Mothering Day

I am not sure I like the Hallmark idea of Mother’s Day, my imaginary friend. Somehow I feel more comfortable with suggesting we honour the quality of mothering; perhaps because I am not a mother myself. Of course, I have a mother, and this I know beyond a shadow of doubt: the puerile, banal, and stereotypical view of motherhood makes her cringe.

Mothering is nurturing, fostering, feeding. It is aspirational and inspirational, also it is the daily mundanity of practical tasks performed over and over again. It is the sublime, the ridiculous, and perhaps even the sacrificial. It is teaching, guiding, and growing – and above all, it is a vast, all encompassing love that sparks and kindles and transforms.

There is a lovely metaphor for mothering in the forest, as in these mother log images. (Here on the West Coast they are called nurse logs, but you will allow my poetic license.)

photo: VivianLea Doubt

photo: VivianLea Doubt

The tree topples and even as it is decaying it harbours new growth, feeding and nurturing for decades and beyond. Mothering is not limited to the human or animal species, nor is it confined to the female, or those that have physically given birth. Mothering is an overarching principle of the cosmos, rather, and the source of all that is great in human cultures – the reverence for life and love.

Mothering Day might become, then, not just a day we take mom out for brunch…maybe a day to celebrate that mothering resides in all of us. That this western culture could use more mothering qualities…For the most marvelous aspect of mothering, is, I believe, the fierce strength of allowing one’s child, one’s creation, one’s heartbeat – to become its own self. That it has been birthed, cradled, cared for, and allowed to grow…and as it grows, to reach for the stars. That maybe those stars are the suns of another universe…
Love and gratitude for all those who are motherers.

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Local Colours

One twilit evening I was returning to the Comox Valley – having been away for some time – and  was graced by the glorious sight of a full moon rising over the Beaufort Range at the entrance to the valley. There are many beautiful sights here, but that one has stayed with me in an intensely visually evocative way…a vision that evokes the beauty of home. The islands of Denman and Hornby arising out of the soft fading light and the Salish Sea, on the right, and the majesty of the Beauforts on the left, the full moon over all…I am drawn to call this place ‘home’ because of its beauty. A few miles further north, one exits the highway into Courtenay and the charmless landscape of strip malls and big box stores begins; whether you head further north, turn to the ferry, or out to the airport, the landscape has been transformed in less-than-imaginative ways, and the visions of stunning beauty all around hard to see. One travel writer had the audacity to tell the truth of this bleak sort of pilgrimage around the Valley a few years back, and the local government and chamber-of-commerce-types  immediately began bleating about how terrible this was…alas, ‘tis the truth, nevertheless. One could follow the beaten path and never discover the grandeur and immensity of what is here…As so few of the travel and tourism writers do, apparently. Or maybe, more to the point, they simply want to highlight their advertisers…indeed, most writing about this place reeks with the odour of advertorial, my imaginary friend.

It is the movement of rainwater from the snow-capped mountains, through the streams and creeks and lakes and rivers, that has brought the silt that created the marvellously fertile farmland, and the estuary, with its teeming life of all kinds…food is grown here, and some local eateries actually serve this home-grown food, and this is a food culture that is innovative and nourishing and with its own distinct terroir. Wineries, craft breweries, natural soda makers and a distillery have sprung up to compliment and complete this food culture, and a variety of artisans who strive against the might of the chain and fast food restaurants to bring food and drink to the table that is authentically made and grown here. Move off of the main travel arteries, and look around and you can find food with the influence of dozens of different cuisines, served with love and pride and sense of home that no franchise will ever match, and with the taste that proclaims ‘Comox Valley Grown’. Take a bike tasting tour of local farms (and wineries) and understand what this means, this land…once, indeed called “Land of Plenty” by its First Nations denizens. Perhaps the big city has more three-starred chefs…but here you will find chefs who have been taught by the glory of the fine local products available.

