Tag Archives: joy

The enduring prejudice


Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

The other day, while idly wandering cookie recipes online, I came across one for oatmeal chocolate chip ones and scrolled down (I couldn’t remember my usual go to and had some chocolate chips looking lonely). The writer started off, as many do, with a little introductory blather, in which she said something to the effect of:

My grandmother lived to age 94, surprisingly, given her love for cookies and sweets and things like this recipe.

Now I’m a certified cookie-lover, and I couldn’t help but take umbrage. Why is it surprising that her grandmother lived while still loving cookies? Maybe it was the cookies that gave her the will to live! I know that on some of these grey winter days, when getting out of bed seems an unworthy struggle, the thought of a fresh cookie with my morning coffee can be the difference between loitering under the covers and springing into action.

And these were HOME MADE cookies she was talking about, lacking the usual death-dealing chemicals found in the store-bought kind that the author was probably secretly scarfing while looking all judgey-judgey at her poor grandmother toiling over a hot oven to bring deliciousness to her family (and/or herself, and there’s nothing wrong with that).

You never see anyone talking about their grandmother expressing surprise that she lived to an extended age despite her persistent love for kale, do you?

Well, that’s because people who live on kale die young, realizing early on that life has no purpose, no joy, no raison d’être. There’s only so much bitter green stuff a person can chew through before the pointlessness of it all becomes apparent.

But it’s okay to shame the cookie-eaters. Of all the prejudices, the ones against the plump, or even the sweet lover, the eater of fat, well, those remain and are endlessly reinforced.

Heard a comic the other day talking about how the best marriages are when the man’s ability to see drops as his wife ages. Yeah. The wife that births the children, manages the everything, and maybe, maybe, resorts to the occasional cookie in desperation. The wife whose eyes see fine and realizes the husband has turned into a smelly hairy hulk with bad teeth, but she’s the one with the problem with sinking attractiveness, of course. Grr.

So I say, huzzah for the cookie. It’s a small bundle of pure joy, perched in the palm of your hand like a precious gift, ready to bring delight. Eat on, grandmothers and others who cherish cookies. Life is too short to fill with gritty greens, no matter how long you live. Munch on, wallow in the brown sugar and butter goodness. Then, when you live long, you might actually enjoy it.

Visions


Every once and awhile a vision passes by me, on the computer or otherwise, that immediately starts my mind burbling. This is one, by drone photographer Gabriel Scanu, who is apparently all of 20 and blessed with an excellent eye.

This photo speaks to my wet-felting soul. I can see it evolving with tracings of silk for foam, with needle felted people and shadows after the base has dried. I love the contrast of the shadows on the sand and in the water, the view of a tiny kayak braving the waves. I know local artists who could paint this, beautifully.

There’s something about looking at the world from way way up that is consoling these days – being above the world on an impossibly sunny day, not even hearing the quibbles of the people below, the children whining for ice cream, the couples fighting… This photographer has given me a vision to think about, a respite from the worries around me.

It’s a pleasant thought to be above trouble and sorrow. It seems most everywhere I look in the past month, people are dealing with challenges, losses, changes that are unpleasant and require strength to manage.

Support-356x253I know artists and musicians who are dangling, unbought, while the world takes advantage of the Maude Lewis story and millions go into Hollywood coffers while the poor woman lived and died in pain and poverty. I was talking to a friend of mine who also finds this enraging. No one seems to feel the urge to donate to starving artists after the film, or to donate to the arthritis society, or to do anything other than buying reproduced Lewis art calendars (just the small ones, they aren’t too expensive), while our world, especially here in the Maritimes, is full of fresh new art, folk and other, that could use a loving touch, a new home.

I’ve been trying to buy a bit of art on my tight budget. I’ve been blessed with a few artist friends who started my collection, and I am meeting more all the time, thanks to the patient gallery owners that let me linger among the small pieces and put things on hold, or trade what I’ve made. I adore each and every one I’ve chosen, both for the beauty of the piece and for the fact that I know the artist.

