Saturday, October 31, 2009

Traveling with Van Gogh

It is snowing outside, several inches have accumulated. I can hear the furnace kicking in and out. Jeremy is busy in the kitchen cooking us oatmeal. I'm enjoying blogging from the living room where I can both watch the flakes swirl on the front step and catch a glimpse of J as he moves about.

It's a good life.

This week as an art project, we did a reproduction in oil pastels of van Gogh's Road with Cypresses, c.1890. They turned out amazingly, especially when displayed as a collection. It was moving to see the kids so into it, mixing color, smudging, creating.

I've had a lot of interest in van Gogh for a while now. Reading the letters that he sent to his brother Theo is such a personal way to get to know a self. I miss that no one writes letters anymore. I know, email... but it lacks the romance of letter writing. Not only did Vincent write many letters and paint a lot of pictures, he also walked countless miles. In his letters he details the ordinary beauty of the many country groves and city streets he made his way through. I bring this knowledge to his work when I view it. Brings out the reality in the impressionism.

Next summer when I go travelling, I'm allowing books I've read to help guide me. For instance, my interest in van Gogh is pushing me toward spending a week in Amsterdam where an entire museum is dedicated to his work. Just imagining it is warming me to the core on this wintry day.

Drawings have always been the P.S. part of van Gogh's work, ...
Yet he was a letter writer, a guy with a pen in his hand.
Colta Ives

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Day

"Beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness..." Isaiah 61:3

I had this incredibly beautiful day, today. For no reason. It just was. My students and I walked to the pool for swimming and on the way there, I had an overwhelming sense that all was right with the world. The kind of rightness you breathe in and fill up on, holding it close to your chest, feeling the warmth of it like sunshine on a late February afternoon.

Could there be a finer gift than the proclivity to embrace life? To make the most of the days we are given? To extend ourselves out, beyond the boundaries of mind and body so that our very pulse beats on the outside?

When I allow this to happen, magic is made before my very eyes - our hearts get intertwined and our minds entangle.


Sunday, October 25, 2009


Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie

There are words that you just can't take back. Once they're out of the bag, they can NEVER be stuffed back in. They ride a one-way ticket straight to Your Future Has Been Forever Changed street. And sometimes it takes everything you have, every ounce of resolve, not to open that bag up so wide that the entire contents are given wings, flying where they will into the great wide-open.

Take your chances on however it might unravel? Cause unravel it will.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Soul of the World

For a bit now, I have been slow-reading a book called Soul of the World: Unlocking Secrets of Time by Christopher Dewdney. It is both a philosophical and practical look at the many ways we think about, interact with and function within the boundaries of time. Dewdney is a highly acclaimed Canadian poet, and his work is infused with the kind of mesmerizing language you would expect from just such a writer.

Initially I was drawn to this book (while roaming around Chapters in an altered state of bliss) by the title. Just prior I had finished reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (for the second time cause it's that good) in which the main character, Santiago, a young Spanish shepherd pursues his deepest imaginings. While doing so, he comes to understand the soul of the world and is guided somewhat supernaturally through his journey by reading the omens that he encounters and opening to the possibilities in life. To stumble upon a book titled Soul of the World on the heels of The Alchemist seemed itself permeated by fate.

Here is an excerpt...

Later, when darkness was firmly established, I went out into the yard again to take a look at the night sky. I was shocked. The night was stuffed with stars. I felt like the only person in an enchanted planetarium, bewitched by the demiurge of night. It was as if another order of darkness had been revealed, as if a layer had been peeled away to reveal a truer darkness, a deeper night, that fill me with dizzy awe. I wondered if the owl I'd seen in March was nearby, sitting on a branch in the secret reaches of night, its eyes sparkling with mystery. The sky was so clear and transparent it seemed that space was somehow closer to the surface of the earth. And everywhere stars. Clusters of stars, necklaces of stars. They sang like destiny in silver notes, and I could see them for what they were - distant, atomic fires of unthinkable immensity, inconceivably remote in time.