Also, my imaginary friend, there are artists here. Artists of every description, working in every medium, which includes the many fine musicians and writers and performers, of course. Tucked away in corners, for the most part, or playing at a local pub, some of them well-known and others not, but all contributing a depth of soul and vision to the place that could never have been planned…though I would argue that it is their collective artistic vision that keeps us true, in some small way, to the soul of the place…

Ah, the soul of the place…Some would say it is the glacier, to the west,  overlooking all – called Queenesh by the local First Nations and said to be the remains of a white whale that was carried to the mountain top by an epic flood. The story has been handed down in fine story-telling tradition, and I admit it is this First Nations vision that most captures me as to the soul of the place. To the east, the Salish Sea and marvelous beaches and sand dunes and low-tide wonders – kayaks and windsurfers, fishing and sailing boats, and in the middle, the farmlands and the river opening out into the estuary…which must be the heart of the Comox Valley, if not the soul.

Hiking and biking trails abound here, not all of them easy to find…you might have to ask a local. Perhaps that is the particular charm of the place: like many small towns, you can stop and chat with a stranger, who will at least point you in the right direction. Often you might hear a story or two, and there is certainly a rich oral tradition of First Nations history. Every place has its collection of stories; here, perhaps, they are more accessible…off the well-traveled sheep paths, in any event.

For it is the stories that the locals tell that will give you a sense of this place, both the magnificent, and the mundane…look to the images shot hastily from a cell phone, perhaps, rather than the magazine perfect images. Disregard the thinly-veiled advertising pieces and venture to discover the experiences that are around every corner, many of them free to enjoy. Ask an artist what draws them to this place…this is the ultimate tourism, my imaginary friend. The ethos, the feel of a place is geography and human geography, language and dialect, history and social organization, work and play – hundreds, if not thousands of intangible elements. Can it be discovered in the museums or markets? The answer is yes, but only partially; the discovery of a place resides in the daily experiences of the life of the inhabitants.

I will leave you with this, a hastily-shot cell phone image…If you ask me, I will tell you where it is, and I will share a story or two.

Spirit of Snow I Wish You

Photograph by MJC, Vancouver Island

Photograph by MJC, Vancouver Island

Snow blankets Vancouver Island these past couple days…this can’t be said to be unusual, though it is a bit of a rarity here. The pattern of our winds mean mild, wet winters for the most part – oh, we have had our share of winter’s wetness already, though the first official day of winter is yet to arrive. Yes, the snow is a welcome relief from the grey, lowering clouds of past weeks. I don’t really mean to write about the weather, my imaginary friend, though I am intrigued by the fact that it seems to dominate the lives of town dwellers in ways that seem curious. We are, after all, mostly well-sheltered, not to mention moving about in our cozy vehicles. But even I, who spend several hours each day outside in the mountains or forest, even I have not been immune to the weeping skies.

The first pleasure is the lovely stillness, the quiet hush that is perhaps the greatest loveliness of snow. Snow softens the tired ugliness of city, and clothes the banal landscape of suburbia in marvelous draperies. The evergreens look particularly gorgeous; branches gracefully bending under weight of white. Beautiful lines and swirls and evocative shapes are everywhere, yet the quietude is most striking. Of course, part of the physical property of snow is to mute sound, and no doubt there is less traffic about in the land of few snow tires. But this quietude seems to invite us to go deeper into that mystery…

Even as I snowshoed through gently falling flakes and gathering twilight, the world about me was lit softly by the expanse of white reflecting everywhere, and back up into the sky…only a day or two earlier I would not have been able to find my way so sure-footedly at dusk. So this light, this quality of reflected brightness is another loveliness I welcome.
Winter comes: under cover of snow warmth the land busies itself with the tasks of the quiet time, the inner time, the time to root deeply to bring next year’s harvest to fruition. Another turn in the wheel of the year awaits: the snow invites us to revel in the quiet and reflection that sustains and nourishes us, that prepares us for the growing time. May you have a little snow this season, in spirit if not on the ground.

Who Are You? Can You Remember?

I sit in my favourite, ancient chair to write this afternoon, my imaginary friend – I have been away from it for a rather long time. It is a pleasure to envelop myself in its comfort, and naturally I have a cup of “Kick Ass” coffee to enhance the moment, not to mention the sun streaming in my windows. My morning hike sparkled with this oh-so-welcome sun after too many days of rain; a lovely lunch; the familiar motions of making cookies and enjoying the sugary smells…a day of simple content.

