Thursday, August 23, 2007


Sometimes, escapism hits me and I hop into the car --still, even though I live in "cottage country" -- and drive to beautiful places like the lakes in the Bancroft area of Ontario. In my mind, of course, there are all the associations the landscape has for me with my childhood memories. Many Finns live throughout the Canadian Shield geographical region of northern Ontario and report that it reminds them of "home". The lakes, the birch and pines, the rocky shores certainly evoke Finland for me too, even though I actually lived in Finland for only three years.
It was to the lakes of northern Ontario that many of our ex-pat Finnish friends migrated to build saunas first, then cottages or even year-round homes.
In the summer, we escaped the suburbs of Toronto, making many trips in the old Valiant to go camping near these lakes as a family. Loaded down with a huge and heavy canvas house-tent, sleeping bags my mother lined with sewn-in quilts, and enough food for a small army, the car sagged dangerously. I remember enduring the long car-ride, trying to ignore pesky brothers and an irritating sister, trying to drop into my fantasies by watching the landscape go by as we drove north.
Most often, we spent a weekend at some of Ontario's many provincial parks. Other times, we visited friends. And most memorably, we went camping with another family at Algonquin Park. Naturally, we always tried to get near the water for lots of swimming and canoing.
And it wasn't camping if there was not woodsmoke somehow, from the stove in a friend's sauna, or from our campfire in the evening. We just had not been camping if we didn't come home with every article of clothing smelling gloriously of woodsmoke and insect repellent.

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in the moment

Cats are the consummate artists when it comes to being in the moment, being present here and now. Here's Grace, playing with her favorite toy, the mice dangling from her personal scratching post/pedestal.

As Anne Lindbergh defines it, grace is "an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony." And I find Grace embodies the ability of all cats to be a cat, elegantly, in utter harmony with herself and what she is, delighting cat-lovers and other observers with her simple 'cat-ness', as she plays in her unmistakable cat-way.
If only we humans could be as comfortable in our own skins and enjoy be-ing human Beings, enjoying the embodiment of our spiritual essence in our human form.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I've discovered some neighbours recently who think nothing of coming over unannounced and helping themselves to whatever interests them, without even saying "hi, how are you". The first time I spotted the pair, they were lolling under the apple trees in the old orchard, snacking on the windfall apples there.

This large fellow went northwards towards the back of the abandoned house on the property, leaving his pal sitting on her haunches under an apple tree, stuffing her face with apples.
I was heading out to the city in my car, and I think it was the car that finally alarmed the pal under the tree in the orchard. The pal got up then and lazily loped off toward the weeping willow tree. I wasn't going to follow, but I had rolled down my window, hoping to snap a picture. But she moved so quickly, I had no hope of getting a picture before the bear disappeared under the willow tree...
Then, the other evening, I was sitting down in the living room, taking a rest from some boring chores and doing laundry, when I noticed a movement in the back yard. What I noticed first was the shiny, thick, black fur. It had pulled the potted Swedish ivy off the deck to dig out one of the apples the squirrels are always tucking into it.
Then it headed for my garbage pail. I had been putting some of the apples I'd been raking up from the ground in the back yard into the garbage pail, meaning to dump them down at the bottom of the garden into the compost pile.
(with apologies for the quality of this shot through the glass of my patio doors!)
I think the bear's appetite was pretty sated at this point. Disappointed to find mostly weeds and dead-headed flowers in the pail, it picked up an apple from the ground in a desultory way, then strolled off down towards the lake.
Meanwhile, this is putting a crimp into my walks and runs around the fields on the farm and around Sturgeon Point. I'd love to think that the bears and I can peacefully co-exist, but I'm not too sure of the bears' intentions. I must say, I'm struggling with feelings of resentment and annoyance!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

note to self...

This struck me as funny all over again. Here's an actual entry in my diary from July 12/07:

The power went out on Tuesday. Because I wanted to read in bed, I gathered half a dozen candles, put them on my bedside table and read by candlelight. After a while, tired and ready to sleep, I took off my glasses and blew out the candles. What I didn't know was that when I blew out the candles I sent a fine spray of wax droplets onto the overnight table, the water glass and my glasses ! What's worse, I walked around all day yesterday like that, oblivious, with fine spots of wax all over my glasses....groan....


drama queen

I don't set out to be a drama queen, I honestly don't. I intended to settle my mind down yesterday, stop it's endless fretting and worrying. So, as I needed fresh air and had about an hour left of my morning before I absolutely had to get ready to drive to the city to my paying job, I decided use that hour for a walk around the point, but doing it a bit differently this time. I usually simply meditate every morning anyway and then I either practice yoga or go for a run, but I thought I'd try something I'd read about, a walking meditation.

The process sounds simple, but as usual I have to bring my thoughts back from the wild journeys they take into all sorts of worrying, imagining, problem-solving escapades they want to take, instead of just keeping my awareness on walking, noticing the sensation of feet touching the ground, noticing the motion of legs and muscles, noticing the adjustments your body makes in the centre of gravity through each step, the breath, the swing of your arms, then noticing my mood, my thoughts and feelings and then noticing the surroundings, without becoming attached to any one idea. Just observing and letting the observation float away like soap bubbles in the wind.

