Ten Thousand Days

Be Anders Hall

January 9, 2019

Photo: Miguel Bruna

Day 1573 – Day 1607

It has been some time since I’ve posted.  Just after I posted in December, I fell ill.  I figured it was the flu.  But it turns out that I had an internal infection brought on by food sensitivity.  I am beginning an elimination diet of basically almost everything that I regularly eat (except for kale, rather unfortunately).

I am hopeful that the weird symptoms that I’ve had for some time can be attributed to widespread food allergies.  I had a friend who was a brilliant mathematician, and actually, a genius.  I remember how his whole personality changed when he finally got the allergy testing that he needed.  He became completely lucid and focused where he had spent his whole life being told, by his parents, that he had the attention span of a distracted butterfly.

Food is essential for our growth.  It nourishes us, but the wrong food for our system can be poison to the body and the mind.  We can condition ourselves to stomach that poison for a very long time.

Thinking about my friend now, I wonder how long it took him to undo the conditioning of being told he was not up to snuff, by parents who were distinguished professors from a lineage of famous nobel prize winners.  I imagine his confidence was greatly improved by understanding that his failings were not character flaws, but were biologically based.  It may have been more difficult to accept that the people we love can be so lacking in self awareness that they project their fears onto us, with judgments about us or the situation, that are both wrong and damaging to our self esteem.


I feel much better now that I’ve begun the elimination diet.  I am confident that with proper allergy testing and lifestyle adjustment, I will be back to my old self again.  And my old self is pretty great, actually.  I’m happy to feel like she is more present these days, as I’ve come out of another dark place in my life.

I feel that 2016 was a shock of a year.  It ended with emotional trauma and I walked through 2017 like a zombie in a PTSD haze.  Just as I was beginning to recover, the trauma was perpetrated again – only in a more sinister way, the second time.  In the background, old family dynamics have been a challenge as well as the well documented difficulty most people face with trying to make repatriation a successful transition – particularly given that I’ve been away for over 20 years, I am single, I work alone but without the freedom to set my own schedule, and I live in a town where opportunity is scarce and whose culture is the opposite to my liberal mindset.  I do this, in order to spend time with my aging family.

Late last year, I started to feel like I was recovering.  Fulfilling a lifelong dream of growing my own organic food, in the tradition of my ancestors, helped.  But, forgiveness was a big part of it.  I don’t recommend forcing forgiveness before one feels willing, but when that point is reached, it can be transformative.

With forgiveness, we stop placing our focus on the other person, and letting ourselves be drained by the negative energy of the wrong that has been done to us.  We don’t necessarily condone the wrong, but we take our focus and energy away from it.  We take back our power.

Power –  including personal power – is a difficult idea for me.  It is probably one of the major lessons I have to grapple with in this lifetime.  I’m humble and I don’t know if this is an innate trait to be admired or whether it is unhelpful conditioning.  I was taught not to be proud and – as crazy as it may sound to tell a child – that I could never stand on my own two feet.  From early childhood, my conditioning has been that I will never be enough and the message continues to be repeated in my family of origin, to this day, despite all evidence to the contrary.

I saw some old friends over the holidays.  Some have been friends for nearly 30 years.  We know the arc of one another’s life story and we’ve seen our patterns re-appear.  We know what makes the other special, and where we fall down.  They all agree that although I’m not where I’d like to be in my life, they can see the powerful woman they know and love.

Her spark is returning and I’m looking forward to 2019.

Next week, a the Nordic folk band – SVER – will be performing in my city and I’ve invited my friends to join me.  I was introduced to their music last year, at the Bellingham Folk Festival.

I was a very novice percussionist at the time and while all the musicians in the band are the top of their field, I was particularly taken by the viola/fiddle player, Anders Hall.   His fiddle and viola music moves me – to dance, to swoon, and to cry.  I don’t play the fiddle, so I couldn’t attend his workshops.  But I really wanted to.  Though there is value to studying a particular style of playing or a particular instrument, there is great value in simply learning about someone we admire and how they approach their art.  (Fortunately, after writing this post, I found an interview with Anders Hall by Neil Pearlman at Trad Cafe)

I am grateful to have encountered Mr. Hall and to have the opportunity to see him perform again.   I see in him is a confidence, a virtuosity, and a playful, mischievous magnetism that radiates from within.   I know nothing about the man, or what his life has been like, but I recognize his spirit and I see a spark that I know that I also have within me.  It has nearly been extinguished, through life’s experiences and conditioning, but it is still there.

Many women who admire male performers are experiencing a form of delusional amorous projection.  There is no denying that all of the qualities I admire in him add up to a delightful attractiveness in Mr. Hall.  But he is young enough to be my son, and I am fully aware that I am projecting positive qualities onto him.  My wish is not to bed him.

I want to BE him.

I don’t mean in a “Being John Malkovich” way, and I don’t mean I want to be a virtuoso of the fiddle and viola – I haven’t the talent or the time left on this planet to achieve that.  But I do want to claim those positive traits that I so delight in, when I see them in someone else – in this case – Anders Hall.  I want to be the virtuoso of my own unique gifts and to fulfill my purpose here on this planet, with focus, joy, and confidence and to share those gifts with others of a like mind.   Having appreciation and reverence for my gifts and using them to build a meaningful life,  on my own terms, is not selfish or deluded.  I have come to believe that it if there is any reason for our time on earth, it is this.

I want to reclaim my sense of attractiveness and attraction.  Years ago, I was sexually assaulted, and the system failed me, as it fails many survivors.  The last man I loved knew about this, and he ended up projecting his sexual confusion onto me, leaving me feeling undesirable and to blame for his lies, indiscretion, and exploitation.  That’s irresponsible nonsense, but as we know, other people’s projections can be poison, as much – or usually, more – than they end up being food for thought.  Maybe I had conditioned myself to believe that I needed to feel undesirable, in order to feel ‘safe’ in this world, but I don’t need to own that idea anymore.   Personal power, not ‘playing small’ is a far healthier choice – in all areas of my life.

We can’t undo what was done to us in life, but we can choose to undo the conditioning that consciously and unconsciously controls our life.  I’m choosing to take back my power – with lightness and play.  To me, magnetism and virtuosity has nothing to do with great technical skills and being the tall, blonde, 20-something model of the advertising industry.  It has to do with being true to oneself and sharing that whole self with others, to joyfully live one’s purpose with delight and total, unwavering confidence.

Think: Queen Latifah.  Think:  Mick Jagger.  Think: Anders Hall.

I’ve done decades of work on my shadow self, to own, rather than to project it onto others.  For me, 2019 is about working with owning my positive projections.  I want to more fully and consciously accept the positive traits I cannot yet own, and which, in this moment, are still projected onto others.

In the Buddhist and Hindu traditions, working with a mantra helps to focus the mind on the soul, and to escape the pull of  ‘samskaras’ or conditioned patterns that often remain beneath conscious awareness and end up as disowned projections and karmas.  “Hai Ram” was Ghandi’s mantra, and “Hare Krishna” was the mantra of George Harrison and both men repeated their mantra as a reminder of their immortal Self, right to the moment of death, in order to break free of their karmas.

When planning our trip to see SVER perform, my friends and I talked about the musicianship of the band and about the special appeal of that mischievous and confident fiddle and viola player.  With the impish and playful reverence I seek to cultivate, my friends and I agree that for me to become re-acquainted and comfortable with my personal power, my unique virtuosity, my playful sexual energy and my magnetic charm….for 2019, there is perhaps no better personal mantra than:

“BE Anders Hall.”



For what are you most grateful, as we begin the new year?

Ten Thousand Days

Random Acts of Kindness

December 5, 2018

Photo: Sandrachile

Day 1560 – Day 1572

It seems that every year, as the winter holidays roll around, people start to think about random acts of kindness.  I notice that this coincides with a time of year when people are grumpy, drive aggressively, and are rude to sales clerks.  It is a time of year when people look forward to spending time with loved ones, but many must spend weeks recovering from the trauma of togetherness.

