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

July 31, 2008

Summer Days

Well, after the last post it occurred to me that I could make an effort to lighten up. So, here's summer. Here's an idyllic little scene that represents summer quite well I think.

I snuck up on this lovely couple out at Harrison Hot Springs. I was just glad they didn't turn around as I was taking their photo. Don't they look almost too perfect?

Don't you wish that was you sitting on the bench? I do. Not with them. With whomever you would like to be sitting on that bench with. Picture yourself there. With that person. It's hot but the tree is shading you and you're just enjoying each others company and the conversation is rambling from one topic to the next and you're feeling the way you feel when you're content to be right where you are, on that bench, in that moment, with that person.

Savour it!

July 29, 2008

If Rafe Mair Can Admit it Why Can't I?

Lately, I have been having difficulties with depression. It has been my life-long challenge. My experience of it and others ignorance about how it manifests and what it may mean about me, personally, I have carried around in shame, internalized for years.

Perhaps because when I first experienced it as a teenager in the 70s, people did not talk about depression openly, they did not recognize it - even doctors - and if they did, they equated it with some form of personal weakness. Or, at least, I did. Back then. When I was young. And that initial self-assessment has plagued me even though I know, intellectually, it is just not true.

For the past 7 years I have been well because I take 2 pills a day. The problem is, that when you have been well for that long, you forget that you ever had a problem. So, you think, I don't have to take those pills. Look. I'm well. So, I decided, yes, I will go off those pills. No sense taking pills when I don't need to. Seven years is long enough to have those chemicals in my body. I'm fine.

And, at first, everything was fine. But, that was 8 months ago. And, the thing about serious depression, especially when you have been plagued with it your entire life and you have been diagnosed with a mood disorder is that it creeps up on you and before you know it, you're not answering the phone. You're not calling anyone. The phone stops ringing. You're having trouble doing your dishes or vacuuming. It seems to be taking a lot longer to get dressed because you don't think anything looks good. You can't decide. You can't really feel anything - even when it's sunny outside - it doesn't feel like sunshine. You begin to close your blinds in your apartment when it's really sunny. All of them.

When I am depressed,I have trouble being enthusiastic about anything and it seems, at its very worst, to affect my vision. At its very worst, it changes the way I feel when I am walking around, as if I am separate from the physical environment and everything in it; removed from everyone around me in a way that even if I was to reach out to touch them, they would seem as if they were behind plexiglass. I'm a ghost of my former self.

And then, miraculously, medication makes it better. Nothing about your external circumstances has changed and yet, you are better. You can still be broke and without a full-time job but you are feeling better. It's all manageable, even if it's not good. You will overcome. You have faith.

And things do get better because your mind is better and you are able to manifest that wellness of thoughts into your physical environment through work, money, friends, activity, humour. You are back in "the flow". It's as if someone has taken a giant straw and sucked out all the pink cotton candy that was clogging my brain and making it slow. And, before they left, they thought, what the heck, might as well turn on the Ferris Wheel and liven things up around here. You're happy again! You can feel the music.

In 2001 when I recovered from another much more serious bout of depression, I wrote this.

It's like the awnings have been taken down to let the light into the livingroom. I imagine it feels the way it might when a prisoner has finished his sentence and takes the first step out into the world, everything as it was before but somehow new or renewed. A freshly painted fence. The smell of a new car. Hope, even though, circumstances have not changed confirming the theory that the mind truly is in control of everything.

At that time, 2001, I had just finished reading a book about Virginia Woolf and as I read it I realized that only those of us buffetted about when mood goes wrong live on two distinct planes.

There is the side that only those closest to us have seen. A subtext. The quiver and dampness in a voice desperately failing to cover up the dissent. Deciding not to pick up the phone. Hiding. Thinking too much. Too introspective. Unable to read a book or a newspaper and comprehend one line of text without being distracted. Unable to be around more than a few people. The self-consciousness of leaving the house and being in the world. The waking at 4 a.m and the semi-conscious state of tossing and turning with the undertow being the silence, the quiet, the aloneness amplified by memories of when that wasn't the case, when you weren't alone.

