Wednesday, 11 March 2020

saying goodbye

I am trying to bring some order to a few shelves in our library and to sort through papers and half-filled notebooks.

Of course, this becomes simply an excuse to look through piles of notes carefully tucked into file folders marked "save".

It is also a time to utter "OH, that's where it is", although the purpose of finding it is long forgotten.

For a short while, when vacationing in Sedona, my friend Nancy and I met to spend a couple of hours together writing.

We followed Natalie Goldberg's model from her 1986 book, Writing Down the Bones. We would choose a word or two as a prompt and then say"Go!", generally spending between 5 and 10  minutes on each exercise.




Keeping the pen moving.  No crossing out.

Then we read our short pieces to each other.

Today I found one of my notebooks from that time.

Warning!  This writing burst from 2001 is entirely unedited!


  * a photograph from 1998

"saying goodbye

The cycle of life - beginnings and endings hellos goodbyes
birth. youth, adulthood, old age and then death.

Holding on doesn't help, really
time is stronger than my fingers,
grasping, tugging.

The hours, the days and the years,
the calendar from 2000 replaced by 2001
to be replaced in a week, it seems, with 2002.

Here I am at a crossroads again
preparing to say goodbye to our life in Sedona.
12 years wintering here among the Red Rocks.

It is time.

It is time to say goodbye with grace, with love, with understanding.

Understanding that my body is old-
older that it was in 2000
My limbs more fragile, more complaining.

Understanding my life is less adaptable
to the coming back and forth into 2 different cities,
two very different existences.

Goodbye, not only to Sedona,
but to my more youthful self, my stronger body.

Saying goodbye to one thing is really an opportunity to welcome a new beginning.

If there is no void, there can be nothing new appearing to fill the space.

Goodbye and Welcome!"


                                        old in 2001?   old at 58?   no way!

Here I am in 2020, having traveled four times this past year to Havana where I gathered images for my 2019 solo photography show, Fragments.

Here I am in 2020, still working hard in the garden while continuing to do small acts of kindness in our community

                yes, "My limbs more fragile, more complaining." but still not old!












Saturday, 8 February 2020

she persisted

When Brian and I moved to Victoria 16 1/2 years ago we moved into a newly renovated home.  It was a relief, as I didn't want to be living in chaos as construction was going on.

The garden or rather, lack of garden, was the kind of challenge that excited me.  Digging out most of the  grass, relocating the path and working in yards and yards of sea soil into the new large bed was a start.


As a feature of this virgin bed, I planted a young ginkgo biloba "Autumn Gold".  I had been entranced by an entire boulevard planted with these trees as we drove through a city in California on our way to Sedona, Arizona many years ago.

I read that this trees is considered to be "living fossil and is the only surviving member of a group of ancient plants believed to have inhabited the earth up to 150 million years ago."
 http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=c910



I was told this tree had survived because it had traditionally been planted in Buddhist gardens.

It is a slow-growing columnar tree and its bright golden autumn leaves are outstanding.

After spending hundreds of hours transforming our front property, and just tamping in the soil around  this specimen tree, you can imagine how I responded to a neighbour's comment, something like "Why are you planting this? It will get TOO BIG and ......blah blah"

Turning to this critic, my retort was: "I'll be dead!"  Period.

I clearly remember the sense of freedom that comment gave me!

The age thing hasn't always been so liberating.

A few years ago, I told our financial advisor that I didn't want our new investments' maturity to be 10 or more years from purchase.

When I reach beyond 80 years old, I'd rather have the cash in my pocket.





My kitchen floor always looks dirty these days.  Not from lack of washing, but rather because the surface "varnish" has worn away in this most travelled hub of our home. The floor needs refinishing.
I have the name of a company that did my friend's floors and the number has been by the phone for two weeks. Every time I think of phoning, I hesitate.

To have the work done means the fridge, the stove and the dishwasher need to be moved from the kitchen. Pulled out and then carefully moved back into place, without damaging the now perfect floor.

I'm going to wash it again later.

I've put the company's phone number away.  For now.

Maybe I can live with the smudgy look for this lifetime in this home.

And finally, chronology tiptoes in as I try to choose trees to separate our back garden from our neighbour's.  Since the death and removal of a huge cedar at our fence-line, the intimacy of our garden has been lost. I thought that three delicate and evergreen pittosporum tennufolium would be lovely screen there....until I discovered that they wouldn't even begin to afford even a little privacy for five years and counting!

Wrong choice.

As a kid, how many times did I say "NOW!  I want it NOW!"

I don't think this desire for right away/instantly means that I am reverting to my childhood, rather this is my new version of "living in the moment"!

                                    THIS MOMENT NOW!

As suggested by a friend and plant-person extraordinaire, I think I will purchase three large evergreen magnolias "Little Gem" and have the guys from Demitasse nursery plant them in the spring.

