This is a series of columns that I began writing in April of 2010 as a way to heal from a debilitating 3-year battle with depression. These columns have been originally published in the Wood River Free Press (WRFP), a regional newspaper in Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Visit the oldest post for your invitation to join me as I begin walking into my new life!And please share your comments. I would love to hear from you!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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?
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!
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
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!
tiniest of things can be cause for celebration! I dare you, dear reader,
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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
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
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!
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.
Sunset at the Val Marie Dam
Originally published in the Sept.20th, 2010 issue
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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)
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
This 'garden of dreams' belongs to my amazing sister, Lynette I love you!
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.
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.
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!
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 ofthese can be your building
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
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
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.
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
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