Monday, October 29, 2012

Oct 29 - Photo a Day - Moon

Sandy Strikes

It's a dramatic evening in North America. Hurricane Sandy has been building over the the Atlantic Ocean, making a mess of some tropical islands, and keeping millions mesmerized by its impending landfall. New York City anticipates major flooding. Nobody knows what that will mean for the busy subway system or for the NY Stock Exchange, let alone for the millions of individuals who live in that crowded metropolis.

Adding to the power of this unprecedented storm is the extreme tide effect, normally enjoyed by the coastal residents, brought by the full moon. The highest tides, corresponding with up to 100-mile-per-hour winds, almost guarantees flooded streets, fallen trees and downed power lines.

As in every intense storm, there will be those who will ignore the warnings, refuse to evacuate, and even walk or drive into the worst areas. Many can't resist the intensity of their curiosity, it seems. The rescue and healthcare workers will undoubtedly be handling a torrent of people in need.

Any hospital worker can tell you that emergency rooms experience a monthly surge when the moon is full. Having the moon in opposition to the sun effects all of the water on our planet -- including that inside our bodies. People get a little crazy, and sometimes their risk-aversion declines.

Tonight, we can only hope that the President's and newscasters' warnings will override the ramifications of this full moon, and help keep the curious stormchasers -- those most likely to be hurt -- inside, on high ground, or caring for those who need them.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oct 28 - Photo a Day - Looking Back


If you're like me, you have a friend or two who can remember a million details from the past. Or perhaps you are that lucky person with the vivid memory. Personally, most of my childhood memories would be lost were it not for my old photo albums.

It's not that the box gets dug out often, or that I moon over the no-longer-sticky pages covered with black-and-white or faded-colour images. But the tired cardboard box of school annuals and picture albums contains a wealth of smiling snapshots and portraits that trigger thousands of recollections.

Rarely am I able to reconstruct an entire day or complete conversations. What tends to surface are the highlights -- the sparkling moments that warm, inspire, delight, or tickle me.

This precious box, filled with images of family and friends, along with my beloved laptop (where the past nine years of electronic photo albums are stored) would be the first grabbed should disaster strike. Meanwhile, I hope you'll excuse me while I open a notebook and take another journey down Reminiscence Road.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Oct 27 - Photo a Day - Morning

Penny and her dear Dad
We have a clown living at our house. It is obvious, by the outrageous number of YouTube kitty videos posted each day, that there are cats amusing humans all over the world. Ours is named Penny.

I've lived with cats for over 30 years, but this sweet little creature is my partner's first. From the first moment he saw her when we went to see if she was meant to be ours, he's been smitten.

Cats, I learned long ago, will dance on your head, lick your nose, attack your toes, and generally make a nocturnal nuisance of themselves if you let them. Penny has proven herself to be classic in that category (sorry for the pun), so she has multiple nighttime nests throughout the house. She doesn't seem to hold a grudge, though I feel like a mean-ol'-mom when I close her out every night.

Morning is Penny's favourite play time. Her wonderful dad, Pierre, provides multiple toys just for her entertainment: socks are the best, drug across the bed, down her sides, and under her belly; next is his belt, the leather withstanding bites and back-feet kicks; and last, but probably most fascinating, is his work badge with the retracting belt attachment. Her pounces and flips can keep us laughing for a quarter-hour, make Pierre late for work, and start our day the best way possible.

P.S. I would love to hear your cat stories!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Oct 26 - Photo a Day - Listening to

My Current Driving Story by one of my Favourite Authors

Thank goodness for the library!

Being read to is one of my secret pleasures. It evokes comforting memories of trooping back from the bookmobile carrying a new stack of books that mom or dad would read to us on the couch or in bed just prior to sleep.

While I haven't been to a bookmobile since elementary-school, it turns out that Ottawa has a number of them. I'm lucky enough to live just a short walk to one of the branch buildings, which I visit regularly, and still happily carry my pile of books home.

The library has changed its offerings over the years to include our modern-day array of media. In the past year, I've read library e-books from my computer as well as (my favourite) listening to recorded books on cd, and even mp3.

I'm calling this fixation on libraries a healthy, life-long habit. I usually have at least a couple of traditional, paper-bound books next to the bed or beside my writing chair. In addition, virtually every road-trip, short or long, contains -- at minimum -- a portion of a chapter read by an actor, voice-over artist, or (as my current book-on-cd) the author herself.

