The Invitation

Photo-Credit-Sebastian-Buzzalino-4

It was just one of those invitations I could not refuse.

My beloved thinks I’m crazy, or at least a little weird.

“You’re going to do what?” C.C. asked when I told him about the invitation and my response.

“It’ll be fun!” I told him.

“And you think this is a great birthday gift?”

I do. I do.

Yesterday, my ‘tall’ daughter CJ (she’s actually the daughter of my dearest friend JD but, she’s so wonderful, I like to claim her as mine too!) and her partner, J, called to wish me happy birthday. Towards the end of our conversation, they threw in the idea that maybe, just maybe, I’d be interested in helping out in the kitchen at Mount Engadine for a couple of days.

“That would be the most amazing birthday gift ever!” I told them.

They laughed.

“You’d consider doing it?” J asked incredulously.

“Yup!” I enthusiastically replied.

After chatting with the general manager of the Lodge, I said, “Count me in!”

J is one of two chefs at the Lodge. Due to some paperwork issues with his landed immigrant application, he’s unable to work at the moment. It’s put a great deal of pressure on his co-chef at the Lodge who has worked two weeks solid and needs to get away for a couple of days this week.

Hence the invitation.

Cover off for the other chef for two days in the kitchen at Mount Engadine Lodge.

All the professionals they’ve tried are tied up.

I’m the only person they know who a) loves to cook, and b) isn’t phased by cooking for large groups of people. In this case, it’s only 14 – heck our Christmas dinner will be more than that!

For me, it is a dream come true.

I love the backcountry. I love mountain lodges. I love to cook. And, I get to help J out as he is feeling stressed by the fact he is causing undue hardship on his employer and the team.

I leave today.

I’ll be back Thursday afternoon.

Which means, I’ll see you Friday!

I’ll be shadowing the chef for dinner tonight and then… on my own for the next two days.

Colour me over the top excited. I get to bake bread. Bake cookies. Make dinner and breakfast and stretch myself by cooking for strangers in a remote mountain setting.

And I smile as I write that as the critter’s voice awakens and whispers (okay screams), “Are you kidding me? This is crazy even for you Louise! You are not a chef. You’ve never been in charge of a professional kitchen, especially in the mountains and cooking at altitude. Seriously?  That’s way outside your comfort zone. And btw. Did you notice you turned another year older yesterday?  You’re too old to be doing this.”

I breathe deep into my belly. Gently move my conscious awareness from the centre of my brain, where it likes to hang out and pass judgement on pretty well everything I do, down into my belly. I ask my deep knowing self, “When you let go of judgement, fear, worry, what feels most alive right now?”

The critter hisses, “Staying home where you belong!”

I gently invite the critter to ‘BACK-OFF!”

Okay, that wasn’t so gentle but honestly, sometimes that critter can be sooo annoying!

I breathe deep into my belly again. The critter breathes with me. As I sink down into being present in this moment, as I move into my inner knowingness, the critter’s fear opens up to the possibility that this adventure might be fun! It might even be good for me because stretching and doing things outside my comfort zone makes the most of my experience of life. It’s where I feel myself come alive.

I am off to cook at Mount Engadine Lodge for two days. It’s a beautiful place nestled in the Kananaskis mountains, 35km from the closest town. And while many years ago I helped out in the kitchen at Mount Assiniboine Lodge and cooked at Selkirk Mountain Lodge for a work crew, I’ve never taken on a kitchen in the Rockies all by myself.

It promises to be an adventure!

 

 

My Birthday Manifesto

It is good that once a year the day of our birth comes around to remind us to stop and breathe and give thanks for life, living and love.

It is good that on this day we are reminded of all the love that fills our every breath.

It is good that on this day we take the time to reflect and appreciate all we’ve experienced, received and given over the past year(s).

It is good to be thankful on this day for the people in our lives who make it so rich and special.

It is good to take time on our day of birth (and everyday) to acknowledge within us the deep place of knowing, who we are shines brightest in our connections to one another. That Love fills the intersection of each relationship with its never-ending flow.

It is good that we stop and acknowledge and give thanks for that which binds us together, connects us and keeps us safe – Love.

It is good that we give thanks for the Love that illuminates our hearts, filling our lives with such abundance and joy.

