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October 27, 2009

Dangerous Elders

It it's Tuesday morning it's time for meditation. But first the ordeal of getting an elder ready.

Today everything was going so well until we got to the door of the house. I turned to open the door and in the split second that I turned, and she moved from steadying herself with her walker to her cane, something happened and in slow motion I could see her coming towards me falling towards the front closet door.

I lurched to grab her with my left arm grabbing one of her own arms. You would think I was a football player reaching with the tips of my fingertips for the ball just before it touches the ground. As a result, I unsteadied myself and landed on my back with her on top of me. Jesus. Lucky for her, I"m a puffy one now. It's a relatively soft landing.

I got up and grabbed her under her arms from behind and righted her as if nothing had happened. I'll probably end up breaking my own hip trying to prevent her from breaking hers I thought to myself not amused. Free rent. Keep repeating that. I haven't had to repeat it yet. But, we have reached the one month mark of living in the "basement" and the 3 month mark of sleeping overnight, Monday to Thursday.

When I knew she was okay, I started laughing trying to circumvent one of those laughing fits that just keeps coming up as the memory replays in your mind.

"What is it about you and me," I say rhetorically. "How come every time I'm with you and you fall down, I fall down too? It's like a sympathy fall!I say jokingly.

We get in the car. As I'm driving her Toyota Echo along Vesuvius Bay Road she starts to stay something her in gravel-lane voice (because a former stroke has affected her voice) and then she's wincing and grabbing her chest. I'm looking at her and I'm confused. Now what?

"What's wrong," I say, not fully recovered from the early morning fall. She doesn't answer me.

"What's wrong," I say more loudly, with greater urgency already playing in my mind the route to Lady Minto Hospital.

"Are you okay?" I ask.

Yes, she finally says laughing. Was she feigning a heart attack as a joke? God only knows. My blood pressure is through the roof. Let's just get to the bloody church. Too much exciting pre-8:00 am.

We get to the church. I'm the one who needs the meditation.

We enter and it's got that slightly musty church smell. The dark wood is layed in vertical strips. There are only 5 dark pews on each side. A red carpet leads to a large alter and above that three beautiful stained-glass windows. The middle one is a picture of Jesus (I guess) wearing a flowing ruby red robe and his hand is up in the air, sort of like Superman's is when he's ready to take off.

There's a dedication under the window to two men in drowned in Ganges Harbour in 1898. There are two side windows and the morning sun is lighting the pink of what looks like a celtic cross to a sparkle. Inside the pink, a small round circle is glass in my favorite shade of green. I want to lose myself in the brightness of that green backlit by the sun.

Three people are there already and silent. Our arrival interrupts them slightly. Without saying a word we take our seats. There are two women and a young guy with a black hoodie. Who's he I wonder. Why's he doing this? What's his story? He's kinda cute. I like his salt and pepper beard. Mid to late 30s. Why? I want to know why he would want to do this? Of course, I can't speak to him.

A conservative looking woman sits to the left of Margaret. She appears to be in her mid to late 50s. Another woman is kneeling on the rug. she has a long, taupe-coloured, hand-woven shawl around her shoulders. A tibetan bowl and wooden pestle lay on the red carpet beside her.

I close my eyes feeling tired. She woke me up last night at 3:30 flushing the toilet. I marvel at this twist in my life. Now I'm sitting in an Anglican church before 8am on a Tuesday morning. How did this happen I wonder. I admire the stain glass. I want to keep my eyes open and soak up every detail of this cute little sanctuary.

We've been sitting in silence and my lady lets out a little chuckle. A big smile crosses my face. I think I know what she's laughing about. Silence returns. Another five minutes pass. Another chuckle.

I was just getting into it when suddenly, it's over. The shortest meditation in history. An ADHD child could probably do this I thought to myself. The others begin a walking meditation and Margaret indicates it's time to leave. I want to say No. I want to be a defiant child at bed time. I'm not ready to go. I just got here. I want to hear what they're going to say at the end. I want to hear that guy speak.

But, no, we leave. I ask her how long the walkling meditation is. Five minutes she says. Five minutes. Why don't we stay I say. It's a bit much for me she says. Damn.
You mean from now until Christmas I'm going to go to this Church every Tuesday and I'm never going to know who these people are because I'm never going to speak to them.

I walk away with a handout. It's not meditation. It's called centering prayer actually which is a christian form of meditation.