Since my list of must-read books is still many pages long, thanks to the library, "getting there" in my car has more than one meaning. And, even though I'm no longer a child, someone is graciously willing to read me a bed-time story.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oct 25 - Photo a Day - People

Bells Corners Union Cemetery

Resting in Peace

I love cemeteries... especially small, old cemeteries. There is a tiny one near my home (722 graves, according to the records) with many gravestones dating back to the 1830s. The names on some of the cracked headstones include those of founding families which adorn street signs across town. The grounds are well-tended, and there are even bunches of silk flowers on two or three of the graves. I find it a peaceful, fascinating place.

I know the location of only a small handful of family members' graves: my paternal grandparents, my partner's parents, and two second cousins, both who died far too young. While I know that many people derive great comfort from visiting their loved ones' graves, and I respect that greatly, for me the spirit of the deceased is far more present in places where we shared time or in quiet contemplation of cherished memories.

There is one headstone that I've had the honour of tending. It is a beautiful granite stone marking the graves of two people I would have loved to have met: my future parents-in-law. Last fall I spent a few afternoons there cleaning and re-painting the flaking letters, and thanking them for bringing such a wonderful man to this Earth. The serenity of those hours surrounded by crosses and angels, with only the sound of the birds and breeze has stayed with me.

Perhaps the reason I find such peace in these beautiful resting places is that each stone is a tribute to a person who was dearly loved. And even though each person is gone, all of the love remains.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Oct 24 - Photo a Day - Weather

Beautiful Cloud Cover Above Ottawa

Dreary Days

For over ten years, one of my weekly clients sat down in my chair, and 85% of the time, complained about the weather -- we did, after all, live in Seattle. He had lived there all of his life, so chilly dampness was not new. But if it wasn't late July or August, those glorious days of which songs have been written, he was cranky.

I often wondered, and even asked a few times why he stayed. He didn't have an answer. He dreamed of retiring, like so many do, to the hot deserts of Arizona. He vacationed in the southwestern states and in arid eastern Washington. And yet he dug his uncomfortable webbed feet into Seattle's mossy ground. It was a choice, of course. His friends and family, his home and his routine took precedence over his hatred of the weather. But he never made peace with the drizzle. With the exception of those few weeks in summer, he subscribed to Murphy's Law: if it wasn't raining, it was bound to, once Saturday arrived.

Since I'm a glass-half-full person, I tried everything I could think of to show him an optional view. He would listen politely. He would chuckle kindly at my attempts to cajole him out of his gloomy funk over soggy boots and raincoats. We cracked up about many subjects over the years, but for my friend, the Pacific Northwest's climate was not, and could never be amusing or -- heaven forbid -- endearing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Oct 23 - Photo a Day - The View From Here

Time for one last garden clean-up

My Front Porch

In the southern U.S., it's common to see folks sitting in pillow-stuffed wicker chairs or slow-moving rockers on wrap-around porches watching the world go by. It's long been a dream of mine to have not only the veranda, but also the balmy weather and leisure to enjoy such an activity.

Big porches are a rare sight here in eastern Ontario. On ocassion I've seen a front-yard-sitter, but for the most part, when people are outside here, they're either working or on the move. Sitting takes place inside or in private, fenced back yards where interaction takes place only by invitation. People aren't unfriendly; they're just busy.

My writing chair is situated in the natural light of a wonderful, nearly floor-to-ceiling front window, and provides a juniper-bordered view of the street. I enjoy taking in the slow, irregular parade of dog-walkers, bike-riders, and the comings and goings of neighbours, waving when one looks my way. I observe the constant changes in the garden, V's of geese, darting of black-capped chick-a-dees, glimpses of bright red cardinals, and brash antics of the squirrels.

Perhaps in fact, this spot is this northerner's climate-controlled answer to the pleasures of front porch sittin'.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Oct 22 - Photo a Day - In Your Town

Britania Park at Sunset

Nature Inside City Limits

Everyone warned me and many laughed when I told them I was moving from Seattle to Ottawa....      "Canada?? Don't you know how cold it is up there?" Yes, I knew, but it definitely couldn't be worse than living 4000 miles from the man that I loved.

The winter before I arrived, Ottawa had record snowfalls. Looking at photos of six foot snowbanks wasn't encouraging, but I had learned to drive in the snow, and having been a motorcycle rider I knew that staying warm was all about the gear.

My friends were right. Winters aren't easy here. Chipping a thick layer of freezing-rain ice off car windows is no fun. However, relaxing in front of a crackling fire with Pierre, Copper, and Penny more than compensates for the harsh climate. And have I mentioned that Ottawa is stunningly beautiful?

