And her wings grew stronger

Every time she fell, she tried again and her wings grew stronger.

Usually, when I create in my art journal, the words drift into substance dripping with paint and creative sweat somewhere along the path, after I’ve begun the page.

Yesterday, as I sat and contemplated one of the backgrounds I’d created for the art journalling course I taught at Kensington Arts, the words landed before I’d even set up my paints, with a clear and resounding note of “Here I am”, demanding a page upon which to appear.

So much of the fun of art journalling is in the ‘allowing’ of ideas for words and imagery to materialize from somewhere deep within – without judging, limiting or condemning each thought.

So often, as I created this page, I stopped and asked myself, “What am I afraid to try?” And then, I did that.

Like adding gold pearlescent powder to the leaves and birdcage (hard to see in the photo) I haven’t worked with those types of powders in years — it took a lot of opening and closing of cupboard doors and drawers to find them – but it was like encountering an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time. The familiarity, the comfort, the excitement, the remembering of things you’ve shared, the experiences you created together, the memories you built — they’re always there, enriching each step of your journey. As you begin to laugh and chat and share stories, the time apart evaporates and you are left with that wonderful knowing that a friendship like this is not measured by time. It is woven forever into your hearts, spinning songs of joy and laughter through time shared and time apart.

I danced with the muse yesterday. It was an old, familiar tune we played. In its familiarity, woven into each strand of melody, sweet notes of possibility filled my heart, calling my wings to spread and grow stronger.

Namaste

This is the background I started with.

Shine Bright Like The Stars

The first thing I told the attendees in my art journalling workshop on Wednesday night was that I was so excited to be there I came a day early.

’cause that’s what happened.

On Tuesday, I packed up my two rolly bins, loaded them into the car and drove across the city to Kensington Art in anticipation of greeting 12 people into my class.

Except, I realized when I got there I’d somehow put it onto the wrong date in my calendar on my phone. Me and technology… know what I mean?

After laughing with the staff about my excitement, I wheeled everything back out to my car, loaded it up and drove home, laughing all the way.

On Wednesday night, I repeated the driving there but this time, I set-up and after the staff member checked people in along with verifying their vaccination cards, we dove in.

It was fun. Exhilarating. Exciting and challenging.

It’s the first in-person workshop I’ve given since Covid lockdowns began in March 2020. Fortunately, no one balked at wearing a mask throughout the evening. Though I must admit, teaching with one on is… different.

Different is ok. I can either resist or accept. My choice. I chose to accept with grace to ensure each attendee received value from the workshop and felt safe and supported in their exploration of their creative expression.

In preparation for the workshop, I created a number of backgrounds in one of my art journals as examples of ‘where to begin’ to show the class. I find it both cathartic and medicative to spend time simply layering on paint, texture and contours. The objective isn’t to think about what I’m doing. It’s to simply let whatever is seeking to appear, appear.

The first background I started with however, kept calling me to dive in. Three hours later, I had a completed page.

Ooops! I hadn’t meant to take it all the way! But I’m glad I did!

She knew that every door was a portal to wonder, mystery and awe and did not fear stepping through.

I still needed some sample backgrounds so I dove back in and consciously pulled myself away when I felt the urge to keep going. (Believe me. That’s not always easy when I’m in the flow!)

Yesterday, I opened my journal to the first background and began to play.

And that’s where the magic and the muse found me.

Perhaps it was the influence of the stunningly beautiful full moon of the night before, or the fall Equinox, or both… because somewhere at the edge of night, walking beneath a golden moon, breathing in starlight, wonder and awe, magic embraced me and I let go of thinking to allow what was seeking to be known and seen and experienced appear.

She rose like the moon and shone bright like the stars casting beauty and light into the darkness.

I taught an art journalling workshop this week. My first in-person workshop since March 2020.

It was fun. Exhilarating. And a great reminder to let go and be present in the fullness of the moon and the stars and all of life, to bathe in the wonder and the awe of this moment right now.

Namaste

PS. I’m teaching another workshop at Kensington Art on Wednesday, October 27 — if you’re in the Calgary area and want to join in, it would be lovely to see you!

