Archives for the month of: July, 2012

I was blessed today with a wonderful reminder of how small acts of kindness and truth can mean a great deal in someone’s life.

It had started out as a difficult day:  too many hours driving through extreme heat in my feisty little vehicle which lacks air conditioning.  Too much dust, and too much sweat with a hot dog in the back.

When I arrived home, faithful canine in tow, we gratefully trudged indoors and turned on the air.  Still, I felt as if we were under siege, hiding behind closed doors, windows and blinds from the incessant blaring of the sun.

So around 4 p.m., we headed for the beach.  I was wearing my ancient bathing suit:  a Speedo in a simple maillot style, but in a shade of blue I really like, and with some colourful detail around the V-neck.  I had tied a patterned piece of cloth in complementary shades around my waist as a sarong, and donned my nifty straw hat, purchased at a thrift store for a mere ninety-nine cents!, with a silk scarf adding a dash of bon vivant around the brim.

The lake was flexing its muscles, big choppy waves stirring up the sand and painting the water a dull beige.  I untied my sarong, slung it around my neck, and with my sandals in one hand, entered the water, Maz trailing behind.  It was delicious and cool, and the slapping of the waves against my fanny was a lovely reminder that the lake may be a sassy fellow, but he’s always happy to chill with you on a warm summer day.  I smiled as I watched Maz rolling with large waves that threatened to swamp him, amazed that my greyhound seems to have made the transition to water spaniel.

Leaving the water, I re-tied my sarong over my now wet suit, and we continued our barefoot trek along the shore, our feet sinking slightly into a cushion of wet sand.

When Maz stopped for a sniff, a young woman in a scanty bikini walked slightly past, then turned around and came back to us.  She was perhaps 18 or 20, with a sweet face and a gravitas that belied her tender age.  After asking about Maz, she said something that seemed to me quite remarkable.

“I’m an art student, and obviously I can’t ask you to sit for a sketch here, but I’ve been walking behind you on the beach for a ways, and I just wanted you to know that I think you and your dog are beautiful.”

Now, how’s that for a comment guaranteed to make any day brighter?

I was honestly humbled by the simple courage she exhibited in speaking so forthrightly to a stranger, and while I thanked her for her kind words, I’m quite sure I failed to adequately communicate how much those words had meant to me on a difficult day.

And it’s serendipitous, because I’ve been reading a great deal lately, in blogs and such, that the only way we’ll be successful in changing ourselves, and the opinions of our brothers and sisters, as we attempt to heal the gashes we continue to make on this beautiful planet, is by speaking from the heart.

It’s been my habit for some time, whenever Maz (and before her death, Gini) and I enjoy a soul-nurturing walk on the beach, I wait until a stone calls to me, and I take it home as a reminder of the lake’s gift.  As I left the young woman, a beautiful egg whispered my name, and once home, I honoured it with the photograph you see above.

This stone is the symbol of the young woman on the beach who had the courage to speak from the heart in a way that raised my spirits so much on this searing day.

Blessings fall on us from so many places.  The next time you have the opportunity to speak kindly to another human being from your heart, know that you may be the blessing that makes a small but important difference in that person’s life.  Just as the young woman did in mine.

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Yesterday, I took a break from thesis corrections to watch Dr. Wayne Dyer in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on her Super Soul Sunday series. (Gosh, you gotta love that, if only for the alliteration!)

After speaking of a spiritual healer he credits with curing him of leukemia, Dyer related his faith in manifestation — that our thoughts become things, and that the universe responds to our committed requests and beliefs.

In regards to the well-being most of us desire, he suggested that one should act as if those states were already present in one’s life, and further, should actually act as if they, a spiritual being in the midst of a human experience, were those qualities.  Rather than thinking, “I’m sick, I’m poor and I’m unlovable,” one should fill one’s thoughts with, “I am Health, I am Wealth and I am Love.”

