February 27, 2015

Turn “if only” into “thank you”

A great quote from Doris Gregory, a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps during World War II, as she looks back over her life in her memoir How I Won the War for the Allies: One Sassy Canadian Solider’s Story:

Each time you come to a crossroad in life, you decide which way to turn. At the time, it seems like a free choice, but when you look back, you realize that, given the kind of person you were at that time, with the information then at your disposal, and all the factors acting upon you, you couldn’t have done anything else. Despite the wisdom of this, you can easily fall into the “if only” trap. If only you had taken the other road. But then you wouldn’t have had all these great experiences. As the journey continues, you become more and more adept at avoiding the “if only” trap. And so I look back upon the past without regret. What happened, happened. That’s life!

February 2, 2015

A handful of spaghetti is what we drive on . . .

A great quote from author Chris Czajkowski about the roads in South America. If you’ve ever been there and seen them, you know!

The roads were incredible. Imagine standing on a high point, chopping up a handful of spaghetti and flinging it over a mountainous landscape. A tiny little curved piece would land here, another there, still another way over there. Somehow, all these bits of road would be laboriously joined together. It would take hours to climb or descend four or five thousand metres.

A cleverly accurate description of a terrain (and road system) that must be seen to be believed!

(Source: And the River Still Sings by Chris Czajkowski, Caitlin Press, Halfmoon Bay BC, 2014.)

In memory of Anita M., who loved to travel but ended her journey far too early.
Miss you.

January 29, 2015

Nature makes you a different person: it makes you healthy

Some First Nations wisdom for the rest of us, courtesy of Gitga’at elder and matriarch Helen Clifton (as quoted in Arno Kopecky’s book The Oil Man and the Sea):

When you watch bears and eagles time their cycles with the salmon, when you see whales breaching and sea lions shouting from the rocks, it has a deep effect on your psyche. It makes you a different person. It makes you healthy.

Clifton lives in Hartley Bay, British Columbia, a remote Gitga’at coastal community perched at the mouth of the Douglas Channel, a 90-kilometre inlet stretching from the Pacific Ocean to Kitimat. Clifton has seen these bears, eagles, whales and sea lions, first hand, for all her life. She, too, lives each day in time with the cycles of the salmon.

But all that might change: Kitimat is slated to become the western terminus of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, a pipeline from the Alberta tar sands. Heavy oil from the pipeline is due to be shipped, in massive, hulking tankers, down the Douglas Channel, past the bears and eagles and salmon and whales and coastal communities, on its way to Asia.

An accident or spill is, at some point, inevitable. And that puts the health of coastal British Columbia — and, ultimately, the health of each and every one of us — at risk.

For more information, or to add your voice to those concerned about the health of our coastal marine environment:

January 16, 2015

Beauty in small pieces

A beautiful poem by Jason Mayes, as it appears in the 2002 anthology The Fish Come In Dancing edited by Kate Braid:

Life holds nothing
but beauty in small pieces
which only seem small
from afar.

January 13, 2015

Adversity is an ally that helps you grow

I just finished reading Robyn Davidson’s excellent book Tracks, a bitingly candid account of Davidson’s mostly solo camel trek across 1,700 miles of Australian desert.

Davidson’s inner landscape understandably shifts considerably during her arduous journey. At one point, she falls into a deep depression and arrives at an observation that I think holds value for how we handle moments of despondency in our own lives:

In the past, my bouts of gloom and despair had led, like widdershins [water-worn gulleys] to the same place. And it seemed that at that place was a signpost saying, “Here it is,” here is the thing you must push through, leap free of, before you can learn any more. It was as if the self brought me constantly to this place — took every opportunity to show it to me. It was as if there was a button there which I could push if I only had the courage. If I could only just remember. Ah, but we always forget. Or are too lazy. Or too frightened. Or too certain we have all the time in the world. And so back up the ravines to the comfortable places . . . where we don’t have to think too much. Where life is, after all, just “getting by” and where we survive, half asleep.

