Sunday, September 18, 2016

Digging Deep

I've done a lot of digging out at our cottage. The biggest hole we ever dug was eight years ago when we buried Sophie. Sophie was the first dog I ever had as an adult; a dog that was truly mine. She loved being at the cottage and when she passed we brought her out here one last time to bury her. I had read on the internet that the hole should be at least four feet deep to discourage wildlife from digging up the grave, no small feat.
We arrived late one afternoon and proceeded to dig. And dig. And dig. It was hard going. The soil out here on the Canadian shield is a relative gumbo of thick and sticky clay. If the clay wasn't enough to contend with, there is a massive network of roots stopping our shovels every now and again. Often the proper tool isn't a shovel, but an axe. Sophie's hole was indeed four feet deep, for the last while I stood inside it and tossed chunks of soil out. We buried her facing west, looking out over the lake at the sunset.
Two years ago I dug another large hole; this one to house the Sam Floyd memorial garden. Sam was an old friend and lover of mine who decided one night that her pain was too much to bare. A decision that still tears at the hearts of those who knew and loved her. She had a brilliant sense of humour and an infectious laugh. But her smile hid a darkness none of us suspected and just one day after Robin Williams, she ended her life.
I had recently been gifted a large quantity of lilies and  decided to plant them to honour her memory. I staked out an area off to the side of the yard, right along the bush line.  First I had to dig up the top layer of thick grass before I could excavate a long trench. Then I had to fill the hole with rich top soil before transplanting the lilies. It was a hot day and it felt good to toil and sweat. Hard labour always helps me work out negative energy. When I was finished it didn't look like much, but I had faith it would flower beautifully the following year.
This weekend I expanded Sam's garden. I'm beginning the process of moving perennials from my home in the city to the cottage, since that is where I prefer to spend my time. Eventually we plan to move there permanently, when the hubs partially retires. Once again I began the arduous process of cultivating clay. I had barely begun when I had to stop and get the axe. As I hacked away at the roots, it occurred to me how similar my journey of self awareness and education is to gardening. It is very hard work and often something that you have to do, even when you'd rather not. More importantly, sometimes you have to sever some roots so that new growth can occur. It became a meditation for me - the digging, the chopping, the heavy lifting and then the careful placement of tender plants. When I laid my shovel (and my axe) to rest and took a step back, I was impressed by it's ugliness. But just like my life, I have faith it will be beautiful.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Monkeys

Recently I came across an article that talks about how our usual mind is like a monkey in a house with five windows. The five windows represent our senses and the monkey represents our mental consciousness. The monkey is restless and bounces around from one opening to the next, always on the lookout for something interesting. 
It's an apt description of how I feel sometimes and the best way to calm it down is to focus on one thing at a time. Much like the grounding advice given to people experiencing an anxiety attack - find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste - it does work. At night when I head to bed, my monkey mind can not settle down. I tend to create all kinds of scenarios and imagine how I would react. But if I can get that monkey to just listen, to the wind or my own breath or to the patter of rain, sleep will soon be at hand.
But there is another monkey in my memory. Years ago I was having problems holding on to an unresolved conflict. I knew I needed to let go of pent up hostility, but I just couldn't. I was struggling and my emotions were holding me down. So I asked an old friend (and part time spiritual guru) Denny, to help me, to show me how to let it go. His response was clear and concise and perfect in it's simplicity.
Denny told me of an interesting method used to capture monkeys. The monkey trappers would place a small cage in the jungle and place a bunch of bananas inside of the cage and lock it. When a monkey come across this setup their natural reaction is to reach through the bars and grab the bananas. The bars are so close together that the monkey can't remove his hand without dropping the fruit. Even as the trappers approach, the monkey will not unclench his first. He is trapped by his own instinct and he could be free if only he could let go.
It was a light bulb moment for me and a lesson that has served me well over the years. I often visualize my own fist being unclenched. I long to be free and every day it becomes a more solid reality. I will not allow a monkey to rule my life.
My husband and I with Denny in the middle. 

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Spark

Days pass and I think 'I should write today'. And the days keep passing. Didn't I say I was going to write every day? Wasn't I planning to write more while I was on holidays? Didn't I get up early this morning, just to write? And more days pass and the (virtual) page remains blank.

