January 3, 2017

Balm for a broken heart

These quotes are for my friend A.J. and everyone else who’s been there, felt that:

Love is spiritual training for a broken heart. Your heart will break if you love someone.
~ Polly Young-Eisendrath in The Present Heart

But then…

To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life.
~ Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love

And …

I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world.
~ Mary Oliver

A broken heart is a gift. It means you are human; it means you are capable of opening yourself to someone else, to letting them in, to loving them — then, now and in the future. Your heart will heal and you will love again — better and stronger next time for what you have learned this time. ♥

January 1, 2017

Leap into 2017

Happy New Year everyone!

I offer the following quote in honour of my brother, who is making a major career change in 2017. Thirty-something and newly married, my bro is leaving the world salaried work to strike out on his own. It’s a path that he’s been talking about for years, and in 2017 he’s finally going for it — obstacles and unknowns be damned. My brother says that the following words from American naturalist John Burroughs helped ease his anxieties as he made his decision:

Leap, and the net will appear.

That is: Only when you take that first step off solid ground and launch yourself in the direction of your dreams will the ideas, solutions and options that you need — but could never see from the comfort and safety of your old position — reveal themselves. Plan you leap as much as you can, then go for it. The answers will appear over the course of your journey.

This year, I encourage you to take some leaps of your own. Do something that scares you but has been calling to you for a long time. Listen to your heart and act on it, even if you don’t know what the end result will be. Trust — trust yourself and your abilities enough to simply go for it.

Your net is out there, but it can’t catch you unless you leap.

Happy 2017!

December 27, 2016

Follow that trail of crumbs to live more fully

Ever had an exceptionally appealing idea pop into your mind without warning, then dominate your thoughts for weeks or months afterwards?

In her travel memoir A Year in the World, author Frances Mayes suggests that these kinds of spontaneous, powerful ideas may be our subconscious mind’s way of ultimately getting us to where we need to be in our lives. She writes:

Should you not listen well to the questions you ask out of nowhere? Only in looking back do you find those crumbs you dropped that marked your way forward.

So when those seemingly random but totally tantalizing crumbs enter your conscious mind, gobble them up. They are fuel for your fabulous future. ♥

October 14, 2016

Just a dash, yet so much more

At a recent performance by the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in my town, orchestra conductor and artistic director Dr. Wes Janzen spoke these words:

On your grave marker, there will be a birth date and a death date. Then there is a dash. That dash is your life.

Wow. Those words drove home for me how short life really is — as short as the dash that sits between the birth and death dates on a gravestone.

Dr. Janzen’s words made me realize how little of “your life” others will see of you when you’re gone: that dash doesn’t communicate any of your joys, achievements or successes. It ignores the obstacles you overcame. It disregards how your smile lit up a room; how you taught kids to play the piano, baked drool-worthy goodies for friends, or fixed people’s cars for free. That dash doesn’t convey any of the depth of your experience. It doesn’t recognize your contribution to the world, to your family and friends, to your community.

This might all sound a bit depressing, but in another sense, it’s empowering. My life truly is my own to make of it what I want. No one cares about the outcome — the substance of that dash — except for me, and possibly some of the people around me. So the best thing to do is live my life according to my own principles and passions, and to share the results of that process with my friends, family and community.

True, my life might be a mere blip on the radar of the larger world, but it can leave a lasting and meaningful mark on the lives of the people around me. I can be a teacher, an inspiration, a confidante, a buddy to laugh with, a shoulder to lean on, a superstar volunteer, a person who always picks up the phone and says, “yes, that’s great, let’s do it!” The people on the receiving or collaborating ends of all this will share the depths of their experiences with the depth of mine, and maybe that is enough.

September 11, 2016

Where is the space for originality?

Food for thought, courtesy of Carolyn Roberts in A House of Straw, a book that chronicles her experience building her own straw-bale house in Arizona:

Why is it so hard to do something original in our society? . . . We shop in at the same stores, in the same strip malls and shopping plazas, which carry the same products. We all use the same credit cards and run up the same debts, which we pay to the same banks. We watch the same shows on TV, the same movies, drive cars that vary slightly in their colour and interior but are essentially the same. We eat the same food from the same chain restaurants, or bought from the same national line of grocery stores, manufactured by the same huge companies with different labels.

In the carbon-copy society that surrounds most North Americans, what do you do to stick out a bit? Do you embrace difference or judge it? Are you comfortable going out on a limb and walking a path that no one else is walking, a path that other people might find strange, even threatening?