Recognizing the pacing of your life from activity to inactivity and realizing how that is only the pacing experienced by someone who has survived major depression. That type of pacing does not exist in a regular life - from activity to inactivity - extremes that change friendships, family, financial security.

I have become an expert at hiding it until I can't. Until, having to speak turns words into tears and it can't be hidden. When suddenly, disbelievingly, I am "breaking down" on the phone - or the ultimate mortification - in front of strangers. Emotion scares people. It scares me. There's an acceptable limit - on joy and on sadness.

And then, when that happens, all there is to do is to give in and "say Uncle". To go back on the pills and retreat. To wait it out. To be gentle with oneself and hope and pray that the medication will still work as well as it did the last time before you forgot why you really must take it, even when you are well, because, oh ya, that's why you ARE well afterall. Really.

When we are well, it's not possible to distinguish us from any other. In fact, the distinguishing factors can, for some and in some instances, be positive - creativity, quickness, insights and strength wrought from having to crawl back up, one more time, from out of the muck and the chaos created. Unemployment. Vanished friendships. Debt. Family estrangement. Less. Just less. Self worth. Confidence. Trust of self. All needing restoration. Again.

And this time, I know I really must write myself a letter about how things are and why they are that way so that I can look at it, in the future, when I wrongly decide that "I am just too darn well to be taking those silly little pills."

July 28, 2008

Bad Table, Bad Dog

In the West End of Vancouver, people are obsessed with their dogs. I'm not one of those people. I'm a cat person myself. Just one will do. I haven't turned into one of those women yet. The kind that must purchase a house to house their ever-expanding numbers of feline friend-substitutes.

I do like some big dogs. My like of the dog is directly correlated to how much I like the owner. The dog can't be so big that it scares me. It has to be a friendly big dog that wags its tail.

Collies. Chocolate Brown Labs. Golden Retrievers. Sheep Dogs. German Shepherds that know me already so they don't bark at me every time I re-enter their territory.

The dogs I really don't care for are the ones that seem to have been genetically modified in a test-tube in some laboratory that isn't really legally entitled to be creating dogs. You've heard of puppy mills? These laboratories are called, umm, I don't really know. Got any ideas?

I expect these little insect-rodent-dogs come to fruition in the same manner that foam trees pop out of capsules when you put them in water and leave them for a few days. Or, they get made from combining grasshoppers with beavers or something using the Teleporter from that movie The Fly.

Whenever I see one of those dogs with the kindling-sized, matchstick legs, I think of that movie, A Fish Called Wanda and how that guy was always trying to find new ways to kill that old lady's dogs. Oh, I'm sorry am I offending anyone?

I often wonder where all these Size 0 dogs came from in the West End? There were no dogs that looked like that when I was a child. What has transpired in the many, many years in between my birth and the present to create these insect-rodent-dog breeds?

And, while I'm on the subject, my pet peeve when it comes to dog owners in the West End is how they'll be walking down the street and how they'll have their little insect-rodent-dog on one of those retractable leashes. It doesn't occur to them that when you're walking towards them, like a regular human or the nearest facsimile, that if they don't retract the leash (in much the same manner one retracts a fishing line) that just happens to have their dog at the end of it, that you will either have to jump rope "Double-Dutch-style" over their leash, or walk right into it doing an amazing Stevie Wonder imitation, or walk way out of your way because God forbid you should inconvenience their dog who they have not taught to HEAL like real dogs and real dog owners have trained them to do.

But no, oh no. Because their kissey,kissey, huggy, huggy baby insect-rodent dog is on one side of the sidewalk, they are on the other, and you, the invisible dog-free entity, are trapped in the middle.

I'm not really interested in talking about dogs actually. So much for a segue.

