Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Week 12: News from the north and south of here...

It took all of the 4 mile walk along a quiet stretch of the Muskoka River tonight to quell the 'unsettled' feelings in my mind resulting from this past weekend's G8 and particularly G20-related events in Toronto.  The news coverage, the photos, the personal accounts, the emails from friends living or working across the dowtown city core left me with a wide range of impressions and feelings. So there is no usual blog this week.  Just words - free associations if you will - about both the G8 and G20 conferences:

G8... Huntsville... waiting... buildup... preparations... g8 money... pink intersections... security... annoyances... fix... clean... plant trees... expectations... shop owners... anxious... waiting, waiting... sales?... business?... Medeved... desk... dinner... Cameron... swim... Africa... maternal health... abortion... money... unkept promises... women... children... dying... protesters.. where are they... press... outside the loop... not invited... deficits... reduce... cut... Harper... change language... all done... peaceful... on to the next... weather... helicopters... buses... exodus... highway closed... did we blink?...

G20... Toronto... getting there... fog... rain... Royal York... protesters... organize... signs... banners... placards... messages... poverty... money health... body health... walking... shouting... peace... peaceful... march... groups... unions... labour... first nations... children... surprise... pace... black kerchiefs... suddenly... fear... running... rushing... Soho Street... stones... bricks... sticks... windows... smashing... ScotiaBank... Starbucks... running more... fence... FENCE... keep AWAY from the fence... car fires... smoke... tires exploding... taking photos... what's happening?... policeman with hose... fire trucks... police?... POLICE... riot gear... horses... running... pushing... back... protect... warn... stay at home... get back... get BACK!... leave NOW... tear gas... rubber bullets... batons... visors... arrests... detain... detention... confusion... lawyer?... phone?... water?... family?...  questions... why... whynot... night... 4 sewer rats... caught... night fears... tomorrow?...

Sunday morning... police... POLICE... POLICE!... university... arrests... snatch and grab... detention centre... protests... warn... warning 2... warning THREE... rain... march... Queen West... cornered... up against the wall... cold... scared... wrong place wrong time... court services wagons... arrests... detained... released... photos... plastic cuffs...   plastic bags... no shoes... no phone calls... night... uneasy...

Monday... what happened?... finger pointing... accusations... recriminations... explanations... encore... more protesters... peaceful... forceful... Police headquarters... College Street... police... bicycles... more police... more protestors... movement...let's get going... walk... block the west... horses... City Hall... Queen's Park... day's done... relief... no fires...  no broken glass... no broken bodies...

I know there should be - are - more words, more adjectives and verbs and nouns needed to express all that happened this past weekend. I feel we have 'come of age' here in Canada in some horrible new dimension. It will take weeks and months for us to sort this out.  It will take open minds, listening, tolerance, commitment, resolve, recognition, forgiveness, healing.  

Thanks for travelling with me on my footpath this week ...

WEEK 12 :: 12 PHOTOS:  You'll find them HERE.

BBPP Weekly Health Check:
Mind:  Tough work week; tough corporate customer; disappointing outcome.
Body:  It's hard to keep dieting when so stressed and worried about work and money.  Trying to figure out how to get this year's Christmas start-up sufficiently funded; Wondering about bills; wondering if/when orders will arrive; wondering how to fill them; worrying about finding shoe money for all this walking about.  The stress comes out in nervous eating. The best I could do was try to use up more calories than I ate this week with the hope of, at the very least, breaking even. Won't give up...this is for life.
The Artist Soul:  On the way home from walking tonight, I was still lost in thought about the Toronto vandalism and the disappointment of the protestors in not getting their messages heard... SO lost in thought that I nearly stepped on a poor beaver's tail! Not sure which of us jumped higher in surprise.  Beaver jumped into the river; I jumped forward quickly along the river path. Second time in a month that I have been eyeball to eyeball with a big fat beaver!  These creature contacts continue to feel precious - they are true soul connections.  Animals communicate so directly, truthfully.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week 11: How did he do it all so quietly, with so little fuss...

