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.

I’ve been having some challenging times recently.

Returning home from a reasonably successful viva voce for my doctoral studies in the UK, the first thing I learned was that my mother had been diagnosed with a serious illness, and was beginning treatment immediately.

Over the week that followed, she became progressively worse and was taken to the emergency department in the middle of the night by my father and brother.  I stayed with my dad for several days, and was startled to witness my mom, quite honestly one of the most intelligent women I’ve ever known, unable to recognize her husband or children.

She is hopefully on the mend now, and her mental faculties are improving, but this incident was a reminder of important work I haven’t yet completed in terms of my own spiritual growth.

In December, I put my little canine girl, Gini, to sleep after struggling for months to improve her health based on a false diagnosis.  A second opinion proved that she had cancer, and was never going to get better.  Although we were able to keep her comfortable for a short time, I promised myself that when she had three bad days in a row, it would be the sign that I should release her from mortal suffering, and that day came on December 13th.

I don’t know if every reader has had, or will have, the kind of relationship some of us have with animals.  I can only say that Gini was truly a part of me … a piece of my soul that lived outside my body, like the ‘daemons’ which were linked to the humans in the film The Golden Compass. I still feel her loss acutely, as in her presence, I never felt either lonely or alone.

Now, when forced to confront my mother’s age and medical condition, it struck me that there are some individuals, either human or non-human, who are so real to us, so integral to our personal reality, it seems impossible that they should ever not ‘be’.  There are days when I think of Gini and am honestly surprised that I am still alive and walking on this earth, and she is not.

I know that life is transitory.  I know it intellectually, in my head.  But obviously I have not completely let the idea into my soul.  This is something I will be opening myself to in the coming months, as I attempt to understand and accept this important piece in life’s puzzle.

While this has all been going on, I’ve been driving and walking through this beautiful countryside, marveling that the trees are still green and supple, that the earth is bringing forth its riches, that the sun still beats down warm and friendly on my arms.  As my family has been embroiled in a human drama, life has still gone on around us, not uncaring, but simply present.  It reminds me that there is still joy to be had, even in the midst of anguish.

During an early morning stroll on the beach with my remaining beloved canine, I came across the message pictured above, lovingly placed in the sand by someone who had walked there before me.  It seemed to sum up so much.

After all, in this transitory journey we call life, the only thing that really lasts, that really matters, is love.

Ceiling of the Chapel of Saint Gabriel, Exeter Cathedral

For anyone who doesn’t already know, I’m currently in Exeter, in the southwest part of the United Kingdom, about to have a viva voce (that’s by living voice, for those of us not taught rudimentary Latin in grammar school) toward the acceptance of my doctoral thesis.

Monday was a bank holiday, and after doing some scholarly work in the morning, I drifted downtown to enjoy a bit of lunch and wander about this ancient city.

Approaching the cathedral, the stirring chords of a musical interlude drew me into the yard, where I was greeted by the sight and sound of a small orchestra supporting a young male vocalist.  The gentleman in question was literally draped in the Union Jack, and was lending a robust baritone to what seemed to me an unprecedented number of reprises of Rule Britannia, delivered without the slightest evidence of irony.  This was followed by that classic British melody, Jerusalem, the lyrics of which are based on the Blake poem which hypothesizes that Jesus Christ, accompanied by his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, somehow traversed what must have been an unfathomable  distance in those biblical times in order tread on British soil.

It was all a little surreal, made more so by the energetic approval of the audience.  I, the lowly Canuck, seemed to be the only auditor conscious of the incongruity of a nation reveling in lost glory, considering that this glory included forced colonization of any number of independent cultures, and the theft of the Elgin Marbles.

Later, as I tripped along High Street, enjoying the sunshine and buoyed by my absolute indifference to shopping, my progress was halted by the strains of an energetic pick-up band of ragtag musicians, playing a sort of Romany jazz involving plenty of brass, a concertina and a stand-up bass.  Their dress was a mixture of Slavik thrift shop and Elizabethan motley, all tied up with a Gypsy shawl and topped by a threadbare fedora.

And their music was rocking, rollicking, frolicking bliss.  Toe-tapping, tongue-in-cheek, alive with dramatic crescendo and musical feint, it was so filled with irony, I thought it would spill over and cascade unto the pavement.

What a dichotomous soundscape for a sunny/cloudy Monday!

