" SpiritofSaltSpring:BC:Canada:GulfIslands:SaltSpring:Salt Spring:

May 26, 2008

Women have gardens, Men have Houkah pipes

Forget all those books that have already been written about the differences between men and women. You know the ones I mean: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. There are others. Why women can't read maps and why men can't listen! Who says?

Well, there's no need to read those if you haven't already. Let me just give you a wee visual that will sum up the difference in a snapshot in case you haven't already lived it by being in a relationship.

Picture me. Beautiful, sunny day. Late afternoon. I've been dreaming of my balcony. This year I'm going to do it right. I'm going to make sure all my containers have proper drainage. I'm going to think about the flowers' colour combinations and I'm going to choose the right flowers so that my balcony will be my very own paradise that I can sit on at dusk and listen to the birds and watch the passers-by coming out of the park.

I'm deciding which flowers should go in which pots. I like taking the flowers out of their flimsy, plastic containers, just like when you were a kid, and had to pat the sand out of the bucket right before you quickly turned it over like an upside-down cake.

I grab the moist,straw-like roots and break them up. I position my little lovelies into the perfect position in the planter to ensure their continued growth happily throughout the season until I've nurtured an explosion of colour worthy of a photo essay. That's a snapshot of me in my very toned-down version of paradise.

Have you got that scene? Good. Keep that visual in your head. Now, just scan over a little. Move the binoculars a little to the left, over to the next balcony. If I stand at the far end of mine, it's situated so that I can see some of my neighbour's balcony.

I look over and what do I see? I see a gleaming Hookah pipe. The water is bubbling furiously in its bulbous royal blue bottom. And, I see my neighbour's hairy white legs. I have to stop myself from imagining the rest of his pudgy body, lounging, very Men are from Mars-like (well at least they have an excuse I think to myself).

He has put down a grimey, foam pad. No need for wasting money on deck furniture. There's no need for chairs. Might as well just lay, seal-like, on the cement on a grimey foam and smoke the Hookah pipe at leisure.

I picture the hose reaching up to his mouth at an odd angle. He's probably drooling as he half-dozes looking a bit the way a baby does when its sucking on a soother, eyelids fighting to stay open. What's he got in there I wonder. Is it just flavored tobacco or is it something else? At least he's quiet. I really don't care what my neighbours do as long as they do it quietly.

He's got a John Belushi-like quality about him my neighbour. He's dark haired. He's got a thick beard. He likes to wear Aviator glasses from the Mod Squad era. Apparently, he works in animation. I'm guessing the pizza delivery place is on speed dial. I'm annoyed by the cigarette smoke being infinite. Every once in a while the burping and the snapping of the top off the two-four lets me know he's home. Ah, summer in Vancouver. It's such an idyllic little Canadian scene. People are clamouring to get here, lying to immigration, so they can be just like "us"!

Now, it's not as if I'm some girlie-girl. I'm not some extra feminine little princess; a hostess with the mostess! Not by a long shot! I'm just saying, look no further in how men and women are different! Right here. Right where I live. There's me. There's him. Mere metres from each other yet kilometres, perhaps galaxies, apart. I means, sure, I'm not quite from Venus. On some days lately we're not quite sure which planet I should call home. But, I'd say he's definitely from Mars.

Actually, he's from the Prairies. But hey. Close enough!

May 25, 2008

'Bikely' Your Friendly Cycling Forum

I finally got around to buying a bike rack for the car. I put the damned thing on. Checked it twice. Pulled the straps. Got the bikes on the bike rack. Did notice that it wasn't quite sitting right on the trunk. Decided to be uncharacteristically optimistic about the niggling doubt about the bike rack's position.

Got in the car. Anticipation building about our little adventure. A block from home the bikes almost fall off the car. Perfect! Just perfect! Pull over. The car now has scratches when it previously had none. Good to know I saved $20 on the bike rack in exchange for the $300 paint job it now surely requires and will not be getting anytime soon. Damned bikes!

Repositioned the bike rack. Tightened the straps as if we were preparing to repell down Mount Everest. Got back in the car. Can't take my eyes off the rear view mirror. I'm staring at the bikes. Almost kill two pedestrians at Bute and Georgia I'm staring so hard at the bikes. "Jesus, what are they blind," says Dee. "Can't they see you aren't looking,"she says! There's something not quite right with that statement I think to myself given that I am THE DRIVER!

Thank you Dee for being a front seat driver. I could have killed 'em. Those pedestrians owe you big time. I promise to keep my eyes on the road. Girl Guides honour (except I never was a Girl Guide). Anybody got a valium? We keep driving.

We make it out to Abbotsford. The bikes didn't fall off in the middle of the Port Mann bridge.