The Two Faces of Poverty and Privilege

I am at the park for my early morning walk with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle. He has attempted to demonstrate to a little grey fluff ball of a dog that he is boss. The fluff ball will have none of Beau’s nonsense.

I call Beaumont to my side. “He truly does not know his size,” I say to the woman walking with the fluff ball. “I’m sorry he acted so inconsiderately.”

The woman leans on her walking cane, laughs and tells me not to worry. “She’s 13. She takes no guff from nobody.”

I thank her for her understanding and am about to turn away when she says, “I know you. You look really familiar.”

I turn back towards her and look at her weathered face closely. I don’t think I know her but my memory for faces is often suspect.

“What’s your name?” she asks.

I tell her and she smiles, nods her head and says, “I knew I knew you!” And she mentions an agency I did some consulting for several years ago. It’s a social services agency providing housing and supports for Calgarians facing physical and mental barriers. Many of their clients are housed through Calgary’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.

I am surprised she recognizes me. It’s a bright but chilly morning. I am wearing sunglasses and a toque pulled low on my forehead.

I say, “Wow. What a great memory.”

She laughs, picks up her cane and waves it in the air as she replies. “My body may be falling apart but at 63 I’ve still got my faculties about me.”

She goes on to tell me about her mom who, at 95, still drives and lives on her own in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. “Though she is thinking it’s time she gave up driving.”

I tell her about my mom, who when she died at 97 last year, was still intellectually sharp, though her physical health was decimated by arthritis.

She looks at me and says, “When you get to be my age you’ll be grateful for your mom’s sound mind too.”

I do not tell her I am five years older than she is. I also don’t tell her I am surprised by her age. Looking at her weathered and lined face I would have given her at least 10 – 12 more years.

And I wonder if what I see is the price of poverty, of a life lived on the margins and its constant struggle to make every dollar and cent stretch to meet a month with too many days. Of worry and strain and fear of one more mishap leading to the last place you want to go, a homeless shelter.

Because I do remember her. Not from the agency that provides housing for her now. I remember her from the adult homeless shelter where I used to work. She wasn’t there long. An adult, predominantly male homeless shelter, is not a particularly safe environment for a woman. Once in, getting out is the number one priority for most women.

But it can be difficult. Especially for ‘older’ women. Lack of education, lack of work experience make it difficult to divine a way back out beyond the shelter’s doors. Compounded by a life time of living on the margins, divorce, death of a spouse, spousal abuse, loss of health and/or an addiction, what little emotional, physical or financial reserves women had are stripped away, leaving them exposed to not just homelessness, but the hopelessness that walks in its every step.

This woman was one of the fortunate ones. She connected to the appropriate supports and is hanging on to them with every breath and every step she takes.

As I sit at my desk this morning looking out at the beauty of my environment, the green/golden leaves of autumn not yet ready to fall, the river flowing past beneath a cerulean sky, I think about my life and the lives of other women in my cohort.

Our privilege is subtle, but it is there. It creates a natural anti-aging barrier that keeps it from lining our faces with worry and stress, aging us beyond our years. It gave us options throughout our lives that women like the woman at the park probably never had – access to education and training, access to gyms and massages and facials and so much more. It allowed us to choose between a live-in or live-out nanny because we could afford to pay for what we wanted. It filled our fridges with an abundance of foods that left us free of having to make the difficult decisions of whether to send our children to school with a breakfast in their belly or have a dinner for them on the table that night.

It opened doors to career-paths of our choice. Because, if we chose to work or stay at home, if we took a minimum wage job or a second part-time one, it wasn’t out of necessity. It was our choice.

For too many women, the deck they were dealt is weighed down by poverty and its limited choices. Full hands are rare and under the weight of of poverty’s pervasive nature, every card played can take you out of the game, leaving you empty-handed, fighting for your survival.

I met a woman at the park this morning. She reminded me how blessed and fortunate I am to live this life of mine.

I am grateful she is safe now.

I am grateful she touched my life.

I am grateful for it all.

Namaste

Happy Birthday Jackie!

The Gallagher Girls

When my daughters were little girls I knew that to have the kind of relationship with them that I wanted as they grew up, I needed to do some (ok a lot of) work on my relationship with my mother.

