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

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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.

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.

Byways and Back Roads

A BackRoad, Childe Hassam

A Back Road, Childe Hassam

I wrote of the journey I am taking a couple of posts back, and you, my imaginary friend, will be pleased, I think, to know that I leave in a few days time. My preparations are almost complete, and no doubt I shall find myself in busyness and doing very shortly, so this seems a good time to write more of my inner journey.

I find myself yearning for change, though naturally I am fearful at the same time…for who knows what change may entail? It is not change of scenery I am looking for, although I welcome new landscapes. And I do not think my essential inner nature shall change, although deeper insights and more compassion for myself might be on my list of self-improvements. While the journey is an actual physical movement, it is not a material quest I go on, but a spiritual one. ‘Spiritual’ is used advisedly: I am not searching for a real or metaphorical holy grail.

The deep nature of the journey is to write a love story, a love story on many levels. To practise a craft with skill and pleasure, rather than to conform to the mediocrity of small town. This mediocrity is rooted in getting along with one’s neighbours, perhaps – of fitting in, of not getting beyond oneself – it is a good-hearted notion at its best, but ultimately stultifying. To wander a freer landscape – less confined than even a large island, in any event! Though I believe freer in the sense, also, that there is room for different styles of living. To explore landscape and people and ethos of a culture different than my own, with openness and rejection of stereotypes and delight in the learning of new things. To kiss the boy in the tender spot behind his ear and to find joy in the sureness of living precisely as one wants to live, every day. Shall these things come to pass? You shall know of my efforts at bringing them into being, at any rate.

Both intimacy and solitude are required for the writing of a great love story, I believe, and maybe a willingness to travel the byways and lesser known roads. I look forward to sharing them with you.

The Personal

This past week has been intensely bittersweet: the bitter of making goodbyes to very dear friends; the sweet of their company reminding me of the joy of such friendships. To set off on a journey entails goodbyes, even if they are temporary, and I have always been one to be the last guest at the party…For one truth in my life is this: my friendships are cherished, and being a part of the ordinariness and dailiness of people’s lives is a gift.

Me, and my imaginary friend came into being as a way to share the unfolding of my life with friends near and far, real and imagined, old and new. We live in times where those we love don’t always reside in geographic proximity, and the nurturing of relationships at a distance takes some care. Of course we want to hear of joys and sorrows, big events, and momentous occasions, but we also want to hear of the ordinary things, thoughtful moments, a thousand little things about those we care for. It is this very thing that we seek out in social media, though it seems to be rather a fashion to deride said mediums. Cute cat videos, selfies, and pictures of dinner are scoffed at as trivialities and time wasters, though I believe nothing could be further from the truth.

I don’t think many of us pretend that what we blog or share has earth-shaking significance: that is hardly the point. The point is that we are sharing – and that act of sharing is powerful, and connects us to people. I cannot imagine anything more likely to change our lives, our communities, our world, than this connection. The very idea of a democracy, as an example, is one in which we collectively engage in the question of how we shall live, as a society, and the more we are connected to the inner truths of other’s lives, the better able we are to truly engage in the democratic process. Maybe that’s a big leap for you, my imaginary friend – from a parade of selfies to the democratic process, though the evidence of how social media is changing our politics and political process is clear and unequivocal.

I had the privilege, also this week, of speaking with six different women about “The Dress”, last week’s blog post, and I am grateful for those conversations, some with women I know well and others I am only acquainted with. Each told her particular story of her own dress and its significance, and these were moving and deeply profound stories. The sharing of my simple story inspired much deeper sharing from others, and I can only be inspired in turn by beautiful insight into six different lives.

There is much more I could write, I once wrote a thesis on this theme, in fact, but I think I will leave you with a selfie, just for fun and provocation. The Belle Jar had a great post on selfies, also this week, and you might enjoy her take on the phenomenon, linked here. Do you recollect the proudly proclaimed slogan of second-wave feminism, “the personal is political”? Yes, yes it is.

Selfie