… and, I’m back …

It has been almost 4 full years since last I posted on this site, and true to the quote that I chose to feature as my tagline, in the space of that 4 years, I find myself another, and yet the same …

Things that have changed: I have moved from a large metropolis to a small northern city, exchanging crowds and easy access to just about anything you can think of to (mostly) quiet streets and almost instant access to some 330 bodies of water and a wide expanse of bush and forest. Another huge change is that I have moved from permanent full-time to temporary part-time employment. My life has slowed down considerably, and I like that, though I will admit that at times I do miss some of the amenities and, sometimes, even the crowds. The past year has been a period of transition, to say the least.

When I began this blog, I had a vision in the back of my mind about a future where, once I was no longer having to report in to a daily job, I would adopt some largish hypo-allergenic dog, name him Buddy, acquire a Tiny House on wheels, and then ramble about for the next several decades. I would spend winters in the southern US and summers in Canada. I started preparing for this life by buying a folding bike, downsizing my possessions, whittling my wardrobe down, reducing my reliance on electric appliances, and engaging in discussion with myself and others about the benefits and disadvantages of compost toilets and living “off grid.”  But as I learned more, and started following blogs by tiny-house owners, I learned about some not so minor challenges about travelling with a tiny house. You need a large truck with which to haul the house. Large trucks are not cheap to buy nor to maintain. You need to be able to hook the house up to said truck, and, once arrived at wherever you plan to spend the night/week/month, you need to unhook house from truck, level it, attach all the necessary hoses and cords to ensure adequate heat, plumbing, running water, etc. With some alarm, I also learned about things that can go wrong, about the kinds of  engineering and mechanical problems that arise on the fly. Roofing tiles and sky lights get damaged by low-hanging trees. Trucks develop mechanical issues. Plumbing fails. Black water systems break down. Things fall apart.

And I realized that as companionable as Buddy was likely to be, he was not going to be much help with any of that. A tiny house seemed to come with some not so tiny challenges, and I didn’t feel equipped to deal with them solo. So then I began to dream of Buddy and I living out of a largish camping van, which is less likely to run into the kinds of problems that the average garage isn’t experienced with.  Our travel would be limited to climates that allowed us to live our lives largely out-of-doors (because, as friends and family hastily pointed out, Buddy would need room to wag his tale, and I would need to be able to stand upright on a regular basis). The van idea might have worked, but it appears that even hypo-allergenic dogs are no match for my heightened sensitivity to animal dander. Over the years, it’s become clear that no fur-bearing animal and I can co-habitate without my requiring some serious medications. My pulmonologist strenuously discourages any such co-habitations. And yet I could not imagine life on the road without some kind of companion. So, back to the tiny house plan I went, this time imagining a tiny house community. That’s a plan that by it’s very definition requires a community. That means more time to design, to plan, and more people to do all of that with. When my job ended (more on that some other time, maybe), I had an opportunity to think about how to achieve some piece of that dream.

I am not just back to this blog, I am also back in my home town. As it became clear to me that my tiny house/camper van travels could not materialize in quite the form I’d hoped, I thought about what might replace that dream. I thought about where I might be able to land, for a least a while, so I could figure out what this next phase of my life might look like. When I closed my eyes, what came to me was the sound of the wind in the pine trees and of lake water lapping. Those sounds hearken back to my earliest memories, my most comforting moments. And so I came home a year ago. Kinda like a slow boomerang. When I left some 19 years ago, I flew out in a wide arc from Sudbury to the Pacific Northwest for several years before looping back to Montreal before finally circling back to Sudbury. The views have been spectacular, the experiences many and varied. There is an old saw that claims you can never go back, but that’s not quite true. You can’t go back to what was, but you can go back to something different. And so I have. Sudbury, like me, has changed quite a bit in the 18 years I was gone, but in many ways it remains the same. Re-greening projects have changed the landscape, there are trails and pathways that facilitate cycling and walking, and a number of groups have established strong cultural roots in the city. Friends and family have come and gone and stayed and relationships amongst and between us all have changed. Even with all those changes, there are still familiar landmarks and faces.

Four years: my city of residence has changed. My employment status has changed. My closest companions have changed. My long-term dreams have changed. And yet I remain the same: still exploring and still searching, still figuring out what the heck my life is all about and how I can best go about living it. The last twelve months have been nothing if not interesting and rewarding. There have been challenges, and not all of them were anticipated or welcome, and some were real disappointments. Sometime I WAS the disappointment. But there have also been unexpected opportunities, kindness, encouragement, support, excitement, and growth. It’s been a ride, and it’s far from over.

 

 

 

I think I can, I think I can, ooops!

Last night was my first hill-training night. We do a 3k run, but include in that 4x400m hills (which don’t count as part of the 3 k, so essentially we run to the hill, run up the hill, then run one block to the next intersection where we turn and go down the hill turn again and go back to the base of the hill and then run up again. Repeat until we’ve done the hill 4 times, then run back to the store). I was able to run up the hill twice, then I got tunnel vision and couldn’t hear anything and my trainer caught me just before I hit the ground. She said “Stop.” I said, “I only need to catch my breath.” She said. “No, you need to stop”. So we compromised. I walked while the rest of the group ran.