The notion that the configuration of the universe responds to our thoughts and desires isn’t all that different from the Hindu concept of “Maya”, the illusion of the physical world.  And the idea that we can create scenarios by believing we are already in possession of them resonates with me of the great psychologist, Fritz Perls and his Gestalt therapy:  his watch-cry was, “Lose your mind and come to your senses.”  Perls would poke and prod his patients into assuming the form of happiness — “If you were happy, how would you sit right now, stand right now, talk, act?  So, do it!” — and the emotional state would tend to follow the physical one.

This morning, I was walking on the beach with Maz.  It was a little later than usual — 8 o’clock — and the sun was beaming down on us as we both meandered barefoot on the sand, and paddled in the water.  The lake was calm, a serene glass blanket, twinkling coquettishly at the sun’s caress.  A man and his grandchildren were frolicking in the water, and farther from shore, a lone swimmer rose and dipped in a measured front crawl.

It struck me that, despite whatever else is going on in the world or in my life, I needed to put very little effort into obeying Dyer’s suggestion, if only I could open myself to the experience of that moment.  As I strode along the warm sand, my canine companion at my side, I felt completely at peace, and in harmony with nature and my fellow travelers on this planet.

I am Health.  I am Wealth.  I am Love.

The challenge, I believe, is to bring this openness to every moment of one’s life — not just those spent on the beach.  The joy is there, if we can see it and feel it and believe it.

It has been as hot as Hades here on Ontario’s South Coast this past week, and I have been dehydrating.

But just for variety, I’ve also been canning.  Freezing, I’ll leave for some future date when I’m not tempted to crawl inside that frosty space and curl up into a cool little ball!

You see, it is plum season chez moi, and the ancient tree in my backyard orchard, perhaps anticipating its own demise, has put out a bumper crop of dangling orbs of sweet delight.

And because it would seem to me a crime to allow this yield to rot, I’ve been delivering bags of  golden bounty to friends and neighbours, whilst attempting to preserve as much as possible for my own consumption during the fruitless winter months to come.

This action has a special significance this year, as I believe it will be the tree’s last summer.

My lovely plum is infected with an insidious disease called Black Knot: for those of you not arborially inclined, it’s caused by a fungus and is a bit like tree leprosy.  I had been keeping it at bay through annual applications of sulfur spray, but got busy last year, what with the thesis and all, and now it’s running rampant amongst the branches.

This is, after all, a very old tree, and I am told by those in the know on such matters that one should never allow a fruit tree to outstay its welcome.

However, this particular plum tree bears special fruit for me in terms of the memories it brings of my relocation here to the coast of Lake Erie.   But I must backtrack just a little …

Over a decade ago, I was living in a very pleasant apartment in Toronto, feeling that something was missing from my life.  At a gathering of friends, the question somehow arose as to what we each would do if we learned we had only six months to live  The answer came easily to me.

“I think I’d move to the country,” I said.  “I’d slow down and enjoy life more.  I’d drink my morning coffee looking out on a green field.  I’d start a garden.  I’d cook beautiful, healthy meals with fresh, colourful fruit and veg.  And I’d always savour a glass of wine while I was cooking.  When the day got long, I’d take a slow, silent walk in the moonlight.  And finally I’d sink into bed, knowing I was living the life I most wanted to live.”

“Yeah, ‘ I reflected.  “That’s what I’d do .”

Almost immediately, it was as if my friends had disappeared and I was alone in the room.  And then, my spiritual doppelganger, some wiser version of myself, sprang out from within my own frame, stood solidly in front of me, looking me squarely in the eye, and demanded, “So why do you have to be DYING to do that?”

It was an epiphanic moment.  I immediately took steps to bring that envisioned life into being, voraciously perusing real estate listings, and eventually touring an old two storey brick house in a small lakeside town.  My prospective home was very much in need of loving restoration, but it had decent bones, plus an interesting history.  And in the large backyard was an orchard … an ancient, overgrown orchard .. one that reminded me of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and fireflies and fairies.  I knew at once that the house was calling out to me to make it my own.