I don't own a single biking book. It was enough to get the rack. The rest, well, I thought I'd just wing it. I'd done a route a couple of years ago out there. I like to think of it as the "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there" style of daytripping. It's not recommended actually. Not in life. Not on a bike. Trust me! I've become an authority on the topic.

And, this is the real purpose of me sharing this not very exciting little post with you. To find some route that we could follow, I checked the Web and happened across this bike forum called Bikely. Once you've done a bike route, you can then sign up, and share your route for others to follow. There appear to be routes from all over the world.

Of course, Dee and I found out this weekend that posting a route doesn't mean that anyone else would actually want to follow your route. Lisa? If you're reading this post, remember Curtis? Africa by bike? Enough said.

Our route - the Sumas Prairie Farm Route - started off really well. Beautiful. Farms. Cows. Horses. Fields. Sprinklers. The tell-tale aroma of manure wafting through the 30 degree sunshine. No traffic. But then, it all went downhill at the end. It wasn't long enough. And, the route paralleled a Highway for the last 20 minutes. Nothing like a nice quiet little ride in the country beside a roaring freeway. Route taker beware.

Got any good biking tales? We're all ears.

May 22, 2008

The Truth about Lies

You've probably had this experience. You're reading. And, an idea or two strikes you as so important at the time that you stop. You read it out loud. And again. And, then you just want to SHARE it.

You'll recall, because you're hangin on my every word of every Blog post, that I won a book at the Ridge Theatre sometime in the past month from the doctor who was speaking about why giving, or more specifically loving kindness, is good for our health.

Here it is. From Why Good Things Happen to Good People. Here's my stop and read out loud statements...

Three lies:
1. The lie that we are what we have
2. The lie that we are what we do for a living
3. The lie that we are what other people say about us

Now, I believe that I was never that tied to lie No. 1. That's just a no brainer. And, I've never been able to afford an Emerald Green Jag, a private island or a pool boy. I'm so far from that reality, I don't even know what I should be wishing for. What it's called. Who makes it. The name on the label. My monetary reality makes not buying into Lie No. 1 pretty easy. George Carlin set that one straight a long time ago.Just stuff, Baby! Nice stuff in some instances, really beautiful stuff, but still, the monkey on your back, the Albatross around your neck, the Garage Sale covered in dust, this guy is trying to get the damned thing for free and I'm only asking $5 stuff.

My big problem lie was definitely No. 2. Especially when I was younger. It may have been because I had such lousy jobs.

But don't be fooled. It works both ways. Don't lie to yourself because you're the President. Don't lie to yourself, underestimating yourself, because you're the janitor. Who are you really if you know what I mean. As a person? How do you treat other people? What does your inner self bring to the world. It's got nothing to do with how much you're being paid and what your job title is. At some point, you won't be attached to any title. Then what? Just you and the mirror staring back.

This past 10 months, which I like to think of as "the pause" between the first and second half of my life, has been fantastic at allowing me the luxury of time to take a more objective look at those things that we sometimes just accept but may no longer be valid for us.

The past 10 months has definitely been about getting closer to the truth.

What are you hanging on to that just has no place, anymore, in the present? What's the hardest thing to let go of? What does it say about you? Does it really say what your ego is saying it says. Check it out!

Maybe you can come up with a few more - lies we tell ourselves. Feel free to add them as comments so we can think about those as well.

May 18, 2008

Trev Deeley Motorcycle Exhibit

Went to the Trev Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition yesterday as part of the Vancouver Photography Meet-up Group. It's a cool place to check out if you're into bikes as in you own one or even if you just like to dream.

There are about 200 bikes on display some going back to 1912 and the exhibit is attached to the store. Since I have almost no contact with bikes or bikers, except for a couple of rides as a passenger on a Harley last year which made me wish I could own a bike, I had no idea such a place existed.

I know that Harley Davidson has one of the strongest Brands in the world but I had no idea that you could buy so much stuff related to bikes including furniture and tiny baby wear that says Born to Ride.

It's a great way to pass a couple of hours if you happen to be in Burnaby. The historian on-site is Terry Rea and he told me that he had a request from some woman who was turning 40 last year. She wanted to be driven to her birthday party on a Harley but she wanted to be totally outfitted. The store obliged and he drove her right into her party - at some public place, up the stairs, and right into the venue.

He'd recently returned from some vintage bike auction in Las Vegas where the Exhibit picked up two more bikes for pocket change at $100,000.

Check out more of my photos if you wish on Flickr

May 15, 2008

Plastic Time Bombs

For quite some time now I've been boiling the water for tea in a hard, white plastic tea kettle.