A good day.

And in case you want to experience a little of their Romano magic, you’ll find it on their website at http://www.gadjomusica.com/.  Incidentally, ‘Gadjo’ is a somewhat derogatory term used by the Gypsies to describe the rest of us, but we won’t hold that against them!

After my last two posts, and the resultant discussions through the comments, I found this weekend’s horoscope from Jonathan Cainer highly interesting:

Why do we choose the clothes we wear? We want to catch our reflection in the mirror and think, ‘I like what I see there.’ And we want others to have a similar reaction when they cast their eyes upon us too. Or, at least, that’s the theory. All our outfits may be carefully chosen for this purpose when we first select them but eventually they just become ‘the thing that has to be cleaned today’. Happily, as you will soon see, both love and attraction are governed by factors that are deeper than appearance alone.

How’s that for being tuned in to the stars?  😀

I’ve been percolating away on yesterday’s post, as well as the interesting comments that were made, and I find I’m not ready to let this topic drop!  Please bear with me while I muse aloud … in print.

It’s fascinating to me what different paths men and women tread toward attraction.

Now, we’ve heard for some time that men are from Mars, and women are from Venus.  That men seek independence and women, interconnection.  Deborah Tannen has written a fascinating book called Please Understand Me, in which she explores the different communication styles favoured by both genders.  Studying groups of 5 year girls and boys, and 25 year old men and women, she found more similarity along gender lines than within age groups, despite the enormous developmental differences between youth and adulthood.  The broad strokes of her research shows that, whether 5 or 25, males seek authority and give directives, while females seek consensus and ask questions.   This was driven home to me while taking an international flight a few weeks after reading the book:  the attendants were readying for landing, and a man across the aisle from me and up several rows didn’t have his seat in the requisite upright position.  The stewardess gently touched him on the shoulder and said, “Sir, would you mind putting your seat up?”  Minutes later, the man hadn’t complied, and a passing steward stated authoritatively, “Sir, put your seat up.”  I smiled, and thought of Dr. Tannen.

From what I’ve read and seen, men and women seem to approach attraction differently as well.

I can personally relate a scenario in which I was interviewed for the job of Marketing Manager with a major book re-seller in the GTA.  The owner of the company sat with me for over two hours, during which time we sparred our way through a number of lively discussions springboarding off his interview questions.  At the end of the interview, he offered me the job.  I grimaced slightly, because it was the best 2 hours I’d spent in a work place in some time, and I was about to disappoint both him and myself.

“I’m sorry,” I said, ruefully.  “I just don’t think this is the right job for me.”

“Oh,” the owner replied in a deflated tone.  Surveying me closely, he cocked his head to one side:  “You want to think about it over the weekend?”

I sat back in my chair at the unexpectedness of his query.  “Okay!”

The next day was Saturday.  As requested, I thought long and hard about our discussion, and realized that, while I knew intuitively that the job wasn’t a good fit for my personality, there was something keeping me from just saying ‘no’.  On Sunday, when reflecting on the owner and our interaction, I noticed that some rather warm feelings seemed to be incubating within me … imagined scenes in which his physical person was placed in close proximity to my own.  In these … well, let’s call them what they were … fantasies, there may or may not have been some jiggling going on, but there was probably some rocking and most definitely some lip action.

The surprising thing about this was that the gentleman in question was so far from the societal standard for physical perfection in the male of the species as to render such feelings unexpected.  In comparison to myself, the quintessential ‘big boned gal’, he was petite, 5’6″ in his stocking feet, and perhaps 130 pounds soaking wet.  He had frizzy brown hair which framed his small face in a highly indiscriminate manner, and wore coke bottle glasses with heavy black rims.

And still, I was definitely feeling a physical attraction.  What was this about?

After several more hours of contemplation, the conclusion I came to was this:  I thought he had the coolest mind I’d come across in a long, long time.  When he asked a question, he looked intently into your eyes while you answered, and you honestly felt that he wanted to engage with you.

My mind was intrigued, and my body was following where the mind led … in this case, it was leading to some rather racey locales which are perhaps best left un-discussed, seeing as my mother reads this blog.

And since I’ve recently come to understand that curiousity engenders considerable discomfort in felines, let me tell you what transpired.