I used to say that Seattle was Paradise. I've learned that there is more than one Paradise on Earth. This federal capital of just under a million people -- a quarter of the size of Seattle -- contains a whopping 850 parks. Seattle Parks and Rec, on the other hand, maintains only 400. So even though I can't gaze out at (or take a short road-trip to) Mount Rainier's majesty, nor see the rest of the Cascade nor Olympic mountain ranges, my sweetheart, dog, and I are able to romp every few blocks in lovely open fields dotted with a huge variety of trees.

And when, like today, I can no longer stand being so far from the sea, we can visit one of the meandering parks along the Ottawa or Rideau Rivers and listen to the soft rhythmic waves swish up to the shore.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Oct 21 - Photo a Day - Calm

Editor, Peace and Environment News
The calmest exterior may rest upon a monumentally fervent core.

I spent time today in the office of the Peace and Environment Resource Centre (PERC), a magazine-, computer-,  and book-lined room on the third floor of a church auxiliary building built in the late 1920s. Over the past year and a half, I've climbed the echoing marble staircase dozens of times to join the staff and other volunteers who run this long-standing non-profit organization.

One of the PERC's original founders, the Centre's newspaper editor, Margaret Jensen, was there this afternoon, quietly adding final editorial marks to the next issue's articles about homelessness.

Margaret, in my experience, is possibly the calmest, most unassuming person I've ever met. I can't picture her in a tizzy or raising her quiet voice to anyone.

Yet since the early 1980s, this kind woman has regularly broadcast the fervent voices of advocates and activists to the citizens of Canada's National Capital Region. The Peace and Environment News is her brainchild, and she, the volunteer authors, and the PERC team have produced dozens of issues -- hundreds of thousands of copies -- of passionate papers, reminding people to stay awake.

The values that Margaret embodies -- her concern for the planet and for social justice -- seem to radiate from her peaceful nature. As gentle as she is, the issues she cares about so deeply reveal the intensity of her ardor, and command a fully-earned respect.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Oct 20 - Photo a Day - Four o'clock

To a job well done!

 Good Afternoon

It's four o'clock on a Saturday, and we're celebrating a very full day of yardwork with a lovely glass of shiraz. Only a couple more outdoor jobs -- oh, those pesky gutters -- and the house will be set for winter. How that "w" word conjures mixed feelings...

(As an aside, we've been enjoying alcohol-free weekdays, and sipping just a bit on the weekends for nearly two months now. So nice to feel back in control. :))

Returning to four o'clock though... What an interesting time it is. Since I've never held a 9 to 5 job, I'm unfamiliar with the last-hour anticipation that accompanies many people's 4 p.m. These days in fact, it's often the time when I'm starting a new appointment, am in the middle of a project, or getting ready to participate in an evening volunteer gig.

Afternoon / evening tends to be my highest-energy time, which only rarely coincides with others' internal clocks; most seem to be winding down around then. It would be a treat to be sleepy at 9:30 p.m. and bound out of bed at 6 a.m.; however, the truth is, drowsiness eludes me most nights until late, and I don't normally feel completely in-my-body awake until 10 a.m..

Certainly I'm not alone in this out of synch feeling. To the rest of you night-owls, I send a slow-morning coffee- or tea-toast to the fact that we don't live in a horrid dystopia with a 5 a.m. wake-up alarm, where punishment is meted out to us non-morning citizens. Hurrah for freedom! Cheers!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Oct 19 - Photo a Day - Letters

According to Yogi Bhajan, this is the most high Kundalini yoga mantra (read and chanted or sung from bottom to top). "These eight syllables are the 'code' letters, the direct personal phone number connecting you, the creature, with your Creator." How fabulous is that?

I look at this hand-painted poster resting against the wall of Rama Lotus' yoga room nearly every week. To me, not knowing the language, they are just letters. Obviously, to many, they are extremely powerful words, and when chanted for two-and-a-half hours before sunrise for 40 days, can lead a person to enlightenment.

Translated, the words are nearly the same as the beginning of my daily prayer:
There is a creator. Truth is his name. Great is his wisdom.

Letters... strung together make the language of words -- some which nurture, some which wound, and everything in between. Everyday each of us does what we (seemingly) can not help but do: fill words with meaning. True power comes when we realize that we are the authors and the meaning-makers, and every word's interpretation is actually ours to decide.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oct 18 - Photo a Day - Made Me Smile Today

Can I Help?
Short post today, as I'm trying to kick a mean headache out. This was my view from the floor as soon as I dropped down to do some yoga stretches. Floor level is Copper's, and he loves to lend his 85 lbs and whichever toy he happens to be carrying to my practice. It's hard not to smile, even with a pounding head, when this goofy boy is wagging, wimpering, and/or offering up a favourite stuffed woobie.