I am interested in talking about the table (above) and how perfect a breed it would be in the living room of a Vancouver loft where those insect-rodent-dogs are most likely to be found.

They are in their unnatural habitats being fawned and tripped over and dressed in pink or rainbow-hued raincoats by their very proud masters and mistresses who are unknowingly, but systematically, being trained into submission by their miniature alpha, insect-rodent-dogs. They should all be rounded up and be made to participate in a training session offered by The Dog Whisperer. Thank you Keiko! Rant complete!

This table is part of a small exhibit at the offices of The Architectural Institute of BC. A very poised UBC student named Lauren leads walks around the city, speaking to the architectural history of specific neighborhoods.

Showing up for one of the walks she leads is what led me to spy this table in the first place. It is located inside the office space of the AIBC across from Victory Square at Cambie and Pender Streets. There is a small exhibit of furniture at the moment in the reception area which is huge.

I like the humour of whomever created this table. I guess I should have looked to find out who that was. I wonder what kind of dog they own?

I wonder, if you owned such a table, would your dog be really confused with you "f...ing" with its head?

Would your dog look at the table and think hey wait a minute, where's the fire hydrant?

Would it look at the table and think well, I guess I'll just go take a dump over there by the lamp on the heavenly, furry lambskin rug because obviously some other dog already owns the territory under that table, or whatever.

Bad Dog.
Bad Table.

July 25, 2008

Amy Tan and Creativity

I saw this video of author Amy Tan speaking to some of the ways she feels about creativity. What she had to say resonated with me. I could relate to what she was saying. Thanks to Gwen for sending me links to a website called TED.

July 23, 2008

Poetry in remission

Quite a long time ago now, I was on Hornby Island near Tribune Bay camping with my friend Neil. In honour of summer, I'll tell this story here.

It was late in the afternoon and he had gone up to the campsite. It was one of those types of campsites that I really despise and would never knowingly choose but there isn't much choice on Hornby. People have cottages. They rent cottages. The unwashed masses tent.

People were everywhere and the sites extremely close together with the arrangements practically replicating a high-density Mountain Equipment Co-op slum.

In an attempt to avoid that reality perhaps, I remained on the beach. It was hot and I was watching everyone: families, children, teenagers and it was as if I began to see the entire human life cycle unfolding before my eyes, but ghostly images,as if projected onto the real people.

As I was watching the families gather up their endless amounts of beach stuff-almost as if the seaweed had transformed into plastic and coolers and flippers and chairs on the one side of me - with the teenagers hovering around each other tentatively and nervously on the other, this poem came to me very quickly.

It wasn't exactly in this form but when I got home a few days later, I worked on it and I continued to change it until I got to something similar to this.

It's rare for me to write poetry these days which is too bad because I really like the process. But, it has been a very long time since I have been inspired enough, or depressed enough, or have felt so aware in the present moment to create something like this.

The whole process of writing a poem amazes me. An image sparks the desire to capture an emotion and from that the experience materializes into words that when combined form a new, separate, unique entity. Like giving birth. Voila!

The Sleepwalkers

After the float plane
circles and lands in Tribune Bay
to deposit the pilot on a sailboat,
and the comments about how the other half live, subside,
the sleepwalkers leave the beach,
forgetting to shirk their 9-5 routines.

Mothers hug wet children dry
dabbing at them with tender beach towel buffs.

Splashing shrieks of little boys
fade into their father's voices calling out to them.

Coolers click, open and shut.

Beach umbrellas collapse.

Deck chairs fold under arms.

Pink, plastic floating devices
complete this balancing act.

Silent parade of life
warning teenaged girls
with tulip-bud breasts
that time will overcome their prancing,
even though boys in boxer shorts
with wheat-bleached crew cuts
now follow them, silently,
Not actually having much fun,
except, in their fertile imaginations.

Stalking possibilities about what it really feels like inside.