The tradition of buddhist monks while doing walking meditation was the practice of "Loving Kindness", deliberately radiating loving kindness to every living being they encountered while walking. Starting by deepening one's awareness of one's body, feelings, emotions and thoughts while walking, without holding on to anything, simply observing as they come up, the idea was to progress from there to a focus on a feeling of well-being, radiating warmth and light from one's heart centre to everything you encounter. An ancient mantra many buddhist monks use in the practice of Loving Kindness is: “May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be free from suffering.

I imagine in India, a challenge to this universal offering of goodwill to all living beings might be the cobra. But I set out with absolutely no thought or worry of any challenge to my practice of loving kindness -- you see, I didn't think I'd encounter too many people on my walk, the usual source of all my conflicts! I had walked perhaps 1/2 km and had just entered the forest when I noticed a motion out of the corner of my eye. I looked into the forest to my right and could just see over the top of some of the underbrush about 10 m away, what seemed to be the tops of a creatures ears. Hmmnn, a large dog? I thought at first. A large bear? Ooooh, yes, more like a black bear!

And just as I realized it must be a bear, it stood up on its hind legs to get a better look at me! I was already turning, thinking maybe I should go back to the house and calling Misty (my beagle) back when it -- the bear, that is -- decided it didn't like the look of me either and it turned and headed south, away from me, perpendicular to the path I was on along the laneway. I was still repeating the mantra to myself, but getting it a bit muddled, perhaps babbling a bit in my indecisiveness, but not at all afraid:

"May all beings be well...may all free from suffering....I hope that means me too...I'm a being....the bear is a being...may the bear be happy...but not too happy if, it's okay...I actually don't feel afraid and I don't think the bear is afraid either, we are just going to avoid crossing each other's paths...we're just going to stay out of each other's way...may all beings be well..."

So I continued on my walk after all. The dog completely ignored the presence of the bear, for which I was grateful. I looked behind me a couple of times, but I honestly didn't feel any fear. I kept thinking, why am I not afraid? I should be afraid, shouldn't I? But I really didn't expect to find the bear coming after me at all! In fact, I forgot about the bear as I walked along and continued the walking meditation, noticing all sorts of tense muscles in the usual places, my upper back, shoulders etc. The route I take around the point is about 6 km.

I was nearly home, when the hilarity of the situation struck me: the extreme test of my practice of Loving Kindness so unexpectedly (I didn't even expect to be bothered by mosquitoes at this time of year!), and my complete lack of fear -- no racing heartbeat, no rush of adrenalin. Honestly, it makes no rational sense. Just me noticing that I'm mixing up the words to the mantra: "May all beings be well. May all beings be happy. May all beings be free from suffering. Happy bear, I'm not suffering, the bear is happy, the bear is not suffering. I'm not suffering. I'm a being. The bear is a being...I can't outrun the bear. I expected to feel fear but I don't feel any fear.... May all beings be free..."

It still makes me laugh. I shared my amusement over myself with some people at my paying job. Dr. A. thinks I should carry a jingle-stick like hikers are encouraged to do in the Rockies out West to scare away grizzlies, a stick with a rattly noise-maker on it so that bears hear you coming. And M., a nurse I work with, who grew up on a dairy farm not far from here, added that I should carry a gun in the other hand! Good grief, I'm more scared of guns than bears! She doesn't understand my practice of loving kindness meditation at all whereas Dr. A. thinks I'm really brave. Ha-ha-ha, how can I be brave when I didn't feel any fear? I think you have to feel fear and do it anyway to be brave, don't you?

So there you have it. My experience with the practice of the Loving Kindness meditation!
omg, it still makes me laugh, the way sometimes, your good intentions are truly challenged by the universe!

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

clothes line

There are some communities that have ordinances prohibiting the hanging of clothes out on a line to dry. I even know of one suburban woman who runs a line below the top of her fence (she must have very high fences) so that nobody will see her clothes line -- unless they look into her yard from their upstairs windows!
Honestly! If we're going to get all "private" about stuff, I should hardly think the clothes line is where we should start!
Some of the most ordinary and mundane things turn out to be pretty pleasing. There are places that I love, towns with narrow, winding, cobbled streets, so narrow that one can almost reach across from an upstairs window and touch the house opposite! I can't picture these streets without clothes lines stretched over head in every direction!
I sometimes pass the odd resisting clothes line in a rural yard on my drive to work. They are increasingly rare, believe it or not. Even as energy costs rise, people are using clothes dryers more and more.
Oh, I admit I speculate on the occupations and peccadilloes of the occupants of the house, based on the assorted wardrobes I see hanging on the line. Farmer? Mechanic? Babies? Well, at least I'm not snooping in their mailbox or picking through their garbage!
What does my laundry tell about me? I guess it would depend on which load has found itself out to hang on the line, doesn't it? You might be getting a very warped image of me...

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