Me Too… and You and You and You

 

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The #MeToo campaign has stirred the pot this week for lots of women.

On a walk a few days ago, I came across an old van at the end of our road where it meets the much busier highway. I found myself immediately slowing down, all my senses on high alert. “Was there someone in the van? If so, who? And why was he parked there?”  I also checked to see if there were cars coming and how far away the nearest house was.

When I arrived home from my walk, I decided to ask my husband some questions. “Do you ever feel anxious when unknown cars slow down when you are out walking alone?” was my first question.

His answer, “No.”

And that is the problem. I’m imagining that most women would answer quite differently. Women have become hyper-sensitized to even ordinary events like cars driving slowly or  someone following  too closely on the sidewalk at night. And for good reason. We live our lives this way because sexual harassment and sexual assault happen regularly – they are real dangers and never far from our awareness.

The poet Nayyirah Waheed writes:

all of the women

in me

are tired

I think that speaks the truth for many. However, what we’re seeing this week is the conversation being opened up in profound ways. There is a new belief being born: a belief that talking about our experiences and standing together will make a difference.

I’m imagining what life would look like without the belief that men can be dangerous and we need to be on our guard. I imagine we would all feel a freedom and spaciousness that could change the world.

And that is exactly why the talks we’re having this week are so so important.

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What Will You Be Doing This Fresh Morning?

I am up at sunrise on this clear and frosty October morning, as I am many mornings. It’s the first time the frost has been heavy enough to be noticeable on the landscape and I feel as frosty as the fields.

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I am thinking, as I sit in the morning light, about this poem by Mary Oliver that I saw posted the other day.

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There is such a paradox between the serious business of being alive in a broken world and the fresh morning. Mary Oliver makes sure we notice this. She dresses the words “fresh morning” in purple and types them in an optimistic cursive script.  I have come to understand that to live in this world, maybe especially now, we have to be comfortable living with paradox. The world is broken and the day is fresh. What are we going to make of it?

Just as I am reflecting on the “brokenness of the world,”  I see the reflection of a flock of geese flying overhead in the still pinkish sky mirrored on my computer screen. The geese aren’t reflecting on the brokenness of the world at this moment. They are connecting to an ancient rhythm that sings to them about catching the northerly air flow on its way south.  It’s an old song about the ways of the world and survival.

I think I’ll take my cues from Mary Oliver and the geese today. There are beets to harvest,

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gardens to cut back before the winter snows,

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…and seeds of all different sorts to sow.

What will you be doing on this fresh morning?

Honey, I’m Home!

It all started off pretty routinely. My son, who is a busy professional and often works late at the office, wrote to let me know when he was arriving on the weekend. Since he was working late he couldn’t resist showing me a picture of  him slogging away at his desk. He followed up his real life picture with this:

fullsizeoutput_2b4You can see my motherly advice in the green. This was quickly followed by another picture:

 

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Hilarious, but how was he doing this? It turns out to be a Bitmoji avatar and you can have one too. I just created my own which, by the way, my husband does not find at all amusing. Here I am: 4B44ADFF-6DC3-4D59-A707-A131E7233A72.full

I could have added a lot more wrinkles which might have made it look more realistic but, quite frankly, I thought they just made me look angry.  

I don’t quite understand my husband’s less than receptive attitude about this unless, of course, it has something to do with how I am replying to his text messages now.
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It Could Be Addictive…and Expensive

I joined an online cookbook club. It is a Facebook group run by the popular online cooking website called Food52. Every month there is a new cookbook featured and members cook recipes from that book and share the results online – complete with photos and comments. It is a great way to get a feel for whether a cookbook is right for you and get meal ideas at the same time. The first month the cookbook featured was  Salt Fat Acid Heat and was billed more for its techniques than recipes.

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I decided that I wouldn’t buy or borrow this one. But as the recipes got posted and the raves started coming in, I wasn’t sure I should have dismissed it so quickly. That’s how er…expensive this club could become.

The book for October is called Made In India by British home cook Meera Sodha.
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I LOVE Indian food and don’t have a good cookbook, so I thought I would jump in with this one.  Arriving home late on Wednesday afternoon,  I found the book had already been delivered and was waiting on the bench outside. (It is way too easy to order from Amazon!) I had a few chicken fillets in the fridge for supper that night so went to the chicken recipes and chose one – they all looked fairly easy and I just happened to have tamarind paste (go figure!), so I made Coconut and Tamarind Chicken Curry. I whipped it together in about fifteen minutes. It had a short list of ingredients. The curry flavour itself came from only cinnamon, garlic, ginger, fresh red chilli, ground tumeric and coriander. And it was delicious.

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I realize I was being held back because I mistakenly believed that to cook good Indian food I would need a whole pantry of hard to find spices and lots of time. Not so.

I have watched as others have posted recipe after recipe with the same great results and rave reviews. I am so excited! And I get to use my authentic hammered silver bowls that a friend gifted me this summer.

To compliment my newly found passion for cooking Indian, I am now thinking I may need this. All my Indian spices in one easy to find place. Brilliant!

