Thursday Tidbits

Posted on June 27, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

Mother Nature- Let it Bee


“To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.”

 Pearl S. Buck

I am increasingly fascinated with the concept of the arts as a tool for healing. I attended an interesting presentation a few nights ago sponsored by Arts Health Antigonish (AHA!). AHA! is a collaboration between artists, educators and health care workers.

Antigonish’s very own Dr.John Graham-Pole pioneered this concept at the University of Florida. Two local health care administrators went to Gainesville, Florida recently to spend a few intense weeks hearing about the work at the renowned Shands Hospital. More and more health care practitioners are discovering the healing power of art, music and poetry among many other art forms.

The local AHA! Group has been working very hard in recent years to foster the arts in healing. Our community is blessed with an abundance of very talented artistic people who can provide these services. Antigonish was one of the first small communities in the province to hire a music therapist in our Regional Hospital and the results of this initiative are impressive. Many studies have shown that music not only distracts people from their pain and discomfort but can actually be a pain reduction tool. When you think of the cost of medicine, surely music, art and poetry are amongst the cheapest and most effective drugs.

I have some firsthand experience. I spend five afternoons a week at one of our local nursing homes providing music. Yes, I sing lots of songs ranging from old war tunes, to gospel and country and western. Even a bit of Pearl Jam! But the arts provide much more than just a performance. It’s about connection, storytelling and just being present. Many of the residents have suffered memory loss. I am thrilled when I see the faces of a room full of elderly people light up when they recognize the music of their youth.

I am luckier than most. My work career was diverse and satisfying. It would be a stretch to say that I absolutely loved my jobs. But at the age of 67, I have found true joy doing something I absolutely love.

Pearl S. Buck has it mostly right. It’s just that I’m not sure if I’ve discovered the fountain of youth!

I was wandering around the Farmer’s Market last weekend and bumped into a friend, a vendor at the market. She asked me a surprising question: “What do you think about on your long walks?” I was tempted to say that the air passes effortlessly through my head which is partially true!

Here’s what I told her. I pay close attention to nature… sights, sounds and smells. I sing a lot. I think about everyday stuff. I am consciously grateful. I get a lot of my story ideas when I walk. It’s a great time for reflection too when you’re my age. When you’re in the trenches like you are with a family and work, you have plenty to think about without having the luxury of goofing off and daydreaming.

I absolutely loved her response. “I am constantly thinking ahead and where I want my life to go. I need to learn to be still sometimes, that too is where walking helps me. Nature just makes you feel more centred and connected to Mother Earth and if you listen she will let you in on some great words of wisdom.”

Wouldn’t you agree that my friend’s answer was much more insightful than mine?

Focusing strictly on your surroundings on a walk is, I believe, a form of meditation. It calms the mind and is very soothing.

Have a great Canada Day weekend.


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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on June 24, 2019 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment

A walk around the world


“If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser people than yourself”.

Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life (Max Ehrmann)

I so want to be Paul Salopek.

Who? Until a few days ago, I hadn’t heard his name so you’re forgiven if this name leaves you puzzled.

Rarely if ever, have I wanted to be someone else other than who I am. I have been luckier than most having been born in a special part of the world that is beautiful, safe and pollution free. I am in good health and am enjoying retirement immensely. So why this sudden pang of envy?

Paul Salopek is a writer. Paul is also a walker. He is a travel writer.

When (if!) I grow up, this is a profession that holds great appeal for me. I guess in some ways, I’m already living this dream having chronicled my six month volunteer stay in India. I also wrote a book about a couple of epic road trips through the United States with my son. Presently, I am working on book #5 about my recent walk across Spain, having completed the Camino on May 28th.

Salopek is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and fellow with National Geographic. He has been on an epic walking journey as the principal pilgrim of the Out of Eden walk, to trace the history of humans’ migration out of Africa and around the globe. He started his walk in Ethiopia in 2013. He has walked 17,000 kilometres so far and he has a long way to go before he finishes his trip at the southernmost tip of South America.

I was fascinated when I read the interview done by recently retired CBC radio journalist, Anna Maria Tremonti. She has interviewed Salopek a number of times and has found him to be a pretty inspiring guy. Salopek has seen a lot and has arrived at some conclusions that are disturbing but not surprising. “I think almost in every place I’ve been, women get the short end of the stick – economically, politically, in sense of family power, in sense of things like land ownership. Inequality between genders has emerged now, almost seven years in, as the most consistent form of human injustice along the trail.”

