Monday, December 29, 2008


Happy Holidays, My Friends!
Our winter white stuff has been falling, falling, and falling. My yard probably has about 4 feet of snow and there seems no end to it. I've already shoveled the roof once. Today I go for round two. If these blog entries cease, come find me. Bring shovels!

Relax. This article is not about the stock market, housing prices, the auto industry or any one of the other related 2008 news stories. I'm not standing on any stump or soapbox. In fact, I'm much higher. I'm on the roof.

This winter thus far has brought one very big, delightful surprise, better than any Christmas present I could have imagined. In the middle of more snow than we've seen in many, many winters I've also taken delivery of a childhood dream. I've got a new game called “Jumping off the Roof,” and I'm going to do it as many time as I possibly can while we've still got snow. My ladder is propped permanently against the front of the house. At a moments notice, I can make a quick climb, spread my arms wide, and let go, just like those thousands of times I imagined leaping from the roof as a child.

The freefalls I'm indulging in this month are way beyond the ego and its censors. They are beyond the structures we create to contain things. They are intuitive, imaginative, whimsical, with just the right touch of childishness. My body and imaginations have taken flight.

Now I’d be fibbing if I told you I have a clue about what I will do with this December 2008 experience, if anything. I can barely make it into a sensible blog article. But oh, my freefall antics have broken through some internal barriers, inhibitions, and worst-case scenarios that have been building for awhile, allowing the child in me to bubble to the surface.

I bet this childhood dream of taking flight from the roof is pretty common. It seems to have sort of a Peter Pan or Mary Poppins flavor to it. If as a child you had similar longings of jumping off the roof and flying, come on over. I've got soft landings, at least until the snow melts. Dreams can come true.

"Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." ~Lewis Carroll

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Thanksgiving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving All!

We've got snow; lots of snow. I actually planned to write this little earlier but I've been enjoying time with stranded friends instead. Here in the north, we experience November as the bridge between fall and winter, the space between chatter and silence, that place where activity comes to a halt and takes a deep sigh.

This week, just when my friends from the North decided to stop in for a quick overnight on their way to warmer southern climates, winter decided to take a direct hit. My sweet friend, Madelenine, left the following behind when Mother Nature stopped to catch her breath and let them make their escape. I'll see you in the Spring on your way north again, Madeleine, Richard, Nicole and Reg. Bon Voyage!

“In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Stranded by Madeleine Beaupré

Well, we made it as far as Fife Lake, Michigan.

The first leg of our trip before the Alberta clipper hit.

Mother Nature had mischievously planned quite a shenanigan
We did arrive safely at Deb’s—But then that wasn't it.

We got snowed into her ample back yard.
Doing nothing but talking and cheering and feasting.
Becoming more ample ourselves—
She's a great hostess so it wasn't hard!

Then curled up comfortably in Deb's cushy chair,
Drinking in the laughter, the ribbing, the conversation,
I was inspired to jot down some unpolished thoughts,
Plucked from mid-air:

Thank You—A Free-Verse Outpouring

Wow—If I ever get stranded, what better place?
Surrounded by the familiar faces of family
grouped around Deb's home fires.
Igniting informal debates, chuckles then post-dinner
wine and rapid witty repartee.

Thank You, Fate,
for the coincidences you orchestrate.

Look out any window. What do you see,
through the delicate veil
of a windless, densely falling snow?

A babbling brook, a Winter-scape
straight out of a school text book.
A magical scene,
complete with overhanging snow-laden boughs
so muted and breath-taking, it leaves me in awe.

Thank You, Mother Earth,
for providing this oasis of gentleness.
Is this your way of saying I Love You, to us?
Well then,
Thank You once more!
We love you too!

Unbelievably, as if to confirm my thoughts,
she sends a lone, fragile fawn
down to drink from the stream!
How amazing is that?
It moves closer to the window—
we can see it clearly.
It raises its beautiful head,
and gazes right at us with those
soft doe-eyes, unafraid
before wandering away slowly,
taking a sip here, chewing on a twig there.

Again, Thank You!
For the gift of this simple pleasure of this sighting.

The new season is suddenly upon us.
The snow falls steadily overnight, gently
piling itself onto all surfaces in high, rounded mounds,
bestowing onto familiar objects an
otherworldly appearance.
But—another world it is!
A world of calm, and quietude,
and looking inward.
And forcibly slowing down all the
madness and the rush,
so that one may pause and say…

Thank You
for all this.
And everything else we neglect
to stop for a moment and appreciate.

