tell me about your walk

 
Tell me the beautiful bits, things I might not see if I walked where you walk.

dsc08625_1 Because we need to see beauty more than ever.

More than ever.

And through the eyes of each other.

dsc08623So tell me about a poem that came to you one day as you looked at this scene or that one and how it made you go home and count your blessings.

dsc08642And how this tree or that corner or this bench makes you remember a friend and a conversation about bread.

dsc08650Tell me about trees taken down with saws and others taken down with teeth. And tell me: where is the dam?  (Also:  where is a naturalist when you need one to explain where is the dam?)

dsc08629dsc08648 dsc08635Tell me about the sound of birds you can’t see and about a loved one who is flying across the ocean at this very moment, homeward.

dsc08622_1dsc08661Tell me about the litter you pick up or don’t pick up and about the bike you once found abandoned in the woods just there and how you wonder where abandoned bikes go… and why ducks’ feet don’t get cold.

dsc08652 dsc08638 Tell me about the neighbourhood stray.

How he appeared at the window one day when your cat was sitting on the sill and they both nearly scared each other to death and how neither of them have gone anywhere near that window since.

dsc08659Tell me about the brim of your hat and how you tilt it upwards because you want to let every drop of vitamin D into your eyes.

And the splash of red you see in a bush, which you assume is another Timmy’s cup and when you get closer you see that it’s not litter but a bird.

dsc08654Tell me about the man doing tai chi in the park and how you’re grateful for all the goodness he’s putting into the air. And how in the very same park someone left a hoover and a giant bag of household garbage.

dsc08657dsc08627Tell me why you walk.

dsc08651Tell me it’s to clear your mind, to remind yourself there’s more than madness in the world. Tell me it helps you see that despite all the anger, fear and hate, there’s no value in anger, fear or hate because that’s not how things work, that’s not the essence of what we are.

Despite all appearances, that’s not the essence of what we are.

Tell me you walk to refuel because refueling is necessary… because this isn’t a time for idleness.

Tell me you walk because there is so much beauty.

And so much work to do.

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when it all becomes too much…

 
Make art.

DSC05676It’s a good day when you find a door on the sidewalk.

DSC05677 And the door has feelings.DSC05679This actually reads: “chalk art is meant…”

DSC05680 “to be destroyed.”

An artist statement that makes the artist all the more remarkable in my view. DSC05690 DSC05689 DSC05688 DSC05687 DSC05686 DSC05685 DSC05682 DSC05681 DSC05678 DSC05674 DSC05673DSC05691A couple of lads walked by as I was taking these shots and they were swaggering in that way that suggests they’re just too sexy for their shoes. Or something. Attitude. But the chalk art got to them. They looked, slowed down, forgot the swagger for a moment, almost cracked a smile. I caught their eye, said nifty noodles, eh? Or along those lines, small talk. Unable to speak in sentences perhaps, they made a sound, nodded, and kept going, with a bit less swagger in their step I thought.

Art has this effect.

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here, and there

 
Walking in the woods isn’t quite the same as it was last week.
DSC05570DSC05553It’s hard to tromp about today and only marvel at the beauty and stillness and fresh earthy smells.
DSC05558The early flowers and birdsong. Tra la, tra la.
DSC05543DSC05586I heard a story on the radio this morning about a woman from Fort McMurray who lost her wedding dress in the fire.
DSC05559I thought how trite. A dress?  Why is this a story?

I made my breakfast as I listened. Eggs, toast, tea.
DSC05562The woman explained how friends had posted about the dress and people from all across the country offered her a replacement. How she chose one from Toronto, where she’s getting married tomorrow on the island.

There was nothing trite about her tone. She was a woman who’d left her home at a moment’s notice with cats and dog and rabbit and who somehow made her way to Toronto where she was now on the radio, stunned at the turn of events.
DSC05577And all she wants is what anyone would want… for things to be normal.

And that, I thought, is where the dress comes in.

Because our normals may be different things and we may not immediately recognize each other’s version, but I suspect the dress is hers and how brilliant that, in the face of everything else that is such madness, she’ll be able to get married in something that makes her feel that maybe not all is lost.

Even though she said she could just as easily wear a tee shirt and jeans.
DSC05563And so my walking is different these days because of how I’m thinking about those forests over there and these here, the same, yet not, and I’m thinking about nature, generally, how we’re nothing against it, and the nature of people too, the kindness of strangers and the need for anchors in our lives and how they’re so often what we least expect or even imagine.
DSC05571 DSC05572And I’m thinking about the woman and the thousands like her…

…here, and there. So many ‘theres’.

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So.

Happy wedding on Toronto’s Centre Island, stranger from Fort McMurray…

And welcome.

We’ll be raising a glass to you.

 

♥♥♥

Information on how to help residents of Fort McMurray (or receive help).

Donations made through the Red Cross are being matched dollar for dollar by the Federal Gov’t.

