Thursday Tidbits

Posted on May 28, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

 

Me and my great friend, Virginie (France)

 

 

“When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark,

At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky,

And the sweet silver song of a lark.

You’ll Never Walk Alone – Gerry and the Pacemakers

One year ago, today, I was wrapping up the most incredible experience of my life. I completed the Camino in Spain. With over 1,000,000 steps and 713 kilometers, I walked into the city of Santiago de Compostela with Virginie Gatel, a young French woman who had the dubious honor of spending the last two days of this epic walk with an aging bald man from Canada. As we entered the city triumphantly, with badly blistered feet, we were arm in arm singing “We Are The Champions’. I know it sounds corny, but it was very emotional. We weren’t champions but we sure felt like we were.

Walking the Camino is a test of endurance, but it is so much more than this. The Camino has its roots in an ancient pilgrimage and present-day walkers are referred to as pilgrims or perigrinos. While some people still walk the route from St.Jean Pied de Port France to Santiago de Compostela Spain as a spiritual exercise, a larger percentage are there for other reasons. Many come for adventure while others come carrying a burden or simply to get out of the rat race for a month.

People from all walks of life come from every corner of the planet and leave as changed people.

Is it the tranquility of the Spanish countryside that uplifts people? Do the physical demands increase endorphins? Does the plethora of churches provide spiritual nourishment? Is one inspired by pilgrims who walked these exact paths over 1000 years ago?  Do the fantastic wines of Spain also lift spirits? That’s an easy one! It’s all of these but so much more.

There is something magical about the Camino that’s difficult to describe. You start off as one person and end up as a community of fellow travelers. You walk with them. You share meals with them. You share cramped quarters in one of the many alburgues (hostels). You discuss your innermost feelings with total strangers who feel like your best friend after walking for two hours together, stopping occasionally to bandage each other’s feet.

If you were to poll anyone of the hundreds of thousands of people who have completed this journey, my guess is that most of them would cite camaraderie at the top of their list of what made their journey so memorable. Even when language is a barrier, a smile, a thumbs up, a pat on the back or a hug more than compensate for the inability to understand a foreign language. Friendship doesn’t require a language. Symbols of a shared journey and affection for fellow pilgrims is what defines the Camino.

I know that it’s not helpful to dwell on the past. We all need to keep moving forward. This is especially true these days as we ponder the world we inhabited a scant three months ago- a world that has changed so dramatically. The pandemic has left us with deep scars, blisters of a very different variety. But, like blisters, we will heal, although the recovery time will likely be much longer. We are walking through an incredible storm and we must believe in a golden sky sometime in the future , however long it takes.

As we inch our way forward into an uncertain future, it might be a good time to take a page out of the Camino. While hugs are still verboten, we can still give a thumbs up and a smile to a neighbor or a friend. Like the Camino, we’re all on this path together.

May we hear the sweet silver sound of a lark one of these days.

Have a great weekend.

 

A toast to the end of the Camino

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on May 25, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with 3 comments

The glass is half full

 

“Ooh, what a lucky man he was

Ooh, What a lucky man he was.

Lucky Man – Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Why I am a lucky man.

The accident of birth brought me into this world in this small community in rural Nova Scotia almost 69 years ago. Every time I contemplate this number, I momentarily shudder until I realize that while the pace of life continues to accelerate, I am so fortunate to have made it this far. My father and younger brother were not so lucky.

My hometown is not perfect but pretty damn close. We have hummed along nicely since 1889. We live in a part of the world that is blessed with mostly good weather, avoiding major catastrophes. We don’t have a lot of heavy industry in this part of the province blessing us with clean air and clean water. Ocean breezes refresh us, and we are surrounded by rolling hills and lots of forests. Our economy has always been quite stable with a university and regional hospital as major anchors of the economy. Farming, fishing, forestry, and tourism round out the picture. Covid-19 will test our resolve, but we have shown resilience in the past.

Our roots in the Cooperative movement are in the collective DNA of the community.

I am lucky to have been born into the MacDonald/O’Flaherty family. Both my father and mother’s families were musical, and this gift continues to be passed down to our offspring. My parents left us with good compasses to navigate our way through this challenging piece of work called life. My siblings are good people and are a great source of strength and comfort especially when the road gets bumpy. Nobody is guaranteed a smooth ride.

My children continue to inspire me. They are making their way during a very tumultuous and unpredictable time. They make beautiful music when they have the chance to get together and even when they can’t physically be there, the wonders of the internet and technology allow them to share their music with others. They are socially conscious and responsible citizens. Betty has supported me and allowed me to pursue many adventures. Our grandchildren. Well, I’ll just let you choose your own words. Most of my readers are north of 60 and many of you have grandchildren so rather than me gush, you already know what I am going to say.

