Monday, October 8, 2012

Walking Meditations

The way in.
 For reasons that will become clear in the coming year I have decided to start walking. I have always loved to walk. When I was young I walked a lot. I walked to school, to friends houses, to the mall, downtown, anywhere I could. When I was older I moved to a bigger city to attend university and again walked everywhere as I had no car and no money for the bus. I logged quite a few miles and kept my muscles toned.
Now even older, I need to walk. A few summers ago I started walking through my neighbourhood and beyond on a regular basis during the summer. I loved being out in the fresh air staring at the blue skies while I walked. I listened to either James Blunt or Elton John while I walked. I had time to think; to process the events of the day and prepare myself for the days to come.Then we got a dog which meant walking during the rest of the seasons as well. The city opened up a special trail for us to walk, cycle, or ride horses on for exercise and enjoyment, and of course there are many parks and trails in the area which I can visit year round if I need to walk in solitude, surrounded only by chickadees and squirrels and the nattering of blue jays.
Walking is very therapeutic. In addition to being great exercise for the body it gives the brain work to do. This weekend we Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving. Every year my family drives to Blue Mountain road close to Charleston Lake in Ontario. We park along the gravelled shoulder and start for the long road in to the trail. This year the clouds hung low in waves of grey and white over the farmers fields. The road was muddy and peppered with puddles perfect for the boys and dogs we met along the way. Most people skirted them in favour of tramping through the grasses to the side of the road. My family wandered ahead while I hung back with my father. We walked in silence only stopping to comment on occasion or to chat with the friends he saw coming his way.
Dad stopping to tie his shoes. Notice the Keep Out sign!

Stopping to overlook a gurgling stream.
Walk this way.....
I took it slow so I could think. I wanted to hear the world without voices, cars and the humming of man made electricity. I stood on a blanket of pine needles that muted the sounds of footfalls. I turned off of civilization and tuned in to nature. I heard a woodpecker tapping against a fallen log. I heard rustles in the grass and water trickling over stones. I could smell the damp earth and the mouldy swamp. The air was crisp and smelled clean like sheets hung on a line. Everywhere there was movement. I spied ripples in the pond and wondered who made the first move? A beaver? A fish? There were ripples in the puddles too. Beetles ambled down the same trail as we working hard to clamber over pebbles while my family ahead were suffering to clamber over rocks on the mountain.

A maple leaf caught in the tangled web of branches.

The pond before the mountain.

My solitude came in short moments. Hikers of all sizes and ages were bursting through the brush and dismantling my daydreams. Young kids dragging their drunk friends home, serious hikers walking a mile a minute and children prancing through piles of leaves, looking for sticks and flowers. My dad and I reached the bridge to the path where the climb began and it was there I stopped again. My father left me with some apple slices and my mom's homemade chocolate chip cookies and water while he went forward to catch up with my family. I sat in silence and peace, resting.

Blue Mountain Road
I walk now. It relaxes me. It affords me time to think in solitude. It is good practice for good things to come.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Make a Resolution.

Stiving to create more art in the New Year.
New Year's came and went with cold starry skies and air frigid enough to finally get a few skating rinks put up in the city. We spent the evening with the husbands family eating Chinese food and scarfing down leftover Christmas treats. The children played the Wii and sang along to some karaoke. My husband and I ruined our kids festivities by dragging them away from their cousins at too early an hour. Maybe it was the over consumption of food and drink, or maybe it was the cumulation of too many hours not sleeping but my husband and I were tired and ready to get home. Hubby can always be counted on to fall asleep on the couch no matter what the occassion. My sons were upset at having to leave the party. They went straight to bed. My daughter and I were the only ones who rang in the new year...and we did it with sparkly hats and horns (which by the way barely roused my sleeping spouse).
Resolutions. None. I could make a few, but who am I kidding? 
Who can give up Seafoam Floats?
Eat better? Ha! Not while Hershey still churns out the hugs and kisses! Eat less? Nope. I am a busy woman on the go with one dog, two jobs, three children and a blog. Exercise? Well, maybe. Said dog needs to be walked, the children need chasing and the blog certainly gets my fingers a-tapping! Travel? Clean the house? Sort stuff? Resolutions that include random acts of kindness and world peace? Maybe; in a parallel universe. In an ideal world we wouldn't have to make resolutions at all. In a less ideal world we would make resolutions more than once a year and in reality? We all make resolutions and barely keep them. So I didn't make any this year. Instead of focusing on some pre-determined agenda that I set after two weeks of gluttony and excess I have decided instead to do the best I can every single day. Today I worked, took my son to hockey and wrote this blog post. I made an overture of kindness to a peer and wished a friend happy birthday. I hugged and kissed my family and the only chocolate I ate was a couple of the cookies that my daughter made. All of this makes my new year pretty good already. Now. I am off to write. ;)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Celebrate Christmas

