This Day, This Dream

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” So wrote Charles Dickens in “A Tale Of Two Cities”, and I confess I feel that way about my epic journey of the last five months. If I had to sum it up, I would say that they have been the most glorious months of my life thus far, and yet at the same time, wistfulness hangs about me like a mist. I do not know if I can make this explicable, my imaginary friend, though of course I shall try.

Without a doubt, I have been immersed in landscapes and experiences of great beauty, and my time well balanced between being with the people I love most in the world, and with myself, alone. There has been adventure and play, simple pleasures and exquisite moments that I would not trade for anything, and some days I shall remember all my life for the pure, unadulterated joy they brought. And I shall remember this, too: that there were times I was afraid, and I did not know I would lack courage in that fashion. It is true also that my habits and routines have no vestige of their former selves, and that perversely, I long for what seemed terribly confining a few short months ago. That I miss my friends, as I expected to, though I miss them seemingly out of proportion to the length of time I’ve been gone. That I ache for the sight and sound of the ocean in a visceral way that tugs at my heart, but that I weep, also, for that grand prairie expanse of sky and the sense of possibility it engenders…

Here it is, then – I have found the thing I have been looking for all of my life. But this thing is not really a thing, but more like a process…and it exists because I will it into being. And it will continue to exist as long as I continue to make it so… that it will live, and thrive, so long as I devote my care and attention to it, unceasingly…

And that, my friend, is the paradox of it; that one does not wave a magic wand, but imagines, dreams, hopes, and wishes – nurtures, nourishes, fosters and encourages – attends to, prunes lovingly and carefully, the life one wishes.  Could there be any more demanding task, I ask of you? To be fully responsible for what one makes of it, and to feel unequal to the task. Cold comfort that we are all in the same boat.

To experience, and to remember joy, is to bring meaning to the rowing of that boat: this, these small measures of words, a poor substitute for a deep and profound meaning that I, always late to the party, have finally learned. To say that one is responsible for one’s own life is not really the idea that I want to convey here, though; it is both more simple, and more complex than that. Simply, that we must not stop imagining the life we want, and we must not stop caring deeply about that. For as I have remarked before, I do not believe it is the dream itself that matters so much as that the dream be big, and bold, and fully worthy of our labour in dreaming it.

Today marks the first day of the New Year in the calendar of the ancient Celtic peoples, the harvest gathered and the preparation for winter; the time when the veil between the worlds thins, and we see the possibilities ahead clearly and sharply. May your dreams be grand and unfettered, for only in this way shall you be so. Blessed Be.

Bruce Holwerda, Unfettered Dreams Buy it here: http://store.bruceholwerda.com/unfettered-dreams

Bruce Holwerda, Unfettered Dreams
Buy it here: http://store.bruceholwerda.com/unfettered-dreams

Surface Porousity

“You are the world’s sweetest man”, I tell him, and he says, wryly: “you don’t know me.” And in at least one sense this is true; to know someone is the work of many years, and the list of things I do not know about him would fill a book.

I do not know if he likes to eat mangoes so fresh and ripe the juice runs down the chin. Nor do I know his favourite song, or his favourite movie, or some of the many tidbits others might find important. I don’t know if he likes to vacuum. I cannot read him like a book, he is much too complex. There has been a time or two when I absolutely did not know what to say to him, and I believe this is a first for me. Hmmmm, I do not know if he likes popcorn, and it is one of my favourite foods. Oh my god, I don’t even know his favourite colour.

But if what I don’t know would fill a book, what I do know would fill several volumes. His voice is beautiful, as are his eyes. I find myself mesmerized by the muscled curves of his arms and the hard work they represent. He values honesty, and he is very funny. He does not like rain. He thinks my earrings are fussy, and he teases me about my fetish for organic food. He likes cows. He looks at me clearly and directly, and I fall into his eyes. When he calls me by a tender name, I melt. He has an excellent memory; it seems few details escape him. He is playful. Meticulous in most ways, he can be careless when it suits the moment. He likes coffee. He is kind. He has integrity: not the superficial integrity of one who has never been tested, but the fine honourability of one who has weathered a few shit storms. He is endlessly patient with me. He is the man of my dreams, my imaginary friend.