Starlight is pure history. Perhaps all time - past, present and future - exist at once, everywhere. But the stars take the prize. The night sky contains starlight that started its journey to earth during the Roman era, during the age of dinosaurs, and even from before the earth existed. In the vastness of space, light seems to slow to a crawl, and the vacuum becomes a crystal jelly.

Above all else, words have always been my heart's seducer. This one is a keeper.
My friend Joanne has my head spinning in mazes and labyrinth thoughts and thinking about courage. Always dangerous territory!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

You and Me

Have you ever thought about why it is so easy to share yourself with some people and not others? Every so often you alight upon that someone that opens you up with such ease... your whole being seems to tumble on out like milk falling off the counter. You can feel it happening in a slow motion reel, never in time to catch the cup.

And it seems perfectly acceptable to let it spill all over. Does a body good to dismiss the walls life has a way of building up.

But it does leave one feeling vulnerable. And alive. And full of desire for more.

Perhaps I am in need of drinking wine til the wee hours of the morning with friends. And forgetting this non-sense of believing myself understood.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

"Have you ever noticed that when your mind is awakened or drawn to someone new, that person's name suddenly pops up everywhere you go? My friend Sophie calls it coincidence, and Mr. Simpless, my parson friend, calls it Grace. He thinks that if one cares deeply about someone or something new one throws a kind of energy out into the world, and fruitfulness is drawn in."

Excerpt of a letter written from Juliet to Dawsey
Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

P.S. This book is not to be missed. I'm going to mourn it when it ends.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Man Watching

It's been a poetry-infused-inside-my-own-head kind of weekend. There is obviously some unresolved nostalgia/romanticism coursing through my veins. :-) Must be the nip in the air, making me want to curl up in a big chair with a blanket and a book I can't put down. Rilke is on my mind, my most cherished of all the poets I have yet to read. And from his prolific collection of verse, this my most beloved. Namaste.

The Man Watching
by Rainer Maria Rilke

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can't bear without a friend,
I can't love without a sister

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler's sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

One thing leads to another.

Tonight while looking at a map of Europe and dreaming about next summer's expedition, I located Crete, an island off the coast of Greece which is in the south Aegean Sea. Which got me thinking about a poem I'd studied long ago. So I promptly google'd it. It is far more beautiful than I could have recalled (and is actually about the English Dover Cliffs). I love how these things seem to always fit together and complete my mood. Enjoy.

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;--on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Matthew Arnold, 1851

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I initially wrote this post December 2006. Thought it was worth a re-share.

tonight I've come undone. it feels deliriously and deliciously wonderful. i'm a little drunk and a little euphoric. and a little on fire for all the things i've yet to do but know that i will conquer.

we take ourselves too seriously. we think things are do or die. who are we kidding? we are specks of dust in a world of wonder and joyous anticipation. we are not our house or our car or our occupation! we are. we are. we are.

we are flesh and blood. we are spirits soaring and crashing. we are tears weeping and laughter echoing. we are this mind of firing synapses and this heart of pumping blood and lungs of oxygen pockets. inhaling our humanity that reaches out like floating particles in the air.

we are not where we come from. we are this moment. only this moment. in a universe measured by our trips around the sun. we are this creative force of genius, a chip off the divinity block. if only we would let ourselves be, if only we would get out of our own way. we, you and me, meeting here in this cyber moment in space, destined to break free of this illusionary life.

don't over-think it. just be with it. sit with it. dance with. walk with it. talk with it. sing with it. move with it. the rhythm in your head, the ancient beat of a drum you can't forget but haven't yet heard.

feel it. move with it. live it.

this is who you are.

The Weekend is Here!

I'm happy for the weekend to be here! And it is a beautiful day in the north with clear blue sky above and and a reprieve from the cold north outflow air. We were experiencing some early winter last weekend, so it nice to see a reversal on that, if even for just a few days!