I must have bought it at least 4 years ago and the thing is indestructible. I once even left it on the element, which was turned on when I thought it was off, and in spite of the strands of toffee-like plastic that melted off its bottom as a result, it kept on workin'. And, until now, have I once thought about its impact on my health? Of course not! Don't be silly! I'm no little paranoid, hypochondriacal woos.

Suddenly, with all this talk about ensuring that your food/water is not in contact with plastic, (especially if you're heating it up) I'm feeling a bit like Oops!

One day I expect I might just get out of bed and begin to sound like I'm trying to cough up a hairball, like a beautiful little kitty might, and instead of hair, I'll cough up a sizeable, round ball of contaminated white plastic. Ugh. Gross!

It was the new Blog called The Green Room on the David Suzuki Foundation website that reminded me how I've never really been all that good in dealing with those things in life that others categorize as "obvious".

I had no idea that different numbers within the recycling triangle on the plastics actually correlated with different levels of toxicity for humans. Hello! What does it mean when your tea kettle doesn't even have one of those? Oh my god. The sky is falling! I should probably be living in a bubble and be quarantined.

Why not take a look around your own digs and see what plastic gadgets you may need to get rid of, especially, if you're heating food or boiling water in the toxic thangs.

Oh, and while I'm ranting. Kudos to David Suzuki for making it clear to people that it's actually perfectly fine to drink the tap water in Vancouver and spending money on bottled water is just too freakin pampered Northern American for words. My words, not his.

You can find out more from The Green Room, a new Blog from the David Suzuki Foundation.

May 14, 2008

The Perfect Timing of Dr. Seuss

You know when you find yourself running around your apartment with the Tarot cards in one hand and the sweet grass in the other that it's a sign things aren't going quite as well as they could be.

I purchased the sweetgrass from an old, brown woman in the summer of 2006 from a dark cave-like room which was her kitchen at the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico in 2006. It's a World Heritage site and a cool place, albeit a little touristy even though people still live there without electricity or indoor plumbing.

Today I lit the burnt ends of the sweetgrass bundle. They crackled. Standing on my tiptoes, I began waving the dried wand of sweetgrass and lavender around trying to ensure the cleansing spirits of the smoke would reached past the dust and make its presence known to any stuck energy that has seemingly taken up residence.

I double checked to make sure any souvenirs from Chiapas like Zapatista dolls weren't lurking in old storage.

I wondered aloud about what might have happened to that voodoo doll that was a miniature replica of an old boss. A co-worker had painstakingly (pun not really intended but hey, good one) and lovingly sewn that thing by hand as my going-away present. It was complete with pins and a noose, which, in hindsight, is hard for me to believe. I don't think that's funny now. Honest! That was 20 years ago. I was so immature then!:-)

That voodoo doll better not be hiding anywhere around here I thought, wondering if such things could have an impact on the current state of affairs.

That's right. I have no shame. I admit it. Something isn't quite right. Things aren't moving. If it doesn't hurry up and shift Mercury will be in retrograde again on May 26th and then it will be hurry up and wait all over again like some never ending centrifugal force leading nowhere.

The patience has run out. Completely. I have never had more to offer an employer or more interviews to no avail. What gives? The What Colour is Your Parachute book says it can take 1 month for every $10,000 you intend to be paid. A friend of mine jokingly said, I can't wait two years for someone to hire me!

Anyway, yesterday, I was passing some time in Chapters before meeting a friend and I spotted a Dr. Seuss book. They were just positioned there on the shelf as gifts for new graduates. It's the one that's called "Oh, the Places You'll Go..."
I picked it up and started reading the story and it's so great. Oh, the places you'll go. Or not,I added, a little under my breath.

And, of course, Seuss makes reference to "the waiting place". His verse in this book speaks to how we can all get into a slump every once in a while but we must never give up because

...will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)

It was perfect timing to see that yesterday. You can read the words by Dr. Seuss here.
Stand up when you do. With a little FEELING people! C'Mon!

Running Past Eye Candy

Question? How do you know when you've become a "real" runner?
Answer! You have an injury! You come home and you wrap your ankle in ice and put the tensor bandage around it. Achilles. Ouch!

The 5km clinic hasn't been as much fun as "Learn to Run" was partly because our group has dwindled to three of us (plus two-year-old Hanna).

Hanna doesn't run. She'd REALLY slow us down, even more than we slow ourselves down. Jen pushes her in one of those running strollers. And, then our leader, Carol, who was training for something called "The Goofy" which is an endurance race hosted at Disneyworld in Florida (and IMHO sounds like a very unhealthy endeavor considering that it's a marathon immediately followed by a half-marathon) suffered an injury that has completely sidelined her.

So, we've been running with Pam who was recovering from a very bad bout of the flu this past winter and that really cut into her training. I can't help but notice that runners, like seniors, can spend a lot of time talking about their physical ailments.