I went back to his office on Monday morning, sat down in the chair facing his desk, looked him right in the eye, and suggested that, while I still didn’t believe the job was right for me, I hadn’t enjoyed meeting a man so much in an extremely long time, and, if his situation allowed, I’d very much like to take him to dinner.

Goethe claims that fortune favours the brave, but alas, this was not my experience.  Apparently, his situation didn‘t allow, although he was discreet and lovely about it all.  I was disappointed, but felt heartened in that at least I’d attempted to seize the day, which was invigorating, even if unproductive.

Now, let’s move to male attraction. Male readers, please fasten your seat belts, it’s about to get bumpy.

I must begin by admitting that scholarly pursuits sometimes take one down strange and unanticipated alleyways!  I was conducting some research on Gary S. Taylor, who, along with that lion of Shakespearean study, Stanley Wells, had edited one of the most popular editions of Shakespeare’s complete works available  The most recent book on Taylor’s roster at that time involved a study of castration through the ages.  Clicking through various links, I came across the story of a man who had, for some years, entertained a castration fantasy, which he animated using a number of tactics too painful to relate in polite company.  One night, at a gay S&M bar, he abandoned his primary rule in such situations, which was to remain sober at all times.  At the home of a pair of young men with whom he intended liaison, he tipsily related his secret fetish; a short time later, he found that one of the men had injected his scrotum with anesthetic, severed his testicles with one clean swipe of a scalpel, and stitched up the incision with a proficiency only garnered through medical training.

When I read this, I literally felt sickened that someone would do something so permanent and destructive to another human being (although, to be honest, recent events in my life have reminded me that doctors have been ripping out women’s reproductive organs with little or no rationale for several hundred years).

At any rate, this man was left in the unenviable situation of reconciling his present  physical state, which many would consider a mutilation, with the fulfillment of his fantasy.

But what was really interesting to me was this:  when asked how he was coping in ‘normal life’ without those body parts deemed essential by most men, he said that he had only one overriding problem.

He never knew now when he was attracted to a man.

He related that attraction to him, in the past, had been manifested by ‘getting a stiffy’ and without this physical road sign, he didn’t quite know how to negotiate dating’s complex map of highways and byways.  It was uncharted territory for him, and he was being forced to re-learn attraction in a new and different way.

While we’re speaking anecdotally, these dichotomous examples are consistent with much of what I know and read about male and female attraction.  Women tend to encounter attraction through the mind and emotional centre, after which it seeps into their bodies.  Men experience attraction first in their bodies, before it potentially transforms into romantic feeling.  And please note, I’m not trying to judge either route in a qualitative way, just to understand.

So what do you think?  Is this true?  And if so, what does it mean for men and women as they attempt to hook up with the right romantic partner?

I’ve had occasion recently to ponder the aesthetics of this bio-mechanical apparatus which allows ‘me’ to travel throughout the world during my lifetime.

It began during a routine chiropractic appointment.  I was gabbing away, as my joints were being stretched and popped, regarding the significance of the Spirit Intuitive Reading I had had on  New Year’s Eve with Heather Embree, and how the comments she made had resonated fully with me, but had also surprised me.

When speaking of potential romance in my future, Heather described a man she felt I would soon meet, and as she listed his characteristics — he would see the big picture and care deeply about the issues surrounding humanity and the planet; he would enjoy debating ideas with me, often with a wicked sense of humour; he would respect my opinions and desires; he would be someone who truly engaged in life — I felt that she’d knocked one out of the park.  This man being sketched in the air in front of me would be someone I would wish to spend time with.

I would meet him, she believed, at an arts event, one we were both attending, she added helpfully.  But I was startled when she directed, “So make sure you always look good when you go out into public.”

This took me aback for a couple of reasons.

Heather is an exceptionally beautiful young woman, but her life partner is a man much older than she, and, if one chooses to make such judgments, not nearly as high on the ‘attractiveness’ scale:  it seemed unlikely she had chosen him for either his looks or his habiliments.

And then, of course, there was the notion that she was in a profession that acknowledged the prominence of the spirit:  I was surprised that she felt a snazzy outfit and a charming coiffure would be more necessary in finding a soul-mate than … well, a charming soul!

As I was describing my confusion on this issue to my chiropractor, a fit and attractive young woman in the prime of life, I saw her observing me with an appraising eye.

“She’s right,” she declared, shortly.  “I mean, you remind me of that show, ‘The Worst Outfit’.”

