Posts Tagged: life

ride and reflect

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Road Trip Part Two:  Homeward.  In which we reflect on our family and all we're grateful for.  Another stellar weekend – Lucky me.

terra firma, rich fabric

Last night I had conversations with four of my oldest and most valued friends.  I wish we didn’t have the reason that we all talked, but that we did made me feel better than I had in the twenty-four hours previous.  I hope that was the case for all of us.  Mostly for Denis, because on New Year’s Day he lost his dad. 

I’d been feeling blue about it on a number of levels.  Mostly because someone I love is torn up; he’s been hit, unexpectedly, with life’s cruellest circumstance.  His dad was a really lovely man; a husband in a seemingly inseparable partnership, a good father and pépé and neighbour and respected teacher and now he’s gone.  

If I’m not censoring (it’s a start, Lisa), I’ll tell you that this is one of the two situations in the past year that threw my own mortality in my face.  Hard.  It sounds so selfish.  My heart is truly with my friend, but a feeling of scared came swift and forceful.  A parent is only one generation away. 

I have all my parents – and none seems like s/he is going anywhere soon.  But I got scared about losing them.  They’re still too young.  Like Denis’s dad.  He shouldn’t have gone yet; his family’s hearts shouldn’t be heavy now.  And yesterday evening I was wondering how to move out of the sudden funk – how could I call my friend and be supportive and somehow make it a little better when I felt like I was teetering on some thin emotional wire; psychically a piece of shit?

And then after supper I talked to Debbie.  And then Denis.  And then Robbie.  And then Lynn.  And at the end of the evening I was back on terra firma.  I’m sure it’s because each of them were part of the journey to now.  Last night I'd got away from the moment and they brought me back to it.   

We all exist here in this unstoppable march of time and we all have to face it, and most of us deal with loss when it happens and maybe we don’t get over it but we learn to move on and to be happy again even if there is a new hole in the family’s fabric.  But then again, isn't the fabric richer and more beautiful for that person having been a part of it?

The fabric is precious and beautiful and it’s all any of us has.  And I’m not that articulate, but I’m sure it’s pretty much the point of it all. 

more wisdom

Believe in yourself and believe in love.  Love something.  We’ve got to learn to love something deeply.  I think it’s love.  It sounds sentimental as hell, but I really think it is.  To paint a leaf, or a twig, or a piece of dung from a horse, it doesn’t matter; the shadow it casts can be wonderful.

Andrew Wyeth (the Wisdom project)


thunder storm backdrop to thoughts of a shifting life

It’s thunder storming now.  I’m glad my windows are sheltered because I’ve got them open wide to let in the smell and sounds of the rain hitting the street.

The thunder storm seems an appropriate accompaniment to what I’m thinking:  that my life is continuing to shift around, shaken out of several years of a schedule, daily habits, complacency at the office.  Yeah, me and my life are still adjusting to the new job and the new schedule; but we’re happy. 

I couldn’t have imagined just how much the chopping out of two hours of daily travel would change that life, but the sense of relief as I put on my walking shoes every morning and afternoon – where less than two weeks ago I was moving amongst underground crowds and squishing onto trains and streetcars and buses – is palpable.  And relief is the right word.  Now going to and from work, it’s head up and smiling, taking my time getting home, walking different routes each day because that extra two hours seems like all the time in the world.  Then, getting home and making dinner, deliberately and with pleasure, framed around an “I feel like eating this” instead of “I’m tired and starving and need something fast.”

Me and life are shifting around the job itself, too.  New people, new ways of doing things, new ‘tools’ with which to do them; if starting a new job is less daunting than it was when I was younger, it’s no less consuming.  I’m learning an industry I knew nothing about; reading and trying to grasp a lay person’s understanding of it at the same time I’m getting assignments to write about it.  Well I guess is still rather daunting.  But it’s all good.  I feel supported and welcomed in my new gig, and I look forward to making my new job my own.

And then there’s summer.  She’s a shy visitor this year – sticking her nose in the door a few times only to creep back out again.  Mostly the last few weeks have been lovely, as summer came in, relaxed and kicked her shoes off.  Especially over the weekend. 

As did I.  I’m finding it really hard to stay in. 

And so I continue to be preoccupied by the shifting around of me and my life.  But I’m starting to get my mind wrapped around all the change and new learning; thanks, I think, to the warm days and evenings calling me outside, telling me as only warm days and evenings do, to slow down and breathe. 

At night I walk; when the changing air throws the smell of the lake across the road and into my windows.  That same smell welcomes me home as I walk down into my street and it gives me comfort amidst the ruckus of the streetcars sailing by.  Streetcars that I don’t have to worry about catching.


The smell of water, whether falling out of the sky or wafting off a lake – beautiful thing number forty-five.

centuries and decades and seeing

I really dig some of the philosophies explored by the literary sets of the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly transcendentalism and romanticism. I absolutely subscribe to the notion that the individual locates any true spiritual experience within the self and experience, and that doctrines borne in religious or political establishments were not intended for the benefit of someone like me. I don't see how that has to be so far off from the general message promoted by every one of those doctrines, but then again, everything can be twisted around to say something else.

No doubt my arrival in the 20th century – starting in the sixties and coming of age in the seventies – has something to do with that questioning of establishments in general. But it's more than being anti-establishiment. It's about transformation; about finding those things that elevate my experience from its earthly hangout.

Sometime in the nineties, one of my more esteemed English professors, Eugene McNamara, was lecturing about one of the harbingers of transcendentalism and preeminent orators of his time, Ralph Waldo Emerson. He suggested that ol’ R.W. would not much appreciate finding his essays chopped up into quotes on fridge magnets and stationery on drug store shelves. I recall reaching into my bag and pulling out a small datebook and showing my friend Dale in the next seat the Emerson quote providing insight for the month of March.