Random acts of kindness has become a holiday tradition in North America and rightly or wrongly, I have the impression that it was made popular by the same crowd that used to watch Oprah.  I have spent many years in Europe so I am always delightfully surprised when someone pays for my cup of coffee at Starbucks at this time of year, and it prompts me to pay that kindness forward.

Recently, I watched YouTube on auto-play and came upon a collaboration on the topic of random acts of kindness.  I enjoyed listening to each YouTuber’s ideas of how one can be kind and spread joy in thoughtful and often frugal ways.  I notice that a lot of the things I try to do as acts of kindness are things I do normally, as a part of my practice of daily service.  They are often part and parcel of one another.  Some people find it hard to get their head around the idea of service, but kindness is something we can all understand.

It got me thinking about the link between kindness and a practice of service, and so I challenged my own friends to engage in Random Acts of Kindness and asked for their suggestions.  For those who struggle with service (and I am right in there, sometimes struggling to think of ways to contribute, meaningfully, to the world), kindness is always a great place to start.

I’m so grateful for this chance to re-ignite my passion for service with a loving heart full of kindness.  I’m grateful for all the suggestions my friends have given me for ways to be frugally kind to others. And, I’m especially grateful that so many friends are participating in the challenge, and are sharing their experiences.  If you are inclined, I’d like to challenge you to participate in daily acts of kindness.  My hope is that anyone who has struggled with service will find the joy in the practice, by re-envisioning it as kindness.

I know that most of us face financial stresses over the holidays, but there is no price tag on kindness.  My friends shared so many ideas for frugal random acts of kindness.  I’m guessing that many of these are already a part of your daily toolkit, and even if they are, there is value in reminding oneself when one is aligned with living servicefully, purposefully and gratefully – with kindness.  For those who need a booster, here’s a starter list:

  • smile at a stranger
  • speak to someone who looks alone or stressed (single moms, elders, teenagers) and ask how they’re doing.  Listen with your full attention and show empathy.
  • offer to help someone
  • visit an elder home.  Bring some word puzzles or if you play an instrument, bring it and ask if you can play for the elders
  • share a bargain with other shoppers.  If you see an unadvertised bargain, tell others so they can enjoy the savings.
  • write someone a letter and express your gratitude to them for their place in your life
  • let someone in line ahead of you
  • give your gently used winter clothing to homeless charities.  If you can afford to top it off with new mittens, hats, coats, blankets, please do.
  • with their permission, mow a neighbour’s lawn or shovel the snow from their driveway or walkway
  • babysit for free for a couple of hours
  • do grocery shopping for someone who is pressed for time
  • tell a joke to make someone smile
  • hide a happy note on public transit or in a library book for someone to find
  • if you enjoy creating, make some art and leave it for someone to take home, or you can brighten up an elder’s room at a retirement centre with it
  • with their permission, hug someone
  • tape some money to a vending machine
  • bring in some treats to the office and write a note ‘help yourself’
  • hold the door for someone
  • tell someone who serves you what a great job they did today
  • pay someone a sincere compliment
  • donate unwanted books to the library or local charity shop
  • gather friends and arrange with a hospital, hospice or seniors home for a folk song/old timer singing (or carol singing) evening
  • clean up public/shared spaces
  • do something unexpected for someone
  • pay for a stranger’s coffee (if it is within your means)
  • do something kind for yourself
  • invite someone, especially someone who might be on their own, to celebrate the holidays with you
  • etc.

This is just a beginning of a list to get you started.  If you have other ideas, please leave them in the comments, so that it may inspire others.   At a time of year when people can feel lonely or lacking in purpose, it has been my experience that making a daily act of kind service a part of one’s life creates purpose to one’s day.  It doesn’t need to simply be for December, it can be a regular part of our lives, and is a natural extension of living gratefully.

Photo: Evan Kirby


For what are you most grateful, today?


Ten Thousand Days

I’m Always Grateful – Except, When I’m Not

November 23, 2018

Photo: Squarespace

Day 1544- Day 1559

Today is Thanksgiving in the USA.  In Canada, our Thanksgiving celebration is 4-6 weeks earlier than it is, in the USA.  People have been wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving, unaware of this fact.  I respond:  I’m always grateful.  But the truth is this:  I’m always grateful, except when I’m not.

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday, and I have to admit that I prefer the timing of our harvest celebration to that of the one in the USA.  For me, I always think that American Thanksgiving is like the starter pistol that signals a race to Christmas.  I love Christmas.  It is a time that my family, coming from the Judeo-Christian tradition, gathers together.  We may not all be together for Thanksgiving, but we are, at Christmas.  I missed the family gathering twice only – one time I was at a friend’s wedding in India and another time, I was awaiting the renewal of my work visa and passport, so I couldn’t travel.  Christmas is not a race.  To me, it is a very special time of year that is to be savoured.

I delight in the spirit of Christmas – being together, relaxing, reflecting on the year, and observing sacred days.  What I don’t like is the sport of shopping, that seems to kick off with American Thanksgiving.

Shopping is a task that I don’t enjoy.

This year, I’ve been helping an elder relative and doing their shopping for them.  For myself, I prefer to have my shopping done by 1 November, so that I can enjoy the season,  but this has not been possible this year.

I have a budget for each person’s gift and I buy something for them that they will enjoy and use, based on that budget.  I am happy when the item is on sale, but some things go on sale early in the year and some things never go on sale.  I have received value for my gift giving dollar if I know that it will be useful and make their life easier or more joyful, somehow.

Even if it is on behalf of someone else, I am unhappy if I find myself caught in the crowd of bargain hunters that has come to be known as Red Thursday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Mental Torture Tuesday and Woeful Wednesday.  (Okay, I made the last two up).

Photo: Rawpixel

Every year, people go into debt, get stressed out, break up relationships and suffer through the holidays with resentment.  This is the antithesis to how I set out to live my life.

But, stuff happens and stress mounts.  The fact that I was unable to do my shopping early, and helping someone else throughout November has taken a lot of time that I like to spend on moments of hygge – painting, cooking, seeing friends and being cozy.  On top of the late start, a postal strike in Canada adds to the pressure and complication of buying things that come from online retailers. In some cases, things are being shipped to the US or people have asked for items from US retailers, and  I’m having to cross the border, travel,  and deal with customs, in order to guarantee that the items arrive for Christmas.  Whether the people I am helping with their shopping or the recipients of the gifts behave in a gracious and grateful manner is not something I can control.  I do this as a service, by choice, and it is only my own reaction that is under my control.

I have been getting irritable.

Today, I purchased the second to last item from my relative’s shopping list and had to stand in queues to get into the store and queues to get out of the store.  Tomorrow I will return this same item that I bought elsewhere because it was on sale this morning.  That’s the dance we’ve come to do at this time of year.

I’m surprised if everyone wasn’t irritable.

I am not a materialistic person.  I enjoy my possessions but I don’t enjoy receiving things that I will not use and I do not need.  I find that a waste, as is giving something that is not useful, and considered.   I’m in favour of frugality;  I enjoy buying as many of my own possessions in thrift shops as possible.  I feel better, knowing that the item I need is something that someone else has used, and someone else will use, after I am gone, prolonging the lifecycle of produced goods.

Others are not as keen on thrift shop items as I am, but they do want a bargain.

Frugality is important.  If you are celebrating Christmas, you’re basically celebrating the birth of a poor boy who would change the course of the world – or the myth that is this story.  Yet, now this has morphed into cultural pressure to save a buck and get it shipped in time for a gift giving day,  even if it isn’t really a cherished or practical gift.  Artificial pressure of time-bound sales, holiday wish lists filled with items that aren’t really deeply wished for, countdowns to a looming date of gift giving, and the crowds that gather to fight over sales just makes me really irritable.

Really, really irritable.

I’ve made vows to live simply.  To me, this is based on good stewardship of resources, a focus on inner life, mindful use of possessions and a turning away from pride. I live simply so that others can simply live.   It is not my business how others choose to live, but I’ve been confronted with other people’s way of doing things,  in doing the holiday shopping.