What helped more than anything, though, was the next half-hour, which looked like this...

Hope you all got a good snuggle today, too, or at least one really good hug. If not... Copper has plenty more to give. :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Oct 17 - Photo a Day - Fruit

The Saddest Drawer

Pssst... Don't Forget the Fruit

Dragonfruit, bananas, melon, peaches, kiwi, plums, cherries... There are so many delectable fruits in the world, and so few that those in this household eat.

Our produce drawer regularly looks like this. It is often the place where fruit (and sometimes tofu) goes to mush. Usually lemons and limes are cut for adding to water, beer, guacamole, or fish, but many times the last slices grow a slimy, white mould before we return to them.

We love the taste and crunch of apples, but if you look closely, you'll see that both the red- and golden delicious (probably imported from Eastern Washington) are covered in weeks-old wrinkles, and are undoubtedly mealy inside. The sunken-in pomegranate under last weekend's grapes is likely filled with dried kernels that, far from being a delicious juice ingredient, may soon masquerade as a handle-less maraca.

Why do we do this to these fabulous fruits? Waste makes me nuts, and I'm famous (at least with Pierre) for my leftover-kichen-sink-glop dinners. But many of the tender, sweet, vitamin- and mineral-rich fruits that come to our house tend to wither away rather than be crunched, blended, juiced, or savoured. (I'm hoping, in case you didn't know, that confessing this weakness in our dietary habits will help us change our careless ways.)

The one fruit family whose photograph could probably never be captured here is berries. There hasn't been a berry picked that is safe in our house. Sometimes a basket of blue-, straw-, black- or rasp-berries lasts a full twenty-four hours. More often they make their way into that night's dessert bowl and disappear in a hundred bursts of dazzling flavour.

If you have any motivating ideas that could save the inhabitants of our produce drawer from an extended, non-nutritive death, please feel free to pass them on. For now though, I think I hear that last honeycrisp apple whispering my name.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Oct 16 - Photo a Day - Something I Wrote

Two Years of Notes and Assignments from the PW Program

A Scribe

You may have guessed that I have a weakness for writing. It doesn't yammer at me to get out, as I've heard some authors describe. Full-blown stories don't exist inside me, just waiting for the excess stone to be chipped away, revealing their legends, adventures, or allegories.

Instead, ideas take hold, and as my fingers rest on the keys, words begin to flow out -- jerkily, with many revisions and clarifications -- but I discover, just as you do, what is to be written that day.

I've only experienced writer's block once, with all of its black-holed dread. It lasted an unrelenting three weeks. Our college assignment was to create a children's story; it seemed so simple. But not being a mother, I had read a tiny handful of kids' books in the nearly fifty years prior, and it felt as though I was being asked to write a story in Swahili. "I can't" is rarely in my vocabulary, so in saying those words to my professor, I found tears in my eyes. Luckily, he has a kind and patient soul, and helped me set down my fear.

The following day a rhyming tale began, starring my dear old gold-dog, Porter, and his pug-buddy, Biggie. To my great surprise and delight, it and four others were chosen to be illustrated by the students in the graphics program. Those drawings, sadly, disappeared with the artist, but the block has not returned (touch wood), and I hope that the words continue rolling off of my fingertips, sharing my spirit with those who choose to read them.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Oct 15 - Photo a Day - Dinnertime

Tonight's Hybrid Dinner

 Au Revoir Été

As any cook knows, it's impossible to sear delicious smoky-flavoured grill-stripes onto pork, chicken, or steaks in a flat-bottomed fry pan no matter how one tries, yet here they are....

At our house, Pierre is The Barbecue King, a master of both the grill and the rotisserie. As a general rule, once he has begun preparation, the meat or veggies remain there until slowly cooked to perfection. Throughout the summer he regularly sends the mouth-watering scent of searing organic meat throughout our neighbourhood.

On a couple of ocassions we've run out of fuel in the midst of an outdoor grilling and have had to finish it up inside, but tonight that wasn't the case. These lovely chops' visit to the barbecue was aborted due to rain. No one, least of all a king, loves a soggy chef, so in he came, carrying a pink-tinged plate of pork.