Dad and me - 1951

One day not too many years ago, I was thinking about my father and how much he might have enjoyed living north here with me. And I began to miss him very much indeed. I think you would have liked him; nearly everyone did. William Jackson was tall - well over 6 feet - lean and long boned - with great big eyes that sought foremost to connect with everyone he met. Raised in RipleyOntario by his widowed mother, Laura Albertha, and his three, at-the-time maiden, aunts - Edna, Irma and Arla - he acquired early on the old-world gentlemanliness and charm that became so embedded into his life-long character. I remember always he would walk curbside in the presence of women. It may be an historical etiquette now, a vestige of times when women were protected from such things as carriages and horses driving by and earlier still from the contents of chamber pots emptied out windows onto the streets of 16th century England, but with my father it never seemed out of place or anachronistic. It was just 'in him' to act this way. "In short he was a gentlemen", musician John Arpin would later say of him in his eulogy of my father.

Dad loved his garden.  It was there that he was at peace with that same kind of contemplative spirit in himself that has been my own constant companion all through life. He seemed to enjoy the quiet preoccupation of planting long lines of petunias and marigolds each spring edging our front lawn with colour, filling the old wooden flower boxes and planting round our lamp post. He would always seed the back garden with morning glories (something I do to this day) and sprinkle mixed 'old fashioneds'. When I got to be about 7 or 8 Dad started planting me a vegetable garden - I don't recall all that was in it except for this one thing: carrots.  To this day I can still taste them in my memory, smell the pungent leaves, and feel the damp earth loosely sticking to the roots. Dad built me a special kid-sized hoe from an old broom and I learned how to seed and hoe and water and I was such a proud young farmer. It was in the garden that Dad taught me the value of patience; perhaps not one of his successes though as this is something I have never been terribly blessed with but I remember HIS patience and him always saying dreamily, “We’ll see, we’ll see …”

Dad as a boy in Ripley, Ontario

Looking back it is the numerous little things we did together that just overwhelm me now when I begin connecting the dots in my memory.  How did he manage it all?  How did he do it all so quietly, with so little fuss and yet so memorably. How did he find the time and energy? The ball tossing and  jump-rope when he was just back home tired from work at night, the walks through Edward's Gardens and Serena Gundy Park, expeditions across the length of the Toronto Islands, watching Victoria Day Fireworks at Talbot Park, endless games of Hearts and teaching me - patiently - how to play bridge, making a movie shadow box for my Sunday School class at Bethel Baptist, reading to me about the story of 'Sam McGee' and a poem I shall never forget: "I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree". We would visit the EX every year, eat candy floss and always look forward to the carved butter exhibit.  We saw Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip in 1959 as they left Toronto Harbour on the Royal Yacht Britannia, we rode the subway together when it first opened to great excitement, visited the NEW City Hall when IT first opened.  And we walked and we walked so very many places.

Dad was a member of the old CCF Party and a huge Tommy Douglas fan.  He wasn’t one to talk about politics but he lived most sincerely what he quietly believed.  And that with a sense of  responsibility, generosity of spirit and giving, forgiveness and deep tolerance in every situation - not judging until all the facts were in - and with great compassion even then. These qualities were as much a part of him as his hazel eyes. And many times when I have been quick to judge, slow to show understanding, I have remembered how wonderful it felt to be on the receiving end of his compassion and understanding.

Sadly it has been 25 years since Dad died.  He’s missed for sure and not least by me.  There are so many questions I wish I could ask him now; so many things we didn’t get round to talking about or doing together. No one's life is all ice cream - I know Dad had demons to deal with in his life and some of them he fought to understand even in the hours before he died.  But he gave all that he possessed; loved everyone that let him into their lives. It’s taken me these many years to grasp all that is in my life that I can attribute to him.  The first day I really understood this, my knees buckled from under me. How could I have missed this, been so blind? And then I began filling up with the warmest gratitude.  Suddenly I knew that I didn't need to miss him any more, because having influenced me so greatly, shared so much with me in that deft manner of his - his spirit, humour, authenticity, wisdom and compassion - he remains here inside my very soul, still walking daily with me in the spirit of my life.  I think of him often now when I am out walking on the trails.  Thanks, Dad!  Thanks so very much.

