Let’s Talk! The Lost Art of Dialogue in a Divided World

IMG_0587

When did talking to each other become so hard? Somewhere along the way, maybe as the church lost its importance in our communities, it became easier to sort ourselves into groups rather than gather as a whole. We began to hang out more and more with others who shared our lifestyle, or interests, or education, or had similar financial means. I know this happened to me. I was a teacher in the public system, so I certainly ran into a mixed pot of people at work, but when I came home and got comfortable, I spent most of my time with the same group of friends. Talking to these people was easy because, for the most part, we shared the same values and rarely had disagreements of any serious kind.  That’s the problem.

We get lulled into thinking that everyone is like us and thinks like us. So it comes as a BIG surprise when we discover differently. Think of last year’s American election and the shock awaiting the Democrats and much of the rest of the world when the results came in. Where were we? It seems all of us surprised people had not been talking to Trump supporters. I vowed then and there that I wouldn’t knowingly allow myself to be so isolated and naive again.

If  we’re going to move in closer to others who think differently, we have to practice talking to each other and this isn’t easy in these emotionally and politically charged times. I find that it helps to be generous to people who I disagree with. My generosity is made easier when I look for things we have in common. I find that most of us want at least some of the same things for our families and loved ones. Getting to these shared places is the tricky part.

Where I live in Quebec the government has just passed Bill 62 which does not allow Muslim women wearing the niqab or burka from receiving public services while covered. This blog post is not about that issue per se but about the discourse around this issue. It is polarizing because it has all the elements that make it a “hot” topic. It touches on fears and freedoms, oppression, misogyny, religion, and race.

I had two very different discussions around this issue. In the first, there was a feeling that people were locked into their positions so fiercely there was no room for dialogue. A real exchange can’t  happen when people aren’t open to listening to each other, don’t agree on the “facts,” nor have a willingness to find common ground. I felt discouraged.

I had another dialogue a few days later with someone else which had a totally different flavour and gave me hope that we can find ways to work ourselves out of this great divide.  We did not agree, but as soon as I spoke I could see that she was listening to me and maybe even finding what I had to say interesting. She didn’t feel the same way as I did and brought up her own points. I listened and was thoughtful. In that moment, I knew that in order to find our way out of this mess this is exactly the kind of conversation we need to be having with each other.

IMG_0575

I long for more of these talks, now that I know it’s possible. Maybe we can change the world one discussion at a time.

 

*Some of the language “to sort ourselves” and “to move in closer” comes from theories researched by Brené Brown in her book Braving the Wilderness. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in finding your way to “true belonging.”

 

 

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

It happens every year and every year it is shocking. It is shocking how much faster the dark descends each day. To give you an idea of how fast this happens, I went to a site that records sunrise and sunset and the total number of daylight hours for our area. This past Monday the 23rd of October we had 10:29 daylight hours. On Sunday, October 29th, we will have 10:10 hours of daylight. That’s a whopping 19 minute drop in one week. It feels as if the dark is descending quickly, because it is!

How does one live in sync with this seasonal rhythm of darkening days? One of the first things I have noticed is that we tend to eat dinner earlier, not because we are hungry,  but because it is so dark that all our body systems tell us to adjust: eat a bit earlier, go to bed earlier, rise later. There’s a slowing down.

It’s impossible to ignore the descent into the dark, but the upside is that it makes the light we do have all the more special.

IMG_0546Cow grazing at sunset.

In a season that is becoming darker by the day, I find myself looking for all the surprise moments of light.

IMG_0536

And just maybe, that’s what we need to be doing all of the time – looking for surprise moments of light in the dark.

 

*If you are interested in checking out the daylight hours in your part of the world you can go here.

 

 

 

Out of My Comfort Zone

fullsizeoutput_300.jpegIt’s been a big week. As you might have surmised from reading my blog,  I find my inspiration and most of my peace from living a quiet, reflective life in the country. But some weeks take me out of my comfort zone and this past week was one of those. There were two issues making headlines. The first was  the #metoo campaign which grew out of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein. This was followed on its heels by Bill 62 being passed in the legislature here in Quebec which prevents women wearing the niqab or burka from receiving public services while covered. This includes riding on public transportation.

IMG_0535

Both of these issues touched on things I value: the safety and well being of women. And I have decided that I can no longer remain neutral about things I value – not in this world, not now.

Speaking out publicly in support of these women’s issues has taken me out of my comfort zone. I have run up against disagreement and heated public discussion. I practiced civility and I have listened with the intent to understand. It is not always easy. Was it the right thing to do? Yes. Has this openness to understanding different viewpoints changed my mind on key issues? No. But it sure has opened me to the complexity of many of the problems facing society at the moment.

I am wanting to get back to the forest now, both metaphorically and physically. It is here that I rejuvenate and get clear about the next right things to do in my life. I have missed the simple ordinariness of most of my days: exercising, working, cooking good meals, reading. The ways of the world took me away for awhile and might do so again, but for now I am just content to be “home”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me Too… and You and You and You

 

IMG_0513.JPG

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.

IMG_0524

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_2011.JPG

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

IMG_0477.JPG

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,

IMG_0485.JPG

gardens to cut back before the winter snows,

IMG_7161.JPG

…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:

 

IMG_0465

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.
IMG_0471.JPG

 

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.

51dToE1quFL._SX401_BO1,204,203,200_

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.
51hWJkQ5WvL._SX386_BO1,204,203,200_

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.

IMG_0405.JPG

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.

IMG_0401.JPG

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…

IMG_0404

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.

IMG_0408.JPG

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.

IMG_0387

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. We will bring these out on some cold winter day to give us nourishment of a different kind.