Saturday, March 17, 2012



            Thanksgiving has just past and it has set me to ponder how we celebrate in our lives. I find it sad that the frequency and fervency of our celebrations has declined and continues to decline in our busy and hectic lives.
            I think many factors have caused this. Families simply aren’t as large as they used to be and job availability has put hundreds, even thousands of miles between family members.
            I also sense that our ability and willingness to celebrate is also in decline. The rush and pressure of our lives are easily to blame but I think we need to renew our diligence in discovering time and new ways to celebrate.
            One of my favorite stories from my parents is about box socials. Box socials were get-togethers that involved the auctioning off of boxed lunches that were prepared by the women. The successful bidder would share the meal with the one who prepared it. Often, a potential sweetheart might let her man of choice know just how she had decorated the box that she had prepared so he would know which one to bid on. How romantic!
            Here’s a crazy thought for you to consider: what if you began a practice of romancing YOURSELF? What about taking the time to ask yourself what it is you truly need and then set about filling a ‘box’ of things that will nurture and sustain you?
Try pausing mid-day for a soothing cup of tea, celebrating the fact that you’ve made it through your morning. What about reading a short inspirational piece at bedtime to quiet your mind and nurture your hope that tomorrow can be a better day?
            It all begins with a sense of gratitude. Yes, gratitude can restore your sense of celebration! And gratitude always takes what you have and turns it into more. Here’s a perfect example: the gift of a zucchini from a neighbor’s garden turned into a wonderful hour of baking for me and later it turned into much delight for my family – the muffins were delicious!
            With autumn in our midst we can easily find ways to celebrate. Thanksgiving is what first comes to mind but how about that dreadful chore of raking up all of those leaves?  Instead of grumbling, can you approach the task by celebrating the fact that just like the trees can shed their leaves, you too can shed your burdens and troubles and accept a moment of peace?
            Here’s another crazy thought: Remember how, as a child, you would rake up a huge pile of leaves and then jump into the middle of it, rolling with giggles of delight? Can you remember how you used to bury yourself at the bottom of the pile? Do it again! Your neighbors will think you have lost it, but your spirit will soar!
            The tiniest of things can be cause for celebration! I dare you, dear reader, CELEBRATE!
Celebrating summer with a BBQ and a homemande blueberry crisp!

My grandson, Gage, celebrating his 2nd birthday with a monkey cake!
Originally published in the October 8, 2010 issue of the WRFP.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mapping Your Best Life

            Finally! We seem to have a reprieve from the rain! I look outside my window and see glorious blue skies. Normally, this would excite me to no end, but now I find myself resisting it. I find myself not wanting to walk at all.
            Feeling like this sets me to panicking a bit. Is the depression returning? Or is it just a case of ‘the blues’ that we all experience at one time or another?
            Have you ever found yourself resisting those things that you know would bring you joy if only you took a step toward it? Know this: if you are telling yourself that you just don’t have the time, then you are resisting the change and transformation that comes from those joyous activities.
            Whenever I resist walking, I know I am shutting down inside. That feeling of not wanting to walk or engage with nature is like a magic marker for me, a flag of warning that I am withdrawing from myself, withdrawing from my life. What are the ‘markers’ in your life?
            I forced myself to walk yesterday. As I was passing through the schoolyard, I came across some small children’s toys in the dirt: a toy truck with small pebbles in the box, a plastic barn with stalls built into it, and animals scattered about. It immediately transported me back to my childhood and how I loved playing with toy cars and trucks. (We used to call them ‘dinky’ cars.)
            I would build entire cities and towns. Small milk cartons cut in half with windows and doors carved into them became buildings. A narrow piece of wood became a grader as I ‘plowed’ roads for my cars and trucks.
            Building the roads, all inter-connecting with one another, was always my favorite thing to do. I loved the planning it took to build to build a city or a town. In remembering that I realized that it takes planning to re-build our lives after it has been ravaged by life, illness, or circumstance.
            In my imaginary towns I would stick twigs or Popsicle sticks into the ground. They were signs that helped to map out my village. Our lives and our inner landscapes aren’t much different. We all need ‘signs’ to guide us, much like my resistance to walking signals to me that I am withdrawing from life.
            Take some time to recognize the signs in your life. Those hunches, that intuition, the little ‘voice’ inside of you: all of these are signs waiting to guide you back into all that is important to you.
            Had I not pushed through my resistance and walked yesterday I would not have been reminded that walking is like building roads and pathways to our inner selves. Had I not walked I would not have come across that child’s imaginary world and I would not have been reminded of the power of our imaginations to create something from nothing. You have the power to build the life of your dreams. Be fearless in creating that world. Be fearless in mapping your best life!
The 'Two Trees Trail' in the
Grasslands National Park