"The only real voyage consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes; in seeing the universe through the eyes of another, one hundred others—in seeing the hundred universes that each of them sees.” ~Marcel Proust

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Sands of Time

We're getting hard frosts now. In the morning, the ground and my garden are icy white. When the sun finally makes it up above the tree tops, leaves fall in torrents as the heat hits those ice-cold branches and the trees lose their grip on the summer canopy.
"Time is like a handful of sand - the tighter you grasp it, the faster it runs through your fingers"

These days, there is not much space outside of the time I spend with my mother. So I have found when I do not hand over my writing to others, what I am compelled to write about becomes an extension of my conversations and reflections with Mom. The two of us are spending a lot of time looking back. That's where she's most comfortable. The farther back we go, the better her memory. Ask her about an event or person in her childhood and you'll get minute details. Ask her what she had for lunch the minute she finished the last morsel, and you'll get a shrug.

Mom grew up on the Atlantic Ocean just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Her summers were spent with family on Cape Cod. Her only move was to Michigan and the shores of a much smaller body of water but still huge in its own right, Lake Michigan. This is where Mom has spent the last 68 years of her life and where I grew up.

The other day we talked about spending so much of one's life on or near a beach. There are many wonderful and interesting things about beach life. Watching wildlife, digging clams, and flying kites have been some of our favorites. But in our conversation, Mom seemed to want to focus on sand. We agreed that our beach days will always be a part of us and will forever be most defined by sand. Oh, such a tiny thing for such a long life!

We've concluded that our hair, toes, belly buttons and many other unmentionable crevices will always contain at least a few grains of sand. A total cleaning is not possible. We'll both die with sand in some crack. Likewise, we'll forever have sand in our bed.

We are still astounded at how possessions can get lost for a long, long time as the sand shifts and inches forward and backward with the wind and the waves. And that often, with that same shifting, the treasures are unearthed and things long lost return. I remember that vividly with a stuffed toy cat that disappeared for a good three months, only to return with no more damage than need of a good washing.

We agreed that sleeping on the sand makes the best nap. Long after the day has cooled, that patch of sand is still quite warm having absorbed the sun all day. Warm sand, properly piled and molded, will allow for rest so deep you'll drool in your sleep and wake with sand plastered to the side of your face.

We sighed as we remembered the experience of standing at the water's edge and wiggling our feet in the sand. Better than any foot massage we've ever had, our feet emerged baby fresh and buffed.

I serve up this reflection about sand as an opportunity for you to remember the environment that forever defines you. What simple geography has played a big role in defining who you are today? Prairie grasses, a cool and quite pine forest, rocks, an orchard, a pasture? Search for that place in your own life journey. Your eternity is as simple as a grain of sand. I’d love to hear your reflections as you discover your own sands of time.

“To see a world in a grain of sand
And Heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of you hand
And eternity in an hour.”
Auguries of Innocence ~William Blake

“They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.”
~Edward Lear

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Oh, sacred September, one of my all time favorite months. Just the right balance of warmth and crispness, don't you think?

I'm messin' about in the garden these days. I've decided to pull up all the iris and day lilies. They need to be separated and replanted, with leftovers going to a couple of good friends. It may be the wrong time of year for digging up garden flowers for all I know. My gardening knowledge is very tiny, indeed. I know a lot about sitting, resting, musing and enjoying my garden...or a lake...or a tree...or even a rock for that matter. Its just one of the many ways I notice all the abundance that is around me. So if you see my digging and replanting this time of year as a gardening mistake, keep it to yourself please. I'm on a roll.

It was only a year ago, last October, when I wrote about The Speed of Life. The article was inspired by a sign that read: "Life is too short to wear matching socks." From there, I created my own "Life is Too Short" list. And top on my list was "Life is too short to mow the lawn." My friend, Madeleine, has taken this sentiment to a judicial, logical, and immaculate RANT. Mad takes it to the extreme. She not only says life is too short to mow the lawn, she argues that life is too short to have a lawn at all! I so enjoy getting Mad's occasional rants in my email inbox. This one I just had to share with you all. It's a great time of year, as we put our gardens and yards to rest, to reflect on just how much time and energy we have and where we care to spend it.

The more time I find for my favorite leisures, the more grounded I become. I'm amazed and impressed with my ability and desire to do little and, consequently, more.

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." ~Annie Dillard

DOWN WITH LAWNS! by Madeleine Beaupré

What is it with this North-American obsession, anyway? Even a pure, dope-free virgin lawn requires SO much TLC from its owners, one has to wonder what exactly is it giving in return? One of my personal pet peeves is The Moocher. What has that got to do with lawns, you ask? Well, lawns are obviously big time moochers! Taking, taking, taking - always taking! And what does one get in return? Well, it does look pretty, does it not? Pretty, alright. Pretty useless, is what I say! Unless your kids are rolling in it from dawn to dusk. And, in that case, it had better be chemical-free, or your offspring will soon be of the glow-in-the-dark variety.

Now is the time to plan next year's yard landscaping modifications! And if you ask me, less is best when it comes to lawns! Please don't quote the line: "But its respiration cycle provides us with precious oxygen!" Because trees, shrubs, other plants and countless other ground covers can do that just as well, if not better! And, if you're like many of us, in need of some fresh air and therapeutic time while you tend to the yard, why not plant something you can actually use? Like...veggies! Yes, apparently this trend is truly catching on! Edible landscaping - now THAT is putting your money where your mouth is! Many vegetable plants are quite attractive, and you can literally reap what you sow!