I don't know how to break this cycle. Sometimes I find myself thinking 'you should write about this', and still there is just a blank page. I take the pictures for the post and the blankness persists. I read what others have written and nothing changes.

When I started this blog, I didn't mean for it to be a chore. I wanted it to be natural, just a byproduct of the never ending stream in my head. I thought it would be more organic; I thought I was ready.

I'm not giving in to this lack of spark. I've got to keep plugging away. I have to find a way to encourage myself more. I'm not sure what the key will be, but I know I have to keep searching.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Live Free

Painted on a highway overpass.
Live free.
What do these words really mean
Live free.
What about the painter, did he live free?
I imagine him hitch hiking his way across Canada.
People still do that up here.
We often see them on the side of the number one.
Alone or in pairs, patiently holding their thumb out.
Sometimes they hold a sign scribbled with their destination.
I long to pick one up and hear their tale.
What makes them tick?
What are they so passionate about, that they left it all behind?
Put themselves in harms way to follow the call.
Live free.
Who can honestly say they live free?
Live free.
Wise words from a highway overpass.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Transformed

Am I in heaven?
Sitting in the shade with my dog
Content at my feet.
Listening to the jays jeer and squawk.
The sweet chatter of chickadees to my right.
Then the most transforming sounds from the Jay,
not the racous caw but a gentle coo.
An idyllic scene and I am grateful for this
peace in my day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Let it be

An old friend was coming to visit, one I hadn't seen in a few years. It had already been an eventful day having spent the afternoon with yet another old friend - one I hadn't seen in 29 years! So, feeling a bit flushed, I decided to go meditate for awhile to calm my brain.

My husband had put on an old Springsteen album in the basement and I could hear it's muted songs in the bedroom. This music had been a soundtrack to my life, and I knew all the words by heart. I lay on the bed in the coolness and I listened to my breath. I struggled to find my focus, find my centre, surrender to my breath. After awhile I felt the slip and I was in. Utter relaxation, a pure peacefulness encompassed me. I lay watching the light swirl inside my eyelids, morphing and rolling. For a moment a thought of "is this bad?", and then in another beat "what if this is good? just let it be."

Not soon after, my eyes were opened and I write this refreshed. I wish the same for all of you.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Getting away from it all

We decided to stay home from the cottage this past weekend. Part of me hates 'wasting' a perfectly good weekend in the city, especially during the summer, but sometimes that's the way life goes. So instead my darling husband surprised me with a couple of days trips to local towns.
On Saturday he took me north of the city up to Lake Winnipeg. I've lived here ten years and we have never taken the drive to see this 'ocean' on the Prairies. We drove up to Gimli, a small Icelandic fishing village, and our first stop was the Crown Royal factory. For years he has told me how every drop of Crown Royal is made right here in Manitoba and while the plant is fairly non-descript the sign does say "global supply".

After that he took me to the harbourfront and we walked the pier. It was easy to imagine I was in a seaside town in a more tropical clime. Sailboats filled the marina and dotted the skyline on a lake so vast the opposite shoreline could not be seen. Having been landlocked in the Midwest for the past 20-odd years, it was a refreshing reminder of days spent by sea. After our stroll we hopped back in the car and meandered our way home, stopping along the way so I could see all the little towns along the way.

Sunday morning we headed out, debating where we might go. I'm never sure if Jim has a plan all along or if he just drives aimlessly until an idea strikes. We ended up driving west out of the city on the number one highway until we got to Portage la Prairie. A sleepy farming community that looks straight out of the 1970's. We stopped and bought some vegetables and took the dogs for a walk before our return trip. We decided to wander our way back, soaking in the sunshine of an August afternoon, the prairies were in all their glory. No matter what country road we turned down the corn was tall and the canola was lush and green, but best of all the wheat fields had turned into amber waves of grain. 

It's hard to describe the beauty of those fields; they stretch out as far as the eye can see, glowing with goodness. The unbelievable flatness of the land and overwhelming expanse of sky never fails to thrill me. After ten years of prairie living, I still imagine I am Laura Ingalls peering out the back of a covered wagon not knowing what lay before me, but ready to face it. I am so happy to live here and have the opportunity to feel the vastness and see the sky as a great blue dome over my head.

We had such a lovely weekend together. Life has been a bit stressful lately and these day trips were a long overdue treat, made sweeter because of the company. No matter what gets thrown at us, we always face it together.