One of the really great things about running in a group is being able to go into the trails in Stanley Park. If I was running alone, I wouldn't do that. It's so green and quiet and beautiful and you get to notice things like a blue heron standing in the middle of Beaver Lake eating a poor little frog (gulp). You get to see baby ducks and swans, nesting. The air seems fresher inside the trails and it's softer running on trail than cement. You get to be reminded that you are one of the luckiest people on the planet because you live in a beautiful place where Stanley Park is your backyard a mere 3 minute walk down the street and your middle-aging body is actually running through it like you were a kid again.

One of the women who runs with us is from Costa Rica. She's doing a post doctorate fellowship and she's doing her fellowship as a pediatrician at Children's Hospital. She's everything you would hope for in terms of personal qualities in a doctor who looks after sick kids. She's REALLY warm and nice. She greets you with a hug every time. I'm just guessing that she's in her early 30s.

She looks like a runner: Tall, thin, long legs. In fact, she's beautiful. And, English, is of course, not her first language which, combined with her accent, makes the way she puts sentences together extremely charming.

We've been running together for four months now and we've gotten to know a little bit about each other. I know she has a boyfriend and he lives in Spain and he's coming to visit in August. If Wednesday's run was any indication, his arrival can't happen soon enough.

Last week, we were nearing the end of our 5K run. We'd gone along Lost Lagoon, up past the Rose Garden towards Beaver Lake. We then left Beaver Lake halfway around it and headed onto Ravine trail that leads out onto the Seawall. Then, we ran south along the Wall all the way back to the Vancouver Rowing Club.

As we were nearing the end of our run, Hazel, the Costa Rican, lets out this little spontaneous yelp as if someone had just come up behind her and tickled her or scared her. I looked and this really good-looking guy had just ran past us in the other direction.

It was as if, in shock, the air just came out of her and she emitted this noise involuntarily. When she did that, we all turned around to look and he turned around at the same time and it was really funny in a "you had to be there" kind of way.

That's life in Vancouver. It happens so rarely - seeing a specimen like that - that it's like being on the receiving end of an unexpected jolt from a defibrillator.

So. The moral of this story? There is still some straight eyecandy here afterall!!

May 12, 2008

Nudist Buddhists and other Life Lessons

"We're all motherless children now," I said to Neil and Beth who called spontaneously and treated me to brunch at Burgoo yesterday. "Who sang that?" I asked. "Was it Leonard Cohen?" "No," said Neil. "I can see him. He's so clearly in my mind. Donavan? No. It was at Woodstock. Woodstock must have a website," he said.
(After note: Richie Havens sang it)

The first Mother's Day after your mother has died is strange. It's like one of those silly fridge magnets. The ones that show a woman and she's saying to herself, Oh I knew there was something. I forgot to get married.Or, I forgot to have a baby. It's a bit like that.

You feel like you've forgotten something and then in a moment's afterthought you realize that it's not necessary, to remember, afterall. You don't have to buy flowers or think of something to do together or make a reservation. But, she's there, all around you. Regardless of whether the relationship was really close or really distant, there's a tinge of sadness. If the love was obvious and cherished, there's sadness for what was and is no more. There's sadness, as well, for all that the relationship wasn't, and what will never be when the love loomed silent and difficult.

And, on that kind of day, friends make all the difference.

"I've been thinking lately that I'd like to just run away to a convent," said Beth. "Really?" I said. "That's weird. I've had those thoughts, on and off, as well." "It's a symptom." she said. "A symptom?" I ask. "Yes. I was talking to a homeopath the other day and I mentioned that I'd been feeling like I just wanted to run away to a convent. That's when she said, there's a remedy for that." "What was it?" I laughed.

"She couldn't remember. She would have have had to look it up." "Oh, so she wasn't being sarcastic?" I said. Across the table Neil begins to imitate the motions of flipping through a really big book, as if he were a wizard in Harry Potter. Personally, I thought it was great that he didn't really react to that comment; didn't take it personally that his wife had just said that.

"Let's see...Under the C..."he said. You could almost see half-glasses low on his nose, as he pretended to flip through page after page. "Running away to a convent," he says. "MMMMM? Nope. I can't put my finger on it. It must be in one of my other books."

"What does that say," he continued, "about all those women who actually wanted to BECOME nuns. Are you saying, Beth, that if we just found the remedy for 'wanting to run away to a convent...' that the entire Catholic church would clear of nuns?"

"I'd really like to know what that remedy is," I say. "I can't imagine it. Two parts ylang, ylang, 9 hours continuous recitation of the Lord's Prayer, and a snip of Johhny Depp's hair stirred into chamomile tea...?Is that the kind of remedy we're talking about? And, if there's a remedy for that, maybe there's a remedy for, well, just about anything."