The best part of my day, however, has been the discovery of a marvelous book: The Elegance Of The Hedgehog, by Muriel Barber. One of those books in which one meets a ‘kindred spirit’, to invoke Anne of Green Gables – well, one of those books in which you meet yourself, maybe. I shall whole-heartedly recommend this novel, though it is certainly not my intent to write a book review…indeed, I am only halfway through the thing. Wanting to prolong the sheer enjoyment as long as I can – is it not exquisite to find such a book? Movie? Music? Art?

There is a remark in the book that perhaps we write to find ourselves, and I am moved by this, in the context of the story… The very literate, cultured, articulate, and intelligent concierge of a Parisian apartment building who endeavours to appear stupid and morose to the buildings’ wealthy residents, understanding that this is their assumption of who she is…and who troubles to look beyond their assumptions? One or two do, of course – ah, but I am just getting to that part! In any event, another of the characters writes to meet herself, she says, to move beyond those assumptions of the shallow and preoccupied she is surrounded by.

What is profoundly moving about this, I suppose, is that we are all the ‘victims’ of assumptions by the people we encounter in any given day – that the way we dress, where we work (or not), what kind of car we drive (or not), where we live, in what restaurants or stores or galleries or museums we are found in – any one of these details, taken singly, is enough for someone, somewhere to form an assumption of us that may have no bearing in reality. When I say victim, I mean this: at best, any or all of these details describe a minute piece of us, the most trivial and the most superficial aspect of us, indeed. Why does this matter?

It may or may not matter individually – many of the people we interact with daily are likely acquaintances or chance-met strangers, and presumably as individuals we have other, deeper relationships. It obviously matters very profoundly to a culture, though, in a million ways I shall not explicate, save this: the idea of being able to look at and acknowledge another human with openness and a smidgen of genuine curiosity is a great void in Western culture. That every time our eyes slide over someone…shiftless bum…teenage thug…bag lady…slotting them into a precut jigsaw puzzle, we lose a piece of our humanity. In case it is not evident, the jigsaw pieces of ‘attractive woman’, ‘powerful man’, ‘pretty girl’ (and so on…) are also dehumanizing…and not only to the objects of our gaze, but to ourselves.

Who are you, my imaginary friend? Maybe more importantly, who might you become? What vast longings and wellsprings of joy have been squeezed into the jigsaw shape someone else assigned, that you gamely try to fit within the puzzle?

canyouremember

Challenge – accepted!

This post is brought to you by SuperArtGirl, who is also blogging as Joymeister. You can follow her take on the 30-day excitement challenge here.

I love what she is doing, and the fact that she is writing about it, because here is a woman serious about crafting and creating her own life! The challenge is simple enough, I suppose, and at times rather silly, maybe…never the less, to look at what we do every day, and what we take for granted, and to work that up into a new way of seeing one’s own life – well, that is serious, and seriously inspiring stuff. Love you, SuperArtGirl, and keep doing what you’re doing 🙂

"Rainbow Tree" 1'9x2'9 - $200

“Rainbow Tree” 1’9×2’9 – $200

What Do You Do For Excitement?

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” –  Marcel  Proust

 

explore

 

My friend SuperArtGirl wants more excitement in her life, and this makes me wonder, do most of us think this way? We love our comfort and our routines, and then we complain that life lacks a little spice. How about you, my imaginary friend? As for me, I have a folder in my laptop called Zesty And Interesting Things – I look at it often, and troll around the internet occasionally just to look for these things. Truth be told, I am an incurable Pollyanna and I firmly believe that the most exciting things aren’t really things or events, but the wonder and curiousity of looking at the world and ourselves in different ways. The question is, maybe, how do we switch our perspectives, our familiar lenses and ways in which we view the world? Here I offer up an extremely silly challenge. Your mission, should you accept it, is to explore these ideas and experiences…now, we shall not quibble about how you experience them. Read on.

 

Day one: Eat something you’ve never eaten before.

Day two: Play like a child all day. Oh, you have to work? Make your work play…

Day three: Pick an experience you’ve never had, and would like to have, and spend a day planning how you could get to do it. What does it feel like?

Day four: Be a cowboy for a day.