Wondering how it will ever be possible
to cross the distance stretched between them now,
as if navigating these sandbars will lead them
to the warm entrance between thighs

the same way the ocean

fills the holes in the rocks

at high tide.

July 21, 2008

Washington Day Trip

Saturday we ventured across the U.S. border to go to a Raspberry Festival in Lyndon, Washington. Think small-town fun as if you've just landed on the set of the old t.v. show Happy Days and very possibly you just might catch Ritchie Cunningham shooting hoops in a game of three on three.

We end up getting on this short bus tour as part of the Raspberry festival. Not the Christ of the King bus, as one of the buses had painted across its side, but another one that was taking tours out to a small winery called Samson Estate Winery.

It's a winery that creates, among other wines, raspberry and blueberry fruit wines. Now, I can't say I'm someone who's particularly fond of fruit wines, but these were tasty enough to make me think I'd buy a bottle, except it's not available in Canada even though the people who make it are transplanted Canadians.

One of the brothers who runs the winery, part-time, gave the five of us a tour into the back where they make it and he was a really interesting guy. Near the end of the tour he told us about this fluke his brother (the one who is the specialist in horticulture and viticulture) had made that has turned into a fly-off-the shelves success.

It's a wine made from hazelnuts. They call it Oro because of its golden colour and there just happened to be a ready-to-be-bottled batch inside the huge stainless steel vat. He brought five glasses out, released a valve at the bottom of the shiny round tub and metred out a bit of the gold liquid into our glasses.

The taste was smooth and it literally changed in your mouth leaving a hint of chocolate lingering as a surprise. Who would think that you could make wine out of hazelnuts? Or even want to for that matter. His brother has proven that it's not only possible but like most inventions, a very wacky idea has become one of their biggest success stories; they can't make enough of the stuff. His brother has had other wineries contacting him to learn the process - it has something to do with ensuring that every last bit of oil has been squeezed out of the hazelnuts or something like that.

Then, we ventured down to Fairhaven, an arsty, picturesque sleepy little place that seems to be on the verge of awakening (unfortunately) with condo sales and a lot more restaurants than I recall from past visits; change I expect wrought from an influx of wealth from the south looking for new places in the Pacific Northwest to call home.

While we were wandering along a curved boardwalk/pier jutting out into Bellingham Bay that Dee had spotted, we saw this wonderful restaurant deck tucked on the side of the hill adjacent to the walk. We decided to go up and check it out and found ourselves in the sitting area leading into the lobby of The Chrysalis Inn and Spa.

There's no signage on the outside and inside is all wood and curves and a stainless steel spiral staircase leading up to the guest-only floors above. Beautiful. Scenic. Serene. Tucked away and ripe for romance.

A lazy, meandering, sparkling saturday in Washington State. And, oops, not a single photo of a raspberry.

July 19, 2008

One Path

A Warrior of the light often loses heart.

She believes that nothing can stir in her the emotion she desires. She is forced to spend many nights feeling that she is one of the vanquished, and nothing seems able to restore her enthusiasm.

Her friends say, "Perhaps her fight is over."

The warrior feels pain and confusion when she hears such remarks because she knows that she has not yet reached the place that she wants to reach. But she is stubborn and she refuses to relinquish her aims.

Then, when she least expects it, a new door opens.

-from Warrior of the Light by Paulo Coelho with me changing "he" to "she".

July 17, 2008

Overboards hit Overload on Carnival

I've been doing a bit of research on cruise ships, not because I ever wish to go on one of those floating palaces of gluttony but because I'm supposed to write about a floating turd masquerading as the Love Boat given the relatively laughable and unenforceable rules, in Canada at least, on cruise ships dumping bilge, sewage, grey water, etc.

But, instead of finding out about that shit, I came across a website that makes enquiring minds like mine wonder, What is it about Carnival Cruise lines that makes people want to jump?