And it had to begin with understanding her first so, to get there, I flew out to my parents home on Vancouver Island and over the course of a weekend, asked my mother to tell me her life story while I recorded it.

She started with the facts, “I was born in Pondicherry, India…” and began to cry. For two and a half hours she cried and talked and shared the story of her life.

My only role was to listen.

By the time her words and tears stopped flowing, she was exhausted.

I thanked her for telling me her story and we went to bed.

We didn’t speak of that time again, though occasionally she would ask if I was going to write her life story.

I never did. I was afraid she wouldn’t like my telling of what I heard.

She wanted it to be about her life in India where she felt she lived in her own personal Shangri-la. She didn’t want me to write about her life beyond those days. After leaving India she felt lost and untethered from her family and her past and did not want me to write about sad things.

I wanted to write the story I heard. The story of a woman with mental health issues who had never had any help.

My mother suffered from severe depression. A gentle soul for whom the vagaries of life often felt too harsh and real, by the time I was born, just over seven years after my eldest sister, the final note in a quartet of offspring, she could no longer cope. Taking care of another child was too much for her. My eldest sister, Jackie, became my de facto care-giver – as she was for my other two siblings too.

Perhaps that is why, in her final years, Jackie became mom’s care-giver. It is her nature. Full of grace and kindness, as well as strength of character, Jackie (and her husband Jim) ensured that mom always knew there was someone there for her. That she was not alone. That she could count on them.

Fact is, Jackie is someone you can always count on to do the kind thing, to turn up when you’re in need, to listen when you need an ear, to laugh with you when you need a co-conspirator in joy.

Recently, when Jackie and I flew to Vancouver to visit my eldest daughter and her family, I was charged with pushing her around the airport in a wheelchair. She has severe (like really severe) arthritis in her feet and walking distances is challenging.

When I met her at the airport, she’d already made friends with the Air Canada boarding agents on duty who greeted me as I walked into the terminal as if we’d known eachother forever! She even made the security agents smile, which is no small feat.

Then again, it could be because I told anyone who would listen how I’d always wanted to push my big sister around and now! Finally I had my chance!

Not really (though I did keep repeating that!) The fact is, Jackie makes friends where ever she goes.

People gravitate to her. They feel safe and welcome in her presence. It’s who she is.

It’s a trait she got from our mother.

Years ago, I thought to have a good relationship with my daughters I needed to have a good one with my mother. And, while healing that relationship was, and still is, vital to my well-being today, it was not my relationship with my mother that made my life rich and beautiful and full of possibility. It was Jackie’s influence that contributed to that, both as my childhood care-giver and my adult friend.

Happy 75th Birthday Jackie! I am so very grateful you are my big sister! We are so lucky to have you in our lives. Thanks for all you do to make each of us feel special and loved.

Oh… and thanks for letting me push you around! I can strike that one from my bucket list! 🙂

Autumn is Falling

“And all at once summer collapsed into fall.” – Oscar Wilde

This morning, when Beaumont and I took our early morning walk along the river, a thin layer of frost-tipped dew covered the ground.

Autumn is falling.

Leaves are turning.

Geese are flying south.

In the northern hemisphere, we are orbiting away from the sun.

It happens every year. Days grow shorter, shadows grow longer as the sun’s rays lengthen. And though the nights have been growing longer since June’s Summer Solstice, evidence of our turning away from the sun grows stronger with the approach of the autumnal equinox.

This will be our second autumn under Covid’s thrall. As I look back over the past 18 months I am in awe of our human capacity to adapt, to shift, to do what we never imagined possible, what we never imagined would be necessary.

Stay home. Keep our distance from one another. Wear a mask. Sanitize everything. Avoid touch. Get a vaccine.

As I look back I see the toll it has taken on everyone around the world. It has been devastating.

In my extended family, a cousin lost her life to the virus. Others sickened and recovered. An aunt far away and all alone, was unable to leave her apartment for over a year and no one was able to visit. Vacations cancelled. Family reunions postponed. Children growing up at home with little interaction with playmates and schoolmates. Parents stressed with jobs and working at home and caring for children who are underfoot all day and all night long.

And still, there is joy. There is laughter. There is love.