Art brings visions to us, places and thoughts we have never seen, joy. I live in a smallish, somewhat dark apartment, but around every corner now I have a little spot of brightness, a view of an artist’s vision of life. They make me smile, every time I look at them.

I’d like to encourage everyone to spend a little on art, especially local art. It seems like an extravagance when bills speak loudly in the corner. But for a relatively small amount of money, you can bring beauty to the world, both your own space and in the artists’.

And couldn’t we all use a little bit of joy (and vision) these days?

how-to-buy-art-on-artspace-512x512-c

 

 

Restless Legs cured?


quote-i-haven-t-found-anywhere-in-the-world-where-i-want-to-be-all-the-time-the-best-of-my-life-is-the-sean-connery-41134Well, not the medical malady. More the moving all the time thing. My friends mock me for it, those who choose to stay put for years and years can’t understand it, even the local landlords have taken to asking me prying questions about my moving history.

It’s true. Since I left my husband, I’ve moved a lot. Partially because of work, partially because I rent and so don’t HAVE to stay put. And partially, as my kids say, because I seem unhappy and can’t settle.

I’m not unhappy. Clinically depressed, probably. But not unhappy. I’ve loved all of my surroundings for various reasons, and disliked them for various reasons. My youngest son thinks I’m crazy to move so often but he moves every few months; my middle son changes jobs frequently. I suspect we all have somewhat restless souls.

When I first had to stop work, I moved to Ottawa to be close to the kids and still be near supportive services. I didn’t know how long this MS would give me to play. I wanted to be somewhere with good public transit and medical services in case things went bad.

But, after a year in Ottawa, my ex remarried and all of a sudden I needed to be further away. I still loved my in-law family but it was time to make space for his new wife in the constellation. It was too awkward for both of us to be there, me knowing the history, she knowing the present. I thought carefully, and decided to return to the sea, the place where my heart had settled, the divine and magical Nova Scotia.

5cc883be42d2e36462ba6d1389c495daTo my astonishment and gratitude, the MS thing seems to be taking me away slowly. Yes, walking can be a challenge. Yes, I lose my ability to think concretely if I am in a crowd or if there is noise or if I’ve done too many things that day. Yes, I’m in pain a lot of the time and numb even more. There are those other things, too, not to be mentioned in a public blog. Unless I’m tired and have lost my filter. Which happens a lot and explains why so many people know of my misadventure with the peppermint foot cream….

My plan had been to write and become a locally-known author. Instead I’m a somewhat known crafter and sometime writer, former volunteer and somewhat snarky group member (I never hung out in groups as a kid or adult and it still feels itchy now).

view-of-halifax-harbour-from-the-dartmouth-side-with-ferry-in-foreground-bepyed

my favourite mode of transportation

I’ve dug a cozy nest for me here, lined with wonderful friends who are surrounded by yarn or tasty treats or fun conversations or interesting life stories or all of the above. I feel blessed, most of the time. (Except when that MS chews at my brain and makes me think it is all for nothing. Most of the time I can whip my thoughts back into shape and I’m getting help for the times when I can’t. And my MS friends here understand and we laugh about it together until I feel better.)

I miss my family (just a wee bit far away), and I long, occasionally, for the bustle of Ontario. I miss my fabulous cousins, many of whom for SOME REASON live in Ottawa… But I have the sea, and that is a tremendous comfort. There’s vast, changing beauty, just outside my door…

I’ve moved a lot since I 20130101-downtowndecorations-06came to Dartmouth – started in the suburbs because of my dog, moved in closer each succeeding move, and now I am exactly where I want to be, tucked into
friendly downtown Dartmouth, steps from the waterfront and the ferry, and Halifax is a 15 minute boat ride away. My apartment is wonderful, if a bit snug. I hang out here with my cat and his fish and I can see the world going on outside my window. I run down a flight of stairs and I’m in the stream, part of the streetscape.