The chops, joined by baked delicata squash and rosebud beets, made a yummy feast, but their cooking circumstances clearly illustrated that our beloved outdoor sizzling season is very near its end.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Oct 14 - Photo a Day - Makes You Laugh

Rick and Nancy Chuckle Together


What a treat it is to find people who crack you up.

I've been told throughout my life that I'm far too serious... or intense... or sensitive. In truth, I am all of those things. There are many things that "the general population" finds hilarious which seem cruel or simply sad to me. Sit-coms usually don't qualify as comedy in my world. The things that make me laugh are goofy, off-the-wall, and strange to many.

 What I have learned though, thank goodness, is that I am far from alone. The longer I live, the more people come into my life who share my sensitivity and values. I'm blessed to have a partner who not only finds me funny, (an amazing thing in itself) but makes me grin, chortle, and snort. That feeling of finding kindred spirits -- those whose oddities are similar to yours -- is affirming and freeing, and that in itself inspires laughter.

Spending time with happy, loving people is truly a delight. Discovering partners-in-weirdness makes the journey so much more fun. And the best thing to help lighten the somber contemplation of our out-of-balance and somewhat uncertain future is a grand guffaw.

Oct 13 - Photo a Day - Landscape

Cottage Country

This past weekend we had the great honour of being invited to our friends, Rick and Nancy's, family cottage. Resting on the shore of the beautiful Severn River in "cottage country" north of Toronto, this sweet haven was Nancy and her grandparents' summertime home when she was young. Naturally, the area has become much more populated and the cottage itself is getting some necessary face-lifts, but the memories and feeling of a loving family's country get-away remain.

Saturday afternoon we were joined by three other fellow motor-sport-enthusiast couples and two low-riding long-haired dachshunds. Oscar and Ernie graciously handled Copper as he towered over them, and they all seemed to enjoy the extra canine company. Once everyone had settled in, nine of the ten of us, plus all three pups, climbed aboard our hosts' comfy pontoon boat for a final river cruise of the season. The views of gorgeous autumn foliage and river-side homes (and toys) totally overshadowed the bite of the chilly breeze. It was truly a photographer's dream, and a wonderful, relaxing boat ride.

What is a friends- or family-gathering without a feast? As expected, we all ate too much delicious lasagna and salads and followed the meal with pumpkin pie, bread, and coffee cake, topped with fresh whipped cream. Such decadence!

Cottages in Washington State are called cabins, and this weekend reminded me of my grandparents' cabin on gorgeous Lake Chelan. Wooden walls, tiny bedrooms, a fireplace, and a central dining table whose leaves and extensions created room for plenty of company were all so familiar. Many of my childhood summer weekends included a rousing card game of "Oh Sh*t," a form of rummy, which Rick and Nancy allowed me to add to their cottage's repertoire.

With Friday's brief display of snowflakes making winter's beginning obvious, we're feeling quite blessed to have experienced this end-of-season retreat, and are once more grateful for the generosity of dear friends.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Oct 12 - Photo a Day - On the Table

The Living Room Hot Spot

Rarely do we eat our meals at the dining room table. It seems to be reserved for special occasions or guest appearances. This wee end table gets an almost daily workout as holder of precious gifts, art, stones, teacup, books, and often, the current meal. (Today's brunch is comfort food: ramen with a scrambled-in egg and smoked oysters. Somehow I forgot to toss in the usual handful of spinach and a big pinch of seaweed. An afternoon salad is obviously in order!)

Beside my study-library books rest a clear quartz crystal, fellow traveler for a couple of dozen years, and a perfectly-hand-shaped piece of sodalite -- my favourite meditation stone, promoting peace, harmony, and abundance.

The pine-needle, antler, and bead basket was lovingly made by a dear friend in Washington whose home in the Cascade foothills, surrounded by giant pines I can feel in its rolling curves. It holds a rosewood box of amber, a scent from California days, gifted by beautiful custom shoe-making friends who live an off-grid dream life in an Earthship they built. Hanging from the lamp is a precious blown glass vial made by a friend living just across the border from Vancouver, BC. Inside the vial are cradled a few cremains of our sweet gold-dog, Porter. And finally, a copper-topped candle holder, gifted by my lovely Ottawa girlfriend, on which are inscribed words to live by: "Love protects, Love trusts, Love hopes, Love never fails!"

