Author Archives: Shelley Hrdlitschka

The Day The Music Died

It was Friday March 13, 2020 when I first heard that the NHL had cancelled their hockey season indefinitely. What the…?? That’s when the truth finally sank in.  The coronavirus – as we were calling it then – was deadly serious.

That’s also when I began watching the news incessantly. Global. CBC. CNN. I watched it 24-7. I couldn’t get enough. Like most everyone else I became frightened, neurotic and slightly unhinged. (Though not enough to stock-pile toilet paper.)  I would have been less shocked If a world war had been declared. It had never occurred to me that – outside science-fiction –  a worldwide pandemic could shut down the entire planet so rapidly.

In those early days I couldn’t read, write or listen to music.  I couldn’t focus. I could only consume news. I watched the daily covid numbers in BC, in Canada and around the world. In utter shock I saw the horrific scenes coming out of Italy and Spain. I hung onto BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s every word. Yes Dr. Henry, I will behave responsibly. I’ll stay home. I’ll wear a mask. Hand washing? I’m surprised there’s any skin left on my hands.

And then my beloved dentist died of the f’n virus. It was no longer ‘out there’. If it could take him, it could take anyone in my family or community.

Months passed. I began to read again. But still I watched news. Read news. Listened to news on podcasts as I walked. And walked. As we moved into the third wave our hearts collectively grew heavier and heavier.

But then the vaccines began to roll out and ever so slowly the daily new cases began to decline. I received my first dose  of vaccine. Relief!  Without realizing it I began to wean myself from news. I quit keeping tabs on daily numbers.  I began to socialize again, albeit safely.

The second dose of vaccine created havoc in my body, but it was short-lived pain. Hallelujah! I’ve been fully vaccinated!

Soon after that I turned on my Daily Spotify Mix – currated just for me – and suddenly everything changed just as quickly as it had on March 13, 2020. Beautiful music filled my home again and I found myself dancing around the kitchen as I made dinner. It felt like the music was resurrecting my soul. Throughout those many months when I’d been so  anxious I couldn’t allow myself the abandon of giving myself over to it. Now that I have there is such relief.  When I silenced the music, I also silenced that link to the vast array of emotions that makes us human and connected to a vibrant life. And with the return of music I’m finding new ideas for stories have come rushing back in too.

I’d like to think that I’ve learned from this experience, but I doubt it. When I’m in fight or flight mode, facing an enemy like Covid, I can’t open myself up to the pleasures of music or much else.

For now, though, that has  changed. Bring on the Spotify Daily mixes. Soon I’ll be attending live theatre. And concerts. May the music never die again.

“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace,  abolishing strife.” Kahlil Gilbran

Simple Pleasures

To distract ourselves during Covid, my walking partner and I challenged each other to pay attention to the simple pleasures in our lives. We noted how satisfying it is to slice into a perfectly ripe avocado or to slip between  freshly laundered sheets on a well-made bed. It’s these little things that can get us through difficult times.

In his book titled The Book of Delights poet Ross Gay challenged himself to write one short essay per day on something he’d observed that delighted him. In the intro he says, “It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study. A month or two into this project delights were calling to me: Write about me! Write about me! I also learned this year that my delight grows – much like love and joy – when I share it.”

In other words, ‘what you focus on grows.’

So that’s what I’m going to do ~ share my simple pleasures (and delights!) and hope that more and more of them call to me.

In no particular order, here are a few:

  1. Nuzzling a kitten to my face and breathing it in.
  2. Hearing the laughter of children playing outside on summer evenings.
  3. Puppies. The full-body wiggle when they’re greeting you.
  4. Being notified by the library that a long awaited book has finally arrived.
  5. Cracking open a new book and sinking in for the evening.
  6. Hanging laundry out to dry on a breezy spring day.
  7. Chatting with cheery strangers when we’re both out walking.
  8. Discovering a gem of a book at a Little Free Library, or leaving a treasured book there and finding it gone the next time I’m checking out the selection.
  9. Seeing items get repurposed.
  10. Participating in discussions that dive deep.
  11. Discovering new products that tread lightly on the planet, or that eliminate plastic waste.
  12. Long, ambling beach walks.
  13. Breathing in the earthy smell of forest trails.
  14. Viewing wildlife photography – especially of bears and apes.
  15. Watching the assertive little hummingbirds that fight for space at the bird feeder.

What are your simple pleasures?

I Am Only One

After viewing Seaspiracy and then the equally disturbing companion documentary Cowspiracy  my heart felt bruised. I’m ashamed of what mankind is capable of doing to sentient beings.

In order to heal my heart and feel some sense of control, I  return to these quotes.

Empowering words. And, I might add, no one is too old to make a difference either. Maybe that is the best time of all, when the distractions  of youth have passed and there’s time for reflection. And action. Every day.

 

My 2020 Year in Books

Thanks to Covid, I read 70 books this year. Yes, that’s astonishing, even to me. When the pandemic first hit I found I was unable to read, I couldn’t concentrate or focus, but as the weeks crawled by and my anxiety subsided I turned to books for comfort and pleasure. Don’t ask me what’s hot on Netflix or Crave, I haven’t a clue, but I do have some great books to recommend. And this was the year my tastes turned to non-fiction. I suspect my thirst for information was also a by-product of Covid. 

Here are my favourites, divided into Young Adult, Nonfiction, Fiction, Currently Reading and books-I’m-really-looking-forward-to-reading. Let me know if you have some favourites for my 2021 list. Continue reading

Seeking book recommendations

My bookclub meets in a couple of weeks to select books for the coming year. This particular group gets a little competitive ~ at the August meeting we each give a pitch for the one or two titles we’d like to see on that year’s list.  Then we vote and a list is compiled.

