Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry News

I've happy news to share during this holiday season. Our darling "pud" seems to have found another life somewhere. After more than a month of extra special care, she is purring, playing, eating, and putting on weight, and her test results are all in the normal range. Needless to say we're thrilled, relieved, and very hopeful the hole we dug in the yard "just in case" won't be put to use this winter.

The pud is elderly now so perhaps this latest reprieve won't be a long one but we are grateful we will have her with us for at least one more Christmas.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Darling "Pud"

It's been a tough week. My oldest cat, who we lovingly refer to as "the Pud", has been very ill. In fact, it may be that she's not going to make it, though the various medications and subcutaneous fluids we've been giving her daily seem to have made her feel much better. We continue to hope for a miracle -- though our vet cautions against too much optimism. The Pud is, after all, quite an old cat.

The gift of this experience is that it has reminded me once more of the importance of enjoying the moment -- the moment when the Pud is curled in my lap contently purring, or laying on the couch playing with her tail. I may not have many more days with my little friend, so I don't want my anxiety and fear to prevent me from giving her all the love and attention she deserves.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


When I started this blog, I said I was passionate about life, and intended to spend time thinking about what makes it worth living. Rereading my entries so far, I’m struck by how earnest they seem. Earnestness is not what I was going for, though I do take the endeavour seriously.

I have never been someone who thought that the things that made life worth living were simply the things that gave us pleasure. Sure, I like to drink wine, eat chocolate cake, have sex -- but are those the things I was put on the earth to do?

I suppose it could be argued that I enjoy those things for sound evolutionary reasons. I need food to live, therefore I like to eat. The species has to propagate in order to survive, therefore I enjoy sex. The trouble is that not all the things we humans like to do are good for us – either individually or as a species. For instance, some people appear to enjoy abusing themselves or others. What’s up with that?

And why is art so central in most cultures? Why do we love to create? Why do we enjoy getting lost in a good novel, being entranced by the depth and colour of a painting or the soft gleam of a ceramic bowl?

Perhaps it’s because art focuses our attention on the minutiae of life. So often, as we move through the world, we are distracted by our own thoughts – so distracted in fact we can’t notice the awesome intricacy and beauty all around us. For just a moment, art invites us to stop and focus on the details – the laugh lines around the eyes of the old man in a black and white photograph, the light falling along the back of a soapstone whale, the delicate trill of a flute soaring above the strings, the synergy of blue, yellow and red paints on a canvas.

And that focus helps to put us in touch with the world outside our own heads. It helps us to notice, for example, that all clouds aren’t white – that they can be purple and grey and pink and lavender – and that, as well as our neighbour’s yapping dog and the trucks barrelling along our street, we sometimes hear the soft swish of autumn leaves tumbling past our window, or the sweet laughter of a child discovering a caterpillar for the very first time.

And maybe, in that focus – that noticing – we are reminded to breath and love and laugh just a little more deeply, to truly enjoy and appreciate the gifts we’ve been given, so that we can, in turn, be more attentive, hopeful, and compassionate when interacting with the world around us.

There I go getting all earnest again.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cycling in Ottawa

Recently, I headed out determined to enjoy an afternoon cycling in the nation's capital. It was beautiful, the air was balmy and still, the sky clear blue. Perfect conditions for a cycle along the Rideau River.

After stopping for a sandwich and coffee at a mellow little cafe in New Edinburgh, I was back on my bike and and headed to explore the bikepath along the Ottawa River when I came across this view. The water reflected the old Ottawa City Hall buildings perfectly. I was only one of dozens who stopped to capture the picture.

By the time I'd reached the Ottawa River, the sun had settled low in the sky and the view up the river towards Gatineau was serenely lovely. It was so peaceful I felt I had the entire river to myself -- though in fact only a few hundred metres away rush hour traffic was careening along the parkway.

Cycling towards home, I took a brief detour to explore Major's Hill Park. It meant pushing my bike up a steep slope but the view from the top was worth it.

The sun was sitting so low in the sky by the time I took this shot I had to make a mad dash home in, as it turned out, a vain attempt to beat the darkness.