The downside is it's still winter!




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Facebook page            Jackie Saunders-Ritchie

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

2020: as always, it's up to us



"We receive the light, then we impart it. Thus we repair the world."
    - Kabbalah












"There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."
-Rumi























"If we get cut off from our passion, where's our compassion going to come from?"
-Matthew Fox












"Live as you will have wished to have lived when you are dying."

-Christian Furchtegott Gellert














Apologies: I don't know the artist of the flying bird or who wrote the final quotation.
Somehow messages aren't being posted....again!  You may share your comments by email or by posting on my Facebook page.  Thank you

Friday, 13 December 2019

when will I get it!?

when will I get it?!

I asked several friends and family members if they would choose two or three words that they feel describe who I am.

When a few people wondered why I was asking, I told them that I wanted to see if their descriptive words matched my personal self-image.

How do you see me? How do I see myself?


Because of this asking, other memories pushed forward.

When my dear friend Sarah had a brain aneurism and while she was in intensive care, I sat at the hospital for many hours each day. I occasionally made sandwiches for her son as he waited and watched.

One evening, her husband G left a message on my phone, asking for me to call back. Why was he calling? Was he upset with me and how I was sitting vigil for Sarah? Or was it something else? I finally gathered my courage and phoned.

In fact, G was phoning to ask if I would be willing to be their Power Of Attorney.

Far from a dismissal, he was instead feeling trust and the closeness of our relationship.

When my neighbour J and I were visiting this afternoon, I talked about my early sense of self.

I  described how my sense of  worth increased when my high school husband-to-be dated me many weeks in a row rather that his standard not-getting-involved-once-a-month-kinda-date.

I felt special. He was the top of his class, popular and he chose me.

Describing this to J, I realized that I had never once thought that he was lucky to have found me!

And we married.  And later divorced.

HELLO!?
                 Old stories.  Old insecurities.

When I asked for these descriptive words, I thought it might allow me to see positive parts of myself that I may have discounted or under-valued. And perhaps to see traits that I have disowned because of my belief that they are negative.

As expected, no one hit me hard with negatives.  Though  I did say it was allowed!

"Creative" wasn't a surprise, but it became more powerful when it was mated with "focused".
"Leader "and "caring" partnered was another combination that I could hold close.

When "powerhouse" was chosen twice, I thought it was indicating a pushy Jackie, barreling along, running over people.  However, when I googled the word, I was surprised to see that this was not a negative connotation. Rather I now see it as a strength!
  1. pow·er·house
    /ˈpou(ə)rˌhous/
    noun
    1. a person or thing of great energy, strength, or power.

I love when a friend didn't stop at two words so that she could add "strongly principled, fiercely supportive!!"

And from someone who has known me for years, "oh that's easy. ...caring
...energetic..precise.."    

And when I asked what the meaning of "precise" was to her she said "knowing exactly what needs to be done or what you want."

So, it seems that I have been too quick to call myself, all in CAPS, "BOSSY", when likely it can be lowercase "bossy"with a dash of "precise" thrown in!

"Precise" cautions me that I need to be aware of the FONT!

Someone chose "determined", which, if it hadn't been coupled with "generous", I might have of believed was "stubborn" or "dogmatic". And, it's really not the same thing at all!

Looking at the descriptive words that people shared with me, I hold "generous" and "kind" closest to my heart. This is how I wish to be seen and to be remembered.

Although "powerhouse" has a wonderful ring to it!

This exercise has been a remarkable experience.

Maybe it can help lessen the weight of these early beliefs and allow me to  grow more fully into who I truly am.

Thumb my nose and say.....

                              abracadabra and piss off!







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Wednesday, 13 November 2019

that's Cuba!



Yesterday I started  making chutney.  It was to use some of the amazing Bramley apples that our  neighbours and friends Rick and Joanne had given us.  Each apple the size of a large grapefruit.  Delicious to slice and eat and perfect for cooking. While we lived in the Cowichan Valley, I made about 100 jars of chutney.  Apple, pear, plum and stone fruit combinations of apricots and peaches.  But that was over 20 years ago.

Initially, I likely followed a recipe but I soon dispensed with that and, as my mum used to say, I now fly by the seat of my pants.

This time I wrote the quantities down as I added ingredients to the saucepan, scratching out and rewriting the numbers as they were altered. 1 cup of brown sugar became 1 1/4 cups and the amount of chopped crystalized ginger increased as well.

I have always loved making chutney, both because of its forgiving nature and because of the wonderful smell that fills the kitchen as it simmers.  Though it needs almost constant attention as it cooks down and thickens, there is a meditative nature to the process.


 A perfect pot, a wooden spoon and lots of time.