We each try to pitch outstanding books because at the June meeting we then vote for our favourite book of that year.  The winner’s name and book title go into the illustrious ‘Bookclub Winners’ book.  It’s quite an honour. 😉

Past favourites have included A Good House (Bonnie Burnard), A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles), Plainsong (Kent Haruf), The Hearts Invisible Furies (John Boyne) and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith).

So, I’d like to pitch a winner. Any recommendations?  We’re a group of men and women. All genres are considered and they can be fiction or non-fiction. Thank you!

Taking time for reflection

Eleanor Roosevelt famously said:

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

Oh dear.  I realize how often in my daily interactions I slip into the category of discussing events and people, but I aspire to do better.

Journalist Steve Wasserman asks: “Does the ethos of acceleration prized by the internet diminish our capacity for deliberation and enfeeble our capacity for genuine reflection? Does the daily avalanche of information banish the space needed for actual wisdom?”

What would Eleanor Roosevelt think about the way social media bombards us with ‘bites’ of information, but no true analysis of events?

This is why I love bookclub. Coming together for the sole purpose of discussing the ideas presented in thoughtful books is so enriching. When the other group members share their insights I see that each person’s experience of the world allows them to interpret the story and its ideas differently. That in turn promotes clarity and then wisdom, and helps me become a more empathetic person. Books (and journals) are the antithesis of ‘fast news’, which, like ‘fast fashion’ has quantity but no quality.

One of the silver linings from the pandemic is that each of my three adult daughters has rediscovered books and reading. When the pandemic is declared over, I hope they will continue to read and, even more importantly, discuss the ideas found on the pages.

Do you like what they see? A writing prompt …

You’ve just met someone new. Or maybe it’s an alien from some far off galaxy. They have arrived unannounced at your home. For some strange reason you cannot speak. I don’t know why. It’s not important.

This person can only get to know you by watching you and seeing how you live. You can’t tell them about yourself, so they will surmise who you are by seeing what you do, where you go. They will learn your habits. They will see your home and belongings. Do you fold the corner of the page of your book or use a bookmark? Are the surfaces in your home clean and clutter free or do they tell the story of your day, your week. Maybe your month? What do you have hanging on your walls? How full is the laundry hamper? What is in your fridge?

Where will this person think you put most of your attention?

What will they determine are your priorities?

Really think on this.

Now, here’s the real question:
Do you like what they see?

Wise Words

The following are the wisest words I’ve heard since the start of this pandemic.

“Undoubtedly, the Covid 19 pandemic has introduced uncertainty into all echelons of daily life. But uncertainty need not inspire fear. Uncertainty is the precursor to innovation and innovation is the precursor to change.

We are offered two choices today: To fear uncertainty and to fear change, or to see this generational challenge as a generational opportunity.” (Andrew Weaver, former leader of the BC Green Party)

When the pandemic first hit I was amazed at how fast the grocery stores installed plexiglass partitions, curb-side pick up became the new norm for small shops and crosswalk lights became automated. No need to touch any surfaces. Yes, innovation quickly evolved from the uncertainty of the lurking coronavirus. These were small, quick fixes. Imagine if this same ingenuity was used on much larger issues. I’m thinking of Senior Care Homes for starters. Climate change to follow up.

This is our moment for leaders and institutions to revamp those systems that no longer serve us well.  I’m going to imagine the day where we live in balance with the natural world and also  live harmoniously  with all of humanity in its many delightful hues and cultural variances. These could be the hidden opportunities the coronavirus offers us.

Image: quotulatiousness.ca

Hibernation is over! Hurrah!

Coola and Grinder – the grizzly bear residents of Grouse Mountain – have just woken up from their 19th hibernation. This year they hibernated for 144 days. Don’t they look happy to be out in the spring air?

But they must wonder, where are all the people? Most years thousands of tourists  flock to this mountain resort to view them,  to feel their magnificent presence and to learn the importance of protecting this species. But this spring the resort is closed due to the coronavirus. Hopefully we’ll be able to go see them again soon. In the meantime, if you want to know more about these two bears and their journey to Grouse Mountain, you can read my book, The Grizzlies of Grouse Mountain (The True Adventures of Coola and Grinder,) co-written with Rae Schidlo and illustrated by Linda Sharp.

I’d be happy to mail you a copy. Order it here: shelley.hrdlitschka@gmail.com

(photos courtesy of Grouse Mountain Resort)

Do We Have The Will?

The coronavirus has taught us that it takes every single individual to do the right thing (self-isolation/social distancing) to curb the spread of this insidious disease. Going forward, can we take what we’ve learned from this pandemic to reverse the human impact on climate change?

It may be too late to  wait for government and industries to pass the necessary laws but if each of us – every single person – changes our behaviour as abruptly as we have with this pandemic, I like to think it might be possible. Global warming may kill us at a slower rate than the coronavirus, but the predictions of climate catastrophes (droughts, deadly storms, melting polar caps) are frightening. For now the planet has been given a reprieve as there are far fewer planes in the sky and cars on the road (you can almost hear Mother Nature sigh with relief) but when this is all over, will we go right back to our old ways?

Frantic consumerism has been slowed as we stay home.  Single-use plastic consumption may have risen temporarily as we focus on  food safety,  but If, at the end of this pandemic we all made positive personal changes perhaps we could stop choking the oceans with our plastic waste. We have seen how it takes everyone working together toward a common goal for it to be be successful.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could turn that same  focus toward our beloved planet?  And if not for us, for our grandchildren and their children? The changes would be much less difficult to put in place. We could still gather in groups, hug(!), eat at restaurants, go out and play.  Is it too much to hope for?  It’s easy to educate ourselves on how, we know the why but do we have the will?