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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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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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on June 7, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with 4 comments

 

Serenity

 

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

“Is the glass half full or half empty?”

“Is it a blessing or a curse?”

I have just finished my first week of my 4th quarantine and at various points this week, I have pondered all of the above expressions. When you have 24 hours a day to spend with yourself, there is a lot of time for reflection and thinking, a potentially dangerous pastime.

I arrived back home last Sunday at suppertime and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted. It wasn’t necessarily from travel although it does take two days to get home from the north, so that would be an easy and convenient excuse. But my fatigue was much more than that. The cumulative stress of teaching in the north had taken its toll.

Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to another two weeks of self-isolation. I’ve done this three times before and it has grown old, quickly. I wouldn’t use the word dread as much as a curse.

It only took one hot shower and a great meal to reframe my situation.

I was too far gone to attempt cooking supper. It was looking like a grilled cheese sandwich and a beer which would have been more than enough to sustain me until bedtime. I had a moment of inspiration. Wheel Pizza! Every small town in Canada has a “go to” pizza shop and here in my hometown it is the iconic Wheel Pizza and Sub Shop. Just as I was about to order, I received a text from my brother wondering if I had had already dined. When I told him my plan he responded. “Would you rather have spinach pesto bacon stuffed barbequed sirloin with garlic mashed potatoes and Caesar salad and a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie instead of pizza?” Needless to say, I decided to put The Wheel on hold for another day! I am happy to report that my brother was simply the delivery boy. The extravagant meal was prepared by his long -suffering wife, Karen!

The meal, along with a glass of red wine (19 Crimes – The Warden) was fantastic but now I wondered how I could possibly stay awake until a respectable time.

I decided that a hot shower was my best option. Many of us do some of our best thinking while in the shower or the tub. There is something soothing and calming about hot water that allows our minds to drift off to other places. Part way through the shower, it dawned on me that I didn’t have to worry about water consumption. You see, in the north, water is delivered to your home by tanker truck every few days. If the weather turns bad, delivery is unpredictable and one has to be cognizant at all times about water usage. Ditto for sewage. There are small lights in the bathroom and when your sewage tank is full or you’re out of water, the lights go on. Then, you’re shit out of luck until the weather improves.

There are so many things that we take for granted like ample water, good internet, strong cable signal and the ability to phone or text. In the north, there are times when these essentials are not functioning at full capacity and it has a way of wearing you down mentally. Add to this the pressures of teaching and Covid thrown in for good measure, stress becomes a pretty big deal. Standing in the shower, I came to the realization that I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. I immediately came to the conclusion that a quarantine was exactly what a doctor would have prescribed. My reframing began at that instant.

My daughter had stocked my fridge with food but I didn’t even look at the fridge until day 2 when I realized that my freezer had some treats. Now, it’s not like I had forgotten about them during my 10- month hiatus from home. Last summer, when the price of lobster was low, I stashed several bags of these tasty crustaceans using my food processor. I had originally planned to take some with me up north last August but transporting frozen lobster can be tricky with the vagaries of travelling in the arctic. I had also frozen some Digby scallops, haddock and local strawberries. My quarantine was looking brighter by the moment.

Stress is an awful thing. Besides a chronic knee and back problem, I seemed to have added numerous other pain centres in my body during the past year. Truth be told, it seemed like every muscle and joint in my body ached. I drew a hot bath and sunk into a deep, hot tub of ecstasy. My joy was short lived. When I went to add more hot water, I could barely stretch to get to the taps, such was the sorry state of my body.

Two night earlier, I had stayed in a hotel in Montreal overnight. I have never paid much attention to the hand bars that they have for old people to get in and out of the tub. I found them helpful just getting in and out of the shower. So, I had come to the end of my bath and it was time to get out. I don’t have hand bars on my bathtub. Try as I might, I couldn’t push myself into an upright position. The combination of a slippery tub and a bad back was a toxic and dangerous situation. I rolled from side to side like a beached whale. If I had had my phone handy, I might have been tempted to call James MacEachern and ask him to drop by the neighborhood with his boom truck.The last of the water trickled out of the tub. I was able to grab my towel and dry off the sides of the tub and eventually extricate myself. Jeez, getting old sucks.

I won’t bore you with too many details of the full week. I did get a Covid test (negative) on day 2 (as prescribed in my Covid travel plan) and was able to go for an hour walk every day which was a great blessing.

A few observations.

I was awoken the first morning by the sounds of birds. It was a most beautiful sound. Oddly, I feel a new oneness with birds having eaten the brain of a Canada Goose and the eyeballs of a ptarmagin! I also noticed the rustling of leaves, the smell of new mown grass, the delectable aroma of lilacs, the hoot of an owl and the unmistakable sound of a bald eagle in search of food (or a mate!), deer in the meadow, the gurgling of the Brierly Brook, the gentle patter of raindrops and the flitting of a butterfly.

My glass is half full… more than half. Actually, it is overflowing with gratitude to have a safe and quiet place to decompress.

Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Just look around you.

My 4th quarantine has turned out to be a blessing and definitely not a curse.

Have a great week.

P.S. My work colleagues from the south had different departure dates. I was in the first group to leave. Last Thursday, one of my friends was scheduled to leave with her cat and dog. A blizzard highjacked those plans. Apparently, the cross-country skiing was excellent that day. Let that sink in.

 

 

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