I felt horrible. I could not figure out what was wrong. I mean, I’m not superwoman, but generally speaking, as long as I take whatever challenge I have put before myself steadily and slowly, I can usually do it. Such and unexpected and complete failure to meet this challenge had me thinking that maybe I just can’t do this. Maybe I’m not young enough/fit enough/trying hard enough. Maybe running 10k is an outrageous goal for me. Maybe I just cannot do this.

I must have expressed some of this aloud because next thing you know I hear my trainer saying: “Nope, that’s not it. You are strong. You run well. We have people older than you who can do this. You can do this. Just not tonight. You are having a bad night. That’s it. Not completing 800 m is not going to affect anything in the grand scheme of things.”

They were sensible words, but I was not entirely convinced and spent the rest of the evening pretty much moping about and second guessing my commitment to running.

 But then, this morning, I woke up in the throes of a full-on cold/flu.  Scratchy throat, congested nasal passages, headache, and in general, just plain old achy everywhere. But I gotta say, I also feel pretty darn happy. My trainer was right. It was just an off night. I CAN do this!

Sometimes, our own minds are our own worst enemies.

A simple guide to becoming a minimalist

Earlier today I posted a now deleted gush I wrote about a book that I thought was geared toward helping us understand why it is we buy more than what we need so that we could stop buying more than what we need.  But much to my chagrin, as I read further (lesson, read the whole darn thing before you promote it!), I realized the goal of the book was to instruct product developers, marketers, and sales people understand why we buy more so they could capitalize on it and get us to buy even more and more and more!

Gosh.

Now, this guy, (i read the whole post and several more on his site: when I learn a lesson I learn a lesson!) is really trying to help us buy and own less. I love this. Check it out! (and please accept my apologies if you read the previous before I deleted it and started wondering what had happened to me. It’s all good now. Lesson learned!)

Here’s the link:

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/consumer-isnt/

Decluttering? Ha!

I haven’t posted in a little over a year now, and quite frankly I am not entirely clear about why I’m posting now. My best guess is that my newly hatched plan to build and live in a Tiny House has me energized, excited, and exuberant. I’m all eeeee !

Tonight I am struck by an irony that i just have to write about. The past several weeks have seen me put the beginnings of my Tiny House plan into effect by downsizing. De cluttering. Getting rid of things I do not need, do not use, or can find ways of living without. At the same time, I’m trying to explore ways of reducing what I buy. For some time now, for years, really, I’ve been bringing my lunch to work everyday in reusable containers. This is not new. My kids, now grown, like to recall how I tortured them by forcing them to cut open and wash the bags our milk came in and to use them to pack their sandwiches for their school lunches. They had no quarrel with the concept, they just hated washing and drying the smelly milk bags. I totally got that, but for the good of the environment…

Nowadays, I don’t drink milk, nor do I eat much bread (how things change!), and instead I eat HUGE salads. Yummy salads! And, since we now know plastic is not so safe ( sorry, kids! Who knew?!), I’ve bought lovely and, incidentally, incredibly heavy glass containers for carrying my lunches back and forth. I have developed serious upper body strength lugging them around, I kid you not!

Lately, though, I have found myself dreading the prospect of carrying all that heavy glass. I don’t think it’s entirely my imagination that my bike tends to lean towards whichever side the panier holding my lunch happens to be on! So, tonight I decided to do something about it, and googled lunch containers. And I found some. Lovely, light, stainless steel to-go tiffin buckets with it’s own completely recycled cotton carry bag. Listed right next to that set was super light “bambu” cutlery with its long lasting, totally biodegradable, and cleanable cork cover (and I wasn’t even looming for cutlery but there it was in all it’s environmentally appropriate glory! Who could resist?) and right beside that, abeego resusable, washable, and also long lasting cloth/wax/resin food wrapper. (You can find all this and more at Fenigo, but if you click on that link you can’t say I didn’t warn you!)

So now I have a full set of litter-less, reusable and super environmentally friendly lunch paraphernalia. So. What to do with all the heavy glass containers? It’s not really a problem since I do tend to run low at grocery time (I use them to keep food in my fridge and cupboards as I haven’t bought plastic wrap or tinfoil in over a decade either.) But, and now we’re back to the ironic part, it does seem odd that I’m decluttering and acquiring all at the same time, and all in the name of sustainability and being environmentally friendly.

This downsizing is clearly going to be a bit of a challenge for me.

Intelligence?

“Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on – whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. but conversely, the dolphins had always believed they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reasons.”

Douglas Adams

Street battle

I have become hopelessly addicted to new style street dancing, particularly to les twins. When i was a teenager (and now I’m about to really date myself!) we hung out in one another’s houses, waved our freak flags, smoked a little (or a lot, depending!), listened to progressive rock, and from time-to-time, offered up some philosophical insight or another.  We were cool. We didn’t engage in a whole lot of strenuous physical activity. We  were cerebral.