I am especially lucky to have inherited my mother’s energy. I am frequently asked about my apparent zest and passion for life and the energy that this entails. I always point to mom. She was an unstoppable force and the word “can’t” never crossed her lips. She didn’t always succeed in everything she did, but she was never afraid to try. Ditto for my late brother, Tom.

I am so, so lucky to have friends including those of you who are reading this post. Many of you I know quite well, some not so much , and, a handful of you that somehow stumbled upon my website, not at all. Having friends is every bit as important as air, water and food.

At this point in my life, having good health is the thing that makes me feel like a jackpot winner every day. I know that this will not be the case forever. One never knows what is around the next turn in road’s life.

Yes, I am truly a lucky man and I am consciously grateful of my good fortune.

Have a great week.

 

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on May 21, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

The boy in the bubble

(Pete MacDonald photo)

 

“Livin’ alone, I think of all the friends I’ve known

But when I dial the telephone, nobody’s home

All by myself, don’t wanna be,

All by myself.

All By Myself – Eric Carman

 

So, it has come to this.

We have “flattened the curve”, just not the one around our waistline. That one will take much longer. We have self-isolated, disinfected, social distanced, and lived like hermits for eight weeks or more. We have “fought the good fight” and done our part to protect ourselves and others from harm. Spring is in the air and the economy is starting to reopen. For the first time in what seems an eternity, there is a ray of hope that life might return to some semblance of normalcy.

And then come bubbles.

“Tiny bubbles, in the wine; make me warm all over -Don Ho

The government of Nova Scotia announced last week, that some restrictions regarding personal contact would be eased ever so slightly. No, we’re not even close to seeing a day when hundreds of people will crowd into a bar to listen to some live music or attend a sporting event with tens of thousands of rabid, beer swilling fans. We have been told that we are allowed to have contact with one other family. They can visit us, and we can visit them. We will now affectionately be known as a bubble.

This has quickly become a litmus test for friendship. Who will be inside your bubble? How can families possibly choose among siblings, children, grandchildren, or grandparents? It must be agonizing for many people.

Why hasn’t anybody called you? You’ve been sitting quietly at home waiting for a phone call, a text, a Facebook message, a Messenger message, a WhatsApp message, an e-mail, an Instagram message, or a twitter message. In desperation, you have even checked your business contacts on LinkedIn. Occasionally, you look out the window for a smoke signal or a homing pigeon.

I hate to burst to burst your bubble, but you have no friends. You have suspected this for a long time but now it’s official. After being afforded the opportunity to co-mingle, no one has reached out to you. No one.

“I cried and cried all day; alone again, naturally.” Gilbert O’Sullivan

Yup. Come to think of it, this is not the first time you’ve been shunned. Remember in your childhood, those neighborhood pick up ball games? The word would go out that a ball game was going to be held in the field out back. Kids of all ages, sizes and abilities would come pouring out of their homes. Two children with obvious leadership qualities would be chosen captains and they would be left with the unenviable task of choosing players. You always had this sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. Previous experiences like this, even when you were playing Red Rover, yielded similar results. You were always chosen last.

You got over these sleights as the years passed. No, you didn’t. You realized at a young age that you were a first-class loser.

You brushed it off as childhood childishness, until you went to university, only to discover that a pattern was emerging. Back in the early 70s, a winter carnival was a staple of campus life. There were lots of outdoor activities, skating parties, snow sculpture contests, variety shows, pubs, and yes, a Winter Carnival Ball. Getting dressed up and escorting someone to the ball was just about as good as it got. Unless you were so socially inept, so much so that no self-respecting young woman would ever get caught dead with you anywhere within a 50- mile radius. And that was before metric. It sounds even worse when you say 80 kilometers.

But there’s always a silver lining. An alternate event was held for people like me. It was called The Loser’s Ball. I attended for three years in a row. Actually, from the reports I got, I may have had more fun at these rollicking events than if I had attended the real thing.

And now, you are a fully formed adult, getting on in years and are now facing the ultimate shunning. No one wants you inside their bubble. Nobody wants you on their team. At first you thought (naively) that you had a poor internet connection, but that notion was easily quashed. You look in the mirror and you are no better or worse looking than you were last week. You go to the grocery store and people say hello, so you are not a complete misfit.

“Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.” Macbeth

All of a sudden, miraculously, you get a call from two different branches of the family wondering if you are in a bubbling mood. So desperate are you for having someone with a pulse to visit you that you commit the heinous crime of accepting two families into your bubble. You quickly realize that you are in double bubble trouble and will likely be hauled away by the Covid police.

Not to worry. When they take you to the lock up, they put you in solitary confinement which is just the way you like it.

 

 

 

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