“Not that your outfits are as bad as the ones on that show,” she replied hastily, “but think how great you’d look after one of those make-overs.”

“You,” she stated emphatically, “are a diamond in the rough.  You just need your edges chipped off.”

“Hey!” I retorted gamely.  “I want people to see who I really am, not just my packaging,”

“How else do you know who you’re attracted to, except by how they look?” my chiropractor queried.  “Like, there are three men in a line at a party.  How do you know which one you’re attracted to except by their looks and dress?”

I pondered this for a moment.

“Well, I guess I’d wait until they SAID something.”

It seemed a perfectly reasonable statement to me, but it raised the most deprecating of facial expressions in my health care practitioner.

“Nah,” she replied disdainfully.  “I know within 15 seconds of seeing a man whether I’m attracted to him or not.”

“Hmmm,” I said thoughtfully.  “You see, to me, that seems sort of … shallow.”

Okay, I didn’t actually say that last part out loud, because when someone is holding your cranium in both hands, ready to exert forces on it which might, given optimal angles, sever it completely from your neck, you don’t want to piss them off.

So all I said was, “Hmmm.”

I must add that, rather than hurt or umbrage, my reaction to these statements was … well, amusement.  I mean, how often is it that you get fashion advice at the same time as spinal alignment?

But it did get me thinking.

Quite honestly, I feel I’m past the age when it’s either necessary or appropriate to put all my goods in the shop window.  And it disturbs me that fifty years after women marched for equal rights, our worth as individuals, not to mention as romantic partners, is still so linked to our appearance.

Yes, that’s the crux of it:  even in our enlightened age, I feel that men are judged by what they do, and women by how they look.

I’m reminded of this on those rare occasions when I see news reports of major fashion shows:  the women strut onto the runway clad in the strangest get-ups imaginable, outfits which restrict their movement and limit their activities in the most significant of ways.  But when the male designer emerges at the end of the show, he is invariably clad in a pair of black pants and a black turtle neck.  Why?  Well, he has WORK to do, he can’t be spending all day on his wardrobe!

And I realize that men are hard-wired differently than women, that they are more visual in terms of attractions than we are.  But still … do I really want to be with a man who has chosen me on the basis of physical attractiveness when that attractiveness is fading as the years chug by, and can be altered in an instant by one wrong move on the freeway?

That makes about as much sense to me as an unthinking obeisance to a god who threatens to smush me like an ant if I don’t toe the line laid out by his legal representatives on this planet.

Nope, don’t think so.

So now I’m in a quandary.  And need some fresh ideas.

What do YOU think?  New wardrobe?  Or shall I maintain the old rumpled exterior, and keep looking for a man who sees beyond it?

I’m waiting for your comments.

If you’ve been reading from the beginning of this blog, you’ll remember that I’m selling my house, and that my recent escapade with bolting tenants left me shy of furniture to stage it properly.

It only made sense, therefore, to seek out a few appropriate pieces to augment my current supply, and to do this, I browsed my favourite furniture store, The Side of the Road.

Oh, sorry … did I capitalize that?  I sometimes do, because it makes it feel more quaint and charming.  Kind of like when I call Value Village, Boutique VeeVee.  But what I am in fact referring to is … the side … of … the road.

This store has enormous appeal since it satisfies one of the enduring obsessions of my life:  keeping stuff out of landfill.  I don’t know exactly what that says about me but … there you are.

So imagine my joy when, walking on Long Point with my faithful hound Maserati, I found a wide, low dresser with many drawers, translating to lots of storage, which would fit perfectly in the living room below a picture window.  It was at the very side of the road, the incontrovertible signal that, “This stuff is free for the taking!”

Excitedly, I raced home, hooked the trailer up to the car, and returned to the scene of this unexpected opportunity. Yes!  It was still there, and with it, an accompanying beveled mirror of substantial size, in perfect condition.  With the strength of a longshoreman, I hoisted both into my trailer and was off.  I don’t need the mirror at the moment, but when I eventually downsize further, I’ll want to find a new home for this jewel of a dresser, and the mirror might be needed.  Also, a perfect 3’X4′ mirror just shouldn’t go into landfill — that would be sickening — so on the way to the house, I dropped it at the church for safekeeping.

