Archive for January, 2013

January 31, 2013

Book recommendation — “Beyond the Sky and the Earth” by Jamie Zeppa

Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa is a well-written, insightful account of how travel (and the willingness to leave your comfort zone) can transform you, change you, and, ultimately, lead you to the one thing you’ve been looking for all along: yourself. An excellent book. I liked it so much I quoted from it three times this month — on January 5, January 7, and January 23!  Highly recommended!

Cover of the book "Beyond the Sky and the Earth:  A Journey into Bhutan" by Jamie Zeppa

“Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan” by Jamie Zeppa

January 28, 2013

Show your true colours

Another poem from children’s author Shel Silverstein:


My skin is kind of sort of brownish
Pinkish yellowish white.
My eyes are greyish blueish green,
But I’m told they look orange in the night.
My hair is reddish blondish brown,
But it’s silver when it’s wet.
And all the colours I am inside
Have not been invented yet.

Inside of you (yes, you!) is a brilliant explosion of colour, a vivid, breathtaking swirl of tints and tones that is unique to only you. These colours are yours, and yours alone.  Honour these colours and the inner canvas they decorate. Free them to the world through the activities you pursue and the causes you follow. Name them in your own way, by giving them the space and recognition they deserve — both inside your self and in the world around you. Paint your world your way, according to your inner palette. And never be afraid to splash another colour onto the work of art that is your life.

Image of paint splatter

January 23, 2013

“It is only my own life, I realize, that I am afraid of . . .”

I love this quote from Jamie Zeppa’s book Beyond the Sky and the Earth:  A Journey into Bhutan.  Zeppa, a volunteer teacher from Canada posted in Bhutan, describes the inner turmoil she experienced in the lead up to her romance with a Bhutanese man — a romance that had been building for some time but that she had continually stepped back from because it didn’t seem “proper” or “practical” or even “possible” to her logical self:

I pretended that I was resisting out of ethical considerations but the truth is I resist because I am afraid.  My time in Bhutan, my whole journey in fact . . . , has been a coming to these edges, these verges, these high places where I am buffeted by winds and dazed by the view, by the risks and the possibilities I never imagined could exist in my life, where I am astonished that I could get so high up, how on earth did I get so high up, where a voice whispers JUMP and another cries DON’T.  Where I could turn back and walk down to safer ground, or I could throw myself over that edge, into what, what is out there, what is it that I am so afraid of beyond this last safe step where I am now standing?  It is only my own life, I realize, that I am afraid of, and at each high point I am given the chance to throw myself over and back into it.

She threw herself over and back into it, back into the meat of her life.  Will you do the same at the intimidating edges of your own life?

January 20, 2013

Make your own magic? Yes, you can.

A poem from children’s author Shel Silverstein:

Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,
Eddie touched a troll,
Laurie danced with witches once,
Charlie found some goblins’ gold.
Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I’ve had to make myself.

Too often we go through life waiting for something amazing to happen to us, when really we have the power and the ability to create those magical opportunities for ourselves.  Yes, “making magic” will involve taking risks, facing fears, stepping out of your comfort zone, but magic won’t happen — can’t happen — unless you are brave enough to give yourself to the moment and see where the “spell” you’re casting takes you.

One of my favourite quotes, from businesswoman and philanthropist Madam C.J. Walker, is thus:

Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come.  Get up and make them!

This week, get up and make an opportunity for yourself.  Go out and do something that you’ve been postponing for ages; contact someone who’s been constantly on your mind; join a new club; pursue a new career direction; talk to that stranger with the glimmer in his eye; go down that path you’ve been gazing down for months — the one bathed in sunlight but full of unknown twists and turns — the one that will take you who-knows-where . . . .

The more opportunities you create for yourself, the more magical your life becomes.

Your life is a rainbow.  It’s up to you to jump on and slide down.

Pot of gold icon

January 20, 2013

Book recommendation — “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by Salman Rushdie

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie.  Very different from Rushdie’s other work, this book is like Dr. Seuss for adults — and children will love it, too!  Clever, magical and simply delightful.

Cover of the novel "Haroun and the Sea of Stories" by Salman Rushdie

January 12, 2013

If you want to get anything done in this life . . . just do it

Have you ever let naysayers or internal fears stop you from pursuing the dreams or paths that call to you?  Here’s a bit of inspiration to help overcome such obstacles, courtesy of a few books I read recently:

From Plastiki:  Across the Pacific Ocean on Plastic, David de Rothschild’s chronicle of his four-year project to build a boat from recycled plastic bottles and sail it across the ocean from San Francisco to Sydney:

My attitude is that there will always be skeptics and people who want you to fail.  If you worry about failure, you’re not going to get anything done in this life. . . . [But] when you follow an audacious dream into the unknown, the journey itself can be inspiring in ways beyond imagining.