Christmas tree lights seem to make the place quieter. Snow too makes the world a quieter place. This is why I love Christmas. Christmas starts for us December 1 when I allow Christmas carols to be acknowledged. (Halloween is too early for carols. I don't want to be sick of them before we get any snow.) I enjoy daydreaming while Nana Mouskouri sings Petit Papa Noel and Ave Maria. I love the full force of the choirs who back up those who sing O Holy Night.
Garrison Family Decorating Inc.
The first weekend in December is when we bring home a tree. I like a real tree. The cool scent of pine is synonymous with Christmas. That and the fragrance of apples and cinnamon. We decorate the tree, hang the stocking by the fireplace with great care....meaning we have to take them down every time we want a fire, and by the end of the night our house looks like Santa's workshop. Knick knacks and bric-a-brac abound. Cheery little ceramic snowmen hang from our lampshades, wreathes adorn our doors and every card we receive is on display along with the children's artwork and crafts from previous years.

We have a tradition of inviting 'Poppa' over first thing Christmas morning to watch the kids unload their stockings. This year my parents will be sunning themselves on a beach so breakfast will no doubt be with my husbands family.
Dylan and I last Christmas.
While my mother-in-law fries up the blood pudding and tomatoes and eggs the kids will be busy playing with their cousins and their new toys. My husband will be watching Christmas Vacation or Scrooge and he will be munching on his traditional Christmas snack of oysters on crackers while he reminisces with his siblings about Christmases past.I will undoubtedly have a chocolate hangover. The kind that will make me just sick enough by New Years to warrant a solid resolution to eat well and be active. Turkey will be roasting in the oven. My mother-in-law makes amazing mashed potatoes
I am hoping for snow. I want to take the kids tobogganing and skating in the few days I have off from work. I also look forward to the those days in between celebrating when I can curl up in my chair and catch up on my reading. More than anything though, I look forward to creating more quiet memories that will one day be memorialized in the book that I am not writing.

My dad will probably be wearing this hat on the beach this year!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Let A Little Life Get In The Way...

Meditations and a cool app on my ipod: both inspiring.
I used to use the excuse that life gets in the way but lately I have been thinking about that and I know now that that excuse is a poor one. Life is something we are full of from our biology to our spirituality. Saying that life gets in the way is likening our lives to the doors that are tightly shut and to dismiss life as such means that we are not looking for the doors that are open. Lately I have been really busy. With life. It has not been in my way. It has not kept me from doing things. On the contrary. I have been living a lot. I have been working hard. I love teaching and I love wandering the aisles of the libraries returning the books that others have read in their bid to really live. I have been socializing. I have visited my family, hosted dinners, attended parties and gone out dancing and to the movies. I have been expanding my interests by reading my first Danielle Steel book and picking up books written for teenagers. I have also discovered Marcus Aurelius. I have been reading more to my youngest and paying attention more to my older children...including taking an interest in their hobbies. (Check out Smosh or the Dudesons for some zany - albeit slightly inappropriate humour!) I have taken the train to Toronto, saw the musical Chess, drove to Ottawa for my niece's birthday and again a week later to bury my grandmother. I went to New York State twice for lunch with my other grandmother and my seventy year old aunt. I drank in the culture and art of Quebec City along with the red wine, cheeses and breads from the region. I learned how snowflakes are really made and why there are no two flakes alike.  I watched Paddle to the Sea; a National Film Board film from my childhood and bought an ipod which I use primarily to listen to the Cool Yule stream of jazz radio from Toronto. I walk my dog. I watch the squirrels getting fat and the geese fly south. I spend nights in watching TV with the family. We were treated to the Lawrence Welk Christmas special on PBS last night. I suppose I have been especially contemplative given that there is only one month left in this year. And I don't have much to show for all my attempts at writing. But that is OK, because the life I am living will allow me to breathe life into my stories, and it is after all the stories in our lives that help keep open the doors of the future.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 13: Sometimes Your Diet Gets In The Way.