We have so much, and yet this season creates a drive to consume, without mindfulness,  and to feel a sense of  lack if we don’t get our gifts at the lowest price or we don’t get something we put on our wishlists.

It is really hard not to get judgey when one is this irritable.

I’m part of Project 449, organised by some friends in the UK, to create an art installation that draws attention to the plight of the homeless.  In the first 3 quarters of the calendar year 2018, researchers learned that at least 449 of the roughly 320,000 homeless people in Britain, died as a result of their homelessness.  Their deaths were entirely preventable if we lived in a culture that was less inclined to individualism and greed and more inclined to service, sharing and oneness.  In Vancouver, people living on social assistance are facing such high rents that they are left with $5.75 a week to spend on groceries and household necessities like toilet paper.  They are, literally, starving.  Canada-wide, a high percentage of people are giving up eating, and heating, in order to pay for life saving prescriptions, or they are going into debt, to simply seek medical treatment.  Working and homeless people are dying in our own cities.

It has made me really, really, really irritable and until I sat down and wrote this, I hadn’t fully reasoned out why.

I became very bitchy with my family (whom I love!) this week and I stepped about a mile away from gratitude.

I don’t want to ruin anyone’s bargain hunting, but I can’t help but feel that this inequity of death and suffering, set against a seasonal consumer frenzy, that must be done with perfection,  is simply grotesque.  What have we done with the world that was so dramatically changed by the love of a single poor man?

Perhaps our culture, as a whole, has stepped more than a mile away from gratitude.

Tomorrow is Black Friday and while people are trampling one another and punching each other for a cheap television set, I’ll be setting right the fact that I have stepped away from gratitude and joy and into irritability, judgement and stress.  I’ll be dosing up on the antidote to all bad attitudes: the Oneness that is found in the heart of mindful, humble, selfless, service.  

For what are you most grateful today?

Ten Thousand Days

On The Other Side of Forgiveness

November 6, 2018

Photo: Tim Mossholder

Day 1530 – Day 1543

As we neared the end of the fourth year of gratitude practice, empathy became a key theme in working with gratitude, joy, oneness and service. With empathy, it is possible to overcome our differences and even to forgive those who have deeply wounded and wronged us.  I’m usually a forgiving person, and I faced a struggle with forgiveness for the first time in my life.  Someone I had loved had exploited my love and betrayed me.  I truly did not believe that I would ever be able to forgive him.  And in that,  I had lost a big part of what made me the person that I am.

People move on at different speeds.  I remember that the man ‘forgave me’ for all my wrongdoings very quickly.  Perhaps it was magnanimous of him.  I’m certainly not perfect and I said some thing I regret, but his accusations of feelings I didn’t have, and wrongdoings that I hadn’t committed, were, it seems to me, the projections of his own feelings and actions.  In that case, it made sense to forgive quickly, because if they originated within himself, then forgiving me was really excusing himself.   Forgiveness made sense, for him.

It’s also fairly easy to forgive someone who has had your best interests at heart but whose actions have unintentionally disappointed us or hurt us deeply.  It is even easy to forgive someone who has loved us and has tried to act in our best interest but who, when deeply hurt, has intentionally hurt us back.  In each case, having the other’s best interests at heart is key to finding the redemption in the transgression.

Some people don’t think much about forgiving or not forgiving.  For them, they simply move on, choosing not to work through their emotions.  The package up their memories and their emotions and they stuff them down where they think that they will never be found again.  Unfortunately, blocked emotions and memories don’t always stay where they are put, and even if they do, they may be harmful to long term wellbeing.  It seems to me that at the very least, pushing down our feelings robs the tapestry that is our life of its patterns and colour.

Whatever I may do, unconsciously, as an adult, my conscious choices have been to try to work through my emotions.  Sometimes this can’t be done with the participation of the person who has elicited the emotions and I’m grateful that where this has not been possible, I’ve had the support of friends, healthcare professionals and spiritual wayfarers to help me. While they may help us gather the tools, in the end, the work resides in our own hearts, where only we can do the work.

I recover from emotional blows very slowly, but I try to do it completely.  When I love, I love deeply, and the wounds are therefore equally deep.  Recovery takes time and even when I feel patched up, I may still be tender for a long time to come.  I suppose this is why I fall in love so infrequently.  Once I have loved someone, I have loved them forever, although the love takes a different form.  I’ve always managed to transform feelings of romantic love into something else, with all the men I had loved.

The person I needed to forgive was someone I had loved deeply but when our association ended, he burned the bridge between us, and his lack of remorse makes it unwise for me to attempt to rebuild it.  It saddens me that there would be no way for us to ever experience, together,  the epiphany of love transmuted.  My love for him had been so deep because we shared a spiritual life and at one time we both agreed that we had what could only be described as a soul connection.  I had promised to love him, no matter what.  And, while I could not be held to that promise, this story would have been incomplete if I had not found my way back to some sense of agape love.  Love and compassion are the two sides of the sacred heart.  If I could not, eventually, find my way to love, I’d consider it my saddest failure as a person.

All through our relationship, I knew he was a troubled soul, and this showed up in behaviour that hurt me.  I didn’t always like him, but I did always love him, I knew that he was worthy of love, as are all people,  and I wanted the best for him.  After he betrayed my trust and exploited my love for him, I spent nearly a year hating him, and in that time, I never once wished for his happiness.  If I could have, I would have, but I couldn’t and I didn’t.  I’m not proud of myself for that, and just as I’ve had to take full responsibility for the decisions I made to continue to see the best in him when he repeatedly showed me other qualities, I also have to take responsibility for the stone that settled in my heart where love had been, when I finally saw the other side of him.  I am responsible for my hurtful words and my hateful thoughts.

Women forgive the people who murder their children all the time.  If they were capable of this, then surely I was capable of forgiving him.  I had given up the idea that love would ever return to my heart when I thought of him, but, at least forgiveness was in my power.   In time, with new techniques of active imagination, I was able to connect to my empathy for him, and without condoning his behaviour, I forgave him.

I thought that was the end of it.  But he remained in my dreams.   And something happened that caught me by surprise.

On the other side of forgiveness, I started to feel not only empathy, but compassion for him.  Having imagined whatever suffering or deficiency had caused his behaviour, I wanted his suffering to be removed – not for my benefit – but because I wanted him to be free of anguish.  I was surprised, but pleased to feel my heart soften to him.  And, I thought, surely this is where this ends.

But I was taken by surprise, yet again, over the next few weeks.

Where there is compassion, love often arises.  With compassion, for him, I noticed fleeting and uncontrollable wishes for his happiness arising within me.  To be honest, I was annoyed to feel these stirrings.  He had pursued his own pleasure at my expense.  I had forgotten what I already knew: pleasure is not the same as happiness.  Happiness, and the peace of the soul that would go with it, was the only thing I could wish for him, once connected by empathy to his pain and having my compassion activated.

Compassion is the desire to see someone free from suffering; The wish for another person’s happiness is Love.

On the other side of forgiveness, I rediscovered love.

Even for the sake of experiencing – together – the epiphany of love transmuted, it would be unwise and indeed, unsafe for me to rekindle a relationship with or even to build a bridge to someone who shows no regard for my wellbeing.  But, I am grateful to see that I am not forever changed, nor forever damaged as a person, by the experience of loving him and suffering his remorseless selfishness.   I have reclaimed my compassion and I am profoundly grateful to unexpectedly find the pathway to fulfill my promise to love him – truly love him – no matter what.

Wisdom promises that on the other side of forgiveness, there is freedom.  There is, and it comes through love.  I am once again my best self and it is a joy to see:  a woman with great capacity for personal responsibility,  empathy, forgiveness, compassion and love.    I like who I see, when I look in the mirror,  and I believe that I, too, am worthy of love – my own love, firstly,  and also the love of a good man who has my best interests at heart and who cares for my wellbeing.


Photo: Neon Brand

For what are you most grateful today?