So what does constitute ‘knowing’ someone? I do not know if that is ever really possible…At any rate, even my oldest friends and closest family members have the capacity to surprise me, not by acting out of character, but by the depths of character they reveal. Indeed, if we do not know character, we know nothing – but if kindness and honesty are immutable, character is not a set of fixed traits. Rather, it is how a being grows and stretches, how they meet life’s challenges…and more importantly, how they meet life’s possibilities.

Here is what I say to you, my love – I do not think I will ever come to the point of knowing you, and that is the highest compliment I can pay. In this context, a little surface porousity is in order….openness to the realms of other to discover, may it never end. This beautiful bracelet, renewed and burnished and made strong to be worn again and again…this is a lovely metaphor, I think. It is a different thing now than it was originally…a thing to be cherished. As you are.

Photo Jeffrey Herman, silversmith.

Photo Jeffrey Herman, silversmith.

photo and repair Jeffrey Herman, silversmith.

photo and repair Jeffrey Herman, silversmith.

Where is Home?

 

 

homeunderstars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My adventures have taken me on a tour of the province of Alberta (in Canada, for those of you reading outside the country) these past weeks: from the Calgary Stampede, to hiking and exploring in Kananaskis Country. Visiting the lovely town of Canmore in the Rocky Mountains, and the rather eclectic Strathmore to the east of Calgary, amid rolling acres of canola fields. North to the city of Edmonton, south east to Drumheller, south to Medicine Hat. These have been weeks of stunning natural beauty, and perhaps the putting aside of some stereotypes…

It certainly is true that many Albertans drive big trucks, and often in a parking lot I can never find my little truck upon my return, because the behemoths all around effectively hide the thing. And the Calgary Stampede certainly lives up to its reputation as a Wild West show – enough said. The skies are gloriously big here, and the thunder and lightning storms absolutely epic to watch on the prairies, as was the tornado approaching me while hiking north of Drumheller (it missed me, fortunately). One of the crowning glories was certainly watching a prairie sunrise, which turned the sky an amazing array of colours, and left me quite breathless. The variety of landscapes, the many wonderful and quirky small towns, endless miles of mostly-flat highways have made for easy and fun road tripping. Here in the oil capital of Canada, wind turbines and solar panels are numerous; perhaps most interestingly, I find this province more progressive than the one I was born in, in spite of its reputation for conservatism.

I am not really speaking in a political sense here, but more of a general impression which is vague and amorphous, to be sure. I find a love of land, something that often seems to be missing in my home place: people being attached to their urban or suburban routines with lip service to the beauty around them. It seems to me that rootedness in the land, the geography, the play of nature is one of the reconnections we must make to move out of the morass of climate change, for starters, but perhaps also reconnections we must make to root our governments, our economies, our ways of life in an ethos of place. Places for people…

For while I cannot call this place ‘home’, I can say that I feel at home, though what that means is anybody’s guess, I suppose. I think it is something I must keep exploring and discovering for myself…

And right now, my imaginary friend, I am in another province, and a secret place, where the stars shine for me and my love, together. Perhaps I must invoke that hoary cliché “home is where the heart is”, because in the arms of my love, and under any stars, feels deeply comfortable.

The Romance of Myra Canyon

I hiked the beautiful Myra Canyon portion of the Kettle Valley Railroad trail yesterday, and it is a place full of history, with stunning vistas and inspiration at every turn. A little history first: the trail is the old rail bed of the Kettle Valley Railway, built between 1912 and 1914, which was abandoned in various stages, but which was officially closed in 1990. The railway ran from the Kootenays to the coast of British Columbia, and was an important piece of the province’s freight and transportation links. The province of BC took over (more correctly, took back) ownership of the rail bed, and the trail is now a world-famous biking and hiking trail, of which Myra Canyon is one of the most popular spots.

The canyon is steep and forbidding, and in order to build the railway with the appropriate grade (and given the tools and horsepower available at the time) 19 trestles and 2 tunnels were engineered, virtually hugging the side of the mountain. All of the trestles except one have been restored by the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society, who also do much other work maintaining and enhancing this trail portion. I hope my hastily-shot images will speak for themselves, and inspire you with a little romance, too. I am pleased that this particular piece of British Columbia’s history has been so wonderfully preserved, and that thousands of people walk or bike this trail and imbibe a little of the past, and maybe the flavour of the future.