Originally published in the October 4,2010 issue

Opening Your Gifts

            Summer is quickly drawing to a close and I find myself disappointed for I
have missed most of it. I became ill in July and spent time in the hospital in August. I was unable to walk outdoors for much of that time.
            My first response was to grieve. After all, through all my walking outdoors since spring, nature has become one of my dearest companions and suddenly being housebound felt like the loss of a friend.
            But being housebound gives one much time for reflection and I found myself traveling back in time, to my first walks east of Val Marie along the Frenchman River, then to my hikes in the Grasslands National Park. I suddenly realized what I had and it wasn’t loss! It was all there, every step I had taken. I began a gentle excavation of memories, images, and transforming moments. I found many things I had deeply treasured at the time and in treasuring them I was actually giving gifts to myself, gifts to open in the future whenever I needed them. I needed those gifts this summer and they were there.
            Every moment that I walked and was fully present, every moment that I cherished and wrote upon the tablet of my heart, was like writing a love letter to myself in the future. It was all there!
            If you find yourself suddenly severed from nature for whatever reason, remember this: it’s all there! Inside of you. Every single step you’ve taken, whether in nature or in life, is a gift waiting to be unwrapped. As long as we take the time to cherish present moments and savor them we are, in essence, writing them upon our hearts and this ensures their preservation.
            I researched the history of ancient papers recently and came across papyrus. Papyrus was very important to the ancient Egyptians. It helped to change their society in many ways, like fostering communication. I believe our hearts must be treated with the same importance. Just like the Egyptians writing upon papyrus had transformed their lives; writing upon the tablets of our hearts can transform ours!
            I also realized that we must not value one season more than another. I think that is a dangerous place to fall into for it blinds us again and isn’t that the work we have been doing? Removing the blinds from our lives? Every season has gifts for us. It may take a delicate touch to unearth them but they are there. Dig deep, my friend!
            In my first column, published in the April 26th issue, I invited you to walk with me. Are you still walking? Perhaps you have been pulled away from it like I was. Maybe you have yet to start. Or maybe you have been walking but your heart hasn’t followed yet. That’s okay. Just believe. Your heart WILL pick up the rhythm of your feet and will soon be running excitedly ahead of you. And if you need to begin walking again, like I do, remember, your heart knows the way. Just BELIEVE!
Sunset at the Val Marie Dam

Originally published in the Sept.20th, 2010 issue

Vacations of the Heart

            I love the library and I recently spent time there snuggled into the travel section. It was bursting with travel books on nearly every place in the world! The choices were endless!
            Perusing all of those books set me to wondering: if I could have the ultimate travel wish and venture anywhere in the world, where would I go? Where would you go? Summer vacation is fast approaching and I know many of you have made plans to travel with your children. Unfortunately, I never got to travel as a child and as a result, my summers were spent in my imagination.
            I vividly recall one summer in particular when I sailed the world a thousand times over. My ship? And old metal washtub tucked away between two granaries on our farm. I fought pirates in that ‘ship’. I dove for sunken treasure. I swam with dolphins and hunted great white sharks.
            Now that I am an adult, I still crave that kind of adventure. Oh, the places I would love to explore! But while dreaming of travel to those far away places, I realize that I mustn’t forget the wonders near home.
            Take the tropical island of Bora Bora, for example. I can easily imagine having a motu picnic in the water, but what about the joy of a backyard wiener roast on a warm summer evening?
            I long to ride a camel through the sand to reach the Great Pyramids of Giza but have a walked through the Great Sand Hills of Saskatchewan?
            Or the Amazon River. It is called the ‘River Sea’ because of its dimensions are so great, it being the largest river in the world. I long to drift on its waters but have I canoed the Frenchman River?
            An African safari: think of the zebras, elephants, wildebeest, lions, and my absolute favourite, giraffes. How breathtaking it would be to see a rare baby black rhino or a white lion club! But have I been to the Grasslands National Park and seen a Greater Short-horned lizard? (It shoots blood from its eyes!) Or how about hiking the Frenchman River Valley and seeing the rare Northern Leopard Frog? What about the mule deer, prairie dogs, and ferruginous hawks?
            I would also love to spend time with indigenous African tribes, like the Masai Mara. But have I spent time with my own family? I mean really engaging with them. And what about me? Do I have the courage to pilgrimage to my deepest inner self? Would I be willing to spend time with me, learning about who I really am just as I am willing to learn about African tribes-people?
            Archaeological excavations also fascinate me. Imagine excavating an Egyptian ruin or digging in an early Mayan site in Guatemala. The idea of unearthing treasures intoxicates me! But then again, I think of home and find it only fitting that perhaps, before I travel to the other side of the world, I join a day dig in Eastend, where Saskatchewan’s first Tyrannosaurus Rex was discovered.
            Whether or not you plan a vacation this summer, be it clear across the world or a tent pitched in your backyard, don’t forget to explore the most vast and awe-inspiring of landscapes: your inner self. Excavate. Dig deep for forgotten hopes and dreams. Follow the map that your heart has written and you’ll unearth your greatest treasures.
Canoing the Frenchman River in May, 2002
Myself, my son, Jayson (age 7)
and my daughter, Renee (age 12)