I have started a diet. Woah! What?!!!  Me diet? Ha! I never used to have to think about my food intake. When I was in high school I would frequent the doughnut shop across the street daily on the hunt for chocolate eclairs or bow ties. Whichever one had the most rainbow coloured sprinkles would accompany me back to the school hallway where I would sit in front of my locker and slowly savour my treat; much to the chagrin of the pack of cheerleaders that for some reason seemed to pass by me everyday. They must have been hungry watching me. I never gained a pound. I was a solid 100lbs until I became pregnant with my first child. At slightly over the nine month mark I hit 130lbs. Not bad. Child number two put me up to almost 150lbs. Child number three came out at almost 100lbs, I swear! That pregnancy ended with a mind blowing off the chart weight of 180lbs. The minute I shared that moment with my scale I changed my diet and exercised every night. In only two months I had returned to a respectable size. Time, children and life in general has seen my weight go up and down since but never to a size of ill repute until now. Somehow the boot camp this summer, work outs at the Y, walking to work and back and daily walks with the dog helped me to gain a ton. Literally I think! So, diet, here I come.
Instead of eating an eclair in front of my peers today I brandished a sliced hard boiled egg. That was my snack. A pack of almonds was my breakfast. My colleagues and I discussed the merits of my doctor recommended South Beach Diet. No carbs for two weeks, then a slow re-introduction of healthy carbs. Sure. I can do that. I think.

The Hot Air Balloon: Big, round, full of hot air and symbolizing lofty ambitions.
But it is going to require a lot of concentration and commitment (I admit, I caved and had a chocolate bar this afternoon). My will-power is sputtering on weak batteries as it is, so my writing may have to give. I don't know if I have will-power enough for both projects. Oh, but wait. I am not writing these days. Good then. Expect to see me 20lbs thinner before Christmas. That, or I will drop a 20lb manuscript on your desk.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 12: Sometimes Life (and Death) Get In The Way

I was speeding along down the literature highway. I was flipping through pages like wind through the napkins on my picnic table. I was drinking in words from Stieg Larsson and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Then the unthinkable. My favourite 'wordsmith' passed away. She loved collocations. She inspired me to teach. She and I shared a passion for music and words the Dead and Cohen. Her passing was like slamming into a fiery truck; the kind that slides slowly towards you down the side of a mountain and you watch knowing that you cannot get out of the way.
I haven't read since. I haven't written since. I know She would tell me to shape up and get back on track. Fortunately a window has opened. Through my grief I can see clouds of opportunity and I know She would be very happy for me. Nothing stopped her from galloping after her dreams. Even at the end she was able to hold her very own literary creation in her arms. So starting today I am going to wholeheartedly approach three particular projects blessed in the knowledge that I am healthy and able to do so. Sunday will see me participate in the CIBC Run for the Cure. Unlike the Beat Beethoven run...this one is more of a Beat the Bitch that is Breast Cancer run. Also next week, I start a new job working at the library. I have dreamed of working at the library since I was a child tearing every book off the shelves and begging my dad if I could please take them all home. And third; I am going to start reading again. I am alive and healthy and instead of having the attitude that 'life gets in the way' I am going to make my way of life the only way to live.
Now. Which book to read first? How about Mark Twain's 'On Writing and Publishing'. Baby steps.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day 11: Read. Read. Read.

Just a few of my piles of books.
They say that if you want to write a book you need to read. Read a lot and read a variety of books. They would be those writers who write about how to write a book. I figure they should know. After all, I have read many of their books. They make lists that read like a whose who in literature. They make lists that read like first year English class at Anywhere University. If you are Canadian they make lists that include Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence and Micheal Ondaatje. They make sure to include Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner. They include in their lists Henry James, James Joyce and Joyce Carol Oates. Kerouac, Salinger and Steinbeck. Twain (not Shania) and Tennyson. Those of us on Face book have undoubtedly received those lists whereby we check off the number of classic titles that we have read and pass it on. Many of us are in book clubs where we read books like The Kite Runner and Sarah's Key. Then there are the series of books that we are sucked into; Twilight, Outlander, The Millennium Trio of books and so on. I have been busy reading this summer. I have been catching up with the classic titles like To Kill A Mockingbird and Uncle Tom's Cabin. I have also read biographies of Rob Lowe and C.S. Lewis. On my nightstand are stacks of books that I am 'in the middle' of. Books like A Passage to India and Aspects of the Novel by Forrester and Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton. Then I have books that I aim to read one day. The Interpretation of Dreams by Freud and Swann's Way by Proust are collecting dust along with my collection of Simone de Beauvoir books. I have books that are dog eared and have broken spines from my reading them over and over again. Books like Plath's Bell Jar and Kerouac's Dharma Bums. Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Thoreau's Walden round out this set of books. I also have a pile of books set aside that I have collected from the library. They are the books I have picked up for research. You see, the book I am hardly writing these days requires that I learn a little about economics and globalization. So bring on Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine and some book called Reefer Madness (not about pot, or the movie. If you want a book along those lines try The Electric Kool Aid-Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. Another of my favourites.) about the black market along with a couple of  idiots guides to economics.
Some of the books on my bedside table.
I went to Indigo the other day and to my delight they were having a sale. Buy three and get the fourth for free! I have now added Leonard Cohen's Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers to my library, along with Kerouac's Big Sur and Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. I can't wait to read, and re-read, these books!
Oh yeah, and I can't wait to get writing.