Monday Morning Musings

Posted on June 21, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with 2 comments

 

 

“All my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown,

Moon rolls thru the nighttime, till the daybreak comes around,

All my life’s a circle, but I can’t tell you why,

Seasons spinning round again, the years keep rollin’ by.”

All My Life’s a Circle – Harry Chapin

Circle of friends.

Healing circles.

Talking circles.

Songwriter’s circles.

I’m not sure where the arc of this story is going. I’ll try not go off on a tangent.

Living in the north among the Inuit taught me many lessons, among them patience, persistence and resilience. They are a remarkable people who have endured much suffering but still manage to display warmth and kindness. I was the beneficiary of their generosity and wisdom.

It didn’t take me long to realize the importance of the circle in Inuit life and culture. “The significance of the circle is evident for Aboriginal people in many ways. The circle is a sacred symbol of the interdependence of all forms of life; the circle is a key symbol in Native spirituality, family structure, gatherings of people, meetings, songs, and dances.” (Pewewardy, 1995)

In many Indigenous cultures, healing circles and talking circles are often used as a way to provide group support for people who are dealing with issues such as addictions, violence, grief, and trauma.

Many of the meetings that I attended inside and outside the school began with a prayer and it was not uncommon to see people form a circle and often hold hands as a sign of unity. I was lucky enough to share country food with the Inuit. This required sitting on the floor in a circle eating raw meat and fish. For an old fella like me, getting up off the floor was the hardest part of these meals!

I was invited to be a part of a children’s singing group which convened regularly at the local museum, one of the most stunning and intimate that I have ever seen. The children always formed a circle to sing, dance, drum, or throat sing. One always felt a sense of unity.

I was fortunate enough to spend one Christmas in Kangiqsujuaq and got to participate in some of the Inuit games held outdoor on one of the lakes. Many of the games were held inside a wide circle.

Songwriter’s circles are very popular in my part of the world in Atlantic Canada. Before Covid came along and spoiled the party, you could find a songwriter’s circle in small communities on any given weekend.  These are events where local musicians come together to share their music with fellow musicians and the public.

So, why have I decided to pick the topic of circles on this first day of summer?

Last week, I was at our local university, St. Francis Xavier, chatting with a well- known adult educator. She is a super star in her field. It will not surprise anyone that she is from god’s country, otherwise known as Newfoundland. I went to inquire about the possibility of an ancient relic (me) doing a Masters in Adult Education with a focus on Indigenous issues. We had a wide-ranging discussion. There are still many opportunities for lifelong learning even in one’s golden years. Golden years can turn into ‘olden years’ in the blink of an eye so tarry not.

The discussion was stimulating and informative, and yes, even went off on a few tangents. One of these involved the notion of a writer’s circle. My friend suggested that there are many, many people who are itching to write something about their life, their family, their community or some personal matter but really don’t know where to start. We were sitting on a bench outside of Xavier Hall on a warm morning. When my friend suggested that I facilitate a writer’s circle, I thought that she must be suffering the effects of the heat.

I am not a professional writer. I simply write what I know and will even write about things I don’t know! Many writing circles include established and up and coming authors. This would not be the intended audience should such a venture take place once Covid allows people to gather more freely. I would be happy to meet with people to share stories and encourage them to write them down in some fashion. If you know anything about genealogy, you understand the importance of old letters, documents and written anecdotes from one’s ancestors.

“But my story isn’t interesting.” I disagree. Everyone’s story is unique and would be of great interest to their children and grandchildren.

I contacted People’s Place Library and they seem interested in hosting these get togethers.

What about you or your friends? Would you be interested in attending? I repeat. I am NOT an expert. I have never taken part in a writer’s circle and I’m not even sure about the format, but I would be happy to sit around (in a circle!) and facilitate stories and ideas for stories.

“In the circle of life, it’s the wheel of fortune,

It’s the leap of faith, it’s the band of hope,

‘Til we find our place, on the path unwinding,

In the circle, the circle of life.”

Circle of Life – Elton John

All of these circles are important, none more so to me than my circle of friends. Through old school relationships, my writing, working on boards and committees, teaching and travel, I have been blessed with many great friends.

“Will the circle be unbroken?’

I hope not.

Happy first day of summer.

Have a great week.

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on June 17, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

 

Photographs and Memories

 

“There are places I’ll remember,

All my life, though some have changed,

Some forever, not for better,

 Some have gone and some remain.”

In My Life – The Beatles

It started innocently enough. I went looking for an old document.

There was a time in my life when I fancied myself as a somewhat organized person. Back in olden times, I was a copious note taker and journal keeper, of the hand -written variety. I had filing cabinets that were meticulously organized. When I was in business, I had day planners that I kept for years. I was involved in a lot of organizations and kept minutes of meetings, some as far back as 1981. I even kept copies of marathon training schedules…. and old birthday and Christmas cards. You get the picture.

When I retired (the first time!), I kept one of the four drawer filing cabinets from our office and took it home to store all of the aforementioned memorabilia.

This begs the question. Why in the name of god would any sane person hold on to documents and newspaper clippings for 50 years? Do we actually think that our children and grandchildren will ever look at this collection of detritus after we have “slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings”? I doubt it.

On the morning of the “first day of the rest of my life”, after completing my quarantine, I started the day in style with a pleasant 2- hour walk. I then bumped into a neighbour who asked me a question which required me to go rooting around in my filing cabinet.

You will recall that I said that I once was an organized person. It appears that in retirement, I quickly became a disorganized person, and my filing cabinet was a clear refection of this. A number of times over the past several years, I have gone looking for something, usually coming up empty handed. Such was the sad state of the filing cabinet that I would have had an easier time finding the Dead Sea Scrolls or Oak Island gold.

