Category Archives: Musings

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.

 

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

Having Purpose – Can it Bring You Good Health?

In a conversation with Jonathan Fields on his Good Life Project podcast, Dr. Frank Lipman shared stories that showed how our health can be greatly improved when we find a sense of purpose.  Jonathan agreed, adding that many of the things we’re afflicted with simply fall away when we find that purpose.

So what does finding purpose look like? It can be working at a job that is meaningful to us. It can be participating in our community on a project of common interest or joining a non-profit to work for something that feels important. Volunteering for an organization whose values match our own can provide deep meaning. Setting personal goals and meeting them also works.

Writing gave my life purpose for a long time, and it still does in many ways. Being supportive of  my grown children also gives me purpose as does participating in my community through friendship and activities. But recently I felt that there was room for more and through a couple serendipitous meetings with old acquaintances I found my way back to a local Unitarian fellowship whose mission is to ’empower people to live with greater depth, meaning and purpose.’ Simply being among other people with these shared values makes me feel that a door is opening, inviting me to live with that greater depth.

It’s not easy to discover what our purpose is and it changes throughout our lives.  We can go for long periods of time feeling restless, but I believe if we consciously open our minds for opportunities to live more intentionally those opportunities to live with greater depth and purpose will appear.

And if you like podcasts, be sure to check out Good Life Project with Jonathan Fields.

It All Matters

Today would have been my mom’s 98th birthday.  Her last few years were spent in a care home and the care providers were truly angels on earth. Being a care provider for the  frail is not a ‘sexy’ job. It’s hard, sometimes dirty, often thankless work, and fortunately there are people who are willing to do it, caring for those in our communities that are the most vulnerable.

This passage from “We Are Called to Rise” by Laura McBride makes me think of those wonderful  care providers.

It all matters.

That someone turns out the lamp, picks up the windblown wrapper, says hello to the invalid, pays at the unattended lot, listens to the repeated tale, folds the abandoned laundry, plays the game fairly, tells the story honestly, acknowledges help, gives credit, says good night, resists temptation, wipes the counter, waits at the yellow, makes the bed, tips the maid, remembers the illness, congratulates the victor, accepts the consequences, takes a stand, steps up, offers a hand, goes first, goes last, chooses the small portion, teaches the child, tends to the dying, comforts the grieving, removes the splinter, wipes the tear, directs the lost, touches the lonely, is the whole thing.

What is most beautiful is least acknowledged. What is worth dying for is barely noticed.”

So I’m thinking of my mom today, and I’m thinking of those angels who cared for her at the end of her life. Through them I learned that ‘it all matters’ and it matters a lot. I’m trying to be that person who does those small, seemingly unimportant tasks, those little things that matter as much as anything else. I fail every day, I’m so far from perfect, but I will keep on trying.

  • Angel craft by artist Carole Burdett

Write What You Know? Maybe not…

I’m often asked if I have a favourite author and the answer always changes depending on what books I’ve recently read. If asked today I’d say it was John Boyne. The three titles of his that I’ve read (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, My Brother’s Name is Jessica) are each completely different, yet so brilliant in their own way. He has a talent for creating humour out of desperately difficult circumstances but without making light of that situation. Continue reading