October 20, 2009

Morning Meditation and Two Margarets

I took the usual hot lemon and water into my lady this morning and she started to get out of bed. "I'm getting dressed," she said.
"What?" "But you haven't had breakfast!"
"Get my clothes. I'm going to meditation," she says.

I make the horrible mistake of asking, Are you sure? She refrains from saying anything like yes I'm sure you idiot. What do you think I am senile?

She told me she wanted me to take her to meditation at 8 on Tuesdays but for some reason I assumed 8pm, not 8am. And, I was a little confused because I thought, she can barely stay awake until 9pm, how's she going to go to meditation at 8pm by the time I pick her up I'll have to carry her like when parents go out for the evening and their toddlers fall asleep and have to be carried to the car. She's not very big but I'm not that strong.

I grab her clothes off the chair. Socks. shoes. Tie the laces.She pulls on her baggy sweats haphazardly. Undershirt. Cotton turtle neck. Sweater vest. You would think I'd actually had children given how good I am at taking on and off her clothes in record time. I impress myself even. You did that pretty good she says. What do you mean pretty good I wonder. How about damn good! You would think I'd had a lot of practice taking off other people's clothes alot. Not true. I hate taking other people's clothes off which is just fine because it's a skill that isn't high up on the necessary requirements in my daily life list and even, in the past, when it was, I preferred it if they took their own clothes off.

She grabs her cane and with ease I grab her other arm and we get to the passenger side of her Toyota. This is easy I think. I didn't know it would be this easy. Hell, we're not sittin'around here everynight when she's this portable. Let's see what entertainment can we take in this week that ends by 9pm. Leon Bibb is coming to Art Spring. I wonder if she'd be into that? Swing classes? (kidding) The sky's the limit.
Maybe she can take up an instrument and come with me to band practice. We could use another alto sax.

I jump in the Toyota and drive the 10 minutes to St. Mark's Church on what has to be the most dangerous corner on Salt Spring. A cop is following me all the way. My lady reminds me to slow to 30 mph in the school zone. We drive up the bumpy, dirt lane that leads to the church, past a grave stone surrounded by a fence that looks like it has been there before Christ arrived on earth.

I get her out of the car, and walk into the dark church which is the cutest thing I've ever seen inside. It's as if the late Canadian writer Margaret Laurence might be sitting in on this meditation group as well. Have we teleported to Manawaka?

A group of people are sitting talking quietly and my lady is greeted by one of them with such joy and friendliness that I'm happy that she has insisted on coming.

I bid her farewell and drive back home. Park the car. Drink my coffee. Eat my raisin bran. And depart downstairs into my cozy basement paradise to watch the deer in the field and prepare for another day before heading to work.

PS: The photo above is not a photo of St. Marks. It's a church in Chemainus, BC.

October 18, 2009

Swing Shift, Samba Lessons and Japanese Exchange Students

Saturday night I asked Karin if she wanted to go to hear the big bands that were playing at Fulford Hall. The guest band was from Courtenay. And, Salt Spring's Swingshift was playing as well. Tables were layed out cabaret-style and just about the only thing missing was Lawrence Welk and the bubble machine. Well, okay. Eligible men weren't there either.
These two bands, if you like 40s big band music, were great.

We`ve gone to so many events lately - Karin and I - that island lesbians are looking at us thinking we're just like "them". "How did I get so lucky to have such a hot babe like you as my girlfriend?" I ask jokingly.

Friday night was the art opening that kicks off a week of celebrating 150 years since the first black settlers arrived on Salt Spring. Karin had a piece in the show. She`s black. Her mother`s white. her father`s black. But, as she herself pointed out, skin colour just doesn`t seem like the defining reason to be part of something at this point in history.

"Do you ever wonder why we've come together,"I asked her earlier in the evening, a thought I'd had that afternoon. But, she's not the least bit metaphysical. She most certainly does not believe that "there are no coincidences." "Because we have good conversations," she says. "We have the same humour. Because we live here."

We both know that if this were the city not only would we never have met or become friends but we most certainly wouldn`t be hanging out on Saturday evenings. She is 11years younger than me. And, she doesn`t look like she belongs here. I once saw her pulling her suitcase through Ganges and she looked as if she was a model going off to her next shoot. I just observed her and smiled to myself.

We get out of her car outside Fulford Hall after parking along the road. The parking lot is packed. We can hear the music wafting outside, disappearing into the darkness of the night. I laugh at our "big night on the town". We`re walking down the middle of the road and not worried about a single vehicle in either direction.