As autumn falls, our numbers here in Alberta are rising with dizzying speed. More hospitalizations, more people in ICUs than at any other time during the pandemic. And the death count climbs as hospitals become overwhelmed with the influx of people needing care.

Yesterday, provincial leadership finally announced increased restrictions to try to bend the curve. Many fear too little, too late.

I fear more lives will be lost. More anger will rise as those who decry restrictions clash with those who are in favour.

For my beloved and I, hunkering down and limiting outside contact has once again become our norm. Double vaccinated, he is still at higher risk should he catch the virus. It’s not worth taking chances.

And as autumn colours grow brighter and birds fly south, I remind myself that, as with all things, all seasons, all times, this too shall pass.

My responsibility isn’t to change the viruses course, I am not that powerful. What I am powerful enough to do is the right things so that its sphere of influence in my life and those around me is as limited as possible. And while it was nice to feel for awhile like I could go outside and meet with friends and do the things I love without worrying about an invisible microbe’s presence, like autumn leaves turning, reality settles in as I once again come to grips with the fact there is a microbe of devastating impact in our midst. I can’t see it. I can’t change it but I can accept, with as much grace as possible, that I can do everything in my power to limit its spread and impact.

And that is what I must do as autumn leaves fall.

I can’t change the season’s turning. I can change how I dress to keep myself warm on frost-covered mornings.

I can’t change the virus. I can change how I behave to stop its spread.

Beyond All We Know.

The leaves whisper amidst the trees branches reaching out towards the sun. “Lean further! Lean further! You’ve got to lean further to reach the sun!”

And the branches push out and away from their trunks, their arms reaching further and further into the space beyond where they must compete with their brethren to gather sunlight.

And the trunks pull back, rooting themselves deeper and deeper into the ground they know so well. Desperately they fight against gravity, trying to keep their branches from reaching too far. “Too far is dangerous,” they tell the branches. “Lean too far and you will break.”

It is the dance of nature. A never-ending ballet of leaves yearning for light and branches pulling against their roots as they reach for the sun.

It is the dance of life.

Our dreams call us to lean out, further, away from our comfort zones, out beyond the realm of where we tell ourselves we will be safe, into the space beyond all we know, all we believe to be true.

Rooted in our fears, we ground ourselves in the belief to risk change is to lose control of all we know, all we believe to be true.

We cannot change when we stand in the same spot, rooted in our fears.

To change, we must uproot our fears and let courage draw us out of our comfort zones into the vast universe of possibility beyond all we know, all we believe to be true.

_____________________________________________

Every morning, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I pass through the copse of trees in the picture above.

I haven’t noticed before how far they lean out. I have focused instead on the taller trees surrounding them.

This morning, I noticed their stance and the muse bid me to awaken.

.Namaste

I Will Always Catch You

When she was just a little girl, her father taught her to climb stairs and boulders and playground monkey bars and ladders.

She would stand at the top, hold out her arms and cry out with delight, “Catch me Daddy! Catch me!”

And her father would stand below, arms stretched out towards her and say, “I will always catch you.”

As time passed and she grew older, the climbs became more difficult, but she was never afraid of falling. She always knew her father would be standing below, arms outstretched towards her saying, as he always did, “I will always catch you.”

Time passed, life flowed onwards and with its constant movement, she too moved away to start her own life far from her father. They still talked on the phone and always on her birthday, she would come to visit to walk to the park where she had learned to climb and fly, safe in the knowledge her father would always catch her.

Seasons changed, years passed and as she grew older so too did her father. Slowly, with the passing of time, he was no longer able to always be there to catch her when she fell, but she always knew that if she did, he would help her get back up. It was his promise.

“I can’t always catch you when you fall,” he told her when first she moved away from home. “But I promise, I will always be there to help you get back up.”

One day, after his daughter called to say she could not make it home to celebrate her birthday with him as she had to travel to a city far away, he walked to the park where every birthday when she was a little girl, she’d climbed the slide and stood at the top and stretched out her arms towards him and called out, “Catch me daddy! Catch me!”,

On this day many years later, he sat on a bench in the shade of a mighty oak tree and watched a little girl with flaxen hair and sparkling blue eyes climb up the stairs to the top of the slide. A short distance away, too far to catch her if she fell, her father stood unaware, his head turned down, reading something on the phone he held in his hands.