You undoubtedly will not know that 30 people have gone overboard on Carnival Cruise Lines between 2000 and 2008! In second place for such a dubious record, with 17 passengers overboard in that same time period, is RCI.

Is it that Carnival cruises are the equivalent of Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale? People are so wasted that they think they're headed for the water closet when in fact they're opening a trap door to oceanica?

Is it because suicidal people, coincidentally, just happen to take cruises on Carnival and decide to jump? They can't be that depressed. They managed to get themselves on a cruise. They could have just gone to their apartment balcony which would require a lot less effort and thereby foregoing that tedious lifejacket exercise before the world's largest dessert cart blows its Bon voyage whistle.

Or is it possible that the number represents, as well, a highly gifted few who are in the running for a Darwin Award and actually, beyond all probability, managed in the ultimate act of klutsiness to trip and flip, right over the flippin' side of the boat?

Is it because a lot of old people go on cruises, sometimes with their younger relatives or their paid caregivers and just by chance, on a particularly grabby, crabby whiney, bitchy day, their caregivers exchange caring for plotting their former loved ones soon to be mysterious disappearances?

I don't know. Won't be there or hopefully say I've ever done that. Cruised. Or Jumped. Been pushed. I'm afraid of heights. Cannon balls are unbecoming.

Check it out for yourself on a site called Cruiseship Junkie before you book your honeymoon (or celebrate your divorce) on board or could that be overboard? All aboard. At your own risk.

July 15, 2008

To the Park

I never get to spend time with babies so it was wonderful yesterday afternoon to spend time with my niece and her husband and baby. He's a very serious little guy; an observer. Maybe that's because he can't talk yet! And, that makes him even more perfect - don't ya think?:-)

July 13, 2008

Sandcastles to Monasteries

One of those spectacular summer days! From sandcastles to monasteries.

July 11, 2008

Cooking for Another: A Loving Act

When I was younger - between 27 and 32 - I lived with someone for about four years. He was a really great cook. In fact, I still have a recipe book he put together of all the things he really liked to either cook or eat and since I like to eat just about anything, it was one of the ways in our relationship that we were very compatible.

Except,more often than not, I wanted the "excitement" and diversity of eating out. I didn't want to stay in just because he'd cooked. At that time, I didn't really appreciate what was behind this act of cooking for me.

My very favorite thing he used to cook me was his own creation of chanterelle mushrooms, Italian style, and he had a recipe for Cajun-Italian prawns that was, well, foreplay! I'm nothing if not appreciative now!

On my 40th birthday, he made me from scratch, a vegan chocolate cake because the former meat-eater he was when I lived with him had become a vegan.

Last night I was invited to dinner at the house of a friend who I don't see a lot. He had just returned from a month-long trip to the Burgundy and Dordogne regions of France.

Photography is among his many talents and his wonderful photos of the trip were playing on his wide-screened TV and since I love looking at photography, I was in my element. He told me stories of his trip, the places he stayed, the sites, the chateaus, the beautiful meals, in a way that you can only relay with enthusiasm upon recent arrival back from a trip.

He spent the day "slaving in the kitchen" pour moi as he jokingly said and I was treated to a very delicious cold soup of carrot/ginger and spices. That was followed by juicy, beef tenderloin slices on a green salad enhanced by a subtle dressing (not a food writer, work with me here) and rounded off with key lime mousse, nicely decorated with the freshest mint leaves plucked from his herb garden and a few strawberries. It was so kind of him to treat me so well to such a delicious meal that he had made himself.

And, that's what I felt when I came home. I felt I had been honoured, just because of the time and effort he had taken to invite me and cook for me.

I thought back to when I had lived with Will and I thought about how, at the time, I did not really recognize, because I had grown accustomed to being cooked for by him, how much effort and love goes into the act of cooking for others, especially when that little extra effort is taken.

I have been lucky, lucky, lucky over the years to have many friends who seem to love to cook and have treated me to their creations.