Looking down to Kelowna

Looking down to Kelowna

Across the canyon

Across the canyon

Myra Canyon Forest

Myra Canyon Forest

Convoluted canyon folds

Convoluted canyon folds

Side view of a small trestle

Side view of a small trestle

The rock face of the canyon

The rock face of the canyon

The forest in recovery after the fire of 2003

The forest in recovery after the fire of 2003

Quite a curve

Quite a curve

One of the tunnels

One of the tunnels

Roof of the tunnel

Roof of the tunnel

Still across the canyon...getting closer

Still across the canyon…getting closer

map of the Myra Canyon portion of the KVR Trail

map of the Myra Canyon portion of the KVR Trail

 

 

 

 

 

My adventures continue, my imaginary friend! Thanks for coming along.

The Dress

I have been sorting and packing, packing and sorting for what seems like a very long time now…I endeavour to be organized: winter clothes in that suitcase, summer clothes in this one, and, of course, it is the perfect opportunity to decide what must be given away and what will be kept, and most of these decisions are pretty easy. But some decisions seem – well, terribly important and oh-so-momentous, and I shall tell you about one such decision.

I do not have a lot of clothes, just the opposite, in fact. I do tend to buy the best things I can and wear them a long time. Partly this is because I dislike shopping, and assuredly I loathe some saleswoman schooling me in the latest fashion trend for which I care nothing, and definitely because I like simple and well-made. Once upon a time, however, I splurged on an exquisite dress for a special New Year’s Eve night out – well, let me tell you about the dress.

The dress is black silk, with a beaded neckline and sleeves, and the body of the dress entirely sequins, all the beads and sequins individually hand-sewn to the silk. It falls to mid-calf, with a slit to mid-thigh – a sexy, shimmery, fantasy of a dress, certainly like nothing I’d ever worn. It was created for a beauty pageant contestant, duly worn in the event, and for sale at a price I could afford – and when I tried it on, I confess I felt transformed. The dress was surprisingly heavy and fit beautifully, and so, I decided I could be Cinderella at the ball for an evening. It was one of those perfect, magical, nights – special friends, champagne, dancing to the early hours – a night that I will always remember with joy.

And the dress, oh the dress was painstakingly cleaned and hung in my closet. And then it was wrapped in tissue paper, to protect those lovely beads and sequins. And oh-so-many times I have looked at it with pleasure, and the longing to put it on and be Cinderella at the ball again – but the occasion never came about. For the dress does require an occasion and a venue and the right company to make its magic happen… I look at this dress, and decide to take it with me, on my journey – and it is a bit of a pain to pack the thing. And when and where shall I wear it? Oh, my imaginary friend, who knows? But even weighing all those things, I know I must have it with me, for it speaks to me of the magic of transformations. The magic of possibilities. The magic of never writing in stone who and what one is…

I wrap it again in fresh tissue paper and put it in the suitcase, and trust that I will find the time and place to wear it, to wrap that magic around me. For the dress tells me that we must, sometimes, break out of our self or other-imposed confines. That this is a part of the path to the joyful life…

I think my words are not adequate to the symbolism of the dress, but I leave you with a lovely piece by artist Lisa Kirk, who seems to instinctively understand the power of transformation and its symbols. You can find more of her work at http://www.lisakirk.ca/, and her dress series of paintings here.

Discovering The Freedom To fly by Lisa Kirk

Discovering The Freedom To Fly by Lisa Kirk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is to discovering the freedom to fly!