Once home, I ascertained that the dresser was a bit too tall for the window sill, so speedily cut three inches off each leg with a handsaw.  The top was quite scratched, but not beyond  redemption.  In the end, I decided to paint it a light creamy yellow, which I did in short order.

The painting completed, I surveyed my new dresser.  It looked … very serene.  Too serene.  Never one to miss out on the opportunity for a creative endeavour, I grabbed some old paint and, calling forth my inner Jackson Pollock, went to town on that dresser top.

First, I watered down some rust coloured paint, and with a cloth, dabbed a cloudy wash of colour over the base coat.  After it dried, I seized some dark green, and applying small amounts of paint to an old brush, began pouncing the colour onto the surface in a highly abstract manner.  Next came just a bit of white, then a more pronounced version of the rust.  At last, my creation was finished, and I stood back, gazing at it with satisfaction.

Now, the wonderful thing about this kind of re-purposing adventure is that you literally can’t go wrong.  Did you overdo it on one of the colours?  Dampen a rag and grab some paper towels, then wet and blot to your heart’s content.  Still not satisfied with the result?  Start all over with your base coat and it’s a whole new canvas.  Frustrated, hot under the collar because it just doesn’t live up to your Debbie Travis expectations?  Drop the whole kit and caboodle back at the side of the road where you found it, and you’re none the poorer.

But usually, you end up with something one-of-a-kind and interesting and uniquely your own creation, and you’re that much the richer for the journey taken.

The motivational writers of our day often speak to the abundance that is available in life:  that you can manifest anything you want, including palatial homes, luxury automobiles and vacation properties in sun-drenched locales.  For me, abundance is much simpler than this.  It’s the chance to live as sustainably as possible, and, in an attempt to leave a shallow footprint, to reclaim what others discard, thus helping both myself and the earth in the process.

This isn’t necessarily new age dogma:  my grandfather, an early farmer in Grey-Bruce County, believed that waste was the greatest sacrilege against God.  I often think of him when I’m in the midst of a major re-purpose.

And never forget, anyone can throw money at a problem,  But it takes a really creative and imaginative mind to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

I live in an abundance of my own making, one which stretches me and fulfills me and pleases me.

I invite you to join me there.

I was driving home from Simcoe today,when I beheld a sight that brought joy to my heart and saliva to my taste buds:  the asparagus farm where I buy my annual spears of green perfection had put out their sign.  They were open:  asparagus was to be had, and immediately!

I’m sure there are people who don’t experience the orgasmic delight I feel when I chomp into that first delectable shaft of asparagus each and every spring, but I certainly wouldn’t care to know them.

After greeting the farm wife like an old friend, I purchased two 2-lb bags of ‘gras and left clutching them tightly in my arms, with all the proud entitlement of  a princess royal.

Asparagus!  And early this year.  O, the joy of it.

And in the midst of all this joy, I recalled something I wrote to a fellow gourmand regarding the absolute perfection of eating local.

Each year, I said, I stake out that local farm, waiting less than patiently for that sign to go up; every spring, I anxiously anticipate that first taste of the green stuff.  When it arrives, I’m ecstatic, and I revel in asparagus at every meal for weeks.  I savour it raw (yum!).  I wrap fat spears in prosciutto and roast them on the grill.  I steam the tender stalks and slather them with butter before dangling them above my yawning maw, and more or less devouring them whole.  I make asparagus soup, asparagus stir fry, asparagus frittata and quiche.  I pickle ‘gras for the rest of the summer, and even pressure-can asparagus soup to delight me during those cold, winter months.

In short, I consume asparagus until it is practically coming out of my ears.

And just when I think I never, EVER want to see another bloody piece of asparagus again in my entire LIFE … asparagus season is over!  Only the happy memory remains, to be replaced in six months by a renewed anticipation.

And that, my friends, is the perfection of eating local.  You get to enjoy something three times:  in anticipation, in actuality and in culinary memory.

Nature is one smart lady, and I am the beneficiary of her botanical wisdom.

And while I would never tell you what to do, let me just say, if you’re as smart as Mother Nature, you’ll keep your eyes peeled in your local area, and take home a few of these succulent spears some day soon.

So go ahead — put your head back, open your mouth wide, and lower that luscious line of green into your happy mouth.  After all, it’s a Miss Manners faux pas you get to enjoy in all its perfection just once a year.

The greatest talent a person can have, it seems to me, is the capacity to have faith in the goodness of life.  It is a gift I have often been lacking in my life, but which I’m now endeavouring to cultivate.