Last night, I was really reminded of how a little extra effort, especially in the kitchen, (but honestly, just pick a room, any room) goes a long way and how that way of being can leave such a lasting impression.

July 09, 2008

A Card Carrying Networker

-sculptures at Simon Fraser University (and nowhere to put their cards)

I speed-read that book that Darcy Rezac, managing director for the Vancouver Board of Trade, wrote quite a few years ago now. It's called The Frog and the Prince: The Secrets of Positive Networking.

The most significant piece of advice in it for me was the suggestion to think of networking as a way to ask yourself what you can do for someone else. If you think of it that way then you're just being gracious. It's about them, not about you. You're not selling anything. You're just trying to figure out how to help someone else.

Although, I did wonder when I read that line what would I be able to do for Jimmy Pattison? And, how might he respond to that question if I ever was in a position to ask it? I tried to imagine myself asking it. Now, Jimmy, before I go, is there anything at all that I can do for you? What would his answer be?

Take his photo? Wash his car? Shine his shoes? Wax his really big boat? I don't know. I'm sure there would be something! (If you're not from Vancouver Jimmy Pattison is a Vancouver businessman that everyone who lives in Vancouver would be familiar with even if perhaps you just said "Jimmy"). Yes, Vancouver is too small. It's another reason to be nicer and to network more, or less, depending on how nice or not nice you are.

The book is full of great tips. Never, ever, ever leave your house without your business cards. (Well, maybe if you're going swimming - or to the washroom as we Canadians like to call it - it's okay!)

But, first you must actually have cards in order to not leave home without them. It doesn't matter who you are, he says have a card. It doesn't matter if you're unemployed or if you're a housewife or a stay-at-home dad, have a card. If you're retired, have a card.

What if you're a street person? Imagine if a street person handed you their card instead of asking for money? (Of course he didn't say that in the book! It's just my warped mind conjuring up that image.)

Think of your card as Chinese take-out with your name on it. Less greasy. (He didn't say that either. I did). It's an exchange of information that's portable. It's not about what you do. It's just a way to remind someone of who you are when they get home and two days later think, damn, I can't remember the name of that person.

Make sure your cards are designed in such a way that the text is readable in low light and the paper isn't flimsy so that if you're passing them out at a conference, (or a bar) and the lighting is poor, they'll still be readable, especially after a few drinks. (Just kidding!)

Treat everyone you meet as an equal. The weak links in your network - friends of friends - are actually the most significant links in making connections that can lead to work. Apparently this has been proven.

Try and attend one function per week and force yourself to speak to 7 people at that function that you've never met. Don't walk away from them without giving them your card. Ask for their card in return if they don't offer it.

So, here's an example of why what he says (like so many things in life) must actually be put into practice.

Today, I was having a coffee, passing time before a meeting. This woman sitting at the window a few feet away from me had just finished her lunch. I look over at her. We start a conversation. She's from Melbourne. She is a business analyst with some sort of insurance company. She's here with all sorts of other people who work at different branches of this international company. They are being hosted at the Bayshore Hotel in Vancouver as a treat for doing such a great job. Why have I never worked somewhere like that I think to myself. Let's not go there is my answer.

She tells me that she's a bit nervous because she's recently separated from her partner/husband so she's the only one at this thing that isn't with her spouse and she hopes that will be okay. My first thought was, Who are these people? How is it that they're all still married? I refrain from saying that. I say that it will be fine. If they're all with their spouses, why wouldn't they want to talk to someone they've never met? She laughed.

Then, I thought to myself, if I was really following Rezac's advice, I would have had my cards on me. I would have handed her one. I would have asked for one of hers.

She told me she was in town for four days. I would have said, "Call me." We can go out with my friends. I would have said that I know someone else here who's from Australia who I also, by coincidence, met in a restaurant the second night after she arrived in Vancouver more than a year ago when I was with my friend Dee.