Betwixt And Between

Well, my imaginary friend, I am betwixt and between. Here, but not here, there in spirit but not there; my heart both full of the letting go and the setting forth. This month of Oak, as it was known by the ancient Celts, was believed to be a portal month, the bridge between the dark half and the light half of the year. And so the feelings would seem to fit naturally into the half-forgotten, but still-echoing-rhythm of seasons as they unfolded for my ancestors.

leap-of-faith

I am preparing for a journey, and there are practical and prosaic things to be done in this preparation. But as always, the inner journey is the most interesting to me, and this fine focus of concentration seems terribly important, for I go in quest of a new life, a very different life. Naturally, I suppose, I hope it shall be a better life, but this very idea seems confusing and convoluted – better than what? My life to this point has been precisely what I made it, what I chose and brought into fruition. Whether I am blessed or cursed, I cannot tell, but I cannot stay in any place for too long – although let me clear, by ‘place’ I mean more like ‘state of being’.

So whether blessed or cursed shall be set aside for the moment; in any event, I appear to be different than many of my fellow humans, who seem to like to stay in the same place and work at the same things and see the same people and who, in a million ways, large and small, comfort themselves with routines and rituals and pleasures of sameness. Their longings for new scenery or cultures or cuisines can be contained by yearly travel to some exotic location, it seems. I am aware, most assuredly, that my fellow humans do change, though I find these changes in mind and in being are rarely talked about so much as the latest restaurant, or last vacation, or newest acquisition…My sense of bewilderment, of finding myself distinctly not in the right pond, is catalyst enough.

I am keenly aware, my imaginary friend, that I leave you with – well, questions. What is this all about? What exactly does she want? Part of what I would like to do is to set the stage, so to speak, for writing about my journey over the course of the next months and years. Another part of what I would hope to convey is that the questions are the beginning of the journey – the imaginary starting point, if you will. Maybe most importantly, that the quest for the ‘new’, the ‘different’, the ‘better’ ought be a lifelong quest, for is it this that defines the best human qualities, I think.

Blessed, or cursed?

The Menu

A menu in a cafe or restaurant both facilitates and constrains our choices. Constrains, because there are a finite number of items – though as chefs are keenly aware, a good menu will make choosing one item rather difficult. Even given a wide array of dishes, chefs also understand that choices are often made on the basis of what seems familiar; or at the very least, what is within the cultural norms of cuisine in a given place. Developing and writing a menu is an interesting and complex exercise, and I wonder, my imaginary friend, how many people think of how their dining choices are formed by chefs and cooks? We are more accustomed to believing it is ourselves that choose, even in spite of the limitations of choice by what is on the menu.

I have spent much of my time these past few weeks pondering the mystery of why people should be content to live life as if it were limited, rather than a vast smorgasbord, and the menu analogy immediately comes to mind. One may accept a rudely-slapped-together peanut butter sandwich (on white bread!) given circumstances or necessity, but does one then accept that is dinner, now and forevermore? The more interesting question is how such came to be on the menu…This by way of introducing you to the menu I am writing – it’s a work in progress.

 

Life Cafe Menu

Fresh and crispy greens with a froth of courtesy and attention, garnished with spiced tidbits.

Soup to nourish: a gentle wake up to the taste, or a larger serving of comfort. Served with rustic bread baked in house, and a genuine smile.

Appetizer platter with particular attention to a variety of tastes, textures and styles, and a plenitude of sauces, dips, and salsas to surprise and delight.

Handmade pasta with a sensuous sauce, shavings of affection and regard, and a frisson of piquant.

Lively picatta, pan fried with the richness of experience, seasoned simply and presented with love.

Roast of life essence, all the trimmings, in measure to satisfy, and a feast of joy.

Luscious curd in a flaky shell for contrast, decorated with sparkle and wit.

Delicious pie of friendship: homey, satisfying, essential, and deeply moving. A la mode?

Nuances of meringue with delicacy and sensitivity, and candied moments of the new and exotic.

 

 

Oh! Well, I confess this is fun, and I did warn you it is a work in progress. I would be delighted to choose any of the items on this menu, which is hardly surprising as I wrote it for myself. Really, when I see Roast of Bore on a menu I run for the exit…And now my imaginary friend asks, what exactly is the point? Just this, I suppose, that we ought all write our own menus (borrowing from the professionals as seems fitting), and change them often, and opt for the buffet at times…because life, and love, and adventure are all out there beyond the Roast Bore Diner.

 

Art of Naomi TeWinkel

Art of Naomi TeWinkel

Find more of this delightful art work to inspire your menu  here.