It’s strange to be comfortable here, especially as it is wonderfully noisy in the summer,

lakebanookf

Follow the ferry back and you’ll end up at my house!

hot and humid for months, and now I am currently freezing my tail feathers off * because of a heating system that is NOT geared to people who don’t work. High electricity rates during the day do not a warm DA make! But…it’s home.

Every once and awhile I think about buying property, but when I am sensible I know that this place is just enough for my energy level – easy to tidy, nothing too strenuous to accomplish, walking distance to everything. Heck, I rarely even have to cook, with places to grab a bite all over the place!

Can it be I am finally settled?

quote-there-came-a-time-when-you-realized-that-moving-on-was-pointless-that-you-took-yourself-stephen-king-51-62-59

hmm

*(I rather suspect I feel at home in the chill because my mother used to turn the furnace down to sub-zero to manage the bills on our huge house, especially during the oil crisis…my dad took to wearing a heavy wool hat in the evenings in protest. Maybe I should try that?)

 

Writing and photographing tears


Writing sorrow. Picturing those little droplets slipping from eyes, causing embarrassment or joy or shame or release…

I hate crying. I’ve never learned to do it elegantly, with tissue carefully to nose, maybe some slight pinking of same.

Nope. I look like I’ve been dragged down a mountainside backwards and face down after I cry in sorrow. Face red, eyes puffy, headache for days afterwards. It’s not attractive.

fisher-tears_hope

Rose-Lynn Fisher: Tears of possibility and hope

But despite myself, I leak tears a lot. They come out when I laugh, whenever my kids do anything at all, pretty well (I still find it miraculous that they breathe, let alone think and argue with me), when I am feeling happy. These tears do have a bit more elegance to them. And now I know why.

They are different, made of different stuff. Check out this photo project by Rose-Lynn Fisher on the Topography of Tears. My favourite is “tears of elation at a liminal moment”, although “tears of possibility and hope” is pretty interesting, too, swirled with new pathways to explore.

Mirabilia.

Connecting to your inner gruntle


resized_disgruntledGrrrr.

I am feeling distinctly disgruntled and I seriously need some gruntling.

You know that feeling where you start to have hope, just a wee bit, that something in your life might develop into something interesting…

and then it doesn’t?

Or you start looking out for new opportunities and fun…

And can’t find them? Or they seem askew somehow?

Or you do all you can to be charming and lovely and kind and caring and supportive…

and it’s taken as due, no special thanks required? (Not referring to you, TC, if you are reading this)

Well, that leads to disgruntlement, in my experience.  Displeased, peevish, sulky.

So I need gruntlement when that happens – a good laugh with friends, support from my gal pals, a good book, a better writing session, a hangout with creativity in some way.

Usually, that’s all it takes for me to become gruntled again. Tomorrow I’m off exploring an island I’ve never seen before.

I sense gruntlement ahead. Picnic-logo-FINAL

The joys of connecting to inspiration


Back when my kids were little, I homeschooled them for a year. It was a magical time for me as a parent. My middle son was just learning to read, and in the space of a few weeks he’d had that “aha!” phenomenon happen where suddenly the squiggles on the page became the story. The joy on his face was palpable. I was so honoured to be able to see it happen, to see the words and letters take hold, to watch that huge moment of discovery.
I envy teachers this.
Likewise, I’ve been around to see others get that sudden grasp of a thought or a spurt of creativity or that lightning bolt of an idea – it’s fantastic to watch it slip across their faces, to hear the lilt in their voices, the utter soul-screaming joy of it all.
It’s infectious.
They share their happiness, and I want to rub up against it, stick some of the loose bits onto my self, put the glow on me, while never diminishing theirs.
It’s absolutely fabulous.
And such a blessing to be a part of it as it happens, cheering on from the sidelines!