I cautiously opened the first drawer. I don’t discourage easily but when I looked at the mess in front of me, my first instinct was to immediately close it and go watch Netflix. My MacDonald/O’Flaherty blood has a stubborn streak in it, and I was determined to find the old document.

After the first hour, I was sweating as I hauled pile after pile of papers to the kitchen table to go through them. Out came the first, large blue plastic recycling bag.

The purge was on.

Something clicked in my head. I thought of the Nike ad exhorting us to “Just Do It”. I decided that this was the day that I would slay the beast and go through all four drawers, undertaking a massive cull.

Many of us have had the unenviable but necessary task of being an executor. While dealing with the mounds of paperwork required to wind up an estate is a formidable job, dealing with the deceased’s personal items is even more daunting. What does one throw out and what does one keep?

I thought about this as the first blue bag was full to bursting. A second bag was hastily assembled by the kitchen table. My thoughts turned to my executors. Little did they know that I was about to make their lives infinitely easier when my time comes. I don’t mean to be maudlin, but we entered this world with nothing, and we will leave the same way. In my case, the only difference is that I entered the world with more hair than I have now!

I must admit that it was a serious trip down memory lane. For hours, I pored over photos and documents that I hadn’t seen in decades. I sent one particular newspaper story and photo to my children. Fifty years ago, I won a golf tournament and the local paper, The Casket (a casket of jewels and not the kind one might find in a funeral parlour!) snapped a picture of this geeky looking guy who had a full head of hair. I posted the picture, not to brag about my victory, but to assure my loyal readers that there was a time that going to the barber was necessary and not the show of vanity it is these days.

The other newspaper clippings I decide to keep surrounded a most unusual event that people in my hometown, of a certain age, will remember vividly. In 1992, the Town Council of Antigonish decided to offer homeowners a tax holiday. I was on council at the time and while I wasn’t the architect of the plan, I happened to be the chair of the finance committee. The initiative received a lot of attention locally, provincially, nationally and even internationally.

Several hours later and “three bags full”, the job was finished. It was cathartic.

Oh, yes. I never did find the document that I was looking for!

I failed to mention that my filing cabinet is kept in a large storage closet. The storage closet was in even worse shape than my filing cabinet, if that is humanly possible.

The day after the big purge, I decided to go “all in “and tackled the closet. My closet is now a “walk in” rather than a “stumble over”.

It feels good to simplify and to know, at last, where everything is situated in my apartment.

As long as I can remember where the closet is located, I should be fine!

Have a great weekend.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on June 14, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with 2 comments

Beach Therapy

 

“I love the ocean, I’m from Nova Scotia,

And summer’s in the air,

And I’m heading to the cabin, where crazy things happen,

When my friends meet me there.”

Oceanside Again – Sons of Maxwell

What’s next?

I’ve been home for two weeks now. My quarantine plan allowed me daily walks so of course, I bumped into a lot of friends. I also had lots of messages, texts and e-mails welcoming me back. I was the recipient of unimaginable generosity as food kept showing up at my door. My daughter was incredibly helpful doing chores and groceries for me. It was, by far, the easiest of my 4 quarantines.

“So, Len. What is your next big adventure?”

Well, for starters, getting out of bed has become a daily adventure. Recently, I was looking at a picture on my wall of me running in the Boston Marathon 10 years ago. I was obviously in the best physical shape of my life. I was running, swimming, going to yoga, and eating properly. I wasn’t even imbibing at the time. I was, indeed, a paragon of virtue. NOT!

Fast forward 10 years. I’m still in reasonably good physical shape (not so sure about the mental part) but on most days my body feels like the aftermath of a triple overtime hockey game. Everything seems to hurt and when I first wake up, I’m as stiff as a board. I literally have to swing my body out of bed. Thank god there are no hidden cameras.

Enough on the joys of aging.

Covid continues to be the boss and will determine what we can and can’t do this week, next week, next month and next year.

So, let me ask you. What would you do if you were a few months shy of 70, were in reasonably good health (not counting arthritis and a weak mind), had no major responsibilities and were single?

My teaching days are over. My teaching days are over. (That is not a misprint… it is for emphasis) My fourth quarantine is over. Summer lurks. I have a clean canvas.

Of course, I plan to spend time with my granddaughters. We will go to the playground. We will go for ice cream at every opportunity. We will go to the beach and pick beach glass. We’ll just hang out because that’s what grandparents and their grandchildren do.

First up for me? Beach therapy.

It would be overly sensational for me to say that my time in the north was traumatizing but it was stressful. I’ve written enough about this before in this space.

I want to walk along the beach and feel the sand between my toes.

I want to lie on a lawn chaise and feel the warm sun on my face.

I want to stand on the bank overlooking St.George’s Bay at sunset and feel the wind tousling my hair (singular and nor plural).

I want to inhale deeply the salt air and exhale the stress inside my body.

I want to gather pieces of broken boats and battered lobster traps and make a big bonfire… and stare at it until sleep envelops me.

I want to sleep in until at least 7:00. If you knew the P.D.s, you would know that that is next to impossible!

Longer term? I’m anxious to put on my travelling shoes again when Covid permits. I have been invited by a great friend of mine from Germany to walk the Portugeuse Camino with him next spring. New Zealand is high on my places to visit before they wheel me into a nursing home.

I hope to paint the blank canvass in the days ahead but in the meantime, I will continue to be grateful for the here and now because that’s all we have.

Have a great week.

P.S. Hours (minutes?) after completing my quarantine and true to my word, I headed to the cottage… where “crazy things happen”. I shared laughs, lobsters, lies, and libations (not necessarily in that order) with a small collection of family and friends.  These are some of the finest people I know. The initial therapy session went swimmingly well!

“And I hope and I pray, we’ll soon make our way,

To this old cabin again.”

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