But, I didn't and I didn't. I didn't have my cards. I didn't say what I felt I should say. I was distracted thinking about the meeting I was about to have and not really being totally in the moment.

Who knows? She might have even known the woman I already know from Australia. And, that my friends has to be chalked up as yet another lost connection.

So, have I convinced you to get a card if you don't have one and use it because of what Darcy Rezac said in his book?

I think I've almost convinced myself!

July 08, 2008

Innocence in Chiapas

- Boxing Day, Chiapas, 1997

Of all the photos I have ever taken in my life so far, this one is my favorite.

I was on a 3-week tour of the Yucatan which included about 5 days in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas. It was a quiet day. A few days prior, December 22, there had been a massacre in a place not far from San Cristobal de las Casas called Acteal. After that, the town square was being guarded by armed military. Strangely enough, at the time, it didn't seem as frightening as it should have to a Canadian who never sees rifles in public let alone military convoys on the roads leading in and out of town.

I was walking down the dusty streets. It was really, really hot. Some of the shops were open and I came upon these two beautiful little girls. They were waiting for their mother inside the shop. They seemed extraordinarily clean and the whiteness of their shirts really caught my attention and surprised me.

The littlest one was so demure. She's looking up at me a little bit intimidated. The older one has a look that I have never quite figured out. I can't tell if she's annoyed or just tired.

No matter how many times I look at this photo, I always have questions about these little girls. That's what I like about it. That's what keeps it interesting to me.

When I look at it now, in spite of how much I love looking at their faces, I also feel a little ashamed, too intrusive, yet another stranger,rich tourista, capturing innocence that wasn't ever meant to be for sale.

July 07, 2008

Conversations with Oneself

Before I left for my mini trip to Saltspring, I scanned the bookshelf knowing there was no need to buy a book when I had so many in my own bookshelf that I'd yet to read.

The book I grabbed was Conversations with God. I had purchased this book at least 10 years ago and for some reason, I read the first little bit of it then but never actually completed it. Lately, for more than a month, it has been in the back of my mind as if nagging me to read it.

I think because I have been feeling in a similar place to where the author Neale Donald Walsch was when he first was used as the instrument to impart the conversation with God that he had according to his book. I find it very strange when things like that happen; when the right book comes to you at the right time.

I'm sure every wannabe author would hope that someone else would just come through them and voila, their best seller would be written almost as if they had been in a trance while the exercise was being conducted, only to wake up to great hoopla and find themselves being interviewed on Oprah's couch.

Conversations with God was originally published in 1995. I believe it was a bestseller. A friend of mine said that if she had only one book to take with her to a deserted island, Conversations with God would be the book.

I finished it on Saltspring reading the last bits by flashlight in the tent. It's the kind of book where you must be in a place where you're receptive to the insights within it. You'll know whether you are, I expect, by whether you're able to continue reading it.

If I remember nothing else about the book, I will remember the part that asks you to ask yourself the question, What would Love do?

The next time you're having difficulties in any relationship and let's not forget the most important relationship we'll ever have - the one we have with ourselves - try asking yourself: What would Love do?

What would love do? Maybe I'll try and remember to ask myself that a little more often.

July 05, 2008

Carbon Tax Reality Check

- foot power or what the world needs now; the newest version of Birkenstocks

If you live in Beautiful British Columbia or "The Best Place on Earth" as the Liberal government has embarrassingly branded our fair province, you have probably received your $100 carbon tax credit cheque in the mail.

There's a lot of complaining, at least in the media, about that tax not being a carbon tax but a gas tax.

Actually, it's a tax on all fossil fuels (well, except for those from livestock). It's hard to tax anything, especially cows or pigs or other livestock, for farting into the atmosphere.

You might want to read this PDF Carbon Tax Reality Check from The David Suzuki Foundation to make sure you understand the true intent of the carbon tax.