I am grateful to have been able to enjoy such a perfect fall day in Ottawa - particularly given that I am so often homesick for Nova Scotia. It was good to be reminded of just how beautiful the city can be and how lucky I am to have the time, energy and good health to explore it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Joys of Running

This was written in July 2008. I'm posting it as a reminder of the importance of seeking out experiences that help us to connect with life.

I was reminded today of one of the reasons I like running so much -- because it occasionally encourages me to go exploring, looking for unexpected and beautiful places nearby.

We're having our first relatively cool day in Ottawa in some time -- only 22 degrees. Because it was so fresh this morning, I decided it was a good day to go for a long run and check out the dirt track I'd noticed heading into the green space beneath the hydo poles a kilometre or so from our house.

An inspired notion as it turned out. Just a short way down the trail, the sounds of the city were a distant hum and I felt as if I was deep in the country - surrounded by riotous yellow, pink and purple wildflowers, colourful dragonflies flying in close formation beside and in front of me. Passing small woods and bushes, I caught glimpses of cardinals and other birds disturbed (momentarily) by my passing. I breathed in the sweet smell of fresh air wafting from the plants and trees around me.

After a couple of kilometres, the trail became a narrow track, then disappeared altogether where it met two sets of train tracks, which I followed for a short while before coming to another lightly travelled road. Pausing to catch my breath at a fence separating the tracks from the road, I was treated to the sight of a freight train as it passed by, the engineer cheerfully waving hello.

A short way down the road, I spotted a somewhat overgrown dogwalking trail that appeared to lead riverward, so I followed it for a kilometre or two as it wound through fields filled with hip-high grasses and wildflowers, and damp woodland offering a reprieve from the hot sun that was occasionally breaking through the clouds.

Eventually, the path took me to and then along grassy riverbanks, across a narrow bog -- where my feet were kept dry by an assortment of rocks and wood planks laid there by previous walkers -- and through more woodland until finally I reached a cheerful grassy spot beside the river furnished with an assortment of (apparently) donated chairs and benches. An elderly gentleman and his dog resting there helpfully directed me to a nearby residential street from where I turned homeward.

Plodding the last few kilometres to our house along busy urban roadways, I meditated on the breathtaking beauty I'd just witnessed, and how lucky I was to have the time, energy and good health to run. Here's hoping there are many more such adventures in my future!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Then She Found Me

So I've just finished watching Helen Hunt's beautiful film "Then She Found Me". Funny and complicated -- like its characters -- it portrays the joys of love, the pain of betrayal and the transcendant power of foregiveness.

And forgiveness is transcendant, isn't it? Imagine if forgiveness were practiced by every single person on this plant -- if, rather than seeking vengeance, we chose to reach deep inside ourselves to find love, empathy, compassion and forgiveness.

And by forgiveness, I don't mean forgetfulness. It's easy to forgive when we also forget, but so very much harder to forgive when we don't or can't forget.

Another theme of the movie is the central and complicated role of family -- the families we're born to, the families we choose, and the families that choose us. I loved that Hunt's portrayal of family was so complex. The reality is that, even when we deeply love and respect the members of our families, we sometimes hurt and betray and find it nearly impossible to forgive them.

And - really - what hope is there for humankind when we can't forgive even our own families?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Getting started

I've read that the most important thing when starting a new blog is to choose a subject you're passionate about.

Well, what I'm passionate about is life.

What's it for? What makes it worthwhile? Why are we here? Why is there so much joy, pain, beauty, ugliness, caring, and injustice mashed together in this world?

My quest isn't a religious one exactly, though it may be spiritual -- or perhaps it's one of self-discovery. I suppose that's the first question: When searching for the meaning of life, should you start by looking within or without ?

It may also be a quest to rediscover the best parts of who I was -- before I became the cynical, discouraged 40-something woman who wants to be the most creative and loving person she can be, but too often finds herself caught in an endless loop of self-doubt, small-mindedness, pragmatism and fear.

So let me begin with this quote:

Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise,
risking more than others think is safe,
dreaming more than others think is practical, and
expecting more than others think is possible.
Is it possible to live that way? Should one even try?