Day five: Make your morning routine totally different. I am not suggesting you skip brushing your teeth, just mix it up.

Day 6: Play some music you’ve never heard before for at least one hour.

Day seven: Talk to a stranger.

Day eight: Go to a place you’ve never been before, where you live.

Day nine: Make your favourite food, and immerse yourself in the experience of eating it with no distractions – TV, phone, book. Wine and conversation allowed.

Day ten: Find a piece of art you’ve never seen before, and like. Why do you like it?

Day eleven: Wear only warm, soft, comfortable clothes and be conscious of how they feel.

Day twelve: Read something, anything, you’d not normally be interested in.

Day thirteen: Find out something about someone you know that you didn’t know before.

Day fourteen: Write a poem.

Day fifteen: Sing a song. What is the song?

Day sixteen: Tell someone you love them, and why.

Day seventeen: Play with an animal. Cute cat videos are okay, too.

Day eighteen: Wear a pair of wings today. Use your imagination!

Day nineteen: Today, you can be whatever you want and do whatever you like. Yes, you can.

Day twenty: Do some finger painting. Colouring also acceptable.

Day twenty-one: Wear unmatched socks. Does anybody care?

Day twenty-two: After unmatched sock day, we do hats. Wear a hat, any hat. Do you feel different?

Day twenty-three: What is the secret thing you’ve always wanted? Tell someone about this.

Day twenty-four: Get up really early, just because. How is it?

Day twenty-five: Be a cowboy for a day. Yes, you must do this again. It’s important!

Day twenty-six: Today, you shall be a hero. Just do it.

Day twenty seven: Stay up late. Naps allowed to prepare…look at the stars.

Day twenty-eight: What is the silliest thing you can think of doing? Do it. Yes.

Day twenty-nine: Today is a day off. Enjoy. Are you excited?

Day thirty: Today, you can be whatever you want and do whatever you like…and every day. And everyday can be different!

 

Well, is this really an excitement challenge?  asks my imaginary friend. I think it is, in ways that are hard to get one’s head around, maybe. If you were to ask me what the most exciting things are in the world, I would say this: the cry of a newborn baby. The silvery moon shining a path over a calm sea. The endless stars that dance overhead, and suggest limitless possibilities for life and realms beyond…the look of a lover. The joy of dance, and the poetry of snowy mornings, and the cosiness of a fire. Friends whose faces light up when they see you, and animals that teach us how to be more fully alive, and warm, sandy beaches to curl your toes in. Mountain mornings, and meadows to run through, and food shared in loving company…oh, I’ve only just begun, but know this: the most exciting things in the world require eyes to be open to see them, and minds that are alive to possibilities, and hearts that are open.

Much love and gratitude to SuperArtGirl, whose whimsy inspires my life in ways beyond words. Always, she helps me see with new eyes, opens my heart, shows me that the detours on the path are the most interesting places…and she draws awesome cowboys. (That is another story.) I do know that the most exciting people have hearts three sizes too big. You’ve helped mine grow a size …Thank you.

 

Update: SuperArtGirl is blogging about the challenge here, and it is a fun read!

Alban Arthan: The Light of Winter

The forest is hushed, yet the green of the evergreens is not muted; brilliant red berries provide stunning contrast, and even in the deciduous forests one can see the swell of buds – just beginning, to be sure – that will bear stem and leaf in the spring. The slant of the sunlight is a different light than the bright focus of summer, showing nuance and perspective that might have been missed then. And over all the stars take on a crisp brilliance that is riveting even in the chill of winter’s night air.

On the eve of the shortest day and longest night of the year, the thought of the lengthening days to come is a celebration. Let us not forget the beautiful light of winter: let it live in our hearts just a small bit longer. For the stars of winter are featured in may a tale and legend, in songs and hymns and  poems, and in the oldest sacred stories of humankind.

Portent and mystery, glimpses of the divine majesty, beacons of light and hope, silver fire in the heavens…The light of winter shows us, maybe, that the unknowable magic of the heavens is a fine and blessed thing…It matter not, I think, my imaginary friend that we reflect on the stars in the night sky, or the stars that grace a Christmas tree, but that we simply see the light of winter. Let us follow yonder stars.