Ten Thousand Days

Stolen Moments

October 23, 2018

Photo: Ivana Cajina

Day 1516 – Day 1529

I notice that I always seem to have something that needs to be done.  I feel like I have more chores than I did when I lived in London but I know that I work less hours.  Of course, I have to spend time driving everywhere, which adds a lot of time to my day, whereas in London I could simply hop on a train or tube and multitask, because I wasn’t driving the thing.  But commuting aside, somehow there always seems to be a lot that I need to do, just to maintain myself.  In my last few years in London, I lived in a very small place and there was a cleaner who took care of much of the cleaning for me.  And, I used the washing machines in the basement, which meant that I could do all my laundry at one time (unless everyone else in the building had that same idea!)  And I do think there is something to be said for having less things, because the more we have, the more we have to tend.

As grateful as I am for my bounty,  I think that it is really my garden that has taken up so much of my time, lately.

This weekend, I canned the second to last batch of my tomatoes.  I still have many tomatoes ripening in my home.  It took 5 hours to process 5.5 pint-sized jars or roasted tomato sauce.  Now, given that time is money, those tomatoes better taste incredible at just under an hour per jar!  I wouldn’t pay my hourly wage for a half pint of home grown tomato sauce, but I didn’t mind spending the time because I know what is in each jar.  I grew it and I sterilized everything and I canned them.  There is pride in knowing that it was my labour that went into my sauce, and it’s a nice, “homey” thing to do.

Right now, we have amazing weather that we normally don’t get at this time of year in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), and so my garden has lasted for a month longer than one would reasonably expect.  I harvested a dozen peppers, bunches of broccoli, kale, swiss chard and leeks this weekend.  I even harvested some peas, which are normally an early summer crop. It has been a wonderful summer for growing.   But everything has its time and place.  And when you’re growing, you also have to be harvesting and preserving, as well.  I underestimated how much time this would take.

I realise that this summer, I had to clear the plot that I planted, build the structure and put up a fence.  It took more time than it will, I hope, next year.  But even still, one doesn’t get a great harvest if one isn’t willing to put in a couple of hours a day into watering, pruning and staking plants, building plant supports, improving the soil, and weeding one’s plot.  As the summer goes on,  harvesting and preserving begins as early as June and, at least this year, has lasted until the end of October.

It has been bountiful.  And it has been a lot of work.

I never once went hiking this summer.  I love hiking and being outdoors.  I just never got out to do it.  I did get to go kayaking but not as often as I would have liked.  Next year, I have decided that I will commit to kayak racing at least one night every week, because I love it.  Every time I thought of going kayaking, or hiking, I felt the pull of something needing to be done.  And so, I managed to go kayaking only every other week and not hike once, in the summer.

The winter months are dreary and depressing for me, so I grabbed some stolen moments and did some things that I had been missing.  I live in a valley, and unless I’m kayaking on the water, somewhere at a higher elevation,  or meeting friends at the seaside for a walk, I don’t get to see the sunset.  When I lived in London, I lived on the 14th floor, facing the Thames and – later – within 2 blocks of the river.  On the 14th floor I saw the sunset every night, and when I lived such a short distance to the river, I was able to walk the Thamespath or sit on a public bench along the path, and watch the sunset reflecting on the Thames River at least two or three times a week.  What a gift I had, in living there, and I am indeed grateful for that time.  But, I miss the sunset.

And so, two weekends ago, after my day-trip to Seattle for a singing and hambone workshop, I decided to steal 3 hours more and go to West Seattle to watch the sunset on Puget Sound.  It meant that I didn’t get home until nearly midnight and Monday was tiring.  But it was glorious, and I’m so grateful for the wonderful weather and the ease of finding parking so that I could walk along the beach and see the Seattle skyline and then return to Alki Point to watch the sunset glisten on the Sound as it dipped behind the Olympic mountains.  It was the perfect end to a perfect day. I hadn’t neglected all my chores for the weekend.  I had spent one whole day gardening, the prior day, and began the process of clearing my plot for winter, but I didn’t get other chores done when I decided to allocate some time for solitude in nature.

I think that solitude and awe are important parts of the contemplative path.  It is a part of the experience of sensing something greater than ourselves when we see beautiful artwork or a glorious sunset like the one I witnessed.  It’s a pathway to feeling Oneness with that which inspires that awe, within.  I was filled with awe at the glorious hues of yellow, orange, pink and red that lit the sky and at the way the light flickered and hid as it danced on the water.  It was well worth it to miss doing laundry and feel a little tired on Monday.

This past weekend, I had no travel plans and was set to do more harvesting, food preservation, cleaning and clearing of the garden.  I felt a bit sad that I had not planned a hike in the sunshine or booked myself a final kayak session for the summer.  So, on Saturday, as I headed to the garden, instead of turning left, to the road where my allotment is,  I powered onward and headed into the Canadian side of the North Cascade mountains and into the Canadian part of the Skagit Valley, where a little known hiking trail will soon be closed – to the Othello Tunnels.

I had heard about these tunnels that went through the mountains in Coquihalla Canyon, and really wanted to explore them but was a bit scared to go alone, in case the rock was unstable.  The tunnels were carved into the mountains in 1913 for trains to transport people and goods from the USA border up to the interior of British Columbia.  They stopped being used when the railway was re-routed from this perilous path in the 1960s.   The tunnels have been deemed to no longer be safe enough for hikers, without considerable maintenance.   I had wanted to see those tunnels before they were closed to hikers forever, and I really didn’t think I’d ever get the chance.  But I made it happen, and I am grateful that I did.

Seeing the fall foliage was a joy and taking a short and easy hike on a level trail was the perfect antidote to my feelings of deprivation from a summer that was lacking in opportunities for hiking.  I met the most beautiful dogs and their owners along a 5 km walk and it was just what the doctor ordered – if doctors wrote prescriptions for dry souls.

I did feel a little guilty that I passed the town where an elderly relative lives and I didn’t stop to visit.  It would have been a service to do so, but sometimes we need to make sure that we are listening to the needs of ourselves, before we give to others.  I needed to spend some time just taking in wonder and visiting new places.  I needed a rest, drinking in vitamin D-laden sunshine, not thinking about what needed to be done, or having any goals except to return, safely.

I will remember the summer of 2018 as the summer I fulfilled a dream I’ve held my entire adult life – to grow my own food.  And I will continue to feel pride as I roast squash and eat baba ganoush and salsa from the vegetables I grew.  I will remember this summer whether I grow another vegetable this year or not.  But I don’t want to remember the summer as the year I was deprived of enjoying the outdoors.

It is these stolen moments that open up the space to dream new dreams.

I don’t know if that space that I gave myself contributed to new insights, but I’ve had some interesting new ideas emerge this week.  They’re crazy.  And I’m not dismissing them.  I’m not acting on them, either.  I’m just giving them space to sit beside me for awhile, and we’ll see.

As much as it has pained me to pull out living plants, I’ve cleared my garden of all but the marigolds and a few plants that can winter in the garden until spring.  I’ve thanked each plant for the food it has produced.  I may have gotten a few more peas and a few more broccoli florets, but there comes a time when every gardener has to give the soil and themselves some time to rest.

Photo: Remi Yuan

For what are you most grateful today?

Articles, Service

Shaunda Moore: Impacting Future Generations Through Education

October 19, 2018

It has been awhile since we’ve featured someone working in the world to make a difference.  Much public attention has been drawn to the political arena, and so we turned to local politics to find someone working to make a difference in the public arena.  Shaunda Moore is one such person, running for an elected position as a School Trustee on the board for District SD43, in the suburb of Port Moody, outside of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Shaunda Moore (photo courtesy of the subject)

We spoke with Shaunda Moore while she was taking a break from campaigning for the role of School Trustee.  For Moore, child advocacy and education are passions that have been a feature of her entire adult life.  Before stepping into the political arena this year,  she has devoted her life to her family, and to the raising of five children.

Being a mother has been one of my most successful jobs.  I think I’ve worked really hard to be a good mother, combined with pretty decent raw material with my kids.    They seem to be pretty amazing. I’m going to take some of the credit but mostly it is theirs.