The old man, who had once reached out his arms towards his daughter and said, “I will always catch you,” watched in dismay as the little girl stood at the top of the slide and called out to her father, “Catch me daddy! Catch me!”. Her father didn’t hear her.

The old man stood up from the bench and slowly began to shuffle, as fast as his arthritic legs would let him, towards the child who still stood at the top of the slide, arms outstretched calling to her father, “Catch me daddy! Catch me!”

“Hey!” the old man called out to the father standing with his head bent towards his phone. “Hey! Watch out! She’s going to fall!”

The father, hearing the old man’s voice, looked up and saw the old man, his arms waving wildly around his face pointing towards his daughter where she stood at the top of the slide, calling to him, “Catch me Daddy! Catch me!”

In one seamless move, he tucked his phone into his jacket pocket, took three strides towards the slide and reached his arms out towards his daughter. “I will always catch you,” he said as the tiny bundle of her body catapulted itself down the slide into his waiting arms.

The old man stopped and watched the two pair of arms unite. The child laughed in delight as her father picked her up, held her above his head and spun her about just as he had once spun his daughter so long ago.

The father carefully put his daughter on the ground the thee two moved off towards the swings, the little girl holding his hand and she said in her sing-song voice, “I want to swing as high as the sky!” And the father placed her on the stretch of rubber seating and began to push her. The child laughed and called out. “Higher! Higher! I want to touch the sky” And the father pushed her higher and higher until she let go of the swings chains and called out, “Catch me Daddy! Catch me!”

And he did.

Slowly, the old man turned away and began walking back towards his home. His heart felt heavy with the longing for a child’s arms outstretched towards him and his reaching back.

Lost in memory he didn’t notice he’d reached the main road and stepped off the sidewalk without stopping to check for traffic.

Suddenly, a pair of hands reached out and grabbed his shoulders, pulling him back to safety just as a city bus went whizzing by.

Startled, he lost his footing and almost fell to the ground, but the same hands gently caught him and broke his fall. He took a shaky breath, turned his face up to thank his would be savior where they knelt beside him as he sat on the ground.

“Are you okay?” a voice he recognized asked. He turned his face and his eyes opened wide as he peered into the deep blue eyes of his daughter kneeling beside him.

“How is this possible?” he asked breathlessly. “You said you were going to a city far away.”

And his daughter smiled and said, “I wanted to surprise you.”

The old man reached out with a shaky hand to take hers and said, “I’m so glad you were here to catch me.”

And his daughter smiled again and said, “You need to pay more attention dad to where you’re going. That bus almost hit you. I can’t always be here to catch you.”

And her father nodded his head, his white hair moving around his face like feathers floating in the air.

Slowly he began to stand and asked, “Will you help me get back up?”

And she reached one hand under his elbow and said, “Of course.” And as she helped him get to his feet she said, “I can’t always be here to catch you when you fall, but I will always help you get back up.”

______________________________________

Yesterday, a dear friend, Max, called. We haven’t spoken in a long time, but it was as if time had not passed.

In our conversation, he shared many stories of the people who have helped him on his journey. “I have an idea,” he said. “What do you think about writing a poem called, “I Will Always Catch You.”

Several years ago, Max wrote music to a poem I’d written and recorded called, “Dare“. (You can read about it and listen to the recording, HERE)

I loved the idea of writing a poem to his title — it fits so well to something I used to tell my daughters when, as young adults, they set off to make their way in the world. “I can’t always be there to stop your fall,” I told them. “Sometimes, it’s best I don’t. But know, that no matter where or how hard you fall, I will always be there to help you get back up.”

This morning, as Beau and I walked in the cool September air of an autumnal day, Max’s idea kept percolating through my mind. When I came home, I sat down at my desk and the story above appeared.

Thank you Max. It’s not ‘a poem’… YET – like the river, life takes its own course weaving its stories in mysterious and mystical ways.

Awake. Aware. Alive.

