July 3, 2015

“Take up your bed. Go! Walk again!”

Ever get the urge to set out on a journey of exploration, to watch new horizons and new adventures unfurl before you? This wonderful quote about the pull of travel was written by Isobel Wylie Hutchison (1889-1982), Arctic wayfarer and botanist, in her excellent travelogue North to the Rime-Ringed Sun:

It’s strange that though my lines are set so fair and pleasant here [at home],
Yet every now and then there comes this whisper through the year —
“Take up your bed. Go! Walk again! Oh man! Your days are few,
And lo! The earth is very wide, her treasure waits for you.”

July 1, 2015

Happy Canada Day!

Ten reasons why I love Canada:

  1. Abundant and easy access to nature and green space.
  2. Friendly people.
  3. Geographical and cultural diversity.
  4. Big cities, tiny hamlets and everything in between = countless living and travel opportunities.
  5. Lakes, lakes, lakes! (And rivers and oceans, too!)
  6. Four seasons.
  7. First Nations’ history and culture.
  8. Environmental ethic.
  9. Diversity of wildlife (and an ethos to respect and protect it).
  10. Natural beauty, from coast to coast to coast.

Happy Canada Day!

20150701_Canada-flag-icon

Tags:
June 22, 2015

The journey is the remedy

Ever faced a long, daunting project, the scale of which set your anxieties astir? Actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman did so when they embarked on a four-month motorcycle journey around the world, following a route that included some of the toughest riding conditions on the globe.

Here are a few tips from their book, Long Way Round, about facing down your inner demons and just getting on with it:

  • The secret to any long journey or project is to take it in blocks — little chunks that you can process and manage bit by bit. A week into their 29,000-plus-kilometre journey, McGregor writes: “Even now, I couldn’t conceive of the scale of our undertaking. For months [before the trip] I had been talking people through the map [of our route]. Now I was sitting on my bike riding it. . . . But I still couldn’t fathom the distance ahead. The secret, I felt, was to take the journey in little blocks. Morning til coffee break. Coffee til lunch. Lunch til mid-afternoon break. . . . By breaking it up into chunks, we’d make it manageable. But the moment my mind drifted to the bigger picture . . . , the journey became overwhelming and panic set in.”
  • As the journey progresses, it’s also important not to let setbacks and disappointments get you down. Obstacles will crop up, and when they do, they may appear overwhelming. But if you take the time to step back and examine your situation from a broader perspective — one that looks beyond the obstacle looming right in front of you — you may see that the bigger picture is more important than the immediate, in-your-face details. McGregor and Boorman faced abysmally difficult roads in Mongolia — so bad that McGregor wanted to pack up and get out. But as he talked about his dilemma with his team, he realized that turning tail would rob him of the opportunity to experience more of a country that was already affecting him on a deep emotional level. Fighting through the roads might be difficult and put the trip “behind schedule”, but did that really matter in the long run? “It’s hard here,” Boorman tells McGregor, “it’s really hard. But it’s also really beautiful and we just have to concentrate more on the beauty and less on the hardship. . . . We [need] to open our eyes to our surroundings. Any journey [is] difficult when the field of vision [is] just five feet ahead of you.”
June 12, 2015

Fire lives within you

Great lyric from the song “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten:

I might only have one match,
But I can make an explosion.

Get out there and burn.

May 28, 2015

Every second counts

Something to remember:

Twenty-four little hours make a difference, sure.
But so do twenty-four little minutes, or seconds.

(Dinah Washington song lyric quoted in Corked: A Memoir by Kathryn Borel)

May 9, 2015

Television and the human brain: a healthy combination?

Television: love it or hate it, it is here to stay. I was therefore intrigued to read psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge’s discussion of how “the square box” is definitely changing the way the human brain operates. Whether you see these changes as good or bad will depend on your perspective. Check out the following quotes from Doidge’s book The Brain that Changes Itself, then decide for yourself . . . .