We walk in and purchase our tickets for $16 and the band is already playing. There`s a lot of people there. We find some seats. I introduce myself to the man seated to my left. He looks Persian. When I ask him where he`s from he says Scotland. His wife is playing keyboards in the band. His name is Fred. They`ve lived in Courtenay for 3 years or so.

When Swingshift takes over, his wife joins him and they get up to dance. They are amazing dancers. When they take a break, they give Karin and I Samba lessons in the back corner. It was fun.

The cool thing is that the band is full of people that you`re used to seeing in other capacities. The guy who sells fish at the market is playing trumpet. The tiny, spunky Japanese woman who owns my favorite restaurant is playing trumpet. My band teacher is doing a sax solo. The conductor is the fish selling, trumpet player`s daughter.

There's wine. There's beer. There`s delicious homemade cookies and old-fashioned squares.

I notice five Japanese exchange students follow in their Canadian 'mother' like ducklings. They`re wearing black jeans and they don`t look too thrilled to be there thank you very much.

One can only imagine the warped impression they will have of Canada if they only live on Salt Spring for their entire 'exchange' year. They`d go back home claiming that Canadians only eat raw food. They never get married. They have kids with at least two or three different people. They barter for everything. They`re crazy in love with organic everything no matter the cost. They never tire of potlucks and they are fashion disasters. Thank God the sushi place here is relatively decent.

Poor things. Fun night.

PS: I just couldn't find a photo of mine that made sense so sorry, no photo.

October 17, 2009

Seeing Nature Through Native Eyes

I woke up to pouring rain and headed off to a course I'd signed up for called Seeing Nature through Native Eyes offered through Salt Spring Community Education. The instructor, Jean-Claude Catry, is thin, a raw food eater, long gray braids tied into one at the back. His brown eyes were bird-like in their intensity. He greeted us at the back of a place near Ruckle Park surrounded by forest.

The first thing I noticed about him was that in spite of the pouring rain and muck, he was walking around in leather flip flops. The sand and dirt from the ground was sticking to his toes as if they were barnacles. Around the house which was a run-down, two-storey wooden structure, there was stuff everywhere; a child's old wooden rocking horse, boxes of fruit, broken equipment and another place beside the main structure. I noticed that place had a makeshift bed outside on a second floor deck. All that covered the bed was a plexi-glass roof. I was trying to get my head around sleeping there, especially, in February.

He had a very strong French accent and I imagine that he may have spent a lot of time in school because in spite of the challenge of understanding his accent, his choice of English words was impeccable.

Three other women were there. That surprised me. I expected the participants to be more and younger. We followed Jean-Claude in the pouring rain through a couple of gates to prevent the chickens from escaping and he led us toward a big structure covered with found bits from the forest.

I found it ironic that whereas we were dressed in various bits of Goretex, Jean-Claude was wearing layers of wool sweaters, some thin, cotton khaki pants, sandals, and carried a mangled green umbrella over his head and a cloth Thrifty's bag in the other with his lunch and some books on plants and birds.

The structure was made teepee style and on top was straw, hay, branches, leaves. A 5 by 5 foot piece of fur was stretched on a hand-made, crooked wooden frame. We find out later it's sea lion. Above the entrance were four deer hooves attached to the bottom of the deer legs. Road kill he said, when I enquired.

Jean-Claude grabbed some straw, told us to take some and throw it on the ground for our seats. We sat around a circle and he began the day speaking about gratitude. The raindrop are like a percussion section above us on the tarp covering the hut making it hard to hear his soft-spoken voice.

Our first exercise requires us to go to a sit spot. Find a spot in the forest that we are drawn to and sit there for 10 minutes return and describe what we noticed.

When was the last time you just sat down in nature and were quiet and just looked? Stayed in one spot for 20 minutes and just paid attention. What did it smell like? What were the birds doing? Did you even hear the birds? Did you know what any of the plants were around you or is the natural world just a pleasing but confusing sea of earth tones? Could you make a fire from scratch, not matches, if you had to? Would you know what berries and mushrooms are edible?

He spoke a lot about two men: Jon Young and Tom Brown Jr. Tom Brown Jr. was befriended by a native elder, Stalking Wolf, who had been wandering the Americas following a vision quest. When he came upon Tom Brown Jr. at a stream, he knew that this young boy (7 years olds) was who he was supposed to coyote mentor and spend the last yeras of his life with passing on his wilderness skills and hundreds of years of Apache culture. Tom Brown Jr. has since written 16 books, his first called The Tracker, published in 1978. Jon Young who learned from Tom Brown has opened a Wilderness Awareness School in Washington State.