Down by the riverside

In the moment of being present within the grandeur of the Kananaskis mountains, their jagged peaks edging the horizon like the ridged back of a dinosaur sleeping beneath the infinity of the blue sky soaring above the valley bottom stretched out in verdant lushness on either side of a babbling brook joyfully streaming its way through the verdant fields, I forget to be present within the moment. I forget that this moment passing by, like the stream passing through the valley and the clouds slowly drifting out of view, is all there is to experience. That this moment full of soaring peaks and whispering pines is all there is to know.

I am busy.

After-dinner wine on the deck with Jane

Too busy, I tell myself, to stop and savour the feel of the cool crisp mountain air on my face. Too busy to let the sun caress my face, the smell of the Lodgepole pines and white camas and elephant heads tickle my nostrils.

I am too busy.

Until I remember, this moment, this nanosecond of time passing by in man-made multiples of seconds and minutes and hours, is all there is to hold onto, to know, to remember.

It is in those fleeting, liminal moments I stop, look out the kitchen window, close my eyes and breathe in. The air. The sights. The smells. The silence. The whispers, rustlings, muffled voices and the beauty all around me.

It is in those ethereal, tantalizing moments I remember to be present. To be comforted by the knowing, there is nothing else, nowhere else to be. I am here. Embodied in this moment. Awake. Aware. Alive.

A frosty morning tea.

There is nothing to push, pull, rush or divert. Nothing to change.

There is only everything to experience, embrace, delight in and savour.

And then, the moment passes and I return to chopping and stirring, to checking on the bread baking in the oven, the soup simmering on the stovetop, the onions caramelizing in a pan.

Life is like that. Moments happen. Sometimes, we happen to be awake enough, aware enough to experience the depths of its joy, beauty, richness. Other moments, we sleepwalk through time, believing we’ve got lots of time to awaken, or not.

And with each passing moment, we move on. Like the stream burbling through the valley bottom unaware of winter’s approaching harsh winds and frost-riddled chills, we blithely dance and laugh, or stumble and groan our way through each day unaware of the fragile nature of time’s hands spinning away the hours.

We weave our lives in and out of time’s warp and weft, sometimes consciously shuttling the threads to create a picture of intentional beauty, other times letting the threads push and pull their way through without much thought to our design or purpose.

No matter our passage, in the end, regardless of how much intent or inattention we put into the weave, the tapestry of our lives will be woven through all the moments we experienced, awakened, asleep or simply sleepwalking.

Jane & CJ

I spent five days in the Kananaskis. Four of them cooking at beautiful Mt. Engadine Lodge. It was a sublimely enriching experience full of laughter, shared times with lovely people surrounded by majestic mountains and lush valleys.

I wasn’t always conscious of the beauty around me, but I like to think that every morsel of food I prepared was imbued with the beauty of my surroundings and the love and gratitude I felt for the gift of time to cook in such a stunning environment amidst the wonderful staff at Mt. Engadine Lodge.

This morning, as I sit at my desk and watch the green leaves of the poplars dancing in the morning breeze and the river flow past in an endless ribbon of deep blue water, I feel rich. Enriched. Enlivened.

I am Awake. Aware. Alive.

I am grateful.

Grateful for everything (even the tougher moments and my (many) mistakes) but especially the people — my dear friend Jane who filled the role of Chef’s Assistant with such grace and joy, her daughter CJ who came for a short visit and taught us how to use her apple corer/peeler (Amazing!), my daughter Liseanne who gave up part of her long weekend to help me in the kitchen for the final day and a half when Jane had to leave, and her husband Al who took the time to BBQ burgers for the staff dinner on Saturday evening before they left. And the Lodge’s incredible Chef, Tony, for trusting me with his kitchen (and the guests’ gastronomic experiences) for four days and the irrepressible Simón, the lodge’s general manager, whose constant smiles and good humour kept me laughing and out of ‘the stress zone’! And all the staff who treated me with such kindness and helped me find where things were and answered my endless questions about “What would Tony do?” and laughed with me (and then helped clean up the mess) when I did things like turn on the giant mix master thinking it was on low only to discover with one flick of the switch… it was set to High — have you ever seen how far a machine like that can fling cheesecake filling? Oh my! Liseanne and I were covered as were the walls and floor and everything else within a two foot radius!

I am grateful.