July 04, 2008

Life and Death Choices

Last week a healthy 72-year-old German woman was aided in her wish to end her life because she didn't want to envision the prospect of her future and living in a nursing home.

She was aided by a doctor who then filmed her last moments and went on to call a press conference and publicize snippets of her death so as to prove the point that assisted suicide (which is not illegal in Germany) is a personal right and a matter of enabling people the right to choose, with dignity, the timing of their own death.

As one commentor on CBC.ca said, I think this is more a statement about what it's like in our society to be old and the appalling state of many nursing homes than it is about the right to choose to die at your own hand.

Under what circumstances is it okay for someone to choose to end their own life? If you're like most people, it's hard to get your head around this question.

Many of us were born by accident. We didn't choose to be here. Not even our parents consciously chose for us to be here but here we are. And, most of the time, I'm very grateful for that. So, if we consciously make the choice not to be here at some point, should that be illegal? And even if it is illegal, so what?

Someone I loved committed suicide. I now view, in hindsight, what he chose to do as a selfish and cowardly act. Choosing to change his life and finding a way would have been so much more difficult. I know how much pain his choice caused me and I know how much pain it caused his best friends. What I will never understand is why he couldn't change; why he felt that his preferred option was to check out by his own hand.

For years afterwards my thinking flipflopped about whether he had the right to make this choice and I had no right to be angry with him or whether he was the most selfish, cowardly person on the planet. Or, was he brave? Was it a courageous choice? I didn't know then and I will never know because it would just be my judgment, not based on what it was like to be living the experience of his reality as he experienced it.

A year before this man I loved committed suicide, a friend who had been the captain of my high school basketball team which I played on for five years committed suicide. She hung herself in her basement. She had three very young daughters. Prior to her doing it, I believe she had just been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and had been having severe fluctuations between mania and depression as her psychiatrists tried to figure out what medication in which dosages might work. She was not hospitalized.

Unfortunately, her parents found her because they were so worried about her they were coming to her house on a daily basis to be with her. She was in her right mind enough to know that she must do the act after her husband left for work and before her parents arrived. At least that way her baby wouldn't be alone too long. It was tragic. She had so much to live for through having given life to her daughters. The pain she must have been in unimaginable. Given how she did it, one has to assume she'd been planning it for a while. Or was it a spontaneous decision from a mind whose ability to make reasonable decisions, had been temporarily hi-jacked.

I have often wondered about her daughters now who would be in their early to mid teens and wonder how that one choice by their mother must have changed the course of their own lives and would impact their intimate relationships for the rest of their lives, consciously and unconsciously.

My mother didn't commit suicide but she did choose to end her life by exercising her right to refuse any more dialysis. I remember thinking that it was surprising to me that doctors allowed that. Sure she was 83 years old. She had been sick. Her quality of life had not been good for about a year with only the prospect of it getting worse. But, I remember thinking to myself at the time, how is this different than assisted suicide all the while I understood why she would make the choice and how it was the right time for her.

I remember being surprised that doctors could actually let a patient make the choice not to continue treatment when treatment was possible. I'm not sure now why that surprised me since people with terminal illness must make that choice somewhere in the world every day.

Is life always sacred or is it only as sacred as the person whose life it is, believes it is?

July 02, 2008

Heaven on Earth

If you like to plan ahead, (especially since this year is just whizzing by at warp speed) there's no better time to go to Saltspring Island than September.

School is back in so it's a little more peaceful in Ganges. The weather is as perfect as it will ever get in BC, and the Fall Festival is like nothing you'll ever experience in the city.

Then, there's the Apple Festival on Sunday, September 28th from 9-5, beginning at Fulford Hall and with 15 orchards participating. This year's theme is red-flesh apples. I had never even heard of such a thing, apples with red, not white flesh, inside.

In Spring, take a break in March and celebrate International Women's Day by taking in the weekend-long Documentary Film Festival.

It's been at least 18 years since I first visited and I'm in love with the place!