Did you know that in North America, combined yearly lawn maintenance costs have soared to the equivalent of the total federal budgets of some third-world countries!!! To beef up my admittedly biased, arguably argumentative arguments, I took to the Net. While perusing various websites of a turfy nature, both pro and con, I came across acres of green information. Some was familiar (i.e., my hero, David Suzuki), but tons of soddy stuff I didn't even fathom, and much was just plain shocking, such as the following tidbit. I could not re-locate the original BNet article pertaining to one of my side notes, but here, in a nutshell, is the following projection: by the year 2010 (within the next year-and-a-half), in the U.S. alone, lawn maintenance costs will exceed $9 Billion. That's million with a "B", ladies and gentlemen.

It gives us a glimmer of hope to see legislation finally being enacted in many areas, amending laws to ban the use of wasteful water usage and of gardening chemicals for the sake of yard cosmetics. Finally. Was it maybe partly due to the fact that dogs, cats and little kids can't read those tiny flags they stick in lawns as warnings, after they spray them with known carcinogens?

However, our town, and too many others, still maintain and enforce by-laws which dictate the maximum height of your grass, AND require you to prevent it from drying out, under threat of stiff fines! Allowances are not often made for water shortages, except for the odd/even watering rule. If you're stuck on grass, reduce the size of the sodded area in your yard, replacing some of it with attractive alternative landscaping. At the very least, switch to healthier, more earth-friendly weeding and bug control methods. Many chemical-free products and techniques are now widely promoted, thanks to the efforts of devoted environmental activists, as well as more health conscious folks.

The photo is that of a neighbour's yard, which I have wistfully admired since its creation. It is an eye-pleasing blend of different features which I find quite striking. Note the strategic compromise of the aesthetic and the environmental:

Native prairie grasses, left long and willowy, can be admired swaying in the breeze. Rock gardens are a favourite of mine, for obvious reasons. And, if you must have lawn, then counterbalance that flat, unnatural view with low-maintenance plants indigenous to your climate zone. Shrubs are nice. And, of course, trees. As many as possible. Did you know that the USDA reports that one well-positioned shade tree can equal the cooling effects of five air conditioners?

I just cannot wrap my head around the strange concept that a manicured lawn enhances the appearance of your property more than other, more nature-inspired landscaping. But there it was, staring at me from my monitor: the definitive proof of this obsessive cultural phenomenon. An ad. It read something like this: "Have your lawn maintenance costs risen too high? If you are fed up with all that mowing and watering, call us for a free consultation! Our solution will provide your property with an enhanced appearance as well as cutting your costs significantly. Call today to inquire about our high quality synthetic grass! " Egad! Is it just me, or what?

Around here, in my little corner of the World, my husband is the self-appointed, long-suffering, sole custodian of THE LAWN. I have more useful things to do, like meditating in my muskoka chair. Or walking in the woods. Or rock hunting in the vacant lot next door. Or laundry.

Some of us (I) could never be bothered to cut, clip, trim, aerate, mulch, weed and feed and otherwise coddle and fret over our expansive acre of mixed woods and greens, with a good portion of clover, interspersed with the occasional sodded spot. However, in quasi-keeping with our neighbourhood's well-meaning but wasteful elevated horticultural standards, my misguided lawn devotee refuses to quit! I beg him: Let it go! If you truly love it, set it free! Move on with your life! But no: he feels socially obligated to (somewhat) regularly fire up the dreaded smelly pollution-spewing riding mower, haul out the gigantic evil-sounding shoulder holstered 100 pound whipper-slasher, and the squeaky wheeled push-and-spin feeder, as well as the long-handled telescopic saw pruner.

Even if he is already swamped in a backwash of a quazillion accumulated more pressing chores. ALL is postponed because...THE LAWN beckons! THE LAWN is hungry/thirsty! THE LAWN requires a haircut to remain fashionable! THE LAWN is upset with all those pesky little daisies and dandelions sprouting here, there and everywhere! I wonder when, exactly, did the court convene to decree that the bright and cheerful dandelion is a weed? At least you can make wine or salad with dandelions! I dare you to try serving your lawn cuttings for lunch tomorrow...

Not having obtained the desired stellar results so far in my endeavour to endear all home-owners in my acquaintance to my cause, (a few continue to imitate the ostrich when it comes to environmental issues), I have decided to quit re-hashing Al Gore et al., and change my tack. Instead, I will try to more subtly expose the gist of one of my main points: the time factor. All that time - and energy – which could be more happily spent on more pleasant activities.

To quote Andy Rooney: "Life is like a roll of toilet paper: the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes."