Later, after brunch, on relocation at Locarno Beach, Neil says out of the blue, I want to become a Nudist Buddhist. "A Nudist Buddhist?" I say, laughing. "What the hell?" "Well," says Neil, "I could live in a tent on Wreck Beach. It really doesn't matter to me where I live. And, Beth is always referring to Buddism. She's always saying, ...that's not the Bhuddhist way or that's very Zen-like and so on. So, I thought, hey, if you combined my way of being and hers you'd have a Nudist Bhuddist.

"Well good," I say, "because Beth could keep an eye on you, staring down at you from her fabulous, well-decorated condo overlooking Wreck beach." (Beth, I should add, is an interior designer who would never want to live in a tent on Wreck Beach, or any other beach, at least not for more than a couple weeks at a time as they do every summer in the San Juan islands).

"You guys scare me," I say.

When you go out with Neil and Beth you always learn a lot. I think that's a common denominator for most of my friends. You learn a lot. You're just never sure how much of it is actually verifiable.

Yesterday I learned things about flower essences. I learned that it can suck to work in retail because you never get a break even when you work 9 hours in a row. I learned how the line on the freighters where you're supposed to fill the hold to got it's name. It was named after some guy whose name begins with a P. I forgot. Damn. I forgot the word. I learned that there's a large Basque population near Boise, Idaho where Beth hails from. I learned about a website called Blurb.com where you can create your own book for a mere $50 and that "freighterdog" has the title for his book already. I learned that kayak rental is two for one on Tuesdays at Ecomarine Kayak on Locarno Beach. I learned, although I'm guessing, that most crabs you catch off the pier at Locarno are too small to keep.

Mostly, I learned that it's great to have friends who are there for you when you need to forget about reality for a few hours. But then again, I've known that for a long time. Thanks Neil and Beth!

May 10, 2008

Watercolour painting and Lucky Accidents

Quite a while ago now I took a watercolour painting class over a period of about a year. Watercolour painting is really difficult it seems to me but it's also quite addictive.

There were some unexpected things about taking a painting class that really surprised me. One of the things you begin to notice when you do watercolour painting is how much the process mimics life itself. You begin to notice how your way of painting can really reflect things about your way of being. You begin to notice that, in watercolour painting, as in life, you have a lot less control than you originally might think you do.

Our instructor, a woman from Iran, used to talk about "lucky accidents" in watercolour painting. "Lucky accidents" are when the paint runs in such a way that the end result is actually pleasing and enhances the painting. In painting, as in life, sometimes there are lucky accidents. When you meet the people or a person you need to meet when you need to meet them for example. But, as in life, you need to practice to really get good at something.

You begin to notice the way you use the paint to express yourself. You begin to notice whether you are stingy or generous in the amount of paint you use. Are you afraid to take risks? Do you timidly and cautiously use tiny strokes or do you boldly run the brush over the water and then get the colour dark and luscious and then boldly draw the brush over the page with abandon and confidence.

You begin to see whether you truly are in it for "the journey" or if you're way too focused on the end result. In that way, it's a bit like sex.

Are you afraid to make a mistake? You get to see how big a perfectionist you are and hear how critical you are of yourself in ways that are really tangible and undeniable even if you already suspected it.

You get to see how if you stick with something, then it truly is possible to transform what initially seems like something that has been ruined into something that's interesting and individual and that only you could have created. I think that's a lot like some relationships. They can seem ruined at times or uninspired but if you will yourself to stick with it, then they can come around into something unique to the two people involved and flourish again in spite of, or maybe because of their imperfections. There is great value in vulnerability and imperfection. It has taken me a long time to know this.

You get to be reminded that no matter what is being painted, everyone sees the same thing with different eyes because we each perceive the same thing so differently. Nothing's changed except the person who is viewing whatever they are trying to paint.

You get to see whether you have the ability to stick with something or not and how there's a very fine line between being quick to give up and a painting that has been overdone because you can ruin a painting by overworking it.

What I love most about painting is that it takes you both in and out of the present moment at the very same time. It's one of those things that requires so much focus that time passes and you're not even aware of it. That's a good thing. It doesn't surprise me that studies have shown that people who paint or do something artistic tend to live longer.

In the end it really doesn't matter what you do. It doesn't have to be watercolour painting. But, learning something new, having to improve, feeling committed to it, and getting excited because you can see incremental bits of improvement are bits of time that really matter. It's a way of being engaged that makes getting out of bed in the morning just a little bit more interesting. And, I don't know anyone who couldn't use that at some point throughout the years.

May 09, 2008

Vancouver AIDS Memorial

Yesterday, on my walk, I took a closer look at the AIDS Memorial just off the seawall past the Inukshuk on English Bay. I really like the way the names are cut out. That way, in the Spring, when the grass is really green, its colour shines through, as you can see in the photos, ever hopeful.