 

 

rainy day people

 
I was writing with a group of women at the shelter recently.
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I do this once a month; they call it a workshop, but really we’re just writing together.
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I’m always amazed by what gets said on paper by people who aren’t always used to holding a pen.
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Amazed also that in the middle of the madness that is currently their life, in the middle of everything they’re going through, have gone through for god knows how long, that they can write with such clarity, such honesty.
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They’re surprised when I tell them their words are beautiful.
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At first they don’t believe me and then, something happens, the magic of unlocking, of tapping into a part of themselves that so rarely gets out, the magic of being heard… and I can see something change and I know that it’s a tiny thing, but even that is big, because, even for just a while…
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…they believe, they know,  that something about them is beautiful still.
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“I hate the rain, but I love puddles.” ~ (shelter resident)

 

reasons and benefits of aimless wandering

 

“Anything one does every day is important and imposing and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful.” —Gertrude Stein DSC04920“To see things in their true proportion, to escape the magnifying influence of a morbid imagination, should be one of the chief aims of life.” — William Edward Hartpole Lecky, The Map of Life (1899)

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“The constant remaking of order out of chaos is what life is all about, even in the simplest domestic chores such as clearing the table and washing the dishes after a meal…but when it comes to the inner world, the world of feeling and thinking, many people leave the dishes unwashed for weeks so no wonder they feel ill and exhausted.” — May Sarton, Recovering DSC04916“I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the mind.” — EinsteinDSC04921

“A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.” — William Blake
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“The secret of contentment is knowing how to enjoy what you have, and to be able to lose all desire for things beyond your reach.” — Yutang Lin
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“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” — Iris Murdoch DSC04912“The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.“ — Rainer Maria Rilke

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“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” — Gandhi
DSC04914“I once thought it was not worth sitting down for a time as short as [ten minutes]; now I know differently and, if I have ten minutes, I use them, even if they bring only two lines, and it keeps the book alive.” —Rumer Godden, A House with Four Rooms
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“Nothing is ever the same as they said it was. It’s what I’ve never seen before that I recognize.” — Diane Arbuscarin

“Do not hurry; do not rest.” — Goethe

“Never hurry, never worry.” — Charlotte’s Web

Now go eat some chocolate. (see Iris Murdoch instruction above)

 

 

simon says

 
A boy in his driveway the other day shouts hello as I pass. He says his name is Simon, what’s mine? I say Carin and he tells me he has a Batman tee shirt. He opens his coat. I say that’s some great tee shirt and he says yeah, then tells me he’s seven. Not that I asked. He continues talking, about being seven maybe, or the tee shirt, just chattering away… all of this in only seconds; I’ve barely slowed my stride. His mum is raking leaves, smiling. And in all the chattering somewhere the boy asks… in a way he might ask a chum at school, or anyone… “How old are you?”  His mother’s smile immediately turns into a nervous laugh, she puts down her rake, edges Simon toward the house and tells him that isn’t the sort of question he’s supposed to ask. Meanwhile I’ve answered by saying “Well, I’m not seven!”, as I continue on my way. Also laughing nervously.

And for the rest of my walk all I can think about is why.

Why is that not the sort of question Simon should ask? And is it only not the sort of question Simon should not ask people of certain ages? And how should Simon know which ages those are? And who decides that anyway? And doesn’t the whole way his mother reacted give off a vibe that suggests to Simon, if only subliminally, that there’s something *wrong* about certain ages and THAT’S why we don’t ask.

And if there’s something wrong with certain ages… what, exactly  is that wrongness? I mean if Simon were to ask his mother Why can’t I ask?  what would she say? Something about politeness probably. But why is it polite NOT to ask someone their age when you are seven and you ask everyone ? (And everyone asks you.)

Of course I was taught the same lesson as a kid. (But we’re back to the why… Is it to spare people the embarrassment of admitting they aren’t seven, or twenty-seven or thirty-seven or whatever decade + seven it suddenly becomes an embarrassment to *be*?)

North America’s twisted version of age aside, what really bothered me was my own response, that weird bit of laughter I threw out in order to make Simon’s mother feel okay about the whole thing. By laughing it off, by saying “Well, I’m not seven,” I condoned her discomfort and was party to the stupid lesson Simon was being taught.

Why didn’t I just answer the question?

Conditioning, that’s why. (And, mostly, conditioning almost always sucks.)

The thing is I happen to be a non-ageist kind of person. Even as a kid (just like Simon) I barely noticed someone’s vintage. I still can’t see how it matters. It’s their energy that registers with me. One of my favourite people to hang out with lived to be 101 and it never struck me as an unusual match.

I also have friendships where *I’m* the 101 year old.

And a few in between.

The thing is this: dullness and negativity, ego and bullshit appear at every mile marker. So do joie de vivre, curiosity, kindness, engagement with life, humour, a creative spark and the balls to be yourself. A tedious schmuck at sixty was probably a tedious schmuck at thirty.

Only with better abs.

My walk takes me on a loop and eventually I’m heading back toward Simon’s house. I resolve to tell him as I pass that I’m fifty-eight. I’ll throw it out, casually, maybe mention that I have a fondness for the colours green and orange and yellow and that I do not  know how to tap dance. Not that anyone asked.

But the leaves in front of Simon’s house are raked and no one’s there.

Too bad. Because I think Simon would have found that particular line of chat quite normal. And that would have been so much better a lesson than the last.

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