Monday, 3 May 2021

Jack & Morgan

 For the last several weeks, my thoughts have strayed around the idea of bucket lists.

Strayed and stayed.

In a 2007 movie by the same name, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, both diagnosed with terminal cancer, decide to take a road trip together with a wish list of things they want to do before they die.

In my life today there are several people who are struggling with health difficulties and during the past four or five years a few very dear friends and family members have died.

So, I thought, what is it that I want to do before I die?  Before I "kick the bucket."

If you google 'bucket lists", you will be rewarded with a multitude of sites and thousands of ideas and recommendations.  These numbered selections seem not to be for people who are approaching death, but rather for striving young adults boasting that their list is more dramatic/adventuresome/outrageous than someone else's. And usually more expensive as well.

       On the site https://personalexcellence.co/blog/bucket-list/ you will find Bucket List Ideas: 101 Things To Do Before You Die

The author says a bucket list will help us realize what it is that we want to achieve during our lifetime and help us not to spend our time on "pointless things". 

On her site she writes: 

Hi! I’m Celes and I write about self-improvement, being a better person and living a better life. My greatest goal is to help you live your best life.

#1 on her list is: Travel all around the world

#2 Learn a new language

#3 Try a profession in a different field    (WHAT?!)

#4 Achieve your ideal weight

Enough said!

Continuing my search, I found the site bucketlistjourney.net where Annette proudly welcomes the visitor to her "ginormous bucket list" containing 1001items, and writes "I know the bucket list is huge. Yes. I do think I can complete everything on it."

The first item on her list was "Abseil Down a Waterfall". Before I could say "you gotta be joking!" I had to google the word "abseil".

ab·seil
/ˈabˌsāl/
BRITISH
verb
  1. descend a rock face or other near-vertical surface by using a doubled rope coiled round the body and fixed at a higher point; rappel.
    "team members had to abseil down sheer cliffs to reach the couple"


I was still searching for a bucket list that might have some suggestions for this 77- year-old woman who is afraid of heights and who has no desire to get a tattoo.

Besides, we are in a midst of a pandemic and would be foolish to travel to distant parts of the world.

When I read Annette's #42 (Bathe an Elephant), under the category of Nature & Wildlife, I closed her site and started a poem with letters cut out from magazines.




And here is my bucket list!


Friday, 2 April 2021

eye lashes

About 40 years ago, while living in Duncan, I took part in a workshop. My recollection is incomplete and there is only one part of it that has stayed with me all these years. 

I remember being in a circle of women, with another circle formed behind me. We were asked to say what we loved most about our body.

I froze.

I did a mental scan of my imperfect physical self, and my anxiety increased.  When my turn came to share, I answered with "my eye lashes".  Even to me it sounded bizarre.

In the circle behind me, I heard a friend say that she loved her entire body, so couldn't answer with only one area of herself. While I saw her as vivacious and fun, I also saw her as overweight.

Looking at photographs of myself, taken at that time, I see a petite woman with a beautiful smile and a fit body. I see now that I would have been considered pretty, although I don't remember ever being told that.

Three weeks ago as I stood in the bathroom brushing my hair, someone I barely recognized was reflected back to me from the mirror.

Her eyes had deep circles beneath them.  Her eyebrows had been micro-bladed to fill in their sparse growth. Her nose had a wee depression at its tip where a biopsy had been carved out. And, for the first time, I didn't apply mascara as my eye lashes were no longer full and long.

How cruel is that!?

I have become used to people showing surprise when I tell them  my age, and being told I look way younger than chronology indicates. I now doubt this discrepancy. I believe I finally have caught up with my age.

Maybe the pandemic has played a part in this.  

Isolation, the cancellation of social events like the ballet, wearing the same old clothes every day and constantly hearing and reading about death. For the first time I see very clearly all the things we own and knowing that my daughters have no room or desire to be left these things when I die.

These thoughts make me feel very old, as if I am already planning for my death. Covid-19 prohibits me from seeing my wonderful grandkids and my dear daughters. Changes are happening in their lives that I can't witness and share. 

Zoom calls are not hugs. The phone doesn't show my smile. I know it's the best we can do now, but the circles beneath my eyes are only getting more pronounced and my body's aches  more numerous.

This is my reality. The question is what can I do that is meaningful now ?

A few months ago I took a felt-tipped pen and wrote "My job is to help people" 

The words wrote themselves. I have begun acting on this in concrete ways and I will seek out other ways to help.  Really, that's all we can do. 

Be kind and be generous with words and with time and, if possible, financially. 

I don't need eyelashes to do this.

    selling succulents


cooking for an outreach program



















Sunday, 14 March 2021

introspection









While I'm still physically healthy during this time of near isolation,  the health of my creative self is in crisis mode. 