Unfortunately work is calling my name and I'm going to have to go in for a bit today and clear off my desk (when my desk gets messy I get stressed) and do some paper work. It was a harried week, complete with two back to back evenings of P/T interviews. Yesterday afternoon I took my kids to the track just to walk off some of their energy. A colleague asked me where I was going to which I replied "I don't want to teach and they don't want to learn! So we're making it a double gym period today!" Her response, "I completely understand."

Overall, I really don't mind putting in a few weekend hours. I try not to do it every weekend as it is a fast recipe for burnout. But I do enjoy the serenity of my classroom both when it is empty and full of kids. I especially love it when it is full of happy children finding ways to express their own genius, it is a heart-warming thing! But to make it all work smooth requires directed thought and planning. And honestly, that is part of the fun. My classroom has a kick-ass stereo system, so I usually take an assortment of Blue Rodeo cds and rock out.

Hope you are enjoying some down time and outdoor walking weather, wherever you may be.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Long Day

On my way out for a vigorous walk and then a long hot epsom salt soak. Really stoked about that second part!

Monday, October 12, 2009


Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. Some celebrate on Sunday and others save the big meal for today. We went to a friend's house last night and observed the occasion with smoked turkey and all the fixings. Earlier in the day Jeremy and I made apple pie and maple pumpkin cheesecake, both of which turned out wonderfully! It has been a long time since we tandem cooked in the kitchen and for the most part it was quite pleasant.

Jeremy's dad has been visiting with us from New Brunswick since Wednesday which has put some strain on our household. It is a considerable trip for him. His oldest son sponsored the visit by providing the airmiles for flying. Not exactly the weekend I was looking forward to but... I'm going to say this knowing full well that it sounds completely uncharitable. I can't wait until he leaves!

Sometimes I have difficulty with Jeremy because he purposefully imitates his father to get under my skin (and boy does it ever). Seeing them side by side is a gracious reminder of just how unalike they truly are. This visit hasn't been easy for him either.

So as not to leave this post in a completely negative vein, here are some things for which I am very thankful:

1. Being born to intelligent and intellectual parents which whom I continue to have important and interesting conversations.

2. Friends to celebrate with.

3. Long invigorating walks on cold fall days.

4. My new North Face winter jacket to take those walks in. :-)

5. That I believe in the possibilities. At any time I choose, I am able to change the entire course of my life.

Namaste. Many rich blessings heading your way.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"We are not born blank canvases to be painted on by others. We come in with definite personalities, gifts, challenges and lessons we seem to be fatefully pulled to learn." MELODY SCOTT ZINDELL

Thursday, October 08, 2009

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts." Winston Churchill.

This simple quote just might sum up the meaning of life. Continue. Keep on keeping on. Run the good race.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Not Much

Ah, a Sunday night and I don't have to go to work tomorrow! Feels like I am cheating, sitting here at this keyboard at 11pm and not castigating myself off to bed. It has been an exceptional weekend, I'm hesitant to see it end.

I so enjoy just hanging out with my sister and her little girl. Ava, who just turned 2 is first-class entertainment! Last night we were playing 'kitchen' and she farted while filling up the dishwasher and I exclaimed "Ava, you farted!" She just looked at me and said with absolute deadpan "Wasn't me." I know it is one of those had to be there moments, but still it was one of many that has kept me smiling all weekend long.

It has also been great getting to see my dad for a couple of days. We plan to go for some breakfast and a bit of shopping tomorrow before I have to get to the airport and return north. He is in very good humour, which pleases me to no-end because I assure you when I was home this summer that was not the case! He has been taking a supplement that's had positive results with his knees and overall health, it is definitely showing in his disposition and I am so thankful for the change.

Once I get back up to High Level I will be on my own for a few days. Jeremy is working in Edmonton for the rest of the week and won't be back until Friday, with his dad in tow ~ who will be staying through the Thanksgiving weekend. For right now though, I'm looking forward to the house to myself and some long hot baths!