Allow me to illustrate by means of a simple exercise borrowed from a grey-haired, white-mustachioed gnome-like being, who wisely explains the conscious use one should make of one's life span with the following analogy (also shnagged from Andy Rooney, in all probability): Unroll a measuring tape to 75 or 80 inches, representing an average life expectancy. Re-wind the portion you have already "lived", in my case, shorten it by 55 inches/years. Examine closely the remaining short bit, and ask yourself: How can I most enjoy this last fraction of time left for me to live life on this planet? If you choose to spend an inordinate amount of that time tending to the demands of useless but (questionably) aesthetically-pleasing blades of grass, then so be it. But others may re-consider...

Many long maligned so-called weeds are attractive, perfectly harmless and sometimes quite useful members of the plant world, just as deserving of a special place in our home environment as grass! Personally, I have observed that grass can be a very persistent nuisance, insisting on insinuating itself even where it is squarely uninvited. If you let it, it will take over nature wherever it can, unaccepting of the possibility that a homeowner may choose wild-flowers, or ivy or dogwood, or - nothing - in its stead. Grass can indeed become the weed! In fact, I often see grass as the unwelcome invader: in our rock gardens, graveled landscaping, flower beds, vegetable patches, driveway cracks and sandy beaches. Did you know that grass can thrive, unsolicited, in a full three-foot depth of beach sand? Yes, it can. I have seen it with my own eyes. As a matter of fact, right now, as we speak, I'm sitting here watching it grow.

a.k.a. MadMad
a.k.a. MadAgainstTheWorld(AndHappilyEnjoyingEveryMinuteOfItAsMuchAsHumanlyPossible)

"A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule." ~Michael Pollan

Monday, August 18, 2008

Disorderly Conduct

I made it. I finally got north for two full weeks of fishing. After months of being a caretaker, taking time away from Mom was difficult. It seems I fell into a bit of a trap, being drawn to create order in the midst of the seeming chaos of my mother's illness. So I cleaned, sorted, mowed, planted, folded, dusted, rearranged, tossed, and organized. The list is long. But even in the middle of my orderly behavior, I recognized my actions were not really about creating order. They were more about trying to be in control.

Just like the ease with which summer gives way to fall, when I take a minute to breathe and observe, I can see that order is already inherent in any chaos. There is nothing for me to do. If I'm willing to relinquish control, I can always see the present order within the mess before me. That order is, at its heart, natural and expansive. The control I was seeking is contrived and limiting.

So, thanks to a complicated (dare I say “chaotic”) system that involved train conductors, a shortwave radio, a fly-in fishing camp to our south, and a bush plane pilot, I was finally able to get away and muck about in chaos, knowing the order was there when I needed it. Some days I caught too many fish, some days I didn't fish at all. Some days I slept in and stayed up late, other days I was up before the sun and in bed before the stars. Some days I ate every hour, on the hour. Other days I ate only one meal. Some days I had milk and cookies for a bedtime snack, other days it was good bourbon and a cigarette. I can't say I felt more in control after all my disorderly conduct. But I can say that I have a better, more trusting, relationship with chaos. And that gives me peace.

“Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth.” ~Tom Barrett

“Chaos is a friend of mine.” ~Bob Dylan

“Chaos is the score upon which reality is written.” ~Henry Miller

“Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds.” ~George Santayana

Monday, June 16, 2008

How I Threw Out My Shoulder Wednesday Morning

I am submitting this contribution to Deb for her perusal: to accept, reject, or modify, as she sees fit. It matters not what she decides: my venting will have been done, and I will thankfully move on, all those pent-up emotions having been expressed.
Because, you see, this piece pertains to a highly sensitive, but seasonal (it changes in winter) hate-object: the minuscule but intensely phobia-inducing...


So, Iasked Deb: "How do the good people of Michigan cope, when those pesky critters are driving them stark raving bananas?" Quick as a whip, just like that,she quipped: "Well, we just drop everything and run into the house! Duh!"To which I replied: "But, Deb - I AM in the house!" Do you now understand the sheer intensity and depth of my torment? Our home is in the mid-north. That's what the news anchor calls it. Northern Ontario, that is. It is also the home of the dreaded mosquito. As well as the lowly blackfly...but that is another story.
I was not sure how to start. I thought a catchy opening line might be:
"There are blood-spatters on my bedroom ceiling and walls - but don't bother calling the CSI, as they are my own."
"Dead bodies lie helter-skelter on my bedroom floor. I willfully leave them there, in plain view, as fair warning to future intruders: Beware - a madwoman lives here."
"My notches are innumerable - but they're on a swatter, not a pistol."

Instead, I decide to go with my original How I Threw Out My Shoulder Wednesday Morning.