Perhaps the dining room table, with its open expanse of near emptiness, can not compete with these cherished belongings whose energy draws me to sit near them, whether writing, eating, or simply being.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Oct 11 - Photo a Day - Something Close up

Time to Thrive

Very soon this Thanksgiving cactus will be covered in bright fuschia blooms. I look at it every day, and yesterday, just like that, there were tiny round balls on the tips of many of its branches. Today, this bud began to push its way out. It's still no bigger than my pinkie fingernail, but it has leaped ahead of its brethren.

The Brazilian tropical cactus, Schlumbergera, loves its end-table home. We were lucky to be graced by its blooms twice this year -- evidently some are biannual artists -- now, and just before Easter. It's lovely what happens when conditions are right.

I've been feeling that ideal atmosphere recently as my new business begins to blossom. Teaching has long been a secondary job, and these days I'm thrilled to have it as my leading role.

It's also been a joy to watch a couple of friends get in touch with parts of themselves that they've never before explored. Healing is happening, lives are expanding, new possibilities are coming to the foreground. Nothing as yet has significantly changed in their external lives -- no wonderful new home or job -- but they are following the wise sentiment that reads "Bloom Where You're Planted," they have their eyes on the good, and it won't be long before the blessings rush in. I wait in patient anticipation, ready to bear witness and applaud their bright, flourishing displays.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Oct 10 - Photo of the Day - Emotion

Farewell Dear Yellow Grape Tomatoes, and Thanks for Your Bounty
Summer's Demise

If you read my post yesterday, you probably sensed how I revel in autumn's spell. The truth is, joy is not the only emotion I feel with the onset of these nippy nights and overhead florescent displays.

Death, or the process of dying is a large part of fall. The annual flowers and herbs have turned black and wilted with the first frost. Tomato plants sag, and their final, sweetly delicious fruits tenaciouly hang on or drop to the ground with the wind's gusts. The ancient pine blankets our home with identical long V's of beige flakes. Garden hoses are coiled and stored as preparations begin for winter's biting freeze.

While winter has its own beauty and delights -- outdoor skating rinks to name just one -- the imminent piercing temperatures limit our outdoor freedom, and here in Ottawa at least, last a very long time. There is grief, then, in this season, and the top of my chest carries the weight of melancholia as I pack away my shorts and tank tops, flip-flops and sun visors, and pull on my down jacket for today's walk.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Oct 9 - Photo a Day - Red


I Heart the Fall

This incredible maple tree is the earliest to acclaim "Autumn" in our neighbourhood. It grows in front of Mrs Smith's yard, across the fence behind us. She lives on a tiny, six-house loop, where all but the treetops are protected from the wind, so its glory lasts a long time.

Every morning for a number of weeks as I make my cup of tea, it waves its vibrant plumage through the kitchen window. While morning is not my favourite, autumn is, and this tree with its persistent glow makes me almost giddy.

When Copper and I walked around the block to take a photo of this beauty, I had no idea that there was a heart lodged between its long-needled pine and blue-spruce neighbours. But here you see it!

A number of other 'reds' tempted me, and were strong contenders for today's photo: the firebush two doors toward the greenbelt, a brilliant border of neon red roses, a Canadian flag flapping in front of a golden ash tree, the Keller Williams (my former company) 'For Sale' sign down the street, and even the newly-hung red-berry wreath gracing our front door.

This season, with its intense colours and scents, fills me with such glee. I feel as though Life has pulled out its paint pallete and dotted the world with its electrifying spirit simply for the joy of surrounding us with beauty.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Oct 8 - Photo a Day - Angle

Om nom nom nom

A Gratuity for the Comic

Copper very rarely gets human food, as we've found he's got some allergies -- chicken gives him the wild-itchies -- and his super-duper "biologically appropriate," 100% balanced kibble keeps him nicely tuned. However... it IS Thanksgiving, and today I just happened to scoop out the last teaspoon from the peanut-butter jar.

It took him a few hilarious minutes of pushing the plastic tub around the living room, sneaking in a lick on rare occasion, before he finally tamed it and got it propped at just the right angle. The feast that ensued lasted a good quarter-hour with numerous breaks to lick the obviously ambrosial, yet sticky coating off the roof of his mouth.

The jar was significantly deeper than the length of his tongue, and his snout was far too robust to fit inside, but once he slicked the top half clean, he carried it around, propping it here and there to try reaching those lower dregs.