I suppose Emerson didn’t anticipate the reduced attention spans of those who would inhabit the twenty-twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I'm afraid we like our ideas succinct.

But I sure would have loved to hear him express this [not succinct] idea aloud in a talk about living a successful life:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson might hate it, but let's call him and his really big ideas beautiful thing number 44.

productivity and love

Between Don Mills and Sheppard-Yonge Stations

Look at me; I’m being one of those annoying people who busts out a computer on the subway.  But if I don’t get a blog post written quickly (in the space of a trip between Don Mills and Union Stations), it’s not going to get written for several more days.  And I miss you, blog people.  What I need is something copyable and pasteable for when I get home.  This time, transcribing notes scribbled around the edges of a newspaper or back of a rental car confirmation is just not going to work. Even if the post-commute-trying-to-work-out-what-the-hell-that-scribble-was-trying-to-capture adds that much to the nuance of a story.

So, I get a new job, and I give my notice in and the Shit. Hits. The. Fan.  I knew it was going to happen.  This big project has been looming for weeks, and before I get the job offer I’m trying to keep a safe distance from it, because I just know I'm not going to be here much longer.  I try to prep the junior writer, without telling him what’s really coming, “there’s this big, high profile project.  You could really show your mettle here.  Step up to the plate, kid, everyone will love you…”

(Train Change)

Between Sheppard-Yonge and Union Stations

So just as the project is kicked off I get the great job offer and I give my notice.  People at work are wanting to be nice to me and wish me well – to talk about my whole leaving thing.  To take me to lunch.  And I’ve not had much more than ten minutes to take a walk and get a cup of coffee.  But it’s okay – even if I’m leaving in two weeks, I still have pride in what work that leaves my desk. 

That’s where I’ve been the past week.  Sitting at a desk, in an office in North York, hammering out documents like I’m some sort of assembly line Training Guide manufacturer.  Making up for an unequivocally uninterested and unambitious junior writer.  You know the theory, that you just keep banging your head against the wall because it feels so good when it stops?  That’s what all the “It’ll be all over soon, Jennifer” sounds like at this point.  They’re right, but I’m bloody tired and not feeling all that reasonable.

The Good News

I did get some fun in over the weekend – big fun.  Meaningful fun.  My sister blew into the city on Friday for an after work going-away party for a colleague.  It was at a pub very close to my house and we hadn’t seen each other in a month because she’s been travelling with her job, and damned if we weren’t going to take advantage of that opportunity. 

 Cathy E & C Cathy E and C
No, my glass was not larger than hers.  And yes, it was Cathy, not me, who said, "Yay!  I it's a good place that serves wine in a decent sized glass!" 

And next morning my girls and I got on the highway and headed back home to attend the 50th birthday party for one of my oldest and dearest friends, Denis.  Carly drove and Kelsey operated the stereo while I sat in the back and worked – as my sister said, “you can’t sit in a car on the 401 and not be productive at a time like this!  She was right.  For much of the four hours there and four hours back I was doing what I’m doing now – sitting in a moving car with a computer on my lap.

The time away from work might have cost me a little blood and sweat today, but it was worth it.  At times like this, nothing cures the work-overload-blues like time with a sister and a bunch of people who you’ve loved to be around more than pretty much anyone for three decades.

Here's to the "50 Club!  (Debbie, Jen, Denis)

I hope you stick with me blog people.  I’ll be back.  Refreshed.  With a new job and a WALKING TO WORK COMMUTE (have I mentioned that part?). 

In the meantime, I’m back to writing about a healthcare database application.  At least it’s a good cause, no?

ps – Despite the crappy phone camera shots, the pictures are worth a million.

no really, what if?

‎What if our religion was each other
If our practice was our life
If prayer our words
What if the temple was the Earth
If forests were our church
If holy water – the rivers, lakes and ocean
What if meditation was our relationships
If the teacher was life
If wisdom was self-knowledge
If love was the centre of our being
~Ganga White

That, my friends, is the most beautiful thing I read all day, and thing number 26 of 101.

Are you finding it?

teeny tiny beauty 23

In the wake of the horrible happenings in Japan this week and a string of other recent natural disasters affecting New Zealand and Australia, this webcam of newly hatched hummingbirds reminds us of nature's resilience and brings some sense of hope, doesn't it? 

Life continuing on in spite of it all: beautiful thing number twenty three.

To watch the live webcam, click here. (Subject to local daylight, and the period of time the fledglings live 'at home' in the nest.)

Other video preserved video on YouTube:


I'm finding beauty, are you?

number four – beauty in a moment

The gruff, drawly voice of one of my oldest and dearest friends, which I haven’t heard in at least five years, growling “Jenn-i-ferrr” when I picked up the phone the other day, was one of the most beautiful things I’d heard in a long time. 


Exploring Beauty 

my life is a carrot

This week I’m staying at my cousin’s, caring for her son and dog.  I feel as if I’m suspended outside my life, half living it, half living someone else’s.  As I float here I reach toward those things that are mine – the activities that occupy me, my daily things that are normally at hand and now yesterday’s conveniences, and they suck back away from me like they might in a dream.  As I fumble along through another person’s household, keeping another person’s life turning around through a week, my own life hangs out there in my consciousness – just out of reach.  This week is like a merry-go-round that is just not going to stop until it’s ready; steady, slow, jerking, screeching around that turn again and again.  And this part again – morning.  The dog.  The kid will need waking.  Breakfast.  Fit me in there between the kafuffle of the morning – waiting out in that hallway just there.  No, out beyond the porch.  My life is hanging just beyond in foggy images – luring me forward like a carrot on a stick.