Now, it's not like I have no ammo here: an arsenal of anti-bug implements, supplies, and equipment have been put to the Test. Every conceivable lotion, potion, lamp, candle, spray, garden stake, zapper, stick, and trap has failed the Test. Every electric, electronic, butane-fuelled, battery-operated, as well as hand-held weapon has failed the Test. Every conceivable attire such as netted hats, jackets, pants, jumpsuits, gloves as well as domed food covers has failed the Test. A four-poster bed frame was purchased for the sole purpose of holding up a home-made mesh enclosure, fashioned from a whole bolt of fine wedding tulle. Failed. They used GPS and found their way in.

I had my husband dip himself in Deet. Then, armed with hockey tape and various sizes of cut-out screen, his mission was to creatively install a barrier onto every possible aperture leading into the house, from the dryer vent to the wash-bay drain hole, including the chimney (we agreed to desist from using the fireplace - a small price to pay indeed). They are still getting in.

Yet here I stand before you, swearing to the efficacy of the common bedroom slipper. Size 7.

Long ago, it became clear to me: There must be something in the water at our place. There was. Literally. Larva: huge, mutant-ninja Larva - that soon hatch into huge, mutant-ninja Skitters. This unnamed species, an aberration of nature, is limited to one biosphere: our property, both the house and our very wet and wild backyard. The catalytic nature of the local water seems to dramatically increase, in the female of the species Culicidae, both the size of the proboscis and the creature's I.Q. I'm theorizing here, but based on my clinical experience, I can personally vouch for their superior intellect: take it from me - those suckers are a pain to kill.

But they shouldn't, should they? After all, their brain is but a fraction of the size of mine. Yet they are born innately knowing how to strategize, regroup, huddle and plan their attacks with military precision. They are a formidable foe indeed. They can even tell time. And their tiny little ears are highly developed, for they know the sound of snoring. Snoring occurs at approximately 2 a.m., in our house anyway. This signals the deployment of the first bloodthirsty troop. Anyone sitting in the dark on our street, in the dead of any summer night, will bear witness to the lights suddenly turning on in our bedroom window between 2 and 3 a.m. Regularly. And when those lights go on, then, my friends, so is the War.

You can hear thunderous thumping, explosive smacks, and sometimes - o.k., many times, there is crashing. Unfortunately, the source of the wails, shrieks and howling is not from any winged insect, but from the grimacing, disheveled, evil-eyed Medusa, swaying in the middle of the creaking bed, brandishing her deadly slipper menacingly: moi. Yes. Beware. She may be panting and worn down, but has learned to remain persistent, obsessive even, and will strike at the slightest flitting. Her nerves are frazzled, but her eye is keen.

After a whole contingent has succumbed to the zeal of her blows, she spies a lone straggler! It is fully laden and slowed by its' burden of blood: HER blood! This sends her into a frenzy of ill-choreographed prancing, which inevitably leads to grave injury, to both pest and swatter. Hence the injured arm.

This is a true story.
Madeleine Beaupré

"If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.

~Anita Roddick

What's In A Name

As a child, did you want to change your name? I did. And a lot of my friends did too. I remember sitting outside with my childhood friends imagining all sorts of better names. Most of them were not traditional names. We wanted to be called names like Chipmunk or Daisy or Leapfrog or Brook Trout or Dragon or Gray Girl. Don't ask me why. I may have understood our logic then but it has escaped me.

But I'm spending more time in Oba, Ontario. So Oba, population about 8 full time residents, has given me a sense of the ways of up-north living. In Oba, everyone's "real" address is General Delivery. The mail gets thrown off the train about three times a week. The Postmaster rides his 4-wheeler to the train crossing, catches the mail bag, and delivers the mail on the spot. If someone is not home, he just takes it back to his house to be picked up or delivered later.

Everyone in Oba, because they are General Delivery, gets to create their own address. My friend Sam is at #1 Shoreline Drive. This is not because his shack in Oba is on any shoreline. It's in the second row of houses back from the tracks. But because Sam spends so much time running the Oba River to Cameron Lake and back, often daily, he figures he has the longest “Shoreline Drive” of anyone in town. When Tex the old trapper was alive, his address was #13 Sled Dog Lane. As the dogs got older and died and Tex slowed down and didn't need to replace them for his work, his address became #12 Sled Dog Lane…#11 Sled Dog Lane…#10 Sled Dog Lane…

I've entertained Walleye Way, Pike Place and River Route, but they all seem too obvious, too ordinary. Maybe Wondering Woman Way? What do you think? I'm taking suggestions. I'm well aware that we manifest better and more in our lives when we name peg we hang our fishing hat on.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ice Out

Hey All
I've missed writing. I've been attending to the needs of my Mother. So far, her 89th year has been a challenging one.

But while I did not find the time to write about it, I have found some inspiration. I've been inspired by my visit to Northern Ontario last month, before my world turned just a little cockeyed. 

But while I had inspiration, sitting calmly and writing without distraction has been lacking. Just when I think I will be able to carve out a little time to write, there's one more doctor to talk with, one more nurse who needs more information, a physical therapist who wants history and one more signature needed somewhere. And right now, that's just where my attention needs to be. 