I shopped for most of the ingredients for this year's chutney at my local small supermarket, Pepper's, and at the next-door bulk food store, For Good Measure. Apple cider vinegar, Black River organic sweet apple cider and ginger root from Pepper's and sun-dried apricots, brown sugar and both organic crystallized ginger and Thompson raisins from the bulk food store.

I went to another store to find small B.C. pears that were perfectly ripe.

All of these purchases because I had been gifted a small bag of beautiful apples!

All of these purchases made in our neighbourhood. In stores where I had an array of choice. Three kinds of raisins, four varieties of brown and raw sugar, several choices of pears and a number of apple vinegar varieties.

Now, step back two weeks to when Brian and I were in Havana/Habana, staying once again at the casa particular with our wonderful hosts, Rafeala  and Willie.

Riding in Willie's diesel -powered old Renault, we started off to find cheese for me and apple juice to settle Rafeala's stomach.

We drove about 1/2 hour to the shopping centre I had visited with Willie in May. We paid to park and then went to line up with several dozen people patiently waiting their turns to enter the supermarket.  Only a certain number of people can  shop at the same time and shopping bags are carefully examined with the bill of sales upon exiting.

Rafaela spoke to the person who was monitoring access to inquire about the variety of cheeses available on this day.  There was only one kind and Rafaela told us that it was very acidic and unsuitable.

So our journey, spanning several hours, continued.

At the second fairly large store we saw two young men unloading cartons from a truck and placing them near the store's back entrance.  They told us that the store was closed because of this and didn't know when it would reopen.

Willie voiced a refrain I was becoming familiar with..."That's Cuba!".

A third store was closed though a sign on the door cited its hours as 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

At the fourth store Willie again paid to park and Rafaela and I entered.  She instructed me to crumple up my shopping bag so that there would be no suspicion of shoplifting.  Finding that there was no cheese, we went to the aisle that held juice.  Rows and rows, shelves and shelves of pineapple juice.  Every tetra pak of juice identical to its neighbour. Nothing other than pineapple juice.

The fifth store again had neither cheese nor apple juice.

The sixth was closed.


The seventh store had cheese!  A tiny free-standing counter had small pieces of Gouda and a stack of the cheese already sliced.  Rafaela suggested I buy 5 CUC (tourist money, 1 CUC equivalent to about $1.35 Canadian) and the employee cut and wrapped it for us.  While Raphaela was chatting, I took a brief walk around the store, my flattened bag tucked under my arm.

Again, no apple juice.

Whereas the other supermarket had many hundreds of containers of pineapple juice, here I saw an entire aisle with its shelves stacked only with bottles of cooking oil. One variety. The oil I see in my casa's kitchen.

Several months previous, in Habana, there had been a shortage of this very same oil!

"That's Cuba!"

When I visited Havana this time, I filled a portion of a carry-on suitcase with "treats" for Rafaela and Willie.  I had searched many stores for the more delicate pink peppercorns that Willie had once tried and now coveted. (Root Cellar- three containers) Wonderful shampoo, several bars of gentle Dove soap, full-sized Pro-Enamel toothpaste, many freezer Zip Lock bags (forgive me!) Polysporin, Tylenol and lots of bandaids.

On my previous trip to Havana, I noticed that Willie had bought four bandaids from a pharmacy.  Bandaids purchased individually. So, on this trip, I brought every size and type of bandaid I could find as well as gauze pads and both plastic and paper tape.

I also gave Rafaela two wonderful pattered nylon shopping bags.

And, of course, small cars and trucks for their much-loved young grandson.

A contrast from my life?  For sure.


I have a wee piece of paper from a wrapped gift I had received that says "thank you".  I keep it in the centre of our dining table and look at it many times a day as a reminder.

To remember how very fortunate I am to be living in Canada, and in this city, Victoria.

And to remember how fortunate I am to have a home and enough money to live comfortably and to share some of it with people less fortunate.

Thank you thank you thank you.

                    Every day be kind.  Be generous.  Don't judge.  Be thankful.


                                                                     
                                                              " That's Cuba!"
Jackie's chutney- this time!

11 C apples, chopped
3 C pears, chopped
1T+ minced ginger root
1/2 C+ 1T crystalized ginger, chopped
1 C  dried apricots, chopped
1/2 C Thompson raisins, chopped
3/4 C onion, chopped
1 1/4 C light brown sugar
1 1/2 C Black River organic sweet apple cider
1 1/2 C apple cider vinegar

In a heavy bottomed pot mix the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil.  And now it's the meditative part!  Reduce the heat and cook, stirring often, and stirring even more often as the chutney begins to blend, darken and thicken.

Slow cooking takes longer but tastes better! The vinegar looses its bite as it gently cooks.



Saturday, 31 August 2019

when we die where do we go?

I have recently discovered a photograph of my dear friend Jean, carefully tucked away so I wouldn't lose it.  In it, she is standing in the water with her youngest daughter, waving to the person taking the picture.