My priority has really been the kids and my family and supporting them through school and PACs (Parent Associations).  And once that has evolved into a way that I’m not needed, I get to jump into some other shoes.  I’m excited to fill those and I think I can.

Throughout their lives, Moore has been involved with the parent associations and fundraising.  With her youngest child now in high school, where independence is key, Moore finds that the need for parental involvement in school activities has decreased, and with space in her life to dedicate, Moore would like to work in local education in a meaningful way.

I’m at a point in my life where I want to move my focus outwards, to start having a bigger role within our community.  If I combine the desire to give back and be active in our community, with the thing that I always care about – children and education –  this is just the perfect natural fit.

 Working at a board level there’s an opportunity to have a lasting impact by bringing fresh ideas and having the opportunity to propose possible programmes or even lobby for curriculum, if given the opportunity.  I think that one of the benefits of working on the board is that you rely on everyone’s different abilities and common interests to really make it work.  For myself, I am a hard worker, committed, excited, compassionate and I have the ability to take in other ideas, value them and work in a collaborative way with any number of people, easily.  

As School Trustee, Moore will be making difficult decisions that impact several groups whose interests may, at times, be at odds.

Some provinces don’t have trustees, and there is an argument that they’re not needed. The Maritimes has an alternate framework in place.   I think that what a school board offers is a stewardship,  with a group of different people that have accountability, to cohesively make sound decisions that are really going to be in the best interests of the students, and their families and then certainly the teachers and the administration as well.

Safeguarding the education of the children of the school district is the job of all School Trustees.

I think education is essential and I think that, globally, if we could empower children through education I think we would have a completely different world.  I think that equipping children with a combination of knowledge, curiosity and compassion is essential for them to peacefully engage and resolve, together, the complex issues that they will face.

Children are as good as we enable and as good as we encourage.  It’s a combination of their environment and the people they’re around and then their own individual spirits.  I think kids just need to know that they’re loved no matter what, and that they’re good enough just the way they are.  

My children would not benefit from my work, so much, but for me that never really matters.  I consider all children to have equal value, whether they are my children or someone else’s children. 

Moore’s commitment that all children have equal value is reflected in her hopes for what she can do within the role of School Trustee.

Whenever I make a decision, period, I regard all children in the exact same capacity as I regard my own.  I think they’re all equal and I think that whatever is going to be good enough for my children is exactly what I’d want for every other child, without a doubt.  Within the district there are some schools that I think have higher needs than other schools.  That’s something I care about and I’d like to be a part of evening that out.  I don’t know what that would look like because it’s a role that I don’t have.  But that’s something that matters, that all the children in the district are being offered the same opportunities.  


Politics is not for the feint of heart, Moore admits.  But, having successfully advocated for the safety and wellbeing of children, many of whom were not her own, Moore is not one to give up the battle lightly.

One of the challenges for me is that I’m not a political being and this is not a political aspiration.  It is not a stepping stone and I don’t want to move on to other political endeavors.  I am interested solely in education and children.  The combination of those two and being able to be a part of the process where they’re growing up and entering the world is amazing to me.  My intention is not coming from a political place and I’m not a competitor, so this process is very stretching for me, particularly when the job at the end of the tunnel is one of complete collaboration.

For a long time we were part of a school system where families were oppressed and our voices did not matter.  We had no recourse and children really struggled.  The people who should have cared didn’t care.   I saw so many weaknesses, and so much disappointment and frustrations.  When we donated money, we didn’t get a voice in what happened to that money.  We didn’t get a voice in policies.  There were too many people with too little compassion in charge of making all the significant decisions.  I became very frustrated and very disillusioned.  

Moving to a public school was a worry for me because previously we hadn’t had great experiences in another district.  I quickly discovered that we should have moved years ago.  It was just the very best experience and we have found that the teachers have been phenomenal.  Our administration in SD43 continues to surprise me in all the best ways all the time.  I can’t find a point to criticize and I’m so proud of that school and that district that I want to be a part of what makes it great.

As with all political races, Moore has faced her share of negative commentary and challenges on issues that are not relevant to the role.  What keeps Moore motivated most is the needs of children.

I have a lot of experience advocating for children and families which I have done tirelessly and fearlessly, under really challenging circumstances.   I’ve advocated for a lot of kids that are not my children, over the years.  When children don’t have a voice and their parents either don’t step up or can’t step up, I will.  I’m always going to be that voice for them.  

Once you’re out of a school setting those opportunities aren’t really there anymore. 

Voting for the position of school trustee takes place in Port Moody on Saturday, October 20th.  As a newcomer to politics, we asked Moore how she would deal with not securing a seat in this election, should it come to that.

If I don’t win this seat, I will be back again in four years, until I win a seat.  I have given a lot of thought to how I can continue to work for children’s education
in Port Moody. Through this process I have been meeting some of the most amazing people that are contributing to our community in really inspiring ways, and I’m quite certain that even if this role doesn’t come to fruition, right now, that an awful lot of other opportunities will be presenting themselves in the next little while.  I’m really excited to see what they are and to find ways that I can continue to be involved and continue to make a difference.

Children are our most incredible resource.  They’re the most amazing human beings.  If I want something reframed or I want someone to uncomplicate something or I want an honest critical answer, if I ask a kid, I come closer to the truth than with just about any adult.

We asked Moore the question we ask all who are interviewed for the website:  For what are you most grateful, and where do you find your greatest joy?

I find joy in people.  This human connection we have with one another and this spiritual connection we have with one another – be it near or far – and the support we offer each other, are what make people amazing.  Add the elements of love and friendship and that makes everything just a little bit easier, better, happier and a lot more fun.

I spend my days keeping my focus on what’s good and what I’m grateful for, so for me on a daily basis there’s so many things, all the time, that I’m grateful for.  And so, to just choose one of them, I can’t.  I’m grateful for the fact that I have so much to be grateful for.  That might be the only way that I could honestly answer that question.

Photo: Element5 Digital

Follow Shaunda Moore on her Website, and on  Facebook .


Ten Thousand Days

Private in Public

October 9, 2018

Photo: Toa Heftiba

Day 1504 – Day 1515

One of my favourite past times is to bring my work to a sunny cafe and work in public.  There is something social about working in a public place, when the work we are doing is solitary (like writing) or we simply lack colleagues.  The energy of the world around me, rather than distracting me, keeps me motivated to work.

Writing these posts is another kind of way to be private in public.  Writing publicly is not as enjoyable as simply soaking in the public ambience while I write, and I’ve written before about how this public practice challenges me and has been costly to me.

I decided, when we hit 1,500 days of gratitude, that I’d start to thin out the previous posts.  I think a selection of previous posts (and perhaps that selection will change over time) will offer readers enough of the journey to interest readers, while reserving some of my privacy.

Seasonally, I withdraw in the winter, but this is more than that.  Right now, in North America, everyone is processing some pretty heavy emotions based on the politics that we are seeing playing out.  Globally, we are being made aware that science is making a last call for us to save ourselves from the worst impacts of climate change.  It’s all pretty dire.  And, as the holiday season is now firmly nestled in Canada with our Thanksgiving celebration behind us, there is the end of year family gatherings and personal reckoning that begins now.

Like many, I’m processing a lot.  And while I want to remain authentic, I don’t want to share all of my thoughts and feelings with the world.  The most authentic thing I can do, then, is admit this.   I’m mindful of people’s privacy but I know that I suffer the same challenges as any non-fiction writer.  Because we write about our lives, we inevitably write about events that people in our lives can identify.  People look for themselves in what I write.  In the past, one sentence, that didn’t identify anyone in particular, was taken as cause for offence and a friendship was terminated.  I made it clear that I meant no harm in writing that one sentence, but my offering was rejected.  It’s possible the person personalized the entire essay as being about them, which it was not, and when people are looking to be offended in life, they will surely find opportunity at every turn.