Maybe it’s the contrast that appeals to me so much. Street dancing and the mock battles are intensely physical expressions of things we immediately recognize – conflict, anger, intense joy, freedom. All without words. And each dancer has his or her own unique style that comes out of who they are. That’s not to knock ballet or jazz or other more formulaic styles of dance. I love those too. But the organic, individualistic and spontaneous nature of street dance is just so incredibly immediate and compelling. I am continually blown away by the way the dancers do things that appear to be impossible (that backward swoop Laurent does, for example, where he seems so use the muscles in the front of his feet and ankles(!), to lift himself back up, or Bones’ and Pee Fly’s ability to free-flow their entire bodies). When Les Twins, Meech, Rayboom and the like dance, it seems to me they’re pulling from the very core of who they are. It’s so creative, earthy, and expressive. I love it, and I love them for sharing it. Check it out…

… and maybe it’s just me, but I find these battles are based in a collaborative effort that makes the term “battle” truly interesting. There’s an agreement to battle, to engage in a conflict and sometimes the dancers can get really quite aggressive. But there’s also an agreement that what happens on the dance floor stays on the dance floor (I love those hugs at the end of the battle). And even though it is a staged event, the battles are also so amazingly spontaneous and cathartic. I wish we could have the occasional street battle at work! I can’t help but think that would help us work out the barriers that get in the way of our collaboration. I can just see it now…

I am hooked. And I can’t help but think that Aristotle would approve.

Imagine

I haven’t posted for a while, but I’ve been gathering more stories about collaboration that I don’t want to lose, so I’ll be adding those over the next little while.

First up, this version of John Lennon’s Imagine by a a group of grade 5 students with a university acapella group…

…and here’s another, in case you want more. It’s hard to say who’s having more fun in this one, the kids or the college students! What a wonderful way to bridge generations!

there is a season…

Autumn never fails to put me in awe of what it means to be alive. Even in this most urban of settings, we are aware of the fall as the time of harvest. The signs are everywhere: pumpkin, squash, potatoes, pears, apples, falling leaves and cooling temperatures, early evenings…. This awareness of the life-giving bounty of the harvest juxtaposed with the browning of once-green plants and scurry of animals hurrying to stock up food for the coming winter … this is the season that, for me, most profoundly embodies the full spectrum of the cycle of life. I know. I am aware of the purple state of my prose, of the fact that all that I am feeling and am about to say has been felt and said before, but I cannot help it. This is what this season does to me. It makes me acutely aware of the passage of time on a broad scale and the passage of my own life on a very personal scale – that even as all things reach their prime, myself included, they – we, I – also begin the slow descent into oblivion.

But this is not a season of sadness, it is a time to celebrate passages and extremes — the warmth which gives way to cold, the slow transition from the light of long summer evenings to dusky afternoons, the way the vibrant green of plants trees waxes into the dusky browns, reds, and golds. In spring, when all things are new, our thoughts and our vision are forward looking. The world is newly formed, and the future and all the promise it holds is before us. In fall, the world around us begins fade and decay. Everything is shutting down, hibernating, going to sleep, dying. Our focus is not on the future, but rather on the cyclical nature of our world – the revolution of day and night, the cycle of the four seasons, the spinning of the earth on it’s axis, the yearly revolution of the earth around the sun, the spinning of our galaxy, the expansion of this universe, sparkling new galaxies and black holes, life and death …

This season brings to mind all the rhythms of the world, big and small – monthly tides, seasonal weather shifts, yearly squalls and storms. Shifts in our own work and life patterns in keeping with the shorter days and longer nights, the way the changing seasons reflect the human experience, how childhood gives way to youth and then adulthood, and finally old age, and the ways in which all our loves and desires and fears and hopes shape and are shaped by our experiences along the way.

It’s all so huge. I feel both humbled and inspired by it all. I am in one minute full of joy and wonder and in the next, astounded and in awe. I find myself in a moment of fullness and in a stillness that both terrifies and thrills me. It is a time of comfort and plenty. It is a time of endings. Every autumn. All my life. This season is my constant, my core, the quiet space between my beginning and my end, the breath between that moment when I am everything and I am nothing. It feels like home. And so I welcome it with open arms.

listening to the sounds of summer

I’m fighting off some stomach bug or other so I’m laying low today, just resting and letting my body take care of itself. And I must admit, I kinda don’t mind not being able to do much right now. The last two days were unusually hot and humid… temperatures were in the low 30s (celcius, that is) and the humidity was high enough that the weather people were telling us if really felt like 38 (and why they just don’t say it’s 38 instead of saying “it feels like” is a mystery to me!).

The temps finally dropped down to a more reasonable 26 today. Everyone is outside, and I am just loving the sounds of summer out my window…

1 Leaves rustling in the breeze

2 birdsong (probably singing to celebrate the passing of the heat wave!)

3 the spraying of a waterhose

4 hammering nails (someone is building something! a deck?)

4 kids playing

5 the whizzzzz of bikes flying by

6 neighbours greeting one another

7 someone somewhere is practicing scales on a piano

8 someone else is tuning a guitar

9 and yet another someone is playing a flute! I hope they all three start to play together!

10 and the occasional blast of music as someone drives by with volume turned waaayyyyy up!

It’s summer. And I love it!