So, here's April's inspiration in May. I started it, my friend David happened to call in the middle of one of my frustrating days and offered to finish this up for me.
Thanks David!

As I've said before, my intention in writing, if anything, is just to present the musings of a wandering woman. Take what works for you. Discard what does not. David and I won't mind a bit.

Ice Out...With A Little Help From My Friend, David
April is always the month of flow. My April musings have often been about the rise of my backyard creek, the torrential downpours, the flooding of my driveway, and the flow of maple syrup. This year was the year of Ice Out in Northern Ontario. The few hours it takes lake and river ice to disappear is generally unpredictable so I did not count on being privy to the ritual. But this year I happened to be there just in time. 

One moment the lake, and the river that flows from it, is totally covered with ice except for a little ring of water along the shoreline where the warm sun has heated the ground enough to melt the ice. The next moment, dramatic movement begins as the ice starts shifting. 

One moment, it's a calm spring day. Birds can be heard in the background. The next moment, nothing can be heard over the thunderous noise created as the ice moves swiftly from the lake and down the river. 

One moment the shoreline is flat. The next moment the ice is piled up on itself in a geometric design that has Mother Nature's signature all over it. 

One moment the sound is deafening as the ice crunches and grinds upon itself. The next moment, as the drama subsides, the gently swaying ice sounds like the tinkle of wind chimes as it lightly bumps back and forth. 

One moment birds on the lake ice are taking flight and Mr. Beaver is diving deep. The next moment that same wildlife is calmly floating by on spring ice flows.

So much like life, eh? Right now, I'm stuck in the “next moment.” David listened and took over….

"I am your biggest fan."
Isn't that a lovely statement? I’ll take credit for it because I said it. I said it to Deb Martin just a few minutes ago.

Deb has been my coach and very good friend for about 6 years. I called her a few minutes ago and she was stuck, just not feeling the normal mushroom-loving, fishing-loving, moose-loving mojo that she normally does.

Deb is a love so I call her from time to time and I tell her I love her. I tell her I love her because it makes me feel good and I think it makes her feel good too.

When I called her today she said she was stuck with her essay and I offered to ghost write something or just write something. She said I should so I am.

Since this is ostensibly a coaching column, I’d like to talk a bit about coaching. Since this column is also from, I’ll throw in a little ice and ice fishing just so you all feel comfortable.

Deb and I struggled over the years because I kept wanting her to coach me to do something. She just wanted to coach me and let the process lead me, and she and I together, wherever it may.

Just like her columns, she lovingly suggested, that the most wonderful and powerful experiences could be had just going outside, walking around, and taking your clues from the moss on a branch or whether the morels had decided to grow on the roots of the oak trees.

I have found her suggestion to be true. Whenever I try to live my life strictly according to goals it feels empty and shallow … hollow. I came to Deb wanting to change the world, solar power the world, get my musical on Broadway, etc. I came to her convinced that these achievements would give me peace and serenity, joy and meaning.
She didn't say I was wrong. She listened lovingly, for hours. I wondered why she spent so much time listening to me, talking to me. Her attention did not seem at all tied to my achievements or my attempts at achievement. She seemed to love me for exactly where I was at every moment, regardless of whether I was achieving mightily or (in my estimation) screwing up. 

Deb let herself wander in my life and quietly and sweetly, by her trusting and generous nature, invited me to wander in hers.

Today's conversation between she and I was unusual. Usually, I bring the conversation around to what I am doing, achieving, and she as always, listens lovingly. Today, I listened to her talk.

Deb is tired. Her brain and maybe her soul is tired, if a soul can be tired. She had a potential topic for this month. She had already written about the ice breaking up at one of her favorite bodies of water, one of the lakes or rivers where she communes with nature (and her friends sometimes) and recharges her soul.

Recently she had been at this lake or river and the ice started breaking up and moving. She told me the melting ice and shifting and breaking sheets of ice made thunder noises and tinkling noises and crushing noises. She intimated it was beautiful, maybe moving to her. We didn't talk about it much.

It was another of nature's demonstrations and showpieces that Deb loves so much. She seemed a little sad or confused or just frustrated that this tasty piece of nature's showmanship was not as inspiring to her as it might be if she was not dealing with her mother's caretaking.

Funny. I think the roles have reversed. It seems to me that Deb was just a little concerned with performing and meeting expectations and I am the one who is saying, Deb, it's okay, I love you just the way you are.
I love you for struggling.
I love you because you are
letting me write a story for you.

I love you for teaching me how to just be.
I love you for teaching me that if you can't write a kick-ass story, maybe one of your friends will call you up and write it for you.
I love you for teaching me that there is no right or wrong … there is only love.
I love you for taking such good care of your mother.
I want to assure you that there are many years of ice melting and rivers thawing and glorious crunchings and groaning of Canadian lakes in the springtime.
Right now, you are exactly where you need to be, struggling to write an essay so that I might write one for you.