Soon after this glorious picture was taken, Jean's life on this earth, on this dimension, ended.

I still talk to her and deeply mourn her absence.

Looking at plants she gave me, I remember the times we worked together in our gardens. When it's blackberry season I remember the many times that she & Brian gathered berries along her driveway in the Cowichan Valley. From Jean I know that if I crumple a piece of parchment paper under water I can  then fit it snuggly into a pan with sides.  I learned the best way to slice an avocado.

Jean knit me special multi-coloured gloves with the fingers of wool  just reaching the middle joint, so that I could take photographs with them on.

Thousands of hours spent with Jean helped me understand what love and friendship means. What it did not do was prepare me for loss.

So where is Jean now?

I know it sounds foolish, but it's as if she is waiting, a little to the side somewhere, close but not close enough to touch.














Does it help to read Paul R. Fleischman's thoughts that " Nothing is solid, permanent, and immutable. Every ‘thing’ is really an ‘event.’ Even a stone is a form of river, and a mountain is only a slow wave. The Buddha said, sabbe sankhâra anicca — the entire universe is fluid.”

The fluidity of life and death and life.

In "The Japanese Lover" by Isabel Allende, Alma, an elderly resident at a senior retirement community is asked by Lenny if she is afraid of dying. Alma responds “A little. I imagine that after death there’s no contact with this world, no suffering, personality, or memory; it’s as though this Alma Belasco had neve existed. Something may transcend it: the spirit, the essence of our being. But I confess I am afraid of giving up this body…..”

When he is asked the same question by Alma, Lenny responds "“No, I suppose that what comes after death is the same as before birth."

Peace, my heart, let the time for
the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain
into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end
in the folding of the wings over the
nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be
gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a
moment, and say your last words in
silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp
to light you on your way

Rabindranath Tagore
(1861 - 1941)



Louise Cordana writes "All who have been touched by beauty are touched by sorrow at its passing. "





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Sunday, 4 August 2019

joy


joy is an art

Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation.
—André Gide




I have just returned from a morning walk, down to Willows beach continuing to Cattle Point and looping back along the Camas Trail. 

A cool shower and fresh clothes have revived me.



To the left of the boat launching ramp at Cattle Point, I saw a gay red and white umbrella sheltering three men from the sun. They were seated on folding chairs and each sported a wide-brimmed straw hat. For a moment one man turned to speak to his friend and I saw that he was smoking a cigar.  Keeping my gaze on the old codgers, I saw that each man had a cigar, and the fragrant smell followed me as I moved away.

A joyous gathering.

As I looped back, I saw a young couple heading for the beach at Willows. They held take-out coffees and the young woman carried the familiar pink box of a neighbourhood bakery.

Closer to home, walking down one of Oak Bay's many lanes, I smiled as I saw three small bikes, lying on their sides in a fenced back yard. They seemed to be dropped just as their young riders must have leapt off to begin another adventure. Or maybe it had been bedtime the night before, and they had been called indoors. Three siblings, perhaps. 

The joy of connections.

The joy of endless summer. 



As I continued along the lane, I saw a sturdy rack that held three colourful kayaks, a garden that overflowed with colour and white blossoms gathering on the ground from a huge tree that I hope survives at least as long as I do.  

Small things, maybe. And maybe not.

If I hadn't walked this morning, I would have missed these treasured sights.

I would also have missed the sounds that the geese made as they scrounged in the seaweed for food and the birds calling out to one another. I wonder again why walkers and runners "plug themselves in" along such a heavenly area.

Early last evening I spent more than an hour gathering seeds in our back garden. At first I collected the tiny black ones from my self-seeding annual poppies.  I call them Pennington-Poppies as these flowers originated from a home I rented with my two young daughters about 40 years ago in the Cowichan Valley, my first stop on Vancouver Island.




Cutting the seed pods from browning plants, I stood them stem upwards in an empty yogurt container.













There was silence, except for the muted sound of my steps and the tapping of the poppy heads gathering in my container.




Clearly the joy I experienced might not be everyone's! Just as people differ from one another, so too what we enjoy and consider joyous differs as well.

For me, joy is an opening. A feeling of expansion. Of being in the present. 

Joy is noticing the beauty surrounding us and the goodness sometimes hidden deep inside people.

André Gide writes that joy is a moral obligation, and never more so than now as there have been two mass shootings in the United States in a span of just 24 hours. 

Never more than now as men and women experience homelessness in part because there is not enough low-cost housing, and when children are kept in cages, separated from their families.

We must counter the fear and hate by embracing love and joy, doing what we can in our own communities to give balance to our lives and to the lives of our adopted neighbours.  


Theopedia describes joy as "a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope."

Once we have discovered this, embracing joy becomes a necessity.

And, for each one of us, it is also an obligation.




painting of Sidney Crosby by Greg Robertson