814Zi0EcJQL._SL1500_.jpgMasala Dabba spice box

Did I mention that this could be addictive….and expensive.?

 

Is That Thanksgiving Knocking?

Thanksgiving in Canada is always in the beginning of October and it always catches me by surprise. Usually the leaves reaching their peak colour are my visual cue, but this year for some reason, maybe the wet summer and late in the season hot/dry spell, the leaves are mostly still greenish with shades of brown and red spattered in. All this to say, I’m not ready, as usual.

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The interesting thing about living in Québec is that Thanksgiving is not really a holiday that the Québécois celebrate. I remember teaching English as a second language one year at this time and, by way of making conversation, I asked my adult students how they were planning on celebrating the holiday. One of them said they were going to wash their windows and another that they would be getting their firewood in. “But…what will you be eating?” I persisted.

“The usual,” was my answer. They even looked a  little quizzical that I would be asking such a question. I was a bit dumbfounded. I have been living in this province many, many years and I had no idea my neighbours weren’t celebrating in the same ways we were.

I guess it’s time to muster the Thanksgiving spirit and do a little decorating, bake a pie, buy a turkey…

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I thought I would start by buying a pumpkin since we don’t grow them ourselves. I’m really not sure about these green, warty ones. I chose the one in the foreground with the stem. I really like that classic pumpkin look. While I was here at the wholesalers, I also picked up a few apples in case I decide to make a head start on the pie.

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I bought honey crisp for eating and a few cortlands to make the pie. I don’t eat apples at any other time of the year  because I only like them when they are at  their ripest best.

Now for the turkey. Time to call Farm to Table and hope I’m not too late.

Or  I could just be like my Québécoise friend and wash my windows instead.

Seven Lessons In Seven Days

I wrote a few months back about seven things I learned in seven days to help me make sense of a hard week I had experienced. It was cathartic and fun, and I thought about revisiting it from time to time. So here it is, the second instalment of Seven In Seven.

Seven Things I learned In Seven Days

  1. October is much different than September here in southern Canada. All signs point northward. (The Big Dipper hangs low in the northwestern sky on our after dinner walks that now take place in the dark, the jet stream shifts, pulling cold arctic air down into our area, and north winds make me walk faster and pull my coat closer.)IMG_0396        See where it says shots of cold air. That’s us.
  2. I have a lot of expectations. I expect a lot of myself and others, but there is more. I also have expectations of how things should unfold, how meals should taste, how work should proceed. It is unrealistic and sets me up for disappointment. I have decided to expect less and love more. (I have been practicing for about a week now and it’s working. The present moment is usually a very fine and adequate place, if we allow ourselves to be there.)
  3. It’s a good idea to have working radar if you’re sailing in the fog near a ferry lane.IMG_0387
  4. On a recent visit to Martha’s Vineyard I discovered wampum. Wampum are beads made by the Wampanoag (Eastern Band Cherokee) of Aquinnah from the quahog, a hard shelled, purple and white clam. The Wampanoag fashion these beads into bracelets and earrings and belts. I am still thinking about my friend’s bracelet that just spoke of the sea to me.                        images
  5. Prince Harry is a very good motivational speaker. I just watched his closing speech for the Invictus Games. We can all do amazing things…and should.
  6. Yes, there is such a thing as a fogbow. IMG_3536
  7. I feel numb (Las Vegas). I feel badly about my numbness, but I don’t know how to respond anymore. These events just seem inevitable given the refusal to investigate these tragedies as rigorously as we do plane crashes or terrorist attacks and to take measures to prevent them from happening again. My heart breaks for all those families who will never be the same because on a warm night in October some members decided to go and enjoy an outdoor country music concert.

Mini Breaks and Short Escapes

We all live busy lives and I have come to  believe that taking a mini break is some of  the best self care we can offer ourselves.  We live in the mountains,  so for us an escape to big water seems to be what we crave. We are lucky enough to live near a large lake and are only a five hour drive to the coast. These are our “go to” places when we are in escape mode.

We are currently visiting friends in Martha’s Vineyard.  Whenever a short escape involves a ferry ride, I know I’m onto a really good thing. Leaving the mainland is such a symbolic way of letting go.

With the mind hushed there is so much more space to experience sounds and smells and changing lights. We visited a beach here called Lucy Vincent on our first morning.

IMG_0379The dramatic rock formations, ethereal in the early morning.

We try not to have too much of an agenda when we are away. For us, it’s not about doing or seeing but more about being.

Our sail in the fog the next day certainly took away most of our visual references.

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It became foggier and foggier as we left the mooring and entered the big water. It was as if the sun had burnt a hole in the fog just above us to let the light in, but all else was veiled.

IMG_1265Ghost ship in the fog.

We moved silently in nature’s spotlight. Without the usual visual cues, sounds became so much more intense…and important: foghorns and the bells on the buoys and engine rumbles in the distance were our only points of reference. (For all of you sailors who might be worried, yes, we did have radar.)