Serendipitous Connections


 

CONNECTsmall

I’m all grown up now, no kids to tow to rugby games or class performances , no parent-teacher lineups or other shared parental volunteer activities to set up friendships with other grown ups. It used to be easy to meet new folks – we were doing the same things at the same time, our kids hung out together, we got to know each other over backyard BBQs and such.

We could hide behind our kids to get us out of bad friendships or conversations or activities. We could meet people we wanted to without seeming creepy or forward. It was all so easy back then.

Now that’s all gone. I meet a few people through my kids but most of the time we travel in very different circles.

So I have to make new connections, and that’s tougher. I was blessed in that I was married to a military guy for years, whose modus operandi was to move me away from everyone I knew and then abandon me and go to work. It was the best thing to ever happen to a gal like me, who was able to fake it til I made it, but who spent a fair bit of her time humming “Whistle a Happy Tune” under her breath.

So I learned to get out there, talk to strangers (and even strangers), join things, keep busy. I took up strange interests – pottery, ukulele, volunteer stuff, writing – in the hope that I’d meet interesting people. I signed up for classes and pretended to study. I joined dating sites and chatted with many many strange men (and some lovely ones). I met people.

But often the connections are so happenstance they are unpredictable. One of my best gal pals I worked with years ago, only to find she’d moved to NS and was living a block away from where I’d moved to – I would never have found her save for a political event attended by her minister, where we got to chatting…

And my other BFF is a lass I met at a ukulele concert – we happened to sit beside one other, got talking about the Halifax Ukulele Gang, both decided we wanted to go, and we’ve been friends ever since.

It’s serendipitous and wonderful, miribilia, as Rob Brezsny would say.

And now threads fly out from me to all those places where I once was, where I have left friends and family, connecting me to people around the globe. Some of those threads are thin and worn, but so many of them hum brightly when I touch them, making me feel supported and part of that ineffable something bigger.

I still sing that song, though. But that’s a topic for another day.

 

Relax, and feel the cosmos breathing you…


291944_231992753521741_230435437010806_543226_885758423_nAndrew Weil, MD, is a fellow who simply brims with good health and joy and gosh, even his beard seems almost rudely alive. He’s a medical doctor with all sorts of additional training in naturopathy and yoga and non-western medical practices. I’ve read a few of his books in my time and he also seems to have a healthy dose of common sense and humour about himself.
This morning I spent with Dr. Weil and his book Breathing from Audible.com. The second chapter is full of breathing exercises and relaxation breathing, the first chapter tells you why they are so important.
I woke up this morning feeling sore in all my bones, aching with MS and filled with a cold from the pool where I swim. I’m packing to move, and I am grieving for a friend who is having a terrible time. So I was cheery to the max, let me tell you. Sometimes it is fortunate I sleep alone.
So I turned on Andrew, and breathed.
And was healed.
The breathing techniques alone were worth the expense of the book and the time. Hearing Andrew breathe along beside me and envisioning his outrageously healthy self doing these exercises was also wonderful. The techniques were useful and I’ve parked one involving timed breathing for the next time I feel an urge to eat tons of chocolate or send a hateful email or beep my horn.
But the bit that left me weeping was an exercise in pretending you we’re not breathing yourself, that the universe was inflating you down to your toes and then gently sucking the air out of you, only to inflate you again.
Andrew says, “feel the cosmos breathe you.”
Okay, I have to admit that sounds pretty new age flaky stuff, but to tell you the truth, it was a wonderful release, so much so I found myself weeping tears of joy and opening my mouth wide to take in the blessing.
We believe we are in charge of so much, we try to control so much. I can’t even enjoy swimming anymore because I am always wanting to make sure everyone has a lane to swim in! It’s insane.
The thought of letting the cosmos take me, rest on my lips like a lover, and breathe for me, was impossible to describe.
And left me with a profound, encompassing sense of gratitude. About everything.
Thank you, Dr. Weil, and your health and common sense and good cheer and open-minded ness that also is capable of critical thought (at one point, he takes time to explain why we are to rest the tips of our tongues on the roof of our mouth while breathing, talking about various energy circles, only to say, “I have no idea how this is applicable to what we know about human physiology, but since these guys have been doing it for years and found a benefit to it, why not bow to their greater wisdom. Can’t hurt…”(paraphrasing))
(I always taught this in prenatal class as a way to ensure your mouths didn’t get dry when doing breathing exercises…)
The book- highly recommended. Get it on audio and listen to Andrew breathe. You’ll be better for it.