And, thank you for allowing me to share these memories with you on Father's Day and, as always, for walking with me on my footpath this week...

NEW THIS WEEK:  Bracebridge Trails Map Page
WEEK 11 :: 12 PHOTOS:  You'll find them HERE.

BBPP Weekly Health Check:

Mind:  Work, work, WORK!  Having the evening/weekend walks and the blog to look forward to, definitely helped me get through a very hectic, nervy week.
Body:  The readings are all good this week. BP - still in a good range - systolic down to 130 and aimed to get better and better!  Taking the hills with more ease - even run up some of them now!
The Artist Soul:  I saw a beautiful fox this week while out on a trail.  It allowed me to watch it for a full 5 minutes.  The tail was just gorgeous.  He was totally unafraid of me and almost seemed to be saying - here I am, have a good look!  There is something incredibly truthful about connecting with animals - wild or domestic.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Week 10: Their small corners...

Tree House - Wilson Falls Road.

Do you remember how the last line of that old Sunday School song goes... "You in your small corner and I in mine..."?  Oddly this Susan B. Warner hymn surfaced in my mind tonight as I saw a young chipmunk scurry away. He has built tunnels everywhere in the back garden which this summer I have given over to the wild for the butterflies, birds, bees - and chipmunks, of course.  And so there he went disappearing into one of his several and immediate escape routes, cheeks stuffed to the limit with a peanut supply brought specially for him and his family by my nature-loving pal, Wray.

I have been looking out to see where exactly 'Chippie' lives this year - if he is still, after two summers, occupying the large dry protected space underneath the back shed. Reflecting on the connection between seeing him scamper away and recalling the childhood hymn, more vivid memory links flashed by - these ones from walks over the past week.  In just 5 or 6 days, I had glimpsed 3 white-tailed deer, a couple of raccoons, a dozen hens, a beaver, [heard] a symphony of frogs, [smelled] a skunk, spotted two mallard duck couples and a mother duck with her 6 goslings following in a wavering ribbon behind her. And, I saw my gimpy seagull friend again - now hopping about solely on one limb and carrying his other, now entirely withered leg, high up under his wing.  As you can see it has been quite the "Wild Kingdom" sort of week here for me in Bracebridge.  And with true maternal instinct all this made me wonder where these furred or feathered creatures live.  Where do they sleep?  How safe are they?  Do they live somewhere different in the winter?  Do they migrate, hibernate? How do they keep warm? What do they take into consideration when they go 'house hunting'?  And the real mother-worry: are they getting enough to eat?!

“You in your small corner…”.  Where ARE their small corners?  I have let my imagination run with it this week, wondering what it is like to be a raccoon or a deer in the wild, living in the woods, eating food made available by nature. In most cases, I don't know the answer to any of these questions.  I do occasionally look up related topics on the internet: 'bear habitat' or 'the lives of songbirds' or listen in on Dr. David Suzuki or at ‘Ducks Unlimited’ but for the most part it is all a mystery to me.  Walking day after day, meeting these fun, graceful animals and birds, catching them lying about in trees, paddling in rivers and disappearing into hollowed out holes along the shore of the Muskoka river, I have developed a curiosity about them as individuals, wondering more about the lives they live. 

I have been facing my own housing issues, unsure if the building where I live will be sold and whether I will need to move this year. So I guess I am a little more tuned in than usual to the whole housing question - location, safety, comfort, transportation routes, quick accessibility to the countryside and grocery shops. Part of me envies the animals and birds to no end; living by the river, free to choose the site of their lodgings for the season and with open access to an ‘organically’ grown food supply. But, I know they don't have 'central air' or heat, or dry beds to sleep in and their food is a little harder to get than a trip to the local 'Metro'! In many cases they work relentlessly to build their homes; faced frequently with the reconstruction of partially completed shelters destroyed by storms or wind - again and again - until they are fully complete and secure. Some homes display weavers’ skills that would make any fine artist proud, featuring strands of wool, grass and bits of paper intertwined with twigs.  Some animals are crafty and wary in choosing safe, secret, well-hidden burrows. Some, using the river for transportation, find hollowed tree trunks, abandoned summer docks or huge tree roots for their homes. Still others make food their first consideration, living close by to their next meal.