Everyone is on edge right now, and I find myself getting writer’s block for fear of offending others in my expression of the way I see things.  I’m writing about myself, and my experience, and while I don’t identify people in my posts, I have a right to write about my experience, even if it does not match anyone else’s or if it does not reflect as grandly upon someone else as they think it ought.  Anyone concerned about how I might characterize my experiences should probably not be reading my writing – fiction, non fiction or otherwise.  Censoring oneself is the death knell for a writer.  I’m no longer tolerant of needless drama in my life.

When I was once asked why I write, I answered that writing was my pathway to truth.  Truth is different from fact, as we know.  Truth is a private matter, and is dependant on one’s perspective.  But it is to truth that we look to make meaning out of our lives.  And while I am committed to resist any pressure to self-censor, some things we experience are complex and require a lot of processing.  Last week I wrote a 1500 word post but chose not to publish it because it lacked clarity: unprocessed and complex feelings were sort of half blended in to an unclear narrative.  I had not yet found my own private truth in all the complexity.

Truth seems to be the battlefield of our post-factual, modern times.

Many of us carry battle wounds.  I’ve had several people come to me this weekend with rage or depression.    Although I am not a minister to anyone with whom I work or have personal relationships, I try to be of service, offering a compassionate ear and some comfort.  For me, I am fortunate that I have a spiritual practice that can take me beyond the noise of the moment, and it is in that Oneness that I find solace, as well as re-affirm my sense of purpose.   For others, who are not spiritual, I’ve advised extreme self-care,  to let go of the uncontrollable,  and of course, to re-focus on gratitude.

When life seems so complex, I return to gratitude for the simplest things.

Today I am grateful for the sunshine.  It is warm and soothing on my skin and it gives me joy to feel these last autumnal rays before the cold winter and rains set in for good.  I wish that the Thanksgiving holiday had been a sunny one as I have much clearing of my garden to do.  Instead, I took it in turns, between rain showers, to make soup from my garden vegetables and to pull the last of the plants out of their pots on my balcony (a not insignificant feat).  I’ve expressed my gratitude to my plants for their bounty as I compost them into fertilizer for next season’s crop.  I am thankful that most of my family was able to gather for a meal, and that I had an extra day of rest and solitude, which I feel I deeply need, right now.  And most simply, I am grateful for the soup I made in that time.  It  nourishes my body, so that I have the energy to continue to wake up and be publicly grateful,  even as I do the harder and deeply private work of soothing and nourishing my spirit, in these difficult and complex times.

Photo: Katie Moum

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Harvest Moon

September 27, 2018

Photo: Zan Douglas

Day 1498 – Day 1503

This summer I started marking out my life in lunar cycles.  It wasn’t something I set out to do, but I’ve been more aware of the cycles of the moon than I’ve ever been before, and as each full moon passes, I reflect on what has transpired in the intervening cycle.

This week we had a harvest full moon.  I know that there are many myths and much folklore around the meanings of the harvest moon but they may not speak to my experience, this week.  Astrologically,  this moon was referred, by some, as a Monster Moon, because it was so intense.  Apparently the full moon in Aries was squared to some heavy duty planets.  The earth didn’t open a sinkhole and swallow me, though I will admit that it has felt like a quietly intense week.  In fact, my harvest has been good.  I have reaped what I have sown, for better or worse.

In this time of living a simple life, I’ve been making a concerted effort to be mindful, quiet, and to listen to what I say to myself and to others.  I watch where my thoughts go.   As a gardener, I’ve been reaping the last of my harvest, sharing this harvest with others, and gleaning from other gardeners and nature herself.  As a wayfarer, I’ve been reaping a lot of insight from my dreams and from the process of listening to my thoughts.

Someone once told me that I sowed the seeds of creative ideas for him, and he liked that.  Over time, I came to see that he also was able to sow seeds.  What he sowed, however, was self doubt, through the manipulations of triangulation.  Some of those seeds fell into my garden, and I was able to reap them this week like the weeds that they are, and to see that with any triangle, there are three points.  In listening to my thoughts and words and harvesting insights about this and the meanings of my dreams, I have been able to detach from the system, with compassion for others.  I am grateful for the support of my friends CMF and AH, to do this.

I’ve noticed that I often think the worst thing first, and only with effort (like this gratitude practice) am I able to think more positively.  Sometimes, this includes my assessment of people.  Oh yes, there have been many times in my life when I’ve thought the best of someone because I wanted to believe the best of them, with or without evidence to support this.  But sometimes, I make an assessment about a person’s character based on my reading of events, and sometimes, I end up being wrong.  In the past, I’ve noticed that this happens when I’m feeling insecure – the quickest route is to the negative.  This week, I think I misjudged someone, and I’m grateful that I can admit when I am wrong and adjust my course in response to new knowledge.  I’m also grateful that I did nothing to ruin the friendship, in the course of being wrong about them.

I feel a fragile shift in my perspective – a return to greater self confidence and a generosity of heart that has been hard to achieve in the past two years.   I’ve had a few suitors lately and while I’m seeing a return to open-heartedness, I’m grateful that I’m balancing that with the willingness to observe and act upon red flags or simply with those qualities that are deal breakers, for me.

I’m grateful for the bounty of this harvest.  We’ve hit 1,500 days of gratitude this week and I’m still catching my breath from that milestone and quietly letting it set in.  I feel like I’m in between the in between right now, being deeply present and One with that which is greater than myself.  Where I go with the insights I’m gaining will remain to be seen, but as I start canning and preserving the last of my harvest, and as I nestle in to a period of cozy nights at home, I feel more at peace than I have in a long time.  For a wayfarer, this is the greatest thing I could hope to harvest.


Photo: Sonja Guina

For what are you most grateful today?


1,500 Days of Gratitude

September 24, 2018

Photo: Annie Spratt

Today, marks 1,500 days of gratitude practice.  Recently we celebrated four years together, but somehow this milestone takes my breath away.  It has become commonplace in our lives to mark annual events (birthdays, anniversaries) and it is easy to become complacent.  But, when I break this down to days – as is done in a gratitude journal – this milestone feels profoundly tangible.  I remember when I started this task and it was a 7 day challenge.  Then it seemed that 21 days would be onerous, and somehow we’ve hit the 1,500 day marker on the journey to 10,000 days of gratitude.

Ten thousand days amounts to the opportunity to witness a complete lifetime transformation in a person.  But we transform in so many ways along the way; we don’t reach the end point and suddenly – poof – we are a different person.  Each day brings something new, and each day we either handle it with an overarching view of cynicism, bitterness and regret or we find those small moments of gratitude, joy, oneness and service (and the other tools we’ve added along the way).  By finding those gems each day, we can not only celebrate the wonder of life but also weather and more easily transform those periods – and they can stretch on for years, sometimes – of real challenge.  Not everyone will stay the course of 10,000 days with me, and so it is in the small steps and the consistent practice, that I hope emotional contagion takes hold with the reader.

One thousand and five hundred days – without break – fills me with awe.  I was proud of the first year milestone, but this milestone is the first time I’ve been filled with awe at the power of one day at a time.    I’m not disciplined in all areas of my life.  A quick look at my filing basket at work or my treat cupboard in my kitchen will tell you that.  And, at the same time, I have done many things in my life that have required discipline, but those efforts played to my strengths of study and solo sports.  Gratitude – well – that is not something that I remember seeing around me much, as I was growing up.  It isn’t that we were particularly entitled.  Each achievement was simply the stepping stone for the next, in an effort to keep one’s head above water.   My parent’s generation sacrificed so that I could have a better life.  And not to be grateful, now, seems stingy, to say the least.

Today, I am awed and humbled by the spiritual discipline it took to get to this marker.  I’ve tried for 30 years to meditate and I’m still rubbish at it.  I remember learning from the yoga sutras that one only becomes ‘firmly grounded’ in spiritual practice if it is done “for a long time, without break, and in all earnestness.”  My meditation and yoga practice has been sporadic and I didn’t have much hope of becoming firmly grounded, in this lifetime.  Having achieved 1,500 days of gratitude, I am beginning to believe that a steady meditation practice is possible for me.

