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.








Sunday, 18 October 2020

words

 


Traditionally, dictionaries added words once a year, as our language evolved and changed. 

Today tech terms slip in and, to Scrabble players' delight, slang seems more prevalent.

We might see "social distancing" among the S's and I wonder if Random House or the Oxford Dictionary might consider capitalizing HOAX?

Of course "Real Dictionaries", the ones made of paper and when opened,  take up an entire shelf, are passé. These dispensers of words are now online. And up-to- date.

"Anti-Vac",  "QAnon", "conspiracy theory" are there.

However, rather than increasing my collection of words, I've been considering instead the words that have fallen out of my own personal dictionary.

"Browse". "Spontaneity". "Visit". "Hug". "Travel".

And "running to the grocery store to pick up a single item for a special dish".  The lemon I have in the fridge will have to substitute for the missing lime's more preferred flavour.

I'm now buying two jugs of milk instead of one jug, if the date is good.

And wondering if London Drugs still has  seniors' early shopping times so I can buy my favourite coffee from Cuba in a mostly empty store.

"Concentration" is another word slipping from my dictionary.

I have a great selection of unread books, collected from a neighbouring church's weekly sales. I have barely moved the bookmark in the novel I've started. 

After 1/2 hour I get up to do the laundry or to go online to see the latest outrage concerning Trump. Then it's time to think about supper.

Oh, first I'll need to check for emails.

And, although I won't soon read the books I have already, I may return to the sale again to reinstate browse into my life. To be with several other masked people who love books and, for the moment at least, become part of an acceptable social gathering.

My mantra: 

Brian & Stella


*Do what brings joy to myself and to others....(we are getting a cat!) 

*Eat well and don't drink too much wine...(and, make sure it's a good wine!)

*Be creative...in the garden, in the studio playing with wool, and with words.

*Say "Thank you" "You're welcome" and "I love you" often.

*Be gentle and kind to others and remember to do the same for myself.



*And, although it seems as if a door has closed during this pandemic, I try to remember to look out the windows.



My computer is dying PLUS my blogger site has been changed so that I'm not able to add photographs as before........I hope I can figure things out for next time!  On my new computer!








Saturday, 29 August 2020

obligation

"For almost six months since mid-February, I haven't picked up my camera. Not once. Yes, I needed a break. No, I don’t think to be a “real photographer” you need to pick up the camera every day. I don’t think we owe the camera any obligation at all; it's there for us, not the other way around." 
(from David duChemin vision@craftandvision.com)
                                                                                              
WHAT!  REALLY?!

And then, in his following newsletter,  he continues saying that our passion "for this craft doesn't have to be a roaring bonfire all the time."

WHEW!

But, I'm not reading either. 

I say I'm going to and then I find myself in the den in front of the computer.  It's too often MSNBC or CNN or Mother Jones to keep abreast of the horrors that Trump is lavishly spreading. I make up that it's more disciplined that watching things unfold on television.

I heard an author speaking on NPR this morning saying that she's in a fallow period: neither writing nor reading.  She feels this is because of the pandemic. 

Another symptom to go with coughs and fever.




This morning I made another attempt at clearing off the pile of papers and magazines at the end of our pine dining table. It's large, so it's easy for it to become a sort of ad hoc filing cabinet.

I flipped through a July issue of Boulevard, and was struck by a series of full page images of five professional women. The article was to "highlight gorgeous local fashion and focus on finding silver linings in this unusual and difficult time."

The fashion stylist said that the "silver lining" for her has been that she "has been using this time to re-connect with" herself and her family. Another said it had given her the opportunity "to fall in love with my life - my life as it is." The makeup artist expressed that the slowing down has allowed her to "realign with what really matters."


Nothing terribly original, I thought. And then, one thing struck me.

Not one of the women was smiling!

I realize that this must have been an editor's decision; however, it seemed to show the shadow side of these women's words.

I'm making up that if these same professionals were again interviewed eight or nine months from now, the reconnecting with family line might not appear quite so often.

And, remember, I'm making this up.

Whereas today a QAnon conspiracy protester in Germany carried a sign that read "End the plandemic immediately", inferring that COVID-19 was a hoax, I am under no such illusion.



I have read that the pandemic will be here for almost two years: longer if rules intended to stop the virus from being spread aren't respected.

So, today I'm considering recharging the battery on my camera and deciding whether to read or to walk around my garden.










WHAT!





Friday, 29 May 2020

change

The question I keep asking myself is will there be change in how we are in the world after the transition from lockdown to full engagement.

Will we translate what we have learned into action?

Will the knowledge that pollution levels have dropped significantly, that marine life has returned to the waters of Venice and the skies are alive with bird song, move us from simply noticing to action?

I fear that memory is short where profit is paramount.

Memory is short when the President of the United States works in partnership with the oil companies and makes the Environmental Protection Agency a joke.

Memory is short when natural disasters like hurricanes, tornados and excessive flooding aren't connected to global warming but rather as a few isolated freak storms.  When fires racing out of control are accepted as the way things are.

I've read that working from home will remain frequent and Zoom, the norm.  But will it be because workers like working in their pajamas or because of the great savings to benefit the company. Less office space needed and meetings that require no travel. No hanging around the water cooler.

I've read recently about a company that provides a system where the Boss can monitor the devices of staff members to see that they are not cruising the net and "wasting time". Employees need to be told that they are being monitored, however they have few options.

I've also read that shopping on line has peaked during the pandemic and that stores will need to woo their customers back.  Already we see large companies closing.

A friend went to The Bay a few days ago, just after it it had reopened. There were signs saying “Touch only what you’re interested in buying” or something similar. She said that it was enough to keep her from flipping through the hangers, especially as she had read that the virus stays longer on hard surfaces.

Looking at all the merchandise, she was struck by its excess. So much "stuff" and so very little of it even remotely necessary. I couldn't but think of my wardrobe, where my "good outfits" of black tops and pants were gathered from Eileen Fisher stores in Phoenix, Az between 2000 and 2010.

Another friend said the owner of a small store emailed that she would meet one-on-one with customers and talked of retail therapy.

And finally, a young woman waited in line for 1 1/2 hours to shop at HomeSense on the first day of its reopening.

WHAT??!

I've noticed a great deal about myself during this time of social distancing directives.

*I realize how much time I spend on my own: walking, photographing and working in my garden.

*And I notice how talking over the fence to my neighbour is important to me.

*And how I spend too much time on the computer and not enough time reading.

*I notice how I miss the spontaneity of racing to the store to pick up an ingredient I'm missing.  And how I can usually do without it.




*I miss touch and a hug.

*And I miss printing with Patrice, sitting side by side, working together on a photograph.


Constraints about travel have greatly affected what is important to me.

*I so want to visit my dear niece and support her during her health struggles, however I can't fly or even cross into the U.S.

*A wonderful celebration on Galiano Island for my daughter's 50th birthday is cancelled because her sister can't come from Israel.

*Will my love of Havana and my beautiful hosts slowly slip away as I won't be traveling to Cuba for the foreseeable future?

These things I can't change. Mourning won't alter their truth.



The Buddha said "Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it".

I understand how fortunate I am for having my senses alive to the beauty surrounding me. To notice the shadow designs hosta leaves create in the late afternoon, the small ant moving in the center of a single white peony, and the remarkable way a succulent changes again and again during its life cycle.

To be awake.

To feel deeply, even when it's painful.

And always to connect with people, sometimes in untravelled ways.