And… while the last time when I got home I said I’d never do it again. I was wrong. I’d love to! While it was challenging it was also fulfilling. And, as my daughter Liseanne said on our drive home, “I feel accomplished.” And she’s right. Cooking for 29 paying guests at a backcountry lodge with a temperamental (possibly possessed) oven and an occasional meal when the water cistern runs dry and when you can’t run out to the grocery story to pick up a missing ingredient, is no small feat!

But it is fun and challenging and definitely does leave me feeling accomplished.

Below is a short video I created to remember my time at the lodge. A couple of the photos at the end are from the hike my daughter and I took to Chester Lake on the Monday after we left. It was sublimely beautiful.

Thanks Jane. You Da’ Bomb!

Ahh… job well done. Wine well earned… Friendship well shared.

When I arrive home from Mt Engadine Lodge and check my phone I realize… I have barely taken a photo.

It was busy.

And fun.

And challenging and at moments, pulling my hair out worthy. Especially Thursday morning when there was only enough water for guests. That meant… there was no water in the kitchen and the water truck wasn’t scheduled to arrive until later in the morning.

Making breakfast without water for 30 people, plus staff, is challenging without adding in the fact breakfast included poached or boiled eggs and waffles and a waffle machine that kept blowing the fuses. Like at least 8 times!

Oh. And did I mention the fuse box is waaaay downstairs, down a corridor, turn left, down another corridor and walk all the way back to the end of the hall where you’ll find the fuse box in a dark corner?

I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw in the dish towel. I wanted to scream.

I did none of the above. (Thankfully)

I just kept going.

As did my friend and sous chef extraordinaire, Jane, Simon the general manager and all the staff.

We just kept going. Just like the dishes that kept piling up in every corner of the kitchen, pantry and back hallway! We kept going amidst the chaos, laughing and (almost) crying as we went.

The guests never knew anything was amiss — other than a few waffle orders were slower than expected and poached eggs disappeared from the menu. Did I mention the staff are amazing? They are.

Tea and frost in the morning

Life will always throw curve balls. It’s not a one plane, one direction, straight line kind of affair.

The invitation is… to go with the curves, and ups and downs, or exhaust yourself fighting every dip and dive and loop and corner as you try desperately to make straight lines fit the boxes of your predetermined dimensions.

There is no box.

There is only a great big playing field of possibility waiting for you to run through rainbow coloured fields of wild-flowers inviting you to leap into the fray of life’s beautiful mess.

It was a great 3 days of cooking and laughing and sharing and being present to the beauty all around and the people who made it such a rich adventure.

The skies were clear. The mountains soared and the valley bottom stretched out from horizon to horizon in verdant tranquility, its edges guarded by stately firs marching up the slopes and larch trees just beginning to show their golden colours.

And in the end, even though I’d sworn to C.C. on the phone on Thursday night that I would “Never do this again,” when Simon said he had a big favour to ask me on Friday morning, (I thought he was going to ask me to never come back to cook) and ended up asking if I’d be able to help out this week again, I said yes.

So did Jane.

I’d say we’re bears for punishment but I think it’s more that we’re leaping gazelles roaming free on the wild side of life. (Okay, so maybe lumbering bears snuffling through the wild grasses is more apropos to our state of being, but I really like the idea of being a leaping gazelle so I’m sticking with it! 🙂 )

‘Cause here’s the thing… Jane and I have been friends for almost 40 years. We have travelled, hiked, skied, biked and experienced all sorts of adventures together. We’ve raised our children together and they are best friends too. We’ve laughed, cried, yelled, banged pots in backcrountry lodges (that’s a whole other story) to wake up our fellow skiers so we could hit the wide open spaces nice and early, and we’ve sat by roaring fires singing and sipping wine and telling tales. We’ve crossed glaciers and raging rivers with 50lb packs on our backs and shared the load and lent an arm or hand or smile or a pot and ladle whenever necessary.

We have been through a lot together.

And this… this cooking for a crowd in a backcountry lodge… well it just makes our friendship taste richer. Our experiences melt onto the memory bed of my mind like the first spoonful of a delicious chocolate soufflé hot out of the oven melting on my tongue.

