 20 more years.

We all know that things don’t consistently work out but every now and then they do so let’s not forget that. We might take stock and see what is working in our lives.  I woke up today and so did you, if you are reading this. We already broke some odds. So let’s  dream a little:

What if I:

Learn to play the keyboard?

Get to do work that I love?

Mend that old friendship?

Write a book?

Go to Italy?

What do I need to do to turn my “what if’s” into action? That’s worth sitting up straight for, and doing a little brainstorming. I actually did this today. You may want to give it a try too.


1:) A great Paul Simon song called Rewrite  We so often want everything to turn out right the first time. That seldom happens. Simon knows rewrites are necessary.

2:) Lots of ice in Ottawa today. Looking forward to the thaw, and reining myself back to the here and now.

3:) May you have a few glorious end-of-February days, wherever you are. And know how much I appreciate you taking the time to read my weekly blog. Warmly, Trudy

PS the banner photo is from my friend’s yard on the Gulf Islands and the second photo is my Japanese friends in the Canadian Rockies. All of them are impacted by cancer, caregiving, and aging and they continue to explore, learn and make plans to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zone. And they have lots of fun. :-))




Dr. Itami’s Meaningful Life Therapy Guidelines for People Affected by Illness

Dr. Itami’s guidelines are available and helpful to anyone dealing with a difficult illness, including caregivers.