Wish To Be There

As I composed an email to a friend this morning, I was struck by how much of the really important was left out of the narrative of my recent life. Here it is, then, my imaginary friend: not exactly how I spent my summer vacation, but a deeper picture of how my life unfolds these days.

There have been losses and grief – I do not want to minimize these, though they have helped me to understand how to participate more intensely in the meaning of my brief life. There has been work that I am proud of – at the same time as being insignificant in the estimation of the world, no doubt – which makes me think of how much ‘work’ matters to my life. ‘Work’ is not always the same thing as a job, maybe, though I think that work that is satisfying is an integral part of the story of my life. There has been time for play, naturally – wonders of mountain lakes, entrancing trails, rivers rushing, and serene swimming holes, time with friends and family that has been memorable in ways that casual socializing cannot match. The pleasures of my summer do not make for riveting reading, I expect, but my quest for the quiet, unassuming pleasures of the day has taught me much. I think, in fact, that my life seems to be an escalating curve of learning, making my steps a little friskier in spite of the steepness of the road at times. I always want to see what is around the bend!

We humans are puzzling: we long and strive and yearn for the good and the beautiful, while we compel ourselves, some of us, to confine our dreams and ambitions to the conventions of our society, whether we live in city neighbourhood, small town, or country hamlet. As one who is decidedly unconventional, this has chafed and irked me for much of life, this attention to the trivial, the superficial, the unimportant. That sense of being rubbed the wrong way though, becomes less and less important as I simply become more me. The inner me is the real me, and the me I choose to show to the world…convention be damned.

The friend that I wrote my email to this morning gave me this lovely little objet d’art some years ago, and attached a note to the back saying “Wish to be there”. My friend, I think I am there, and that is what I most wished to tell you, and could not find words for…

With all my faults and failings, turmoil and despair, missteps and meanderings, I am in that place of joy. To friends real and imaginary – come with me.

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.

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.

February 29 (first published 2012)

I cannot shake the idea that this day has some magic, somehow. Of course it is a calendar correction, and Wikipedia has a fine article on that. Doubtless you will have been inundated with stories of the folklore of the day as well. Still, a day that exists only once every four years… Not quite exactly, but do read Wikipedia for details.

 So here we are, and what is this magic, anyway? I want to dig down, deep down into this feeling; something like being on a cusp. Or perhaps merely the anticipation of Spring? Sigh. By now you will be asking yourself, my imaginary friend, just why you are reading this stream of consciousness.

 It has to do, I think, with the idea of reviving a feeling of wonder in the ordinary and the prosaic. The way we used to come together, in the community sense, merely to mark in some shared way all manner of things. The first of May. The harvest. The turning of the tides… These ideas changed over the course of centuries, naturally, though they seem almost ghostly remnants, now.

Well, here is my insignificant contribution to marking this day, this year. Because the magic I believe in is that spark that yearns for connection. Beyond the connection of family and friends, the connection that extends to town, or city, or village, to nation, to culture. That we share some simple experiences, and because we share them, we shall make note.

 

paint your day with marvelous colours...

paint your day with marvelous colours…

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!

Possibilities…

I dream. I pause, suspended, almost. Winter settles in, and the chill days evoke a need to snuggle deeper into that duvet…to think, to nurture myself, to find that centre of calm that the season evokes.

The calmness is all on the surface, in nature, for the work of winter is busy laying the seeds of spring…trees and shrubs and plants assimilate minerals and carry on all manner of preparation for the time of lush growth. I do believe, my imaginary friend, that we humans ought do something of the same. To incubate the hopes and ideas for the coming year, to swirl and sift the possibilities and imaginings, to let the dreams sharpen their focus and become the shape of the life we wish.

Perhaps the “New Year’s Resolution” is the metaphor our culture offers up, though it seems to fall short of the true thing: to change (to grow) is not the action that follows a decision but the thoughts and mindful musings and serious questioning that lead to the decision…The beautiful month of January – which name derives from the two-faced god, Janus, who is both looking forward and looking back – is a threshold month, indeed.

Yes, I shall snuggle deeper into that warm nest of bed. I have big, bold dreams and I shall take the time to limn the outlines a little more cleanly and clearly, I think. Out of the vast trackless sea of shimmering possibilities rises a star…A guiding star. A centering star. A star to light my wandering path. Oh, and I begin to see the possibilities of where it leads…

May you light up your possibilities in the coming year, my friends.

rockymountainstars

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

From The Heart

I have been asked a lot, of late, about my very personal writing, and it strikes me that I have a bit to say about this…Well, here it is, my imaginary friend.

My background in writing is non-fiction and academic, although I did – and sometimes still do – write bad poetry. My first university English courses certainly emphasized formal, technical writing, in which the personal was distinctly frowned upon. I don’t recall this posing a problem at the time, but as the years went by and I became immersed in the world of business, my distress at the formulaic and superficial writing – of business in particular – became acute. These were also the years when such trite expressions as “Have a Nice Day” began to be repeated, ad nauseam, often mandated by head offices in the belief that this somehow constituted a customer care ethic. On one particularly poignant occasion, an overly squeaky, bubbling cashier caused a woman in the line ahead of me to burst into tears, and to tell the young woman she’d just come from a funeral and merely wanted to get home quickly…

Which caused a lot of deep thinking on my part. Why on earth would management insist on such rote phrases, instead of teaching a service ethic? The quiet distress of the woman in front of me was self-evident to all but the most clueless. As I began teaching and training people in the hospitality industry, I observed the same sort of mindless, faux-happy approach to people that sincerely bothered me. Surely an ethos of service entails a reading of the customer – whether a boisterous, happy crowd, a hungry family, a quiet couple looking for privacy. I studied marketing, and suffered through endless metric analysis of why the broadcast mediums were losing advertising share. I began a thesis on social media marketing and was influenced by Theodore Zeldin, who wrote of the dead language of business, and David Whyte, who wrote of the need for poetry in corporate life. And, of course, I pondered the spectacular rise of social media, from blogging to Facebook and everything in between.

Broadcast media suffer because the message is one way, and because often it is a specially banal sort of messaging. Social media, on the other hand, plays to the ability of people to respond, to query – and to create their own version of this-is-me…Mark Zuckerberg talks about sharing and its power to change the world, and all cynicism about corporate entities aside, this is a compelling view of a brave new world.

Whatever we share of ourselves, spoken or written, when it is true to our own self, is deeply moving and compelling for others. It does not signify that we share a cultural or political viewpoint, a country or system of governance, or language, even. What does signify is that we share those human values that are both universal, and also very particular…That we share love, and kindness, and the nurturing of children and families. That loss and grief is a part of life – that others have experienced it, as well as illness and pain and poverty, does not necessarily make it better – but it helps us understand that some things can be endured, while other things can be changed and eradicated. When we share a moment of recognition of pleasure in a cute kitten video – yes, I use the cliché purposefully – we are sharing something that transcends the human condition, even, and brings us into the nature of being and of life itself.

I cannot say it comes easily to me, this writing and speaking of the deeply personal. But I can say, at the end of the day, (another purposefully-used cliché) it is probably all that matters – for you and I to share some bit of ourselves. And laugh, or weep, or ponder intently –  merely smile, pose a question to ourselves, feel transcending joy, to be moved, or unsettled, or disturbed…To begin with love for self and our immediate others and to move from there. To make our hearts grow a size or two…this is what matters, I think. With love, from VivianLea.

From My He

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.