What Dreams May Come? Originally posted November, 2011

I have unabashedly borrowed my title from the movie of that name; the film had some delightful scenes of the afterlife, imagined. My favourite was the scene of walking through a mountain meadow, as paint splooshed up from the flowers – but here, you can take that journey yourself, briefly.

Our hero finds himself in heaven, and his guide informs him that his world is anything he can imagine. Which is true, really, in some basic way in our own world, is it not?

 I find myself wondering about dreams that die, or are forgotten or laid aside, dreams that can’t be resurrected, dreams that just refuse to come true. For there seems to be essentially two kinds of people in my life: those that have realized their dreams, but now think they are a sham, and those that have come to realize that perhaps they did not dream largely enough. I expect there are more variations on the theme, though maybe my imagination is not up to the task. Here are those who have married and had children (or not), built homes and careers and friends and lifestyles and accoutrement, and now appear to be bored and tired of it all and unwilling to build new dreams. These people say that this is a function of getting older and wiser: you know, you just can’t have it all. Never the less, there is something weary and dispiriting and soul-destroying in that message.

 The most interesting people seem to recognize when it is time to let a dream go and to dream a new one, but not at all in the practical sense of giving in, dreaming smaller, or limiting the imagination – just the opposite. That perhaps their original dreams simply weren’t big enough, or grand enough, or imaginative enough, that their dreams didn’t, and don’t measure up to the kind of person they were and are. There is an old saying: Be careful what you wish for. What you wish and dream may come to define you in ways you cannot foretell, I believe, whether or not they come to be.

 Me, I have lived with a dream that has been present for as long as I can remember, and I have been ruminating on giving it up. In one sense I am very fortunate; none of my dreams have been very conventional, that is, what my friends and peers and population cohort have been dreaming, so I have always had to explain my dreams to others. Why I dream of this, and not that…I have never dreamed of having children, for example, and I do not have them; that particular choice used to engender intense questioning and accusations of selfishness. I suspect that this scrutiny led me to very sure of my dreams: I had examined them, after all.

 Everyone has had dreams that did not come to fulfillment, of course, although for me it is harder to acknowledge that most of my dreams did come true…and so, here I am, not done dreaming, but neither satisfied. I must further illuminate this: I hope and believe it is the true human condition to never be satisfied, although this has nothing to do with material things and everything to do with things of the heart and spirit. And also, I do not berate myself or have many regrets, only one sincere regret of a hurtful thing I did that I would erase, if I could. No, it is not about failure, it is about choosing the dreams that will define me for the next few decades, and so, I think, one closely held dream has to go, for I am becoming sure that I would not like the way it might define me.

 I am not up to the task, I fear, but let me limn a new outline of what dreams may come for me. I should like to walk through painted landscapes of beauty. I should like to have had some part in creating that beauty, with hands and heart and eyes and pen. I should like to cook delightful meals for friends and family, and make new friends, many new friends. I should like to inspire others to dream of their true calling, and how that might invigorate both work and play and even the ordinary, prosaic tasks of the day. (It could also invigorate politics, banking, and neighbourhoods, but that is a subject for another day.)

I should like to imagine the world the way I wish it to be.

 It is no small task, my imaginary friend, I know. For the constant drone of the unhappy and deadened spirits in the background take both largeness and loudness to overcome, and they must be overcome, lest we slip into a world of their making, horror of horrors. For their world is outlined by such words and phrases as practical, common sense, not possible, not sensible, idle dreamers. Not idle, we dreamers. We are busy making the world.

The Substance of Words

words

A vast array of words and images and sounds flow to us and around us, indeed, saturate us with their possibilities, but we cling to the superficial for reasons unfathomable. The great mysteries and wonders of life: the building of a home, the crafting of a living, the making of love, the finding of joy – these are reduced to the banal. As if the purchase of a sofa will have to stand in for the idea that home is the centre of life, the place that nurtures us and nourishes us to take our place in the world with confidence and quiet certitude of own worth. That a paycheque should take the place of a slow mastery of craft or trade or vocation, of years spent in the immensely satisfying pursuit of knowledge or technique or art. That celebrities become the models for desire; love does require a willingness to enter in to the spirit of discovery over and over again, while desire requires only a new object for itself. That entertainment is the way we persuade ourselves we are happy, rather than finding joy in the day’s, or season’s simple pleasures…

We are mostly all in the same boat, we humans – life is a mystery to be experienced. There is no prescription, no playbook, no golden road to follow…but we do not talk about these things. We do not talk about these things in significant communal or cultural ways; indeed, we do not much make a habit of talking about these things as individuals, except perhaps in the most intimate of conversations with carefully-chosen others. And this seems to me to be a matter of great sorrow and distress.