I am grateful for so much in my life and have been blessed with so much. Family and friends top the list and Jane makes that list sing like a wooden ladle banging on a pot in the pristine air of a Rocky Mountain morning!

And while the pot may, or may not, sprout a few dents after said banging (there are no photos so hey! No proof it ever happened!) the road ahead is always smoother when accompanied by great friends.

Thanks Jane. You da’ bomb!

________________________

PS — along with the main lodge and six beautiful log cabins, Mt. Engadine has 5 Glamping Tents that are available year round. Cozy with a delightful tinge of outdoorsy adventure, they’re warm and snug and comfortable.

Pure delight! Especially on Thursday night when it rained and we lay in our beds, the fire burning bright as we listened to the sound of the rain on the canvas. Yummy!

Here’s a 20 second video from the porch of our tent.

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The Marathon Runner

My morning tea at Mt Engadine Lodge

When my mother was alive we counted her birthdays by her number of years on earth.

Yesterday, for my sisters and daughters and I, her 99th birthday was marked with the number 2. It was her second birthday since leaving this earth February 25th, 2020. She was 97.

When she was born in 1922 in India, the average life expectancy in her land of birth was around 25 years of age (I should mention that was for the average Indian who did not live as privileged and protected a life as my mother and her siblings and cousins, the majority of whom have all lived beyond the age of 80, Of my mother’s 9 siblings, 3 continue to grace us with their presence).

When my mother arrived in Canada in 1946, life expectancy was around 60 years of age. As in so many things she did, my mother defied the odds.

One day last week, before I headed off to the mountains to play ‘Chef’ at Mt Engadine Lodge, I met a man jogging through the park while I was walking with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle.

He stopped to admire Beau and told me he and his wife were dog-sitting his son’s Labradoodle. “They’re such great dogs,” he said.

I agreed and then asked him about the running shirt he was wearing. It had a photo of a city skyline imprinted on it and the word, in big bold letters, BOSTON, printed beneath the skyline.

“Did you run the Boston Marathon?” I asked.

He smiled, touched the shirt with one hand against his chest and said, proudly, “Fifteen times.”

“Wow!” was about all I could respond.

And then he went on to extoll the virtues of staying fit, of having a hobby, of being engaged with life.

That man’s name is Gerry Miller. “You can connect with me via social media,” he told me as he prepared to start jogging again (he was on kilometer 15 of his 32 km training run). “I’m pretty well known in jogging circles and in the elder community.”

When I got home I looked him up.

Well known? How about renowned.

At 85 years of age, Gerry is the number 1 ranked over 80 marathon runner in the world (an activity he took up at the age of 58 at his son’s urging). He holds 3 gold medals and 2 silver medals in his age category and, at the time of our chat, was preparing to run the London Marathon this October — as long as they let me into the country, he told me with a big smile.

In our brief encounter Gerry reminded me of the value of ‘attitude’.

His was infectious. Exuberant. Invigorating.

So much so, I wanted to drag my running shoes out from the back of the closet and hit the trails again. But not before first googling the question, “Does running with severe arthritis in my feet make it worse?”

Sigh. The fact is, any impact sport will negatively impact arthritis.

Time to formulate Plan B.

Time to augment my daily walking with biking, swimming and weights (gently of course 🙂 ).

My mother was 97 when she left this earth. Never a particularly active woman, arthritis ate away at her body strength and agility with every passing year and though her mind stayed alert, she lived with excruciating pain. She seldom complained about the pain. She did complain about what she perceived as God’s Plan.

Often, in her final years she would ask, “Why doesn’t God take me?”

And I would reply, “Because he’s not ready for you yet.”

“I’m ready,” she would respond.

My mother left this earth ready to go. She’d been preparing for her departure for years.

I don’t know when I will leave this earth (none of us do) but I do know, I want to spend each day with an attitude like Gerry’s. Active. Engaged. Eager to take on new challenges. Excited about the next opportunity. Looking forward to the next kilometer or adventure.

Aging is not a death sentence. It is an integral part of living, as natural as breathing. We can’t avoid getting older. We can avoid getting old — in our thinking, our way of living, our attitude and our outlook.

And to do that, we must keep moving, doing and being excited about life.