Carolyn Roberts built her own straw-bale house to fit her own lifestyle and financial situation. What are you doing?

July 18, 2016

Five cool (environmentally conscious) things about Vancouver

I recently spent a few days in Vancouver, British Columbia. Each time I visit this wonderful city, I am further struck by its positive and inspiring efforts to make sustainable living and alternative energy options a reality. This time around, I stayed in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, where I encountered these five earth-friendly ideas-in-action:

  1. Dedicated streets for cycling. Yup, nestled throughout this busy city, you’ll find a robust network of functional cycling routes designed for bicycle commuters and sightseers alike. Pedal these well-planned routes and you’ll cruise along peaceful, tree-lined, low-traffic streets, complete with bicycle-specific crossing signals at major intersections. Your ears will fill with the gentle whizzing of other bikes coasting nearby as you pedal safely and happily from Point A to Point B — or even 25 kilometres out of town to the Quay Market in New Westminster!
  2. Public petitions to save trees from development projects. While cycling though the Kitsilano and West Point Grey neighbourhoods, I passed several big old trees hung with colourful flags and eye-catching signs. The trees, I learned, stood on properties earmarked for new housing construction. The signs publicized this fact and directed residents to online petitions that they could sign in support of keeping the trees standing. People actively fighting to save trees in their city: the very thought makes my heart happy!
  3. North America’s first waste-water heat recovery system. Walk to the southeast corner of the Cambie Street Bridge and you’ll find five svelte, LED-lit smokestacks rising unobtrusively from below. These mark the Southeast False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility (NEU), which is tucked neatly beneath the bridge. The NEU captures heat from neighbourhood sewage and waste water and transforms it into energy to provide space heating and hot water for almost 400,000 square metres of residential, commercial and institutional buildings. How cool (or hot) is that?
  4. Food isn’t garbage: 2015 organics ban. On January 1, 2015, the City of Vancouver banned food waste from its municipal garbage collection program. Residents now separate organic waste from regular garbage and other recyclables, and dispose of it via municipal green bin programs, private haulers or on-site solutions. My bed and breakfast had a strict green bin program in place for food scraps. And I found a few dedicated food-waste disposal bins on the street outside the Cambie Street Whole Foods Market. Way to go, Vancouver!
  5. Community housing in heritage homes. My guided architectural walking tour of Vancouver’s West End culminated at the Mole Hill Community Housing Society, a 170-unit housing initiative spread across 27 restored heritage homes on Thurlow, Pendrell, Bute and Comox Streets. The homes, several of them listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register, were originally built between 1888 and 1908 and together comprise one of the most intact surviving blocks of pre-World War I housing in the city. These beautifully restored houses have been given new life in this thriving housing project, set as they now are among gardens, green space and a very palpable sense of community pride.
July 7, 2016

Celebrate being single!

To all you single people out there, check out these inspiring words from actress Drew Barrymore in her book Wildflower:

It’s ironic that we rush through being “single” as if it’s some disease or malady to get rid of or overcome. The truth is, most likely, one day you will meet someone and it will be gone. And once it’s gone, it’s really gone! Why does no one tell us how important it is to enjoy being single and being by yourself? That time is defining and amazing and nothing to “cure.” It is being alone that will actually set you up the best for being with someone else.

Ms. Barrymore is right: we need to celebrate and treasure our single days. Being single is a life experience that, in most cases, is a time-limited opportunity. It’s a time to learn more about who you really are as your own person — about what makes you happy and content, what drives you, what your goals and priorities are — all on your own terms.

Flying solo is an exciting, rewarding, nurturing and adventurous time in your life. So is coupledom, to be sure, but in a very different way.

So be proud of your solo status, and never hang your head or make excuses about it. Own it, and enjoy every moment of it. Being single is a special gift that you get to treasure for only so long!

July 4, 2016

Be a frequent cliff jumper

Thought of the moment, courtesy of science-fiction author Ray Bradbury:

If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair, we’d never have a friendship . . . . You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.

 

July 3, 2016

All roads lead to . . .

Thought of the moment, courtesy of 17th-century French fable-writer Jean de La Fontaine:

A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.

Hmmm, so much for procrastination!

Or, perhaps each of us really does have a specific purpose in this life, and whichever road we take will ultimately lead us to it, whether directly or via a more circuitous route.

June 24, 2016

Follow your bliss, witness magic

Thought of the moment, courtesy of American writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell:

Follow your bliss, and doors will open where there are no doors.

Magic does exist, if you listen to your heart and follow where it leads. . . .