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.

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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?