My camera sits on its designated shelf in the den, the iso set to ISO 800 so I can photograph the pizza hot out of the oven, or the special Chilean cake I love as it sits on a rack to cool.

My camera doesn't accompany me when I walk or when I drive.

And even if I take a wonderful photograph, I'm not able to print it as my "print-partner" is strictly following COVID guidelines and I'm unable to come to her house.

So, I've turned to something I have done for much of my adult lifetime--  cutting words and letters from old magazines. Almost 30 years ago I decoupaged tins and small boxes and even a teapot and a pair of wee shoes. 

I'm still using a small notebook I made, with the cover decorated with paper images gleaned from magazines. 


   
And, how absolutely amazing that 25 years ago I chose an image with the words 
"A HABANA"!

In the collages I have created over many years, I often chose words from other languages, primarily Hebrew and Chinese. These were words as art and decoration, cut in such a way that the meaning was obscured. Words collected in a special bowl in the living room, words that I might use as titles for my paintings and later on, that might become show titles when I exhibited my photographs. 

So, I have turned to these again.

At first I composed small poems, stringing together words and phrases that I had cut and laid out in the dining room.  These weren't glued down and I photographed them while standing on the table.


Soon these poems changed, becoming prose and more personal and becoming images I wanted to keep.

Out came the scissors! Out came the glue sticks! Out came the me captured on paper!


 

























Saturday, 23 January 2021

memory

 
I've been mulling thoughts about memory and meaning for several weeks.

The question I have been asking myself is would our present lives have the same meaning if we had no memory of our past. 

If I believe that I am all that I have experienced, my place and circumstance of birth, my family and their histories, my gender, health and education, are these things imprinted deep into my unconscious? 

The people I have met and the multitude of things I have thought and done, are these inscribed on a plaque hidden somewhere in the depth of my being? 

Do I need to consciously remember them or does that matter? 

"We dwell on intrusive memories of the past or fret about what may or may not happen in the future," says Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace. And then Mark Twain's more direct statement makes me smile in recognition: "I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."


I recently saw a poignant video of a former ballerina suffering with Alzheimer's, as Swan Lake music reawakened  her memories of being on stage.  In the video, Gonzalez Saldana seems to feel the music as she sways and moves in her wheelchair. As the music reaches the crescendo, so do her movements. 

Besides being touched by this little-known dancer's grace, I saw, once again, how we allow so little time to practice stillness. We are always doing. Gonzalez Saldana, living with this disease, could feel the music deep in her soul with no clutter in its pathway. 

I fear dementia, with its abnormal brain changes. 
The dismissal of my cognitive self. 
The erasing of the me as I am now.
And, the erasing of my memories.

For these reasons, The Thief of Broken Toys, by Tim Lebbon, distressed me deeply.

Quoting from this short novel's back cover we read that "when a father loses his son and his wife leaves him, he cannot tear himself away from the small fishing village where the boy's memories reside. They're all he has left." He wanders the cliffs carrying broken toys that he had promised his son that he would fix, though he never did. These broken toys keep his son, Toby, close.

And then he meets the thief of broken toys.

When I first bought this book at a used book sale, I was surprised to see that the author was "an original talent on the horror scene." The story seemed to talk of a father's love and his tragic loss.

The loss was far greater than the father or myself could have imagined.

The thief in the story magically repairs the broken toys, one by one. He then asks Toby's father to replace him in this important job, as the thief's time was coming to an end. 


With the father's refusal to do so, a curse befell him.

His memory was erased. 
With that, his love for Toby was erased.
He had no memory of Toby at all.

This is the reason that Lebbon's horror genre includes this slim and powerful book.

I cannot imagine forgetting about Brian. Not remembering my beautiful daughters and their families.
These people fill my heart with love, and how my heart would shrink without my thoughts of them.

Tell me everything I don't remember.



Songwriter Jason Mraz says
"I can't walk through life backwards
Wherever I'm going, I'm already home."



              a card created by Sat-Sung Kalman Hassid many, many, many years ago



Saturday, 12 December 2020

resolutions

 It's mid-December and although the days seem to pass so slowly, the weeks fly by.

It's Saturday again and Brian has headed to the Moss Street Market.

I went out early this morning to walk; the second day in a row, following the same urban route that has enough hills to make me feel I've accomplished something. When nearly home, I told myself that I should do this 5 days a week, and that I should stick to it.  

And then my dislike for shoulds and resolutions struck!

Walk...lose weight...cut back on wine consumption...keep away from U.S. political news and, of course, the computer. And on and on.