In a recent post, I spoke about Canada’s lofty position as a desirable place to live. I also mentioned that our country is grappling with some long standing issues around the treatment of First Nations people and immigrants. We’re making progress on these fronts albeit painfully slowly. I could have, and probably should have also added gender inequality to the list. On the surface, it appears that Canada is making some headway with gender inequality. More women are occupying senior management positions in industry, business and politics. Equal pay for work of equal value is finally being addressed in some sectors of the economy but there is still a long way to go.  If Canada really wants to be #1 in the world, all of its citizens need to be treated equally.

I think I’ll drop Mr. Salopek a note. If he gets tired, I’ll tell him that I would be happy to take over!

Speaking of writing and books, I have the first three chapters written for my Camino book. As much as I want it to be a serious examination of the Camino, I can’t help but filling the pages with humour. There were several notable quotes along my 713 kilometre walk but none more memorable than on day one. I was chatting it up with a quiet, introspective man from Finland. Being my first day, I was eager to start collecting “stories from the trail” so I was grilling him with questions. When we finally got to our hostel and sat down for a cold beer, he looked at me and said, “We are comfortable with silence in Finland.” Never have I been so politely told to shut up!

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars,

You have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”


Have a great week.

P.S. Some of you will remember that Desiderata was made into a song. Sorry if this gives you an earworm today!

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on June 20, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

Hats off to Canada


Why Canada matters.

I’m always suspicious of ratings because many times, the people doing the survey have a vested interest. A recent study out of the U.S. had over 20,000 responses from 36 countries who were asked to score 80 countries on a number of attributes. Canada ranked third overall as one of the best countries in the world in which to live and was also ranked #1 for overall quality of life.

Justifiably, we might want to puff up our chests a little bit and take a bow. But we know, our country is far from perfect.

I did my own small unscientific study on my recent walk across Spain. The Camino gave me an opportunity to meet people from all over the world and to fly our flag. I had a bag of Canadian pins and passed them out with pride. Probably the most excited people to receive this small trinket were a group of high school students who interviewed me in the great plaza at Santiago de Compostela. They were anxious to hear about my Camino experience and asked me several insightful and thoughtful questions.

Before leaving for Spain, my good friend Eva affixed a Canadian flag patch to the back of my Tilley hat. I realize that this might be passé in 2019 but I’m kind of passé so I didn’t think that anyone would be terribly offended.

I walk quickly and more often than not, I was passing people on the trail. I would be courteous while in the passing lane, wishing one and all the standard Camino greeting: “Hola. Buen Camino”. Very often when I would be ten feet past, I would hear “Oh, you’re from Canada.”

This would invariably spark a discussion as we quizzed each other about our citizenship and shared stories of common interest. One thing I did discover is that most of the folks I met on the road were very much like me… except with more hair! They seemed to share the same wants and needs, goals and aspirations. Most people spoke highly of our home and native land. A long history of being peace keepers has kept us as a good global citizen.

But we shouldn’t be too smug and start celebrating our international reputation too quickly. We have a couple of nagging problems. Actually, they are very serious and disturbing issues. For a country built by immigrants, there are parts of our country, even in our own back yard, that continue to exhibit racist tendencies. Our great national disgrace is our repeated failure to properly address the myriad problems with our First Nations people.

Part two of this problem is xenophobia which is the fear or hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange.

Unlike many parts of the world, immigrants and refugees are not streaming across our borders. Our governments have programs in place to welcome newcomers. Make no mistake about it. We need more immigrants as birth rates plummet and with an aging population.

So, why is it that many Canadians are happy to take a swipe at people who don’t look like us or share many of our cultural practices?

This is a head scratcher. Anytime someone takes a broadside at an immigrant, my standard response is quite simple. “Where did your people come from originally?” Yes, you might be a fourth or fifth generation Canadian but somewhere along the line, your ancestors traveled from some other part of the world to start a new life.

Diversity makes us rich.

If we are going to continue our lofty position as one of the great countries in which to live, we need to be more tolerant and understanding.

Make no mistake. This is a great country with natural beauty, vast resources and solid values.

But we still have work to do.

Have a great weekend.


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