Don’t get me wrong, my basic personality hasn’t changed in the last 4 years or so.   I was raised in a culture of pessimism.  I still see the risk, first, when I look at a situation.  But with 1,500 days of gratitude practice, I have built new neuropathways that allow me also to see the opportunity, at a second glance.  We may not be able to undo all the conditioning of our lives, (and maybe we can), but, I certainly know that we can develop new options.

Today, I’m grateful.  I’m grateful for all my readers and friends, without whose support I, personally, might not have made it. On those days when I was stuck in a loop of want or self pity, I’m grateful for their compassionate understanding, first, and then a gentle reminder of my gratitude practice.  I’m grateful to those who gave of their time to be interviewed for the website and whose story provides inspiration to us all.   This morning I wrote to a photographer whose images I often use – or want to use – on this website (Annie Spratt) to thank her.  It is a small gesture and she is just one of the many photographers and artists who create the visual landscape of this space.  To them all, I say:  Thank you.   Finally, I’m deeply indebted and grateful to C. Michael Frey and L.H. for their design and web development assistance to create this platform.

Thank you for being a part of this community and continuing journey.  As always, I invite you to share your own Odyssey with us.

Photo: Annie Spratt

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

This Little Life

September 21, 2018

Photo by: Chuttersnap

Day 1494-1497

I’ve never liked living in the suburbs.  I grew up in the suburbs, neither part of the city nor at home in nature.  My family is very happy in the suburbs, but I hated it and as soon as I was old enough to leave home, I made my escape to university and then to the big city.

My favourite pastimes happen in the city centre – art galleries, museums and cultural events.  My other favourite place is being on the ocean.  But in the midst of living in the city I have had the dream of a life where the grass is always greener: a simple life in a village or hamlet or somewhere far remote.  I imagined living somewhere in New England,  in a cottage by the sea or on a windswept ocean cliff, in the British Isles or on an inlet, surrounded by the woods of the West Coast of North America – near enough to a city to go there when I needed to be there, but far enough to use a sea kayak and to need a husky for company.  I never imagined I’d be living in a town mostly populated by insular religious and ethnic communities and that is neither a secluded quaint village, nor a big city.

I live in a town of about 150,000 people in the middle of an agricultural region.  It is neither quiet, nor bustling, and it feels very Christian with several bible colleges and a particular religion’s centre for world wide missionary work. It is an hour’s drive to the ocean, on a good day,  and it is not a place, were it not for family, that I would choose to live.  I don’t think that I share the same outlook on life as my neighbours.  But then again, I’m not sure that I don’t.  I don’t feel welcomed into social circles in this town and so I may never know.

And, that is a shame.  If you are part of the particular religious or ethnic groups that populate this agri-town, then you are well connected.  If you’re not, you’re not.  And I am not.   And, I never will be.

The faith-based group that lives here are people who, by tradition, practice simple living, and that interests me.  But, they are a closely knit group of people with ties based on a common faith that I don’t share.  I recognize that we may be friendly and cordial if we come across one another in the garden or a woodworking group, and I may learn from them in those settings, but we will probably never really mix, socially.

I have felt pretty isolated here.   I am neither living my solitary seaside cottage life, nor engaged in the bustling city that offers so many opportunities.   But there is a reason I chose to be here right now and that reason has not yet changed.  And, so, while I’m here, I have this little life.   A simple life doesn’t have to be solitary, but I have always envisioned it to be.  And now, I’m getting my chance to live that. It isn’t where and when I was hoping to live my simple life, but I think that if we are not ready to change our circumstances just yet, then resisting seems like a waste of life energy.   I’m grateful that there are options for me to go out and be with other people and also that I am content to be on my own and that I enjoy being creatively productive.

Solitude does not have to be lonely.  I believe that loneliness comes from wanting to be in the company of those with whom we are not, or in feeling out of step and emotionally closed off to those around us and wanting these things to be different.  I’ve been lonely since I moved back to Canada and a lot of that has been missing people I love, but I’ve also had to set and maintain boundaries with people I love, but who’ve hurt me or treated me disrespectfully.  That can leave us with solitude, but it doesn’t mean it is unhealthy.

I may not find Oneness in a close circle of friends that live nearby and whom I see often.  I may not find Oneness with colleagues at work.  And I may not find Oneness in an embracing spiritual community.  But Oneness is always present – I have just had to find other ways to tap into it.  When I’m gardening, I feel Oneness with the earth.  When I kayak, I am One with the ocean and when I’m out in the forest, I am One with the trees.  Even when I am sitting in my dining room-turned-artist studio, I am One with the collective unconscious.  Being in solitude is, perhaps counter-intuitively, a means of achieving a great deal of Oneness.  The trick, I have found,  is not to be looking for what I do not have, but to be completely mindful and present in the moment with what I do have.  This little life can help eradicate all the distracting noise, so that in solitude and oneness, I can see what this time has to teach me.

Slowing down has grounded me and while I may not live in this community forever, I do want to volunteer my time.  I struggle to find anything that is not affiliated with the local church and so I am still looking.  In the garden, I have contributed to the food bank, but I believe that there is good to be had for both the one who is served and the one who serves, when we give not only of our things but of our time.  It is a way to form connections with others, when we lack the company of good friends.  Watch this space.  I’ve not resolved this, just yet.

This isn’t the first time in my life that I have been a fish out of water and gone inward, deliberately.  Life goes in cycles and when one cycle ends, a new one often begins in this quiet way – integrating what has come before and listening for what is calling to be born.  I’m reminded of the lessons of Henry David Thoreau.  I’ve not retreated to a self-built cabin in the woods, and I still do go to work in an office every day.  But the conditions of my workplace are such that I am isolated and left to fend for myself and I live in a town where I have no close ties except to my folks, who largely keep to themselves.  Without bustle and a social life, I’m kind of in a metaphorical wilderness, tending to my garden, painting and writing, walking and kayaking and singing to the earth, living a life of solitude and contemplation.

In the words of Thoreau:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Like Thoreau, when I emerge from this part of my life, I hope to have passed my time deliberately and meaningfully, listening to the still small voice speak to me of purpose. I didn’t expect to have this little life choose me at this time and place in my life, but as the endless rains of autumn set upon us here in the valley, I’ve decided to embrace my time on Walden Pond.


Photo: Fredrick Suwandi

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

The Importance of Being Earnest

September 17, 2018

Photo: Markus Spiske

Day 1489 – Day 1493

This week I was reminded of an art project that appeared on social media some time ago.  It was produced by a relatively new circle of artist friends.  The project parodied a famous artist in the genre that my friends pursue and I wasn’t completely sure whether it was done in homage or mockery.  I also wasn’t certain whether the parody was of the famous artist or of themselves.  Other friends helped me decode the intent through the hashtags and comments, and we concluded that the project took aim at the earnestness of the famous artist, for being excessive by today’s standard.

I think there is a danger in viewing any art from a previous era, out of the context of its time, but, more importantly, I wonder: when did the quality of earnestness become a subject of contempt?

Sources define the word ‘earnest’ differently but there seems to be a consensus that it means to be serious, highly convicted and sincere.   I found some sources that equated earnestness with being religious and moralising, but this is faulty logic:  An evangelist is earnest, but an earnest person is not necessarily an evangelist.  And, while a highly convicted person who exhibits sincerity may, in times past, have been found in societies that lacked moral ambiguity, Bob Dylan was a good example of earnestness that belonged to a counter culture where morals were individually felt, held, and acted upon.  Finally, many think that the quality of earnestness sucks the levity out of the room.  One can lack the ability to take perspective with gratitude, humour or fun, whether one is earnest or not.  In my experience, levity is the essential lubricant that allows one to pursue one’s convictions without burning out.  So, why the derision?

I notice that many in a younger age bracket – and maybe more so in the arts –  have adopted the counter-culture-turned-mainstream idea of doing and liking things ‘ironically,’ that many pop culture writers have rightly identified as a requirement of being in the circle of cool.  Along with ironic and mocking lifestyles, we’ve also seen the rise, within this crowd, of the quest for a life of ‘authenticity.’