You are my friend, Deb, and I love you very much.
David Freund
“You never really know your friends until the ice breaks” ~~Eskimo Proverb

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Time Out!

Did you make the shift to daylight savings with grace and ease? I didn't. Oh, my routine wasn't altered much. Within a day or two, I was past any effects on my circadian rhythm. It's just that twice a year the time change annoys me. Now before I hear from all of you who have a preference one way or the other about daylight savings time, let me explain. I don't care whether we're on DST or ST. I just wish we'd land somewhere and stay there.

Every year, twice a year, our time shift makes major news. Especially this year with all the speculation about how going on or off daylight savings time helps or hinders global warming, depending of course on the expert of the day being interviewed. 
When did we all become so obsessed with time? It used to be that sunrise, midday with the sun directly over our heads (give or take), and sunset were enough to keep us together in some sort of common rhythm. Then, as we became more industrialized, we needed to divide our days into smaller and smaller increments as a way to coordinate with each other. At first, on or about a particular hour was good enough. Then minutes within that hour became necessary. Now, especially for those coordinating in the world of computers, seconds hold greater importance. 
And if that's not enough, as if our game of hours and minutes and seconds has become too boring, we have created a new game where we get to change the time of day twice each year. Now there are whole discussions and disagreements about daylight savings time, how and why it became our practice, whether or not we should be going on each spring and off each fall, when the shift would be most helpful and most appropriate for school children, the earth, business…and on and on and on it goes. What have we come to that we are so busy we need to divide time into tiny increments and then adjust it twice a year based on some theory that only really works for a percent of the population?
All I want to do is sit in my chair with my cup of coffee in the morning and watch the sunrise. And I’ll gladly sit in that same chair each evening and watch the sunset. What time the sun rises or sets is not important to me. For the rest of the month I will have the time of my life ice fishing, no longer “doing time,” but instead, in time out! Try it for yourself. I bet you can find one or two days, on occasion, where sunrise and sunset are all that matter. There's no time like the present.

"Clocks slay time...time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life." ~William Faulkner

"But what minutes! Count them by sensation, not by calendars, and each moment is a day."~Benjamin Disraeli

"You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by; but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by." ~James Matthew Barrie

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Walking the Dog

Here are my favorite Top Ten Reasons to Walk the Dog(s)

1. As Jersey and Styx (my dogs) say, "It blows the stink off."
My dogs mean this a little more literally than I do. But I do notice that as I allow daily worry and concerns to creep in, I begin to smell.

2. It keeps you putting one foot in front of the other.
If it's true that movement creates momentum and momentum creates flow, then putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how mindless, is literally the first step in movement and towards flow.

3. It's a moving meditation.
While my body is doing all the work, my mind is allowed to wander in directions it needs to go and finally become silent.

4. It's cheaper than therapy.
Dogs are great listeners.

5. Your body will look and feel better.
If an improved cardiovascular system isn't enough incentive, think about your legs and butt in shorts and swim suits.

6. You'll notice things only your dog can point out.
Jersey and Styx have hearing and a sense of smell that are far superior to mine. I've come to rely on them to point out wildlife I would have normally walked right by.

7. Ice Cream!
The hot fudge sundae you'll now be tempted to stop for seems little more justified.

8. Without movement and fresh air, dogs, like the rest of us, can become a little testy.
A daily walk can save you repair bills on furniture, boots and shoes, and anything else you dog uses to cure her winter blues. Jersey's personal favorite is playing "keep away" with my $200 hiking boots.

9. If you've been walking your dog regularly, yard clean up is a lot easier.

10. By developing a strong bond with your dog, she may one day share the importance of turning around three times before lying down.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Best Medicine

It seems to me there has been an unusual lack of sun in Northern Michigan this winter. It has felt exceptionally drab and dreary. My observation was confirmed last night on the evening news. 120 inches of snow makes for a lot of overcast skies. 

But wait! There are hints that something is breaking loose. This too-long quite winter is getting noisy. I hear a giggle coming from the woods around my home. Could it be the longer daylight is beginning to make a difference? I think so. It's starting with the red squirrels and the blue jays. They have always been the leaders. They're taking personally the job of waking up the woods. They've been here all winter. And just a week ago, they were scurrying and flitting about, quietly and seriously searching for food. Now they sit on the tree outside my bedroom window with no other purpose but to chuckle. By March, today's chuckles will become guffaws as everyone gets in on the act.

I can take a hint. I can make my own sunshine. So each day I will sit quietly and let the laughter come to me. I’ll let it bubble up from the bottom like a long-suppressed, runaway spring. I’ll let the corners of my mouth turn up and the fizzy turn into involuntary giggles. I won't turn back. I don't even need something to laugh about. All it takes is a willingness to risk losing a little control. Laughter is free. And it takes nothing away from the seriousness of other activities. We don't need to delay laughter for an earned day off.