Other exercises included looking at 6 leaves from the forest for 20 seconds and then having to go find them and place them in the exact order that you saw. Grab a partner. Blindfolded, they lead you into the forest to a tree and return you. You then must find "your" tree. Take your shoes off, that's right, take them off, and walk properly, toes, side of foot and heel in the dirt so as not to make a sound. Listen to the birds. The birds, he tells us, can tell us so much about ourselves.
When you go to a place in the forest, it will take about 20 minutes for the birds to return to "normal" after your arrival. Listen to them. Are they agitated? They are reflecting your energy he says. Listen to the pattern of the rhythm they make. Don't worry about naming them.

He wants us to go back to our sit spot daily. At first it will be a chore. but then, you will want to go. It will be your form of meditation. It should be no further than 10 minutes from your house.

He also offers wilderness teaching to kids on Fridays, and a survival course begins next weekend where people will come together with only a blanket and a knife and must feed themselves from the forest and build a fire without matches over a weekend. I'm not going. In the summer I'd be interested. Not right now.

October 13, 2009

BitterSweet to the Core

-I finally got out on Robert's zodiac and here's a great photo of him along with some beautiful scenes from the water.

I'm not sure if you experience this but every so often I get glimpses into the bittersweetness of life with such clarity that it almost brings tears to my eyes.

The poignancy of someone's personal struggle to find their place in the world and seeing how they are feeling a little lost and yet I can see who they are - their strengths, their character - and wishing they could see what I see and then maybe they'd have more hope. Knowing that people have, in the past, felt that way about me.

Watching a deer walking tentatively down the middle of the road as I make the morning coffee. Its beauty and fragility as seen from the kitchen window.

Being privy to the challenges of old age. Not wanting to be a part of what I see and yet knowing this gift of seeing my lady is a daily reminder to live in the moment and always be conscious of the next move in life knowing that it's a balancing act between making a choice and being part of a flow that will simply lead to the next chapter.

The sorrow I feel on the one hand being there for a stranger at night and yet knowing that my own 91 year old father sits, alone, in his own house watching TV and yet he tells me, when I ask why he won't come visit, that he's just content where he is.

And, during the day, helping to manage the intensity and anxiety of people on a small island who are seeking employment and who walk through our door. Each of them seeking a way out of a transition, a new path, answers, purpose. And, being on the other end of that (because I have walked in their shoes an undoubtedly will again) I see the sheer life energy and struggle behind finding a way to find paid employment that will bring more than money even if money is the immediate need when we all know that it's never really ever just about money.

It all just strikes me so vividly at times that the intensity of feeling for a split second seems overwhelming and then it's gone. Just like life.

October 11, 2009

Norman Rockwell in real life

Walking along the boardwalk this afternoon and like a gift, this mom, her two daughters and the dog engrossed by something in the water and their reflections is straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. At least, that's what it reminded me of.

Late Afternoon walk

yesterday's walk
took me down the road
around the corner
into the sun
dirt line in the woods
sunlit solitude
led me to the rock beach
home of driftwood sculpture
and apples missing
their mother trees

October 08, 2009

Margaret Atwood's Twitter Page Causes My Own 'Trauma Farm'

Tonight I volunteered to take photos of Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party, who was speaking on Salt Spring when the guy who organized it couldn't be there and asked if I'd do it.

It has been quite a while since I've been at an event where I've had to try and take candid shots of someone in the way I used to as a community newspaper reporter. I forgot how challenging it can be at times. I forgot that I'm now approaching 50 and sitting on the floor cross legged so as not to block the view of the people behind me in order to get a good shot is, well, painful. Kundalini yoga is calling my name but obviously not loudly enough.

Bill Henderson
of Chilliwack fame was sitting behind me. Didn't want to block his view. Valdy opened the evening with a tune or two. And, Elizabeth May was on shaking hands, greeting people, smiling, and as I watched her and tried to catch her in a good light, her best side, I just kept thinking, what in the world would make a woman in Canada want to be part of the House of Commons and question period. That sexist zoo of freaks who act in a way that would not be allowed in any other environment in Canada. And, she herself said that it's much worse in person than on TV because of the constant heckling and cat calling and comments towards women like, I guess you're not on your meds today, etc.
The whole scene makes me sick. So, I just was listening to this intelligent woman thinking why in the world would anyone want to be part of that regardless of how much they might tell themselves that it's for the betterment of the country.
Anyway, I suppose I'm glad she does want to be. Good for her. I'd vote for her. Matter of fact, I think I will.