There's a quote by Dr. Peter, the physician who helped people learn more about HIV/AIDS through his video diary carried on CBC Television and who died of AIDS and has a center named after him. His quote says, But the Energy that is Me will Not be Lost. And, he was right, because his name lives on in the form of the Dr. Peter Center.

And, the energy of the others lives on as well...through those who knew them, through memories, through their spirits, through their names on this structure overlooking a beautiful spot in Vancouver...

May 08, 2008

Riding Memories on a Carousel in Burnaby

Last Sunday, we headed out to Burnaby to partake in the Rhododendron Festival and wander the grounds of the Shadbolt Center and the Burnaby Art Gallery. It was a good day with lots to see, lots of flowers and art and pottery and food and kids drawing, and the natural beauty of the area.

Then, Gwen mentioned that we should go on a ride at the carousel. I didn't even know there was a carousel there. It's part of Burnaby's Heritage Village Museum site and this particular carousel was the 119th carousel to be built in 1912 by the C.W. Parker company in Leavenworth, Kansas.

There is just something about riding a beautifully restored, old-fashioned merry-go-round and listening to a restored 1925 Wurlitzer Military Band organ as you're bobbing up and down that can't help but put a smile on your face. Especially if you're a really big kid. And who isn't really?

Maybe once a year we should all get off the metaphorical adult "merry go round" and go for a ride on a real Merry Go Round like this one that has been so lovingly restored and maintained in Burnaby.

May 06, 2008

Get your Mango out of my Green Tea Ice Cream

This afternoon I'm in a really good mood. I've passed the first stage of a telephone interview with an employer I'm actually excited about. So, once that's over I decide to go to Granville Island. I walk to the little ferry, get on it, explore Opus and just wander around.

Afterwards I treat myself to a green tea ice cream cone and I'm sitting in the main courtyard, pretty much in bliss,grateful to be enjoying my ice cream and the sunshine. Suddenly, out of nowhere this guy sits down so close to me that I literally have to grab my bag so he doesn't sit on it.

I look at him. It annoys me that he has the entire courtyard and he squeezes in beside me. But, whatever.

So, I'm licking my ice cream. I'm feeling happy. He takes out a mango and starts cutting it in half. Then he looks at me and starts proclaiming something about his mango; something about it being the perfect thing to eat. It's straight from nature. It's fresh and tropical and (full of pesticides) I think but don't say. Are you trying to make me feel guilty I say in a teasing kind of way (knowing that he doesn't really have a hope in hell of doing that because I don't care).

He's a walking stereotype of the earnest, vegan zealot. You can picture him I'm sure. Can't you almost get a whiff of hemp just because he's sitting that close. It's like you wonder if maybe his entire wardrobe, including his shoes, aren't made out of cork or maybe the treads of recalled, recycled Firestone tires. He's clear eyed. He's thin. The whites of his eyes are really white. He's very healthy. If he was a dog, his nose would be cold and wet. He has an accent - German perhaps - and he's proselytizing, as passionately as a Jehovah Witness, except his message is nutrition. Whatever.

At this point I'm wondering what exactly the message is actually and why he feels the need, like a homing device, to have attached himself to me as the recipient. Speak to the hand I think - the sweet, gooey, ice-cream drenched green tea cholesterol laden hand!

"I'm a non mainstream health researcher," he says, "and I have had mentors who have helped me know the lies that exist about nutrition. He said it just like that. Is he an android I wonder. I just stare at him. I remind myself to try and be nice. To just listen. To be curious. To just see where he's going with this.

Then he says, Do you know any other species that feels the need to warm its food before consuming it? I think about that for a second and suddenly out of nowhere, much to my delight, the image of a little Canadian Beaver waddling out of the pond, over towards the microwave with a box of Michelina in its claws enters my mind. (Do Beavers have claws?)

"Well, maybe that's because no other species has the ability to warm it's food up," I say. "They don't own ovens." Maybe that's not the best example of your point I say. It's a perfectly fine example he says. Warming food destroys the food's make-up, alters it's genetic make-up," he says. Alright. I've heard that before. No big epiphany happening for me in that teeny little insight. You're going to have to bring out the wheatgrass-tofu shake and do better than that I think.

"Have you seen what the sad American diet does to people when they eat Kentucky Fried Chicken, or macaroni and cheese?" he asks. I take a quick glance down at my stomach. "That's not even really food," he says.

At this point I literally look up. I look up at the sky. I'm wondering if someone from my past has sent this person to me. Did he just drop out of the sky and land beside me on the bench. Is that why he's so close to me? I sometimes wonder if there are those amongst us who aren't actually human. They're something else. Aliens with messages. Nutritional experts from another planet. My guardian angel in disguise.