I suspect that one who draws attention to a quality in themselves is one who lacks it most.  I know that is true whenever I do it.   The truly humble person doesn’t tweet about their humility.   The person who lives their life with presence, in the moment, and being real about who they are and how they feel,  has no need to hashtag themselves as authentic.  They are grounded in who they are and they don’t look outside of themselves for approval of their #authenticity.  By extension, I admit that gratitude has not been my natural tendency in life, and therefore, I practice it, and write about it and hope to inspire others who struggle with it, to be grateful.  Spiritual and contemplative paths don’t attract those who’ve achieved nirvana; one doesn’t need the path when one has already reached the destination.

So, I am curious why, on the one hand, authenticity can be a sought after and cherished experience, but earnestness is not.

I am an earnest person.  It would not be possible to honour the commitment to 10,000 days of these practices – shared publicly – without being serious about the task and having a deep conviction that it is worth doing.  To do it well requires openness and sincerity – or what we have called Authenticity.  And to be authentic requires a deep conviction of the need for the serious pursuit of self awareness.

I may never understand the motivation for that project, but I’ll admit that it saddened me and it took me some time to unravel why it impacted me this way.

I’m saddened that sincerity, deep conviction and seriousness may no longer be a de-rigueur part of the making of art.  I wonder what will be the purpose of art, without it.  Whether in vogue or not,  I’m grateful that, as a writer, and as a painter,  conviction and sincerity still enlivens me to make serious effort.  My intention is serious, not necessarily the form it takes.  I have written comedy and many of my paintings are whimsical but I have a purpose and a conviction behind it all and I’m grateful that those who have been moved by my work.

At a more personal level,  it pains me to feel judged, even if by proxy.  I have good associations with that famous artist.  I don’t care if people have the same taste as I do.  In fact, I like to mix with people of different tastes and experiences because they broaden my world and introduce me to new ideas.  However, nobody likes to have their taste, style or way of navigating the world judged, mocked and dismissed.  When we cannot be ourselves, when we cannot bring the best of ourselves to the table, we are in the wrong company.  We don’t need to be into the same things, in order to support one another in pursuing our passions.  We simply need to forgo judgement.  I’m grateful that I have good friends who don’t judge me for being different from them and I’m sad that these friends are no longer in a part of that circle.

I’ve chosen to distance myself from any fellow artist who backstabs or tears down another artist – famous or otherwise.  I’ve known a few famous people who are artists.  And the one thing we all have in common is that we are just people,  subject to the same insecurities, trying to make our art.  It takes courage to put our art into the world, even if we are famous (perhaps more so?), knowing that some will love it and some will hate it and – worst, perhaps of all – some will be indifferent to it.   We are all vulnerable when we put our art out there.

Sure, if your art is the art of satire, then I understand there is mockery involved.  But satire has a point – it is to awaken people from their complacency or false self images by exaggerating reality.  If there is no wake up call embedded in satire, or your genre is not satire in the first place, then it is just mean-spirited.   I’ve been in several different artistic circles from writing, to acting, to painting, to making music, and I’ve witnessed this bitchy and backstabbing behaviour in all of them.  I’ve had my own privately-held bitchy moments fueled by jealousy and frustration but I’ve tried to keep them to myself, and to resolve my underlying pain, because I know these moments serve nobody.  They perpetuate negativity and comparison and that robs me of the joy of creating.

When I was in writing school, I heard someone famous say that there is room at the top for all of us.   It seems to me that successful people – those who achieve their goals and create a legacy (like the famous artist, being mocked) – are not those who are looking around at what others are doing and putting them down.  They have their eyes on their own work.  They maintain their drive with optimism and conviction, and they elevate those they meet along the way, thereby, creating a culture of loyalty and positive community.  I’m grateful that I heard this concept early in my career, and I’ve tried to live by it and create a circle of mutual support.

I don’t claim to understand the paradox that these thirty-something artists’ who produced the project live within, because  I try to be authentic in all my dealings and  I believe that there is importance in being earnest.  We all care deeply about something.  Authenticity, it seems to me, requires that we own up to our earnestness, and risk being vulnerable enough to reveal to others, and to ourselves, the places in our hearts where we care the most.  Ironically perhaps, it may mean exposing ourselves to the threat of mockery.


Photo: Joey Nicotra

For what are you most grateful today?





Ten Thousand Days

Lifelong Learner

September 12, 2018

Photo: Clay Banks

Day 1483 – Day 1488

I’m back to work this week, after last week’s anxiety producing surgery.  I’m not thrilled to have been under the weather for the end of the summer, but as autumn rolls around and children go  back to school, I am reminded that I used to feel a sense of melancholy at this time of year that I associate with childhood, and the knowledge that the carefree days of summer had come to an end, and the time to crack down and set to the task of earning good grades was upon me.

There is something wrong in that.  I love learning.  I hate the testing that has always been a part of my education.  As an adult, with a post graduate degree, and several professional qualifications, I think its safe to put to rest the days of testing, and return to the love of learning.

The school of hard knocks and of self awareness is, in many ways, the best teacher but the formal acquisition of knowledge and new skills is a favourite pastime, for me.  Learning new facts, systems and ideas brings me joy.  Drawing from the same old well of stale ideas and ways of doing things stifles creativity.  There is nothing more igniting than a new idea and the process of synthesizing that idea with older concepts.  At least, that is the case, for me.  One of the requirements of my professions is maintaining continuing education records to ensure that I am keeping up to date with developments in my fields.  That is a pretty broad requirement and I sometimes struggle to find verifiable courses that pertain to my particular career.

This September, as the weather changes and the oppressive heat settles into a cooler, comfortable temperature, I continue to harvest the last fruits of my garden, and I have set out to harvest some new ideas beyond that which is simply “pertinent”.  When I lived in London, I was incredibly grateful to have a lot of continuing education that was financed by my company, and a considerable amount that was free from my institute and the wellbeing departments attached to my professional institutes.  Although I cannot attend those in person anymore, I do have access to some of them online, as well as a host of University courses.

I enjoyed learning with others, and I made friends from some of the participants and teachers of those classes.  But, when life hands you lemons, you need to learn to make lemonade.  And so, this September, I went back to school with three University courses by distance education offered as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).   I am grateful for the wealth of free or low cost resources available to me as I continue my education, self financed.  I’m doing courses that will be of benefit to my day to day working life and have some application to one’s personal life as well.

I’ve felt uninspired in my work, for a few months now, and I think this is largely attributable to a lack of colleagues and mentorship opportunities, and the incubator that colleagues and mentors provide.  Because I’ve spent my whole adult life away from here, I lack a professional network where I’m living.  Imperial College London, The University of Munich and The University of California, Berkeley, have now become my extended network, in addition to those friends and colleagues that live in different time zones.  I’m grateful that I am resourceful and able to be self-directed, because with a MOOC-style education, that is what is required.  With so many courses to choose from, I have carefully selected three that are aligned with my values and purpose, and also directed towards my professional requirements and goals.   I’m pretty happy about that.

While solitude and contemplative time is really important and must be preserved, my evenings are going to be busy this autumn.  But accommodating study into my life is nothing new.  For most of my working life, I have studied alongside working a day job or two.  I finished my Creative Writing degree and studied with a professional acting school, while I was working in the film business in New York, and I became a minister while I was working in the entertainment business and held down a seasonal job as well.  I worked towards a certificate in Sustainability and became a polarity practitioner in there, somewhere, as well.  (Ah, the energy of youth!) And, when I moved to London, well, I studied to become a professional while working full time, and then got a second qualification when that was finished.  I am a life-long learner.  I love to learn.  And each thing I learn bounces off the other things I have learned and this will be my own internal incubator.

I encourage anyone who is feeling a bit bored or uninspired, as winter sets in, to take a look at the vast array of MOOCs, continuing education or distance education courses that are available, near or far.  Maybe we will meet in some distant University chat room.

Photo: Sergey Zolkin

For what are you most grateful today?