On the day the house was legally mine, I drove to the realtor’s office to pick up the key.  As I grasped it in eager hands and headed for the door, he called out to me:  “Make sure you go into the backyard, because that plum tree of yours is full of plums!”

I raced to the house and sprang into the back:  he was right!  The tree was heavy-laden with succulent golden-red plums, fairly dripping with them.  I gathered a basket full, and took them to rehearsal that night, where I practically demanded that my fellow cast members join me in the revelry of plum sweetness.  It seemed almost miraculous … that ambrosial fruit springing from the old tree in the ancient orchard of my neglected century home.

Now, over ten years later … ten years of morning coffee gazing at my orchard, and cool moonlit walks with canine companions … I’m poised to leave this place, whenever a buyer or a teaching position beckons.  And the tree’s life is coming to an end.  It seems fitting, but also sad in that poignant, circle of life kind of way.

So I honour my backyard companion this year by not wasting a single one of her children; by ensuring that all the fruit is enjoyed.

Adieu, sweet plum.  If neither one of us is here next summer, know that you will always have a special place in my heart.

And I’m saving a few of your seeds, my graceful beauty, in the hopes that some day soon, your yet unborn children will also delight the world each and every July with those glowing orbs of delight.

Alright, well spotted, this isn’t a Holstein, so just imagine this cow is black and white, and don’t obsess about the details!

I sometimes wonder if my adoration of Jane Goodall arises from our mutual interest in observing the behaviour, not just of chimpanzees, but also of the less hairy apes and other animals.

This interest was brought home to me during my trip last month to Exeter.

While walking up the looooong hill to the University of Exeter library one day, I stopped, as I nearly always do, near Roborough Studio.

Ostensibly, I stopped to speak to the cows that were pastured to the right of the road, but actually I was attempting to catch my breath without looking pathetic as a steady stream of women pushing baby carriages, and octogenarian couples holding lively conversations whilst scaling the hill that was leaving me breathless, passed briskly by.  One of the realizations a Canadian often has while visiting Blighty is just how physically lazy we are back home.

There were perhaps a dozen beautiful black and white Holstein steers placidly chewing their cud in the paddock, and I held a cheery conversation with them regarding the pleasant sunshine we were all enjoying, and the felicity of being grass-fed and free-range in contrast to one’s less fortunate feed-lot brethren.  This was followed by discourse at a higher auditorial level designed to force the snooty cows to stop ignoring me.

Very shortly, I was surprised to see a small, pointed visage peeking furtively through the long grass at the top of the crest at the back of the pasture.  A lean brownish-red body followed into the light, and after a steady perusal of the bovines, it tiptoed over to the feeding area and began to gnaw at something on the ground.  A fox!  And one that looked as if it had had a hard winter.  It was lean to the point of scrawniness, lacking any of the romance of a rich coat or plumed tail with which we often associate the species.

A minute or two later, one of the steers noticed the intruder, and began to take forceful action, advancing on the fox with the obvious intention of running him off.  The fox was instantly aware of this aggression, and padded quickly away with the steer trotting behind in an animated pursuit, characterized by more speed than I had hitherto seen in the paddock from his kind.

Over the next five minutes, I witnessed the return of the volpone a number of times, but the steer never left its post as guardian to the flock, and in the end, the poor hungry fox departed for gentler demesnes.

What was interesting to me was that, during the steer’s aggressive actions towards the fox, and without any movement or change in physicality on my part, two of his fellows actually got up, stood opposite my position, and began eying me stolidly with the officious air of two portly Centurions.  It was as if the alarm had been sounded, and it was every cow to his post!

And I was also reminded that humans are obviously not the only creatures on this planet to exhibit hostility to others ‘not of their kind’.  The fox posed no threat to the steers:  it was too small to do them any harm, particularly since there were no young present; it didn’t eat the same kind food as they did, and in any case, there was an ample source of grass available.  And still the lead steer ran the lean little fox off the property.

It made me feel sorry for the fox.  Something I’m sure I wouldn’t have felt if the pasture had been populated by chickens.

Poor little fox.  I hope you found a tasty rodent elsewhere.