Resolutions centred on me and my wish to improve and my need to be resolute in keeping to my self-promises.

An online dictionary defines "resolute" as follows:

 "res·o·lute 

admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering. "she was resolute and unswerving" "

To be "unwavering" and unswerving"  is very far from how I wish to proceed in my life.  Where would be the adventure? The chance encounters. The listening to and the embracing of new ideas. 

These personal firm decisions, resolutions waiting to be broken, or at least, bent. And then, of course, disappointment in my failures, disappointment in me.

Someone in the neighbourhood* has a large Gratitude Tree in their front yard with daily messages inspiring appreciation. Borrowing from the Advent tree format, each morning there is new positive action for the day.

                             DAY 3: Be fully present during conversations
  
 
                              DAY 7: Provide encouragement to someone today

These daily messages inspire and motivate us to look beyond ourselves. To look to the greater community and how we can spread kindness and caring beyond ourselves and our circle of friends and family. How, in this time of isolation and restriction, we can still reach out.

We can reach out, and by doing so, we not only support others, but it comes about that we nurture ourselves at the same time.


When I was a child growing up in Montreal, we occasionally traveled to New York City.  We stayed at a hotel and across the street was a restaurant that had a donut-making machine. My sister and I would stand and watch the donuts moving along a special conveyer belt, fascinated. I remember that there were two large cutout images of a man, each one holding a donut and the words beneath them saying, "As you travel through life, my friend, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole". 

If I were to choose a resolution for the new year, that might be it!




*Michael Cunliffe. 

Sunday, 22 November 2020

forever




Does it help that I went shopping at the Red Barn at 7:30 and boiled and grated 6 eggs and cut up apples for sauce and cooked a piece of cod for Zara?

 And roasted red peppers to go into the hummus I'm making.

And did a load of laundry.

Does it help?

No, this frantic busyness doesn't help.

It just makes me more exhausted.

Nothing helps my sadness at the passing of my beautiful dear niece. 

Nothing fills the hole in my heart. 

All of our shared texts are still on my phone.

Photographs of her are on my computer screen.

All I can do is breathe. And, to remember.  

And leave all the tasks I started this morning, undone.

And go for a walk to the beach.


Andrea, you live in my heart forever.

May her memory be for a blessing.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Zara

 Two weeks ago something happened that is gradually changing my life. More accurately, I am noticing   ways in which I have structured my days, especially during these challenging times, and I'm making subtle changes.

Zara, a nine-year old rescue cat, with her calico coat feeling like silk, was delivered to us in a pet carrier on November 25th.  In a series of happenings, remarkable and auspicious, caring and persistent, she found her way into our home and into our hearts.

We always had cats when we lived in the Cowichan Valley and all of these lived outdoors, spending time with us in our gardens or on the deck. Now we live in Victoria on a busy street.  I have seen cats die as they darted across the street, so Zara needs to remain indoors.


When I sit down, Zara often leaps onto my lap. I am learning to allow myself to sit quietly, stroking her face and neck.  My rushing to do something or other, disappears.  Well, not completely, but the urgency does.

The laundry can rest in the washing machine for 1/2 hour before I transfer it to the dryer. 

 (It's sitting there now!) 

Sitting by the door leading to the basement, Zara waits patiently for Brian to open the door so she can explore a cluttered and varied world. After 10 or 15 minutes she is ready to come upstairs and find a place to rest.  Maybe have a mouthful of food first.

It makes me smile, as gramps used to take our grandkids downstairs to make things and, this year, to play a rowdy game of conkers.  In this game from Brian's youth, each person has a horse chestnut attached to a string and, simply put, the gamers try in turn to destroy their opponents' chestnuts.

After coming upstairs this morning, Zara headed to a warming patch of sunlight streaming through the window onto Brian's bed.  As the light shifts it is likely she will shift as well.

Another learning for me. Twofold really. To look at the urgency I assign to non-urgent matters. The" I must do this today" refrain.  Do I really?  I've got to make my bed first thing in the morning! Do I really have to?

 Instead, I may sit by the fire for a while. Or, sit quietly and meditatively create dry needle-felted rocks  and bowls. 




(As an aside: Zara has come downstairs to sit in a patch of sunlight on the living room floor.)

Animals spend their time "being", not looking ahead. 

Zara doesn't worry about how she appears to others. Yesterday she leapt onto my friend's lap, never assuming that she wouldn't be welcomed. 

Am I that confident of acceptance?  

I'm learning to have around me people whom I trust and care about and to keep the negative chatter in the very deep background. And sometimes I forget. 

And, Zara is here to remind me.

And as her student, I'm reclaiming the joy of self-nourishment. And, when I forget, watching this beautiful calico, reminds me.