One of the obvious implications of this heightened sensitivity to the creatures living in the wild is simply that when we get out and walk in 'their' world, we begin to appreciate the importance of our role in preserving it all, respecting the space they require to live and renew their populations, protecting the water that many of them use not only to drink and bathe, but for transportation and housing, not usurping their wild berry reserves because while we can wander off to ‘Vegeez’ or the Farmers' Markets to buy plump, locally-grown strawberries or blueberries, these little creatures depend on what nature provides for them seasonally.  And of course it made me remember how important it is not to leave behind refuse in their habitat or frighten them unduly in the course of their daily routines.  We really do need to empathize a little; recognize that these sentient creatures have lives to live - and families - just as we do. They need our help - not our interference.  And it's not hard to find the desire to do so - they are all so very delightful to observe and provide such great entertainment.  It's an honour to get even small glimpses into their daily lives.

There are many little 'corners' out there, but only one planet earth and we all, creatures great or small, have the right to live out our lives in our respective spaces - in health, safety and happiness, raising our families, enjoying the seasons and living our lives fully. Forgive me if I have gotten carried away this week.  No soap box lectures intended. Just a note to myself about ‘balance’ and 'sharing'.  Simply a connection to an old Sunday School hymn, "You in your small corner, and I in mine..."    

Thanks for travelling with me on my footpath this week ...

BBPP Weekly Health Check:
Mind:  As the weeks go on and the walking trail miles add up, I experience more and more connections - almost a flood - between what I see in the wild, the total of my life experiences and whatever direction I may be headed in the future. It's as if the mind has been none too patiently waiting for the opportunity to simply think and reflect.  Our minds, it seems, need to walk as much as our legs at times!
Body:  Bypassing the usual 'measurements' this week.  No scales, no bp monitors, no pulse rate checks.  As one friend said, 'it's only important how you feel; how your clothes fit'.  Will resume the readings next week.  
The Artist Soul:  One of the most beautiful sites I continue to see is the reflection of sky, tree and rock upon the surface of the Muskoka River.  Almost more beautiful than that which it reflects.  It can be mirror clear, rippled or hazed and muted by fog.  Then again the reflection can be dissolved into a hundred separate circles by raindrops.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Week 9: Then suddenly our hair falls out ...

I'm having one of those senior 'moments'.  It's lasted all week.  What to do...what to do?

Every time I think I have this 'age thing' figured out and feel all peaceful again about it, something new riles up the stew.  This week it was a photo.  Of  moi.  I just could not reconcile the mental self-portrait I have kept protectively locked inside my head with the (oh-ma-gosh-can-it-possibly-be-true?) photo someone else had in theirs when they snapped my pic last week.  I'm in shock. Okay, the spreading hips, I knew about.  Even the chicken-waddle chin.   But going bald?  There it is in living photo-colour:  a deeply receding hair line.  I've been down in the dumps all week about it. My hair falls out  everywhere these days; I knew that.   I now shed more than my old long-haired calico ever did;  knew that too.  But I THOUGHT it was growing BACK IN,  replacing itself, keeping up the time-honoured practice of RENEWAL.  As it always has. Always DID. Oh, my VERY SINCERE apologies to you brother Paul  (and to all men) when I ribbed you years ago as you became obsessed (I thought) with growing baldness.  I said you looked handsome, distinguished. I  told you it shouldn't bother you.  I said, 'For goodness, sakes, what's a little hair, anyway?' I take it ALL BACK!  This week I understand.    

It's vain, I know, but it's more than vanity.  I've really had enough of this growing old 'gracefully' business.  I admit not much can be done about it.  I  admit it must be accepted.  What is hard, very hard, is accepting one's perception of self during the dramatic paradigm shifts of age.  We go through  change of one kind or another all our lives and it's pretty much okay up to an extent.  We leave high school for university.  We leave university for jobs.  We  leave our singlehood for marriage.  And we leave our free time in favour of the full involvement of children and families.  Sometimes we leave our jobs for  other opportunities, leave our towns, our homes, even our countries and move on.  Throughout it all we are changing, in ascendancy, moving TOWARDS newness, new experiences, enriching our lives. It is all FOR something and we continue to GROW.  When we let go of some things, it's to receive something new in return that helps us move along further in our lives.