As I enjoy a piece of pumpkin pie, tonight's dessert for our comic red-dog will be the last peanut-butter treat swiped out with a rubber spatula when he wasn't watching.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Oct 7 - Photo a Day - Light

The Queen: Penny Soaks up the Sun
Our Brilliant Sol

It's a very cool 8 degrees Celsius/47 Fahrenheit outside, and after a chilly foray into the neighbourhood, our little girl took a blissful nap on her perch in the lightest and warmest spot in the house. Her bed rests atop my Grampsy's hassock, which is filled, as it's been most of my life, with toys for visiting (human) children. Both sit right next to my rocker -- my writing chair -- in our front, nearly floor-to-ceiling south-facing windows.

Light, especially natural sunlight makes me happy, too. A few people I know actually require sunlight to maintain balanced moods. With a lack of it, they suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The shorter days of winter and many gray, drizzly days in the Pacific Northwest almost literally press them down into a funky depression. While sitting in front of extremely bright, full-spectrum light panels or traveling to sunnier climes can help, the best remedy seems to be the return of more daylight. I feel for them, and have often wished my annual budget included a couple of extra plane tickets to the tropics.

Outside our window, and across North America, deciduous trees are blazing in full glory, partially triggered by the shortening days, partly by dropping temperatures. The air is sharp with the smell of fallen leaves -- a scent that made unexpected laughter burst out of me on Friday. Between these puffy white clouds lies a bright blue sky, and luckily for all of us who thrive in the sun's rays, we still have another month or two of ten-hours-of-daylight days.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Oct 6 - Photo a Day - I'm Thankful for...

Mon amour, Pierre: my greatest gift

The Power of Gratitude

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada: my very favourite holiday, and one which I get to celebrate with my east-coast family, and both of my countries -- one in early October, and a second in late November.

A number of years ago, thank goodness, I was taught the value of living a grateful life at every opportunity, and through long practice, it is becoming part of my nature. It's deliciously easy to be grateful for the wonderful things (like my fabulous partner, Pierre.) The difficulty lies in being thankful for the painful experiences.

I've discovered that, for me, the perhaps-flakey-sounding line, "What you think about expands," is absolutely true. Of course life tosses me experiences that go contrary to my wishes and expectations. I still occasionally fall into the trap of naming things "bad and wrong," and my sensitive feelings do get hurt. But after letting myself feel whatever gets triggered, the next step is to always look for the gifts. (This is where the support and reminders from a few fabulous friends kicks in.)

I believe in rose-coloured glasses. After all, since I'm in control of my thoughts -- at least when I remember to be -- I get to choose the meaning of life's circumstances, right? When things turn out differently than I'd hoped, I ask myself questions like What was my part in this? What can I learn? and How can I do it differently next time? The outcome of this work has been truly incredible. The more good I find in every experience, the more great things come my way, and the more blessed I feel.

Granted, thus far, my painful experiences have been minor compared to others'. I only hope that if or when the extreme ones arrive, my gratitude practice and support system will be strong enough to keep my positive vision intact.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Oct 5 - Photo a Day - Shadow

A Life in Balance

Introducing Ms Tara Porter, my glorious yoga instructor, lifting her powerful heart to the sun as her shadow rests in repose on the cork floor.

Over the past year, I've been attending Tara's Friday Yin/Yang class at Ottawa's downtown studio, Rama Lotus. Recently, I've had the opportunity to go more regularly, which I'm convinced is part of my more elated state of mind.

Yin/Yang, as the name implies, is a balance of active and passive asanas (poses), the perfect transition between the work-week and weekend (not that many weekends are actually passive.) These hour and a half long classes, led in a seemingly effortless flow (which we all know takes years to master) are so much more than a dance of strengthening movement and muscle-lengthening stretches.

Tucked alongside her mat on the raised dais, Tara always has a small stack of books with marked pages. In the second half of the class, once she has guided us into our yin asanas -- supported poses held for maybe five minutes -- she reads us short gems of wisdom as we breathe and soften. Rumi, Mary Oliver, and others' words follow our long, humming exhales of Brahma breaths.

Those reminders of the power and bliss available to us, if we only remain open, seem always to come just at the moment my shadow-mind starts to tighten or pick up some daily-life worry or struggle. They bring me back to the breath and encourage even further letting go. And I have always loved the nurturing feeling of someone reading aloud.

While it is hard to choose the best part of this practice, the final piece is right near the top. You see, our Tara is a singer. With each of us resting under blankets in corpse pose -- the ultimate relaxation asana -- this lovely yogini pours out beautiful Hindi songs of universal peace and healing. I can't understand a word beyond "Om" and "Shanti," but I feel the intention, and drift on her superb voice as it rises and falls with each of her well-trained exhales.