Afterwards writer Brian Brett was speaking on his new book Trauma Farm. I was going to go listen to him but there was a gap in time and whenever there's a gap in time and there's nothing for me to do, it's just easier to come home after a long day when I'm tired so I did. But, I decided to look up this Trauma Farm (great name) and find out what I was missing and while I did that, what should I come across but Margaret Atwood's Twitter page.

Call me crazy but there is something seriously wrong with the world when Margaret Atwood has a twitter page. Why? Does she really write it? Why? Margaret Atwood does not require a Twitter page! Is her publicist writing. Please god tell me that Margaret Atwood does not sit down and text in Tweets. That's nuts. That just does not fit my image of Margaret Atwood and I'm indignant that my image could be so wrong.

She does not need Twitter. She does not need anything but whatever she needs to continue doing what she does best: Writing. Not tweeting. Not some stupid, useless, waste of time less than 140 characters on how she refrained from drinking non organic coffee between flights. Are you kidding me? That's ridiculous.

I saw Margaret Atwood at UBC in the mid 1980s. She seemed kind of Wicken-like. Long black cape. Very drawl. Glib. Not the kind of personality that would give one flying you know what about Twitter. So, what gives?

Watercoloured Salt Spring

The best thing about having artists as friends is that they really see things through more intense observation or because their minds think in unusual ways or because they see how things could be, not how they are, and they pay attention in ways, I think, that other people don't or can't.

Keiko visited in June with her husband George and just the other day she sent me these .jpg images of three watercolour paintings she's completed as a result of her visit here. I love them. Especially the one of my favorite place: The barn at Ruckle and the road running past it.

Here they are. I'm sure they're for sale if you're interested. Of course they are copyright. All rights protected. Keiko See. 2009

October 05, 2009

Pear Pie with a twist

If you ever made a pie with a bone on top
would you give it to your dog
for a birthday treat?

would you eat it on all fours
gulping it quickly, past your teeth?

would you serve it to your husband
with a smile oh so sweet,
then wait for his bark
which is worse than his bite?

If you ever made a pie with a bone on top
you could eat it off the floor and forego a plate.

If you ever made a pie with a bone on top
would we have to worry 'bout you
should we check for rabies?

If you ever made a pie with a bone on top
I think I'd like you lots
for being just the right kind of freak.

October 03, 2009

VIB: Very Important Bunnies

We have this great list on Salt Spring at SaltSpringCommunity.com. Whatever you can imagine, it will be there or if you're looking for something - a hairdresser, a Playboy magazine from 1965, a piece of antique machinery, put it on the list. Ask and you shall receive. Never boring.

This ad caught my attention and brought a smile to my face...

"I am graduating next summer, and will have a difficult time keeping all of my seven rabbits, so I need to let these three go...however hard it is. I ask for two references, and an interview. [This was my favorite part - INTERVIEW!] Previous rabbit experience is not required, or even preferred- responsibilty before everything.

If I get muliple responses, the rabbits will go to the most appropriate home, not the first responder. Please remember that rabbits can live 8-12 years. If I feel that you are suitable for a rabbit, but my rabbits aren't the ones for you, I can forward you to a number of other breeders.

The rabbits will be at the Apple Festival Sunday at Fulford Hall, or contact me to come see them at my home. If I do not find a home that I am happy with I will continue to hold on to them until I do."

October 02, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Me

It's been one year on Salt Spring. Happy Anniversary to me. To celebrate, I moved. And, just as I was happy to move into the Moon Gate cottage when I got here, I was happy to leave. I'll miss the deck. I won't miss the darkness of the cottage. I won't miss the freezing cold bedroom. I'm hoping for way less spiders and after a week of being here almost, it's true. I may occasionally miss the hot tub. I will have to figure out new ways for friends to visit for free. I now have a full fridge and stove again. Does this mean I can actually buy ice cream again. NO! No it doesn't. Don't even let your mind go there.
I must keep this short because I'm starving and I'm needing to do all that goes with moving, recycling, cleaning (de ja vu) (still).
There's something incredibly free-ing about moving into a bachelor suite again. But, it's a really bright bachelor suite and I love the view. Very peaceful. Oh, and it's free. Did I mention that? Well, nothing's truly free but it's good. I'm feeling good.

Year 2 Salt Spring. Onward.