It's not the first time I've met some nice young man who socially must have got the last first class ticket on the Clueless train. You just want to give him a lesson. You want to say, look, if you ever want to get laid, let me give you some advice about women because even though I'm old enough to be your mother, I'm guessing your approach needs some work. Can you say Boor? Can you say, ask me if I care what your raison d'etre is?

I listened to him a little while longer. I was really, really, honestly, trying to be patient. Then, he took out the second mango. That's when I decided okay. Enough! One mango worth of unwanted nutritional advice is bearable. Two is just painful.

"Well, I'm going now," I say, practically ripping my bag out from under his butt cheek. "Actually, I was just wanting to enjoy the sunshine. I didn't really feel like a lecture today." I walk away and he yells after me, "But, you're not being honest!"

Honest? I'm not being honest? I didn't even WANT to speak. I had no desire to interact. And besides, I was there first dammit!

Can you say freak magnet? C'est moi!

May 02, 2008

Sincere Giving and Longevity

What did the Zen Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?
Make me one with everything!
:-) (courtesy of Stephen Post, PhD at his talk on May 2nd in Vancouver)

Do you know what the most popular course at Harvard University is? According to Stephen Post, Ph.D, it's the course on Happiness. That could be because 25% of students self-report depression and 16% have actually been diagnosed as clinically depressed. That percentage, according to Post, is fairly representative of undergrads in general throughout North America.

It used to be that happiness was considered a frivolous pursuit. But that might also be because in 1936 people were a lot happier than they are now even though they had less, materialistically.

Now, insurance claims and short term and long term disability related to depression is sky rocketing. Depression in the workplace/society has become a focus of insurance companies because of depression's impact on dollars at a corporate level. (It's not so much about individual suffering but about corporate suffering. And, that's why, it has become a focus. Whatever it takes I suppose).

Enter Professor Post. His book is titled, Why Good Things Happen to Good People. How to live a longer, healthier, happier life by the simple act of giving.With contributions from the Templeton Foundation, Dr. Post has created the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love.

Now, as he pointed out, it's not that bad things don't happen to good people but science is discovering that it's good to be good to other people and to oneself. It's good for the heart. It's good for longevity. It's good for your mental state of well being. In fact, those people who take the focus off themselves, who feel gratitude, who can take pleasure in simple things - nature, another, regardless of their life circumstances, are genuinely more happy to a significant degree than those who don't, can't.

It has been scientifically proven that sincere giving (of self, tithing, being compassionate)with "sincere" being the operative word actually leads to physiological changes that can prolong your life. One study found that older adults (over the age of 65)who participated in informal giving, merely by offering acts of kindness and assistance to those who may need more assistance than they themselves need, had a 44% reduction in mortality.

Another study found that minor amounts of volunteering each week (as little as 2 hours per week) in which acts of compassion, simple acts of loving kindness were exchanged from one person to another resulted in a feeling of effervesence and peace.

Receiving is also part of giving. You must learn how to receive well, he says because in doing so you are reinforcing a positive feeling towards the giver thereby reinforcing the benefits of giving and promoting that way of being out into the universe.

So, the next time someone wants to give you something, receive it with gratitude and grace because it's not about you. It's about them. And, if you've ever given something to someone who doesn't receive well, you know how your heart feels. The energy is depleted in some way.

I noticed reference to Dr. Post's talk just this morning. I had no plans and it had been a day of silence, frustratingly so. In spite of everything I have to offer an employer, I am in a place where I have not been able to find a new place of employment. Yes, I am being discriminating, it has to be right for me as well, and so far it's not happening:Yet!

In fact, it has gotten to a point where I'm looking around my apartment for signs that there is a problem with the Feng Shui. I know, because I have experienced difficult circumstances before - financially, emotionally, mentally - and what I learned from those is that this too shall pass. In fact, having experienced those is what has allowed me to handle this bout of not working quite well I believe.

So, I'm at the talk and at the end, there are some gifts. Dr. Post is standing up there with about 5 boxes to be given away. He gives away the first to someone whose birthday is in May. May 1. And, then he says, let's go with February. I'm going to give this to someone whose birthday is in February. Let's go with February 15th he says. Now, that's MY birthday. I jump up,he gives me the box and I thank him for my present and the talk ends.

I am feeling so happy, so lucky, so ecstatic about receiving this gift. The box is wrapped in such a way that I can't open it there so I really don't know what's inside of it.

And, when I get home, I open the box and the gift is wrapped in orange tissue paper and tied with jute. I rip open the paper, I have a huge smile, I'm genuinely excited and grateful. Inside, there's not just one book but two books AND a chocolate bar. At that point in time, I couldn't have been more happy. I'm not sure that winning the lottery would have made me more happy than in that moment last night (well, maybe a little).