Then suddenly our hair falls out.  And we feel empty-handed. Life's path takes a turn and there is no choice but to stop and view the 'picture' acknowledging something  new is afoot here.  It's been a few days now and I am almost over the hairless-babe photo-shock.  I'm thinking one of the things that makes our acceptance of age-related change more difficult is the prevailing language and perceptions about what is happening at this time of life. We always  concentrate on 'loss'.  We speak of 'losing' our memories, our eyesight, our hair, our hearing, our mobility, our self-reliance - even our teeth!  We 'lose' our  children as they leave the family nest and make their own way in life.  We lose our jobs in retirement and sometimes along with them our sense of selves, prestige, worth, collegial rapport.  And, sadly, we lose members of our own family and our very dear life-long friends.  No wonder we feel we are somehow diminished and have arrived at the beginning of a depressing 'end'. 

What we need to do, what I am going to try hard to endeavour to do in the months ahead, is let go of what is lost and get better acquainted with what has been GAINED and what is AHEAD in life. There is a lot building on that 'plus' side of life's score sheet besides a spreading butt and hips.  There is deeper perspective, patience, experience and depth.  There are widening terms of reference in our lives.  We have greater clarity, certainty, compassion and insight.  We often are blessed with more time. We see things in broader, more universal terms and along a stretching continuum. We have greater humour - we have finally 'gained' the ability to readily laugh, foremost at our own serious selves.  And, we have learned by a certain age that we can now no more live like two-fisted cookie eaters than we could as kids.  With both hands full, how can we eat?  So today I am letting go of all the old self-perceptions - hair and all - focusing instead on the plus side ahead and looking forward to taking a big bite out of the cookie of life.  

Thinking this all over I can now breathe again.  In.  Out.  What a relief!  Instead of feeling I have to exercise to keep up and be as good as I once WAS; I  can look forward and exercise to be all that I want and hope to be in the years AHEAD.  I don't need to keep up with anyone, not even myself.  I  discovered this week that I no longer walk 4 miles in an hour as I did half a lifetime ago, sailing through the streets of downtown Toronto back and forth to work - 8  miles a day.  Google Maps tells me I can hike to Wilson Falls and back in seventy minutes.  Google I love you darling, but even adjusting generously for a longish lunch break, I accomplishd little better than six miles in FOUR hours. I can report to you though that in letting go of speed I 'gained' a great deal.  I saw more - a deer sprinting into the forest from a water break down by the river, a racoon curled sleepily in the high up branch of a pine tree, a pair of old-married mallards floating near the fish hatchery, a porcelain white kitty dining on tall tender grasses and a lazy old beaver floating the river's current.  There were wild strawberries growing everywhere.  Orange blossoms to breathe in.  Bird songs to hear.  New trails to explore. And sticky pine resin along the way for aroma therapy.  And I enjoyed it all - every life-giving bit of it - and more than I ever have.  All at this new slower speed; not only age-adjusted but age-enhanced.

When working on quotes for my greeting card line this week, I came across one that sums this all up for me:  "What the caterpillar calls the end of the  world, the master calls a butterfly."  [Richard Bach].  If heaven's caterpillars can negotiate their rather spectacular change of life, then I will plan to try SOARING through my own.  You betcha!

Thanks for travelling with me on my footpath this week ...

BBPP Weekly Health Check:
Mind:  Finally getting comfortable with some of the camera's functions.  Working with the landscape button and focus and metre modes. They all do make a difference when remembering to use them, which is starting to happen more regularly and naturally.
Body:  I dieted dutifully and in health all week long.  Walked daily, hiked at least 6 miles yesterday.  GAINED 3 pounds and my bp shot SKY HIGH. Oh, well. Mustn't give up.  Steady course ahead...
The Artist Soul:  There were wonderful connections this week with abundant wildlife on the trails but the best thing of all was drinking in the scent of fresh orange blossoms - my most favourite fragrance on earth.  And I found them just steps away from my front door.  Heaven. 

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