I've practiced yoga with more than a dozen instructors in numerous cities over the past, often nomadic, thirty years. Some teachers I've joined for only a few sessions, some for many. Each has had a unique style, and a small handful have made deep, resonating impressions. It feels as though I am sinking roots into life here in Ottawa (at last), and my hope is that this young woman continues the practice of sharing her talents with us for many, many years.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Oct 4 - Photo a Day - What I Read

WordPress Website Templates

www dot WhoAmI? dot com

One of the most creatively gifted people I know has offered to help design a website for my budding tutoring business... for practice, promo, and payment in pasta!

That means, of course, that not only do I have to get cookin', but it's also time to make solid decisions about who I want to be on the www. To that end, I've spent most of this afternoon perusing hundreds of templates and reading about gorilla social-media blitz techniques.

My niche market -- women with English as their second (or other) language -- narrows my options, which is good. I'm looking for a balance of beauty and practicality. The feminine connection part comes naturally, but learning a language is also extremely logical. In addition to keeping the website wording intelligible, we will need to find organic, left-brained ways of showing potential tutees that I provide a safe and fun place to learn.

How can a few pages on the Internet depict a person's nature? Can ones and zeros, arranged just so portray the joy I feel in providing this patient service, and in celebrating the students' successes? Will WordPress, the right provider, search engine optimization, and keywords attract the precise new people with whom I am meant to learn? The next few weeks will tell, as ideas are clarified and plug-ins and widgets are organized. Wish me luck in this grand, new, electronic adventure!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Oct 3 - Photo a Day - This Happened Today

Shared Diversity

Tonight's library drop-in Adult English Conversation class was small but lively -- just five returning students, plus my fellow facilitator and I; however, we represented a huge span of the globe.

After playing a silly warm-up game of fill in the blanks ("I have a snowball in my wallet because... I couldn't find anywhere else to keep it!"), we focused on hobbies and favourites.

Our group could have formed a band with singers from Poland, Korea, and France, a guitarist from Mexico, a French percussionist, and a Korean flautist. Two -- a librarian and a catering chef -- have transformed their hobbies into businesses. Two, myself from the U.S. included, are teachers. Three are runners/athletes, and we had scientists from Mexico and China.

As diverse as this group was, with its unique cultures, life experiences, and beautiful accents, the thing that struck me tonight was how many things, including our passion to learn, we had in common.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Oct 2 - Photo a Day - Lunchtime

Have you noticed over the past few months that bacon has become wildly popular? (If you're a bacon aficionado, click here for some good news.) I find it a little bizarre that cured, thinly sliced, fatty pig flesh is appearing on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and has over five million Likes on Facebook. Until I taste it.

Since I pride myself on my health-nuttiness, I decided to tuck these two slices of heart-stopping goodness between the grainiest bread available, in the one BLT I allow myself each summer. I even amped up the L portion to a nice, thick layer of home-grown, organic broccoli sprouts.

(In the interest of honest disclosure, bacon does often make a showing next to a couple of eggs prepared on the weekend by the fabulous breakfast-chef in residence, Pierre. Thank God!)

The yummy, thick, white glob next to those perfect raspberries is Greek yogurt, a delicious, creamy and tangy way to populate your digestive tract with healthy probiotic bacteria (plus it has half the sugar and double the protein of 'regular' yogurt.) Sometimes I stir in a little honey and turmeric -- a staple of one of my health mentors, former landlady, nimble-into-her-nineties, Gen MacManiman.

Today's lunch was savoured mindfully, while I gazed out over the front garden. Quite a contrast to those grab-something-on-the-run lunchtimes, that, thankfully, are becoming more and more rare.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Oct 1 - Photo a Day - Where I Stood

It's long been a dream of mine to have a yard that looks and feels like a campground. I had that for ten years, and left it behind -- one piece of a difficult and painful decision. Here I stand, only a few years later, living half a block from an incredible 35,000+ acre greenbelt, crossed with 150 km/93 mi of gorgeous trails.

It was a perfect fall day, and this afternoon found me riding through this arm of the wild park which called out to stop, be still, listen, and breathe. After returning home from doing just that and an hour-long ride, it continued to whisper, so Copper and I wandered back in for our evening walk.

The squirrels were busy, Canada geese honked over in ragged practice formation, and around some of the trail's curves, flaming red and orange maples and bright yellow ash nearly jumped out between the dark green pines, firs and slower-turning oaks.

No matter what kind of struggle we may face, standing, walking, riding, or just being in the oxygen-rich midst of glorious trees helps to put everything in perspective.