Originally published in the June 21st, 2010 issue

Garden of Dreams

            While writing this, the weather is miserable, again! Each of us seems to be affected by it this time. Bubbling up in conversations is concern over seeding, especially with this weather taking a defiant stand against the farmers. In the seeding of crops there always seems to be an anxious energy around it and understandably so. Livelihoods depend upon it. But what about planting gardens?
            I realized a striking difference between the two in talking with my parents. I knew they’d been looking forward to planting a garden this year but just this morning my dad announced that it’s probably too late to plant one now. But instead of that silent panic that the farmers are feeling, I was touched by the disappointment in his voice.
            That set me to wondering about the difference between seeding crops and seeding gardens. Do we really have control in our responses to both? Or have our responses become automatic, especially in the case of generational farming where that sense of urgency and anxiety around seeding time seems to have been stamped upon us? I do believe we have a choice and I find that refreshing.
            In contemplating all of this, I remember, as a child, that there was a bachelor who lived at the end of our street and he always had the best garden in town. His garden was a labyrinth of luscious growth. Row and row of crisp vegetables in a rainbow of colors hidden beneath the surface. Bright orange carrots, deep red radishes. I recall how careful you had to be in this land of wonder and promise. Extra care had to be taken when you walked between the rows. Like walking a tight rope, you had to find your balance and maintain it lest you fall and trample the newly erupting plants.
            I think this is the same with our lives. Finding that balance. Living and moving and being in our stressful worlds and at the same time tending the gardens within us where we have planted seed of hope and seeds of dreams. Walking in any garden requires such care and attention. Every seed is important and treated with the reverence it needs in order to be protected and grow. Do you care for your hopes and dreams in the same way?
            One of my favourite things to do is to look at seed packets. They hold such promise don’t they? And the myriad of choices is almost as delicious as a fresh garden salad or crisp and juicy corn on the cob, dripping with melted butter! It’s always a given that, once we have chosen what we will plant, we will tend our gardens with care and in quiet anticipation of our harvest.
            But what of our ‘inner’ gardens? Do we take care in choosing the hopes and dreams we will plant? Do we tend to them with the same care and attention one would give to a backyard garden? Search your heart for your ‘seed packets’. I assure you the packets are there. Choose the ones that strike a chord of joy within you and fearlessly plant them! And don’t forget to balance – tread carefully when you step from the pressures of your life and into your garden of transformation.
This 'garden of dreams' belongs to my amazing sister, Lynette
I love you!

