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.