And, the reason I was happy wasn't because of the books - the two books - one written by Dr. Post and the other entitled, The Power of Giving. I was happy because I felt that receiving that gift, last night, was a much bigger acknowledgement of the universe showing me that my instincts are on target. I believed I was going to receive one of those gifts. I knew it, in my heart, the moment I saw the gifts at the beginning of the evening. I don't know how I knew it. I believed it.

And, I believe receiving it confirmed for me that my instincts are working well. I believe that everything will be fine. I believe that going inside and believing the knowingness that is in your heart, even when externally things are seemingly falling apart, will allow that feeling to take you to a place you need to be. And, it has its own agenda. It's timeline is not connected to the timelines of social convention. It does not know about "the rent".

And, I feel that the tests I have had in life in my past have all been exercises in believing, in cultivating faith and being aware that what is taking place on an invisible level, is an important step in a spiritual journey where you must believe you are always in the "right" place for you regardless of what is happening on the physical plane.

Some might call it magical thinking. Many more people call it "faith".

May 01, 2008

The Ferry Caper

Any day my friend Lisa and I spend together is sure to result in at least one moment of uncontrollable, let me wipe my eyes, laughter. Today was no exception. The thing is, it's never about anything really all that funny. You know what I mean? We can just amuse ourselves. We feed off each other.

Ms. Wolfe decided that it was a Sunshine Coast kind of day. So, that's where we headed.

We caught the 9:30 ferry. Now. All it can take is just one word to spark a monologue from either of us that meanders from one topic to the next so far from the first word that set us off in the first place that we need each other to remind us where it all began. That's why we barely noticed that we weren't moving. We were sitting on the car deck, in the car, waiting to get off, and waiting, and waiting.

Apparently there was a problem. They couldn't get the ramp up. Finally, the ferry backed up and began circling. We were poppin' wheelies on the water. When the captain of a sea going vessel uses these words: "Let's keep our fingers crossed" in a sentence over the loud speaker, you know things aren't going quite as well as they could be. We spent 2 hours on the ferry on what is a 40-minute crossing.

We talked to a guy. He was coming back from some place in Alberta called Grand Cache. He had to decide whether he was going to take a job in a coal mine and he only had a few days to decide. He was worried about his cat. His cat would be starving if he didn't soon get off the ferry. It was an "electrical problem". Guys. Men's men. Men in trucks were all conferencing. They were appalled (my word, not there's) and shocked (my word not there's) that they - BC Ferries - didn't have a backup generator for this kind of thing. It's not as if they just started this business last year Lise astutely chimed in.

"What if the ferry began taking on water?" asked the guy with the starving cat. What then? We'd be stuck on the ferry and we'd have to jump even though it was almost right at the dock. "I never thought of that" I said. But that got me thinking, (always a dangerous thing) and I said, "What if there's a fire on the ferry and they can't get it up? The ramp that is! We could all die on a ferry right at the ramp."

Why is it that as soon as you can't get somewhere, like off a ferry, you can't stop wanting to know exactly what's going on even though it really doesn't matter. All that matters is you ain't going nowhere. Now in fact, Lise and I really didn't care because we were just hangin' out. Our only certain destination was Molly's Reach for lunch. You know, Molly's Reach of the Beachcomber's fame. You have to be Canadian eh to get that reference.

After a little reminiscing, perusing the old photos of Bruno and the gang, we got in touch with my friends Anne and Bob. They were home. So, we headed up just past Sechelt to where the Wakefield Inn used to be. Our visit included good china, tea, lemon and ginger loaves and a walk (they're so damned civilized!)

Then, we got back in the car, we headed back towards Roberts Creek. We come across this beautiful little woodworking shop called Inside Passage that doubles as a full-blown woodworking school. Note to self: Take a woodworking course! Guys are everywhere. We were greeted by one of the students, a middle-aged guy, who was excessively friendly and we got the full on tour. We got to see all the pieces he's made. What he's working on now. We got to see the other guys sweeping and cleaning up. We got to touch the wood and hear names of wood we'd never heard. Rhymes with Zebra. We got to run our finger along the smooth surfaces of beautiful little jewellery boxes with secret chambers. We got to fantasize about the kind of men who could actually make furniture. Who doesn't love wood? Wood is sexy!

Then, with time to kill, we drove back to Gibsons and wandered down the dock, peering into Sa Boothroyd's gallery (which was closed) and admiring all the boats in the harbour, especially the boat with all the plants on its roof.

It was a beautiful, relaxing, sunny gorgeous day and we had fun! And, bonus, we got off the ferry without incident on the way back.

All's well that end's well.