Let me explain, albeit in a somewhat circuitous manner.

In retrospect, I feel that I’ve spent the first half of my life in a trio of inter-connected studies:  to unravel the meaning of life; to fully comprehend humanity in its dichotomous tendency toward  good and evil; but most of all, to fully know and understand myself.  In Jung’s words, I have striven to own my own shadow, and my work in theatre has been an important tool in this exploration.

It only feels right and appropriate, therefore, after the introspection of my first half century, that the second portion of my allotted time on this planet gather together any understanding I’ve gained and employ it in the service of things outside of myself, whether that be mother Gaia, my fellow human beings, or the animals who share this planet with us.

And there have been certain signposts directing me onto this path.

This past New Year’s Eve, a dear friend and I decided to exchange the usual over-consumption of food and spirits for a meditation workshop, opting to enter 2012 with a clear head, a clean body and peaceful thoughts.  At this event, for the first time in my life, I took part in an activity which might be described as ‘psychic’:  a session conducted by a young woman who offers what she calls Soul Intuitive Readings.  I should tell you in advance that I am highly skeptical of this sort of thing:  I believe it’s possible that rare individuals may possess perceptions the rest of humanity does not, but I also acknowledge that there are many con men and women who seek to prey on the gullible.  This young woman , it seemed to me, fell into the former category, and, as she fixed her attention onto a point in space, I was astounded to hear her describe aspects of my life in a way which resonated fully with me.

Then, she let the spiritual bomb drop.

The next part of your life, she said, will be predominantly as a healer.

Now, this statement can be interpreted in a number of ways.  I often sense that my work as an acting teacher has a healing quality to it, both for myself and for my students.  In terms of my own life, I feel I become the best possible version of myself when I teach, since in order to do it well, you must be fully committed, and as kind, determined and ego-less as is humanly possible.  And while it is never the direction or intention of the classes, I have seen how the work of freeing oneself as an actor; of scaling the walls of fear associated with a character’s particular journey; of pushing through and past emotional blocks encountered within the work; has a ripple effect into one’s own life as well.

The characterization of healer also sounded echoes from my past.  During a collective voice class at Equity Showcase some twenty years ago, I became friends with a young woman from Northern Ontario who belonged to the Objibwe tribe.  We were taking part in an exercise in which the fifteen or so students walked about the room, encountering one another with a gaze which greeted in a free neutrality, seeking neither to give or receive.  I found that these exercises tended to become a bit stale and precious after a while, so, at this point, when I encountered my friend, I would offer the slightest of interactions:  a quirked eyebrow; a slight widening of the eyes; resulting in her spontaneously emitting a smile or a soft giggle.  At the end of one such exercise, she grabbed me by the arm, then waggling a light-hearted finger in my face, she said, “YOU are so Bear Clan!”

“Bear Clan, ” I asked, “what’s that?”

Letting her head fall on one shoulder, she assessed me with a warm, accepting gaze.  After a slight pause, she replied:  “It’s a very healing clan.”

Being a healer doesn’t imply power or uniqueness, since I believe we all have the capacity and the opportunity to heal, or to destroy, every day of our lives.  Sometimes it might mean as little as a warm smile to a stranger on the street who looks as if the world is grinding them down.  I believe it means simply to be of service.

At this point, I’m not yet sure what direction my future vocation as healer might take.  I certainly have strong views on the dangers of agri-business and pharma-business; I’m passionate about the need for the humane treatment of all living things (raccoons and rats being a major exception); I’m eager to live a simpler, more self-sustaining lifestyle, particularly if this helps counteract the injuries to which we submit this beautiful planet every day.

I’ve decided to wait with as much patience as I can muster, believing that a path will reveal itself to me, particularly if I keep working away  at things the best I can.  I’ve come to understand that service to others, while it may seem selfless, has a wonderfully selfish aspect as well:  it makes you feel so good, so connected to life and to the rest of humanity.

So now, I will simply have faith in the goodness of life, and remember the words of Julian of Norwich, who sagely said that “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”

I am sitting in my living room, and with these words, I am speaking to you, who may be many miles distant from me.  The rain is falling heavily in the little orchard outside my window, which hasn’t deterred the birds from continuing in their joyful serenade.

I am having faith in the goodness of life, and I am happy.

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