Originally published in the June 7, 2010

Monday, February 20, 2012

Guarding Our Kingdoms

           Finally! The sour weather has past and now I wake up every morning to the syrupy call of an owl and the rat-a-tat-tat of a most-determined woodpecker. They remind me of excited grade-school children trying to out-talk each other. I hear them during short snippets of time when human-generated noise has quieted enough to give them center stage. I find myself ‘gulping’ in their sounds as though they were ice-cold drinks on a scorching hot day.
In these past months I’ve been learning to ‘see’ again, making conscious efforts to unearth what lies beneath the stresses of my life and I’ve encouraged you to do the same. But hearing the owl and the woodpecker left me wondering about sounds. Underneath the noise pollution that fills our lives what is there?
On one of my recent walks I set myself to listen. The most pervasive of sounds were the birds. Like wind chimes, their songs were all wafting through the air and colliding with one another, but one in particular ‘snagged’ me and stopped me in my tracks. It took my breath away, its music unmistakable: the MEADOWLARK! If I listen intently, all bird songs bring me joy and peace but the meadowlark is the one that grasps my heart. And it has grasped my mother’s heart since childhood.
            I asked my mom what the meadowlark did for her. Her answer: “When the meadowlark sings it uplifts your heart and soul. You get a feeling of peace and quiet.” There is an eloquent phrase in the French language that expresses this sentiment: la joix de vivre. I want to thank you, Mom, for passing that love and wonder on to me.
            Aside from the joy it brings to its listeners, the meadowlark’s song has a surprising purpose: it’s how the males stake their claims. In singing a simple yet powerful melody, the male declares the borders of his kingdom. A single male can reign over six or seven acres of pasture and MUSIC – yes, music! is it’s primary weapon in defending that kingdom!
            This led me to ponder our own kingdoms, both inside of us and outside. How do we defend them against the ravages of the world? Try this: listen for a sound, any sound that delights you and let it be a foundation stone in building your best life. The boundaries of your kingdoms can made of anything you choose. It can be the meadowlark’s song  that grounds you in nature; the laughter of your children grounding you in the joys of parenthood; the softened voice of an aged parent that anchors you in history: all of  these can be your building blocks.
          The meadowlark uses song to defend its home. I believe that our strongest defense, our ‘song’, is in the careful setting of boundaries in our lives, boundaries that protect our inner selves, giving them the safety they need to grow and change; and boundaries that protect our outer lives telling the world, “Stop, here you must halt!”.
            Walk. Listen deeply to whatever sounds grasp your heart and guard your kingdoms as the meadowlark guards his.
Sasha and Sadie, ready for a hike

Originally published in the May 24th, 2010 issue of the WRFP

Spring Is Here

          As I sit down to write this it is miserable outside. I’m disappointed that the weather has shut me in when I so desperately need to walk. I’m craving fresh air and sunshine but the wind is howling and rain is pelting against the windows like bugs against a bug zapper.
It’s easy to feel that these stormy days are wasted days. But I stop and re-think this and recall the timeless adage that there is good in everything if we look close enough. If we truly ponder this we quickly see that this adage does bear some truth, even if it is cliché.
We need never discard any moment because of its unpleasantness. Every moment does carry a purpose if we are prepared to unearth it. I look beneath my grumpiness and frustration of not being able to walk and I’m surprised by this: a deep and quiet anticipation of the next beautiful day. That anticipation warms me like sweet childhood secrets and I realize that I do not want to squander ANY of the glorious days that I know are to follow.
Appreciation is a simple way to insure happiness – it sharpens those things that we are truly grateful for but often forget we have. Another ‘cliché’ is that patience is a virtue. My favorite synonym for virtue is grace. Can I usher in change and transformation in my life as gracefully and celebratory as nature does in hers?
I was especially reminded of this last week when I took a close look at a willow tree, checking to see if its leaves were starting to bud. (I’m anxious for trees bursting with glorious green leaves!)  What I noticed were soft, fuzzy buds up and down the branches and I instinctively knew what I was looking at: PUSSYWILLOWS!
Seeing this was brand new to me, like unwrapping a surprise gift from a cherished friend. Throughout my life I’ve heard the term ‘pussywillow’ in snippets of conversation but to see them and FEEL them was electrifying.
I wanted to shout it to the world! “Hey, come on over here, everyone. You HAVE to see this!” I knew this was a sign of spring – a promise from this newly erupting season: “Watch for me, I’m on my way!”
Quick research gave me a name for those buds that march up and down the willow branches. They are called ‘catkins’. Long before the male catkins come into full flower they are covered in fine grayish fur, like tiny cats or ‘pussies’. They appear long before the leaves and are one of the earliest signs of spring. I read that they can appear as early as mid-March. A promise of spring that early? What a glorious idea!
As spring unfolds, birthing new buds, my challenge is patience. Can I give myself the time to unfold as nature gives spring the time to do the same? Can I embrace the difficult days as fervently as I embrace the joyous ones? Will I allow time to unravel the knots in my heart? Will you?

Sasha, always smiling!

Originally published in the May 10th, 2010 issue of the WRFP