Short escapes are all about these sensory experiences that take us “away’ however briefly.  It reminds me of the children’s story Frederick by Leo Lionni. While all the other mice are busy gathering food for the winter, Frederick is gathering colours and words because the winters are grey and long.

We might not have been furthering our winter preparations  these last few days, but we have been filling with colours and words and we will bring these out on some cold winter day to bring us nourishment of a different kind.

 

 

 

Release…Mexico Bound!

IMG_0325It took a few hours for her to show some interest in leaving the glass bowl that had been her home for the last month. Fanning her wings and inching her way to the top of the rim were the first signs.

I took her to the outside deck. It was the perfect fall day for the release, warm and calm.

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IMG_0339.JPGAnd…she made a surprise landing before her final departure.

Looking back on the last month, there were a few highlights. Finding the caterpillar was definitely an exciting day. The milkweed is more abundant here than in previous years, but it still required looking at many, many plants before I finally found her.

IMG_0356.JPGThe second experience that took me a bit by surprise was my emotional reaction when she finally encased herself in the pupa. One day she was in her caterpillar body and then she was gone. It felt like a loss, and I wasn’t prepared for not seeing her anymore in the same ways.

I felt such joy when she finally emerged, especially when she  fanned her wings and I could see her in her full beauty. But I need to say something here about joy. Brené Brown, the social scientist who presently has a book on the New York Times bestseller list, talks about joy being the most vulnerable emotion we experience. “We’re afraid,” she writes, “that if we allow ourselves to feel it, we’ll get blindsided by disaster or disappointment. That’s why,” she continues, “that in moments of real joy, many of us dress rehearse tragedy.” This helps to explain why, as I saw her sitting on the pine branch, I imagined a giant bird, maybe a heron, swooping down and grabbing her. I also knew, however, that the antidote to this kind of thinking is gratitude, and the butterfly and I had lots to be grateful for. She brought me, and by extension you, many moments of wonder as this whole process unfolded. It also turns out that if I hadn’t found her and moved her inside she would have died when the farmer harrowed the field where she was living. There were many moments of grace, capped off by her release.

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Safe travels, little one!

It’s a Girl!

The pupa had been changing the last few days. It was turning from its original  chartreuse to this grey green. If you look closely,  you can begin to see the wings forming inside.

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A day later it looked like this. The body is showing clearly now through the chrysalis which has become transparent.

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I knew it wouldn’t be long.  I came home two hours later to this.

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When monarchs hatch the body is quite huge, filled with a liquid that gets pumped into the wings. I missed this part. It rested quietly for a few hours and then…

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There she is finally stretching out her wings. She took my breath away!  I wasn’t expecting the intense, saturated colours of her wings or the joy that bubbled up from inside as I watched her. It wasn’t until she fanned her wings that I knew she was a girl. (Male monarchs have two distinctive black dots on the lower corners of the wings.)

Her release came on this same beautiful, September day but that part deserves a story of its own. I have a video to edit and some words to find that wrap up this whole adventure in raising a monarch. Stay tuned.

 

 

The Well

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I came across this old well in the woods the other day.  I stopped and looked at it for a long time, mesmerized  by the dark water and the green mosses that have made their home along its rim. Our relationship with water is so primal.

This spring provided the water to a cabin that used to be on the land next door sixty years ago.  It is not that easy to get to this well, so it must have taken some searching and ingenuity. For starters, they had to get the water from here across a mountain brook that is often just a trickle but can also be impassable at times. Finding a good water source dictated where you could live and build your home here in the country and was always the first order of business.

Water….finding it, keeping it clean, preserving it, has always been serious business.  But it  has also inspired a rich history of story telling.

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Wells have inspired stories from the beginning of time. Many fairy tales use their dark depths to bring something of importance to the surface. From the Frog Prince:

In olden times, when wishing still did some good, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, who, indeed, has seen so much, marveled every time it shone upon her face. In the vicinity of the king’s castle there was a large, dark forest, and in this forest, beneath an old linden tree, there was a well.

Don’t you just love the line, “In olden times when wishing still did some good…?”

In many fairy tales something that at first seems dark and sinister emerges from the well. In the above case, an ugly frog who offers to help the princess – but, of course, wants something in return.

One theory for wells always housing fearful beings in fairy tales is that parents in times gone by conjured up these dark forces living in wells to scare their children in order to keep them far away from the very real dangers that wells presented.

Wells were also revered. They were sought out for contemplation and for making wishes. (I am thinking that wishes in days gone by were more like prayers.) The idea that a wish could be granted came from the notion that water was the home of deities or had been placed there as a gift from the gods.  And in many areas of the world where water is scarce or unclean it must have truly felt like a gift from the gods to come upon a well.

Maybe most importantly, wells  were community gathering places. It was here that life unfolded, and stories were told, and life became meaningful because of the sharing.

My question is, how do we revive the tradition of the well as gathering place?  In this time in the world when there is so much divisiveness it seems to me we could all use a well in our communities to come together and share what we have in common instead of what divides.