There are those who would have us believe that there is a rule book, and perhaps that is why we have come to accept words over substance…or why some of us have, at any rate. As for me, my imaginary friend, I want the meal that follows the menu, and I want the substance of what the words convey. We must have some notion of what home, work, love mean to us as individuals, and to have meaningful conversations about this as individuals. Without the conversations, we feel ourselves playing outside the rules – we mark ourselves as unhappy because we have not followed the rules. Truth is, western culture is deeply unhappy…and if the rule book once existed, it has become obsolete. It is clearly so pervasive as to be far beyond the individual…and yet, the paradox is that we can perhaps only resolve this by the individual conversations we create and participate in.

As always, your conversation is welcome here.

Make It Happen

Is it just me, my imaginary friend, or do others weary of the rhetoric surrounding International Women’s Day? “Make it happen” is one slogan I encountered, along with “Empowering Women – Empowering humanity”. I am quite sure that millions of words have been written in support of the idea that women’s equality is oh so close…More women in business. In government. In the highest positions of power. Opportunity for education and training. Equal pay. Freedom from fear of violence. More attention to women in sport. Yes, yes, we need merely fix these things (ahem, there are a few more items) – and half the world’s population will be equal to the other half.

If I sound a little cynical, friend, I remember International Women’s Year; yes, an entire year devoted to raising awareness of such gross inequalities as the lower rate of pay for women, stunning domestic abuse and sexual violence statistics, the lack of equal opportunity in an array of professions. That year was 1975, and these basic inequalities are still with us …even in the most progressive countries. And in many ‘developing’ nations, the lives of women are nasty and brutish. Four decades on, and oh so little progress is an anguish for half the world.

Of all the images of the day, this one stands out for me – this picture of Kubra Khademi armouring herself against unwanted touching, in a truly magnificent piece of performance art. Magnificent or not, I’ve read that Kubra Khademi has now gone into hiding, for fear of her life.

The-Armor-Performance-by-Kubra-Khademi

The banality of slogans in the face of such reaction is outrageous, frankly.

Kubra’s performance of wearing body armour is uniquely personal to her and her story. But it is also much larger than that, for it is the metaphor that half the world’s population understands in the most intimate way, for women carry out the act of armouring every day. It may be as physical as wearing a burqa, or as routine as applying make up to conform to some cultural notion of beauty. Perhaps slipping a gun or a can of mace into a purse for ‘protection’. Maybe it is the girl desperately trying not to provoke the rage of a father and his bruising blows. The women walking quickly and purposefully down dark streets – because you must have a good reason for being out after dark, or appear to have one. It is, of course, of all these things, and far too many more to recite, but mostly, it is the daily armouring against simply being ‘woman’ and not ‘man’.

There are obvious differences between men and women, and then there is the accumulated cultural conditioning, the stereotypes that resist being laid to rest, the persistent notion of otherness. (Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Apologies to John Gray.) “Other’ is a forceful cultural construct, and it seems women are other. Well anyway, dear men, we’d like nothing better than to take off that armour, to immerse ourselves in that delicious sense of freedom that comes from knowing yourself, being yourself, and having that self valued for its uniqueness. And I say, dear men – I really do love you – because let us be clear, you are the gender that holds almost all of the positions of power, whether in government, or business, or many other spheres. Kindly stop blathering slogans at us and make it happen, would you?

I think Gloria Steinem’s words say it best:

The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

Mark that very important phrase, “human rights”, for it is the crux of the matter. We are all human, first and last, and we must find the humanity that insists that half the world’s population must not be compelled to armour themselves. Happy International Women’s Day.