Or go to his website and check out the exercises he recommends. For free.

I have seriously died and gone to heaven…


Oh my oh my oh my!
Sometimes there is such joy living here in Halifax that I could seriously split my facial muscles smiling.
Yes, it’s all about the sea and the sand and the ships and the smell of the ocean and the fog and the skree of seagulls and all of that.
But it’s also about quaint shops and odd little spots like Plan B or Swoon and cafes and little pubs and all that…
And poetry readings and book launches and writers hanging out….
But I have to admit I love the easy access live music the very best.
I cannot believe, for example, that my hero and all time favourite musician, Matt Andersen, is bringing his glorious self to the Carleton, an intimate venue with the best sound system in any bar I’ve seen, anywhere. I am overwhelmed. And for the extreme cost of $25 a ticket!! I could perish with happiness. But not til after May 7th!!!!!!!
I’ve already seen James Hill, my ukulele hero, and Anne Davidson, his cello virtuoso partner, at the Carleton. I’ve been overwhelmed by Ashley McIsaac and his fiddle, so close I could watch each individual bow hair break as he played.
The Carleton is magnificent, but so are the smaller venues – the charming Cafe Brea with concerts now and again that bring the musician right to your table to drink a coffee with you. And the coffee is great.
The house concerts, too, where I first met PEI musicians Gordon Belcher and
And then the bigger venues, from whence I shall peer from the nosebleed section at the amazing Leonard Cohen in a few weeks. I don’t care how far away he is, in Halifax, even the nosebleed section is relatively intimate, and hey, that voice can transport me even if I heard it across a football field – as Nancy White once mourned, he’ll never bring my groceries in, but a girl can dream, can’t she?
Meanwhile, I feel like I can wallow in music all over the place here. It permeated the buildings, rocks the fog, makes my heart sing.
Sometimes I even accompany it on my ukulele, with about 50 other people. But that’s another story…

Loving music and dance


Tomorrow afternoon, I’m heading out to go dancing. There’s a restaurant in Halifax, My Father’s Moustache, that has a house band. Every Saturday, they play three hours of blues and dancing music. I’ve been once before, and was astonished to find that I could still dance, despite my MS, and that I loved it so very much. I’d forgotten the simple joy of moving to the music.

Halifax is a wonderful place for live music at no to low cost. Everywhere you go, music follows – coffee shops, bars, house concerts, big concerts, street music, church concerts. The music here runs from folk to out there alternative; different places specialize in different music, but it’s quite democratic. Depending on the day, the music can vary even in the same place.

I love it here, and the music scene is one of the reasons why. I mean, I’m over 50, and afraid of dances where i might have to give CPR since everyone is over 90. This dancing tomorrow is good good music and the place is filled with people of all ages, having a great time.

It’s also a bit of a singles hangout. People watching is half the fun. Some of the attendees are scented and dressed to the nines, and there are a few gentlemen who swim sharklike through the crowd, looking for unattended fishies. The fishies are also swimming, looking for sharks. The last time I went I swear one guy was wearing Brilliantine in his hair – it shone almost as brightly as his alligator shoes. Rad, Dad!

Add all this to the fact this place serves delicious fish and chips, and man, I’m in heaven.

Tomorrow, I’m going with a moustachioed man and two good friends. I can’t wait to feel the floor beneath my feet, the music in my veins.