  • A recent study of more than 2,600 toddlers shows that early exposure to television between the ages of one and three correlates with problems paying attention and controlling impulses later in childhood. For every hour of TV a toddler watched each day, their chances of developing serious attentional difficulties at age seven increased by 10 percent.
  • About 20 years after the spread of TV, teachers of young children began to notice that their students had become more restless and had increasing difficulty paying attention. The educator Jane Healy documented these changes in her book Endangered Minds. . . . When those children entered college, professors complained of having to “dumb down” their courses each new year, for students who were increasingly interested in “sound bites” and intimidated by reading of any length.
  • The Harvard psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, an expert on attention deficit disorder (ADD), which is genetic, has linked the electronic media to the rise of attention deficit traits, which are not genetic, in much of the population.
  • Television, music videos and video games . . . unfold at a much faster pace than real life, and they are getting faster, which causes people to develop an increased appetite for high-speed transitions in those media. . . . [T]he form of the television medium — cuts, edits, zooms, pans and sudden noises — . . . alters the brain by activating what Pavlov called the “orienting response,” which occurs whenever we sense a sudden change in the world around us, especially sudden movement. We instinctively interrupt whatever we are doing to turn, pay attention and get our bearings. . . . Television triggers this response at a far more rapid rate than we experience it in life, which is why we can’t keep our eyes off the TV screen, even in the middle of an intimate conversation. . . . Because typical music videos, action sequences and commercials trigger orienting responses at a rate of one per second, watching them puts us into continuous orienting response with no recovery. No wonder people report feeling drained from watching TV. Yet we acquire a taste for it and find slower changes boring. The cost is that such activities as reading, complex conversation and listening to lectures become more difficult.

It is inevitable that the dominant media of the day should shape the way we think, act and interact — the same process undoubtedly also occurred with the introduction of the alphabet, the printing press, the radio, etc.

The real question is whether a fast-paced, stimulus-ridden, “always-on” culture a good social change or a bad one. And beyond that, do we even have a choice as to which way the pendulum will swing?

Doidge spends the majority of his book demonstrating how we can consciously rewire brain functioning in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The brain is a “plastic” and changeable medium; with time, dedication and appropriate exercises, stroke victims can recover lost movement, dementia patients can recover lost memories, people with brain deficiencies can recover lost functions, and the elderly can curtail or even reverse age-related cognitive delcine.

It’s a use-it-or-lose-it brain, Doidge says. The ways you can choose to use it — or let your environment influence it — are endless. Check this book out; it’s worth the read.

May 7, 2015

A note about what’s most important

A great quote from Vickie M. Worsham:

Remember what is most important:

It’s not having everything go right;
it’s facing whatever goes wrong.
It’s not being without fear;
it’s having the determination to go on in spite of it.
It’s not where you stand,
but the direction you’re going in.

Remember to live this one day and not add tomorrow’s troubles to today’s load.
Remember that every day ends and brings a new tomorrow full of exciting new things.
Love what you do,
do the best you can,
and always remember how much you are loved.

April 30, 2015

Ode to my bicycle

This anonymous quote the pretty much sums up my feelings towards my lovely, fabulous bike(s)!

When I ride my bike I feel free and happy and strong,
liberated from the usual nonsense of day-to-day life,
solid, dependable, silent.
My bike is my horse, my fighter jet, my island, my friend.
Together we shall conquer that hill and thereafter the world.

 

20150430_ILoveMyBike 20150430_BlueSkyBike 20150430_BikeLove

April 26, 2015

Make your actions matter to the people in your world

Thought for the day, courtesy of Jane Goodall:

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.

It could be something as simple as smiling at a stranger or calling a friend just to say “hi,” or something as involved as volunteering time or donating resources to a cause you care about. The things you do and don’t do — every day — have an impact on this world and the people around you.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting an old high school math teacher at a garage sale he was co-ordinating on behalf of a friend. This gentleman had always struck me as a rather serious individual, quite absorbed in the world of mathematics, but on this day, years out of his classroom, I saw another, gentler and more real side of him.

Over the course of our conversation, he told me how much the field of mathematics continues to thrill him, and how, now that he is retired, he might easily hole himself up in his home office for days on end, hard at work on a difficult proof passed along by his own graduate studies professor years ago. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in that,” he said, “and to say to my wife, ‘No, don’t bother me, don’t invite people over, leave me alone, I just want to work on this.’ ”

“But,” he said with warmth in his eyes, “I make sure I don’t do that! I limit my time in the office working on math because it can be isolating, and it’s the people in my life that really matter — being able to take care of my grandchildren, go walking with my wife, take time to help a friend like I’m doing now. In the end, people and relationships are so much more important than a mathematical proof. I know that, and I make sure I live my life according to that order of priority.”

This is a man who has made a good decision about the direction and focus of his life, and because of that decision, he makes a positive difference in the lives of the people around him. Yesterday, he made a positive difference in mine.

April 13, 2015

Live in the sunlight

Thought of the moment, courtesy of American daredevil Evel Knievel:

I decided to fly through the air and live in the sunlight and enjoy life as much as I could.

I good motto for any life, I’d say.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 219 other followers