What I take from Davidson’s words is this: life’s low moments often point us directly to the issues, challenges or shifts that really matter — the ones that we must, at some point, overcome or address in order to grow as people. To ignore these “signposts” and hightail it back behind the safety barriers does us no good in the long run. We grow through discomfort, not ease, and we must tackle discomfort head on in order to realize our full potential as human beings.

In this way, adversity becomes our ally — a partner and collaborator in the exercise of stretching our lives and our selves to new heights. We’d never get to the point of having to choose “leap or retreat” (“grow or stagnate”) if not for adversity constantly forcing us down the road upon which that choice lies.

The next time you are confronted with a “signpost” in your life, what will you do? Will you muster the courage to stride past it into the unknown, knowing that the true value of your life ultimately lies in this direction? Or will you quail, turn tail and scramble back to safety, mumbling excuses all the way? The direction is clear, but the choice is yours to make.

January 9, 2015

Observed on the street: Winter traffic signs in Canada

I encountered this barely visible stop sign in the parking lot of a grocery store in northern British Columbia.

20150109_WinterStopSign

January 5, 2015

This new year, discover what really matters

A perfect quote for the new year, courtesy of Robert Brault:

Life is about discovering things that do matter in the end.

May 2015 bring you closer to realizing (and acting on) what really matters in your own life.

December 31, 2014

A wish for a well-lit new year

As the new year approaches, many of us will take stock of where we’ve been and where we’re going. This is a time to allow old, outdated parts of ourselves ebb away, and to create space for new parts to gather strength and issue forth.

I like the description of this process written by Laura Resau in her story “Bees Born of Tears” (published in the anthology Mexico, A Love Story, edited by Camille Cusumano):

I imagine each of us with our own cave of candles, parts of ourselves burning down to wax ponds, dying, other parts of us just beginning, the candles freshly lit.

Which freshly lit flames will illuminate your journey this coming year? And which barely flickering fires will you honour as they burn out?

Each fresh or fading flame is cause for celebration, linked as it is to the larger cycle of life, death and rebirth within both ourselves and the world around us.

This new year, honour all the candles in your life — the new and the old, the strong and the weak, those lit by your hand and those lit by circumstance, those long burned out and those still to come.

Best wishes for a bright 2015.

December 23, 2014

Thoughts on nature from a wilderness dweller

I’m reading an excellent series of books by Chris Czajkowski, a British woman who has for over 30 years lived off the grid, on her own, in cabins she built from scratch in the Chilcotin wilderness of Central British Columbia. Here are a few of her ideas about the natural world and our relationship to it that I think deserve consideration:

Thoughts on silence, from Diary of a Wilderness Dweller:

Most people will spend their whole lives never knowing what it is to live without human noise . . . . These people, and probably the majority in today’s world, will never know the beauty of silence. And if they were presented with it, it is likely that the first thing they would do would be to destroy it.

Thoughts on how we educate our children, from Nuk Tessli: The Life of a Wilderness Dweller:

People who question leaving the city while their kids are still in school, worried that they might “miss out on something” should think again. To teach a child that he belongs in an interdependent ecosystem that deserves respect is surely the greatest, almost the only, inheritance that he or she needs.

And thoughts on the importance of accepting and respecting all aspects of nature (not just its romantic beauty), again from Nuk Tessli:

Nature is fascinating, beautiful, and uplifting to the soul. It is exciting, exquisite and miraculous. But it is also dirty, uncomfortable, itchy and cold, full of disinterested murder and terror, unnecessary cruelty, misery and waste. To accept the wilderness you have to understand that both sides are valid, both are part of the intricate relationships that give us our water, air, all life-support systems and sanity. To deny one side of nature is to abrogate the other, and to understand the essence of these natural laws provides insight into our own behaviour as a species. We are part of nature and nature is part of us. To ignore that is to ignore reality, and I am afraid that is what most people do.

December 14, 2014

Take the first step

Thought for the day, courtesy of author Paulo Coelho:

In spite of the knowledge that there were many ways in which I could fail, I had taken the first step.

Take the first step. It is amazing how far it will get you.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 209 other followers