Can I become as contagious as those rowdy jays and disruptive red squirrels? Can I pull in the curious who will be unable to leave me without their own little chuckle? I hope so. The jays and squirrels have brightened my surroundings and broken the long silence of winter. I'm eager to pass it on.

Take some time each day to laugh out loud and let the gifts that laughter brings come to you. Then snatch up those gifts and giggle at what has presented itself. The world outside you and the world inside you will appreciate it.

"At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities." ~Jean Houston

"Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face." ~Victor Hugo

"Even if there is nothing to laugh about, laugh on credit." ~Author Unknown

"When people are laughing, they're generally not killing each other." ~Alan Alda

Monday, February 04, 2008

Resource With A Bit Of A Rant

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to the program This I Believe on National Public Radio. I heard the speaker say something to the effect that we must look at what we do if we want to know what we believe. I think she's close to getting it right. I say listen to what you say if you want to know what you believe. But, looking at what you do will give you a clear indication of what you know to be true. That the distinction between a belief and a knowing is the difference between just talking about and actually doing.

Why do we shy away from saying “This I know?” Do we feel we are being rude or pushy in an arrogant way that will turn our listeners off? Are we afraid that if we firmly state what we know we are unable to change our mind? Perhaps we are too insecure and we are only willing to go as far as believing what we have been told.

What we know is more simple than what we say we believe. Perhaps what we know is so simple that there are no words. Our body simply knows this or that to be true and takes action.

My coaching and writing are filled to the brim with distinctions and musings like this. I love them. And I think distinctions are critical to understanding who we are and what we mean to say. Please don't be lazy in your communication. Find the right word.

For those of you who love words and creating distinctions, check out Visuwords™ Online Graphic Dictionary. Wow, what a resource!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wiggle Room (Revisited)

I love January as that time of year when I hang close to home napping, writing, listening to the radio, reading, cooking, eating, walking the dogs, a little ice fishing and just generally being quiet.
This year so far, the dogs have kept me hopping. You don't need details. But after three visits from the vet to my home, one including surgery on my kitchen counter, I think we're on the mend. Now I spend my free time washing stains out of the carpeting. Ugh!

Last Monday, when I had reached my emotional limit and the tears were flowing, I heard myself say "Uncle!" So I'm taking my own advice and giving myself some Wiggle Room by repeating an article I wrote in 2002.

My words are more persuasive for me today than they were back then because my retirement is within reach! I've decided to transition this coming spring from a coach who goes on fishing adventures often to a fisherwoman who fishes a lot and coaches occasionally. Oh, I’ll still write. And I've got a handful of clients I will not let go! But for the most part, I’ll be visiting with you and my clients from the wilds of the North Country via some kind of satellite service I have yet to discover. If anyone has suggestion or details about said satellite service, please call or email me.

My writing intention, if anything, is just to present the musings of a wandering woman. Take what works for you. Discard what does not. I won't mind a bit.

Wiggle Room (Revisited)

I was paddling a new river a couple of weekends ago and came up behind a beaver. He didn't know I was there. I spoke up, trying to give him fair warning, but by the time I saw him, I was on top of the poor fellow. We were both pretty surprised. As we went down river together at about the same speed, I could hear and feel, th-thump, th-thump, th-thump, on the bottom of my canoe as he tried to maneuver his way out of the dilemma of only 8 inches of water between the bottom of my canoe and the bottom of the river. After a long 45 seconds, we finally reached deeper water. My paddling partner said, “That poor guy just ain’t got no wiggle room.”
But isn't that what happens to us when we play in the shallows, not daring to go deep? When a crisis happens, we don't have room to wiggle because we've limited ourselves. Getting “wiggle room” starts with creating space in our lives. Here are some of my favorite ways:

1. Let go. Avoid being overly attached to goals. Move toward your goals but don't, in your effort to accomplish the goal, miss a new emerging path.

“To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.” ~~Robert Pirsig

2. Understand your fears. Know what's real and what's imagined. You are not alone and you are not powerless. Our egos serve no useful purpose except as a defense for what we fear. Having understood our fears, we can now let go of ego.

"Fear is static that prevents me from hearing my intuition." ~~Hugh Prather

3. Trust your intuition and your dreams. Be open to possibility. Seek the unlikely. Think the unthinkable. Imagine the improbable. Life's biggest opportunities are often hidden to all but our intuition.

“I have heard it said that the first ingredient of success - the earliest spark in the dreaming youth - is this; dream a great dream." ~~John A. Appleman

4. Give yourself permission. There WILL be opportunities. And these opportunities may ask you to become someone you are not right now. You'll want to be able to do that without guilt.

"When you take charge of your life, there is no longer need to ask permission of other people or society at large. When you ask permission, you give someone veto power over your life." ~~Geoffrey F. Abert