De Rothschild and his six-person crew successfully sailed their boat of 12,500 plastic bottles from San Francisco to Sydney, raising awareness about ocean health and inspiring thousands of people to rethink their relationships to disposable plastics.

And from Dauod Hari’s excellent book The Translator:  A Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur:

You have to be stronger than your fears if you want to get anything done in this life.

Hari, a translator by chance, risked his life several times over to take foreign journalists into the Darfur region of Sudan, all so that stories about the atrocities of genocide occurring in the area could reach international eyes and ears.

If Hari can overcome fears of persecution and death in order to walk his path, can you overcome your own (perhaps lesser) fears to walk yours?

January 11, 2013

Open spaces, open hearts

A wonderful quote from photographer and documentary filmmaker Louie Psihoyos:

There is no box around an open heart.


January 7, 2013

Arrival vs. entrance: Do you stick to the sidelines or dance at the heart of it all?

Today, I share another passage from Jamie Zeppa‘s book Beyond the Sky and the Earth:  A Journey into Bhutan.  Zeppa has recently arrived in a tiny, remote village in southeastern Bhutan, where she will spend two years as a volunteer teacher in a local school.  The initial culture shock has hit her hard: her dilapidated lodging, her flea-infested bed, her fear of food-borne illness, her inability to communicate with her students . . . the differences between her life in Canada and the life she encounters in Bhutan are stark, making her long to pack her bags and head home.  But she perseveres — and slowly begins to crack the surface of the rich culture that surrounds her.

Here, Zeppa describes the difference, as she perceives it, between arriving in a place and entering it:

Arrival is physical and happens all at once.  The train pulls in, the plane touches down, you get out of the taxi with all your luggage.  You can arrive in a place and never really enter it; you get there, look around, take a few pictures, make a few notes, send postcards home.  When you travel like this, you think you know where you are, but, in fact, you have never left home.  Entering takes longer.  You cross over slowly, in bits and pieces.  You begin to despair:  will you ever get over?  It is like awakening slowly, over a period of weeks.  And then one morning, you open your eyes and you are finally here, really and truly here.  You are just beginning to know where you are.

This distinction certainly applies to travelling — when you visit a new locale, you can choose to either arrive and skim the surface or enter and dance to the pulse of what makes that place unique — but I think the difference also applies to how you live life itself.

In your day-to-day life right now — in your career, your relationships, your activities, your decisions — are you merely arriving — standing on the surface, lingering on the fringe, just glancing around — or are you truly entering — reaching out and in, immersing yourself in the rhythms, becoming part of the heartbeat itself?

The more fully you enter life, the richer and more rewarding it becomes.  Entrance isn’t always easy, but it is worth the time and worth the effort.  After all, dancing to that inner rhythm is where the magic really begins.

January 5, 2013

Mountains, endless mountains, flowing through my veins

I grew up in the mountain-rich province of British Columbia, but I spent several years living in the “flatlands” of Ontario.  I often wonder how my perspectives on geography and landscape would be different if my roots were reversed, if I were a child of Ontario arriving in British Columbia for the first time.  Would I miss the gentle slope of Ontario, the endless horizon, the enormous sunsets?  Would the mountains of British Columbia stun me, humble me, leave my mouth agape with awe?

Mountains are in my blood.  They fill my horizon, fuel my body, comfort my soul.  Perhaps that is why I like this quote from Jamie Zeppa’s book Beyond the Sky and the Earth:  A Journey into Bhutan.  Zeppa — an Ontario girl for all of her then-23 years — has this to say of her approach by plane into Paro, Bhutan, a town crouched at the eastern edge of the Himalayas:

I used to wonder what was on the other side of mountains, how the landscape resolved itself beyond the immediate wall in front of you.  Flying in [to Bhutan] from the baked-brown plains of India this morning, I found out:  on the other side of mountains are mountains, more mountains and mountains again.

Those of us with mountains in our blood know this to be true, and we are grateful for it.

Rocky Mountains in Western Canada

January 4, 2013

Why I love B.C. – Pulp non-fiction

I saw this sign outside the University of Northern British Columbia:

Sign for a Pulp Bleaching Conference at the University of Northern British Columbia

Here in northern B.C., a two-day conference on this topic is completely normal!