It is good that we give thanks on this day for the trials and tribulations, the pains and sorrows we’ve experienced. They are part of the tapestry of our life that lets us test our wings and unfurl them just a little bit further.

It is good to remember that no matter how dark the day, the light shines brightest in the darkness.

It is good that we fall into gratitude for the richness and beauty in the depths of all that is present in our lives.

It is all good.

And on this day of my birth, It is good to acknowledge how my journey is strengthened and made more beautiful because it is woven into the lives of so many people whom I love so deeply my heart aches in the joy and wonder of that Love.

And it is good to acknowledge on this day that I believe in Love. I believe in the power, the majesty, the wonder of this energy that embraces our world in such beauty it takes my breath away.

Because I believe that in all things, in all ways, in darkness and in light, in beauty and in sorrow, in joy and in loss, in wonder and in tears, there is always Love.

It is my birthday today. I am grateful for all of you who come and share this space with me, who leave comments and likes and tiny little footprints that illuminate my heart with your presence throughout the year.

I am blessed with this beautiful life I inhabit. In the love I know is real and true and deep and profound.

I am joyful in this space in which I find myself today and every day. This space where I get to live my life free of fear and turmoil. Where I know when I flip the switch the lights will come on. That when I open the fridge there will be food to eat. That when I open the front door, there will be only friendly faces to greet me. That when I walk the streets I do not fear bombs falling or guns rattling. That I do not shiver with cold because I have a warm coat and boots and gloves to protect me from the cold.

I am thankful for my home. My lamp lit desk that overlooks the river. My bright and airy studio that inspires my creativity and personal reflections and expressions. My home. My beloved. My family and friends. My delightful Beaumont.

I am grateful that my world is filled with such possibility, such joy, such Love. That I am free to express myself without fear. That I am free to be myself without censure.

I am grateful for another year to have journeyed around the sun connected to the world in new and exciting ways that enliven my outlook and sparkle-up my perspective of this amazing, crazy, sometimes thought-defying, inexplicably cruel and breathtakingly beautiful world of harmony and contradictions. Of grandeur and of pain. Of our human condition in all its multi-faceted dimensions. Of our natural world showing us what is possible when we let go of fearing one another and join hands in peace, hope, Love and joy.

It is my birthday today. I am so blessed.

2nd Sunday of Advent: Make Time For The Sacred

“What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.”
Excerpted from, The Winter of Listening, David Whyte

It is the second week of advent. As you wait for the sun’s return, as you listen for your deepest knowing to awaken from these long dark nights of winter, listen to your heart. Listen to the silence and winter calling you to know the otherness.

This is the time of endless nights growing darker. Of day’s light growing weaker in the soft approach of winter solstice, in the coming light of the child’s birth drawing near.

This is a time when our patience grows thin as we rush about, fighting crowds and traffic, endlessly hurrying towards one more checkmark on the list, one more item scratched off on the gifts we must buy.

Join me for a brief interlude of quiet reflection on this, the Second Sunday of Advent.

Second Sunday of Advent reflection and meditation

In the tenderness of the dawn.

It is my most favourite morning of the year.

That first morning when I enter the living room and turn on the Christmas tree lights for the first time of the season.

Normally, this morning doesn’t arrive until after December 9th (my birthday). But, originally my sister was to have been here this week, and as C.C. and I are leaving to visit our grandson and family right after Christmas, we decided to deviate from tradition and put the tree up early.

Which is lovely.  As I write and reflect and look out the window at the world slowly awakening, the beautiful reflection of the lights shimmering on the tree has been added to my view.

How blessed I am.

My youngest daughter and her partner came over last night and joined us for dinner and in decorating. We laughed and shared stories and my daughter threw in the occasional comment about my tendency to want to ‘over decorate’. “Less is more” just doesn’t seem to align with my vision of Christmas.

When the last ornament was placed, and the angel carefully set upon the treetop, we all agreed, Vincent is a beautiful tree (And yes, he has been named after the artist in celebration of creativity, passion and all the vibrant colours of the world.)

It is in the decorating of the Christmas tree I feel the movement of our family tree the most. My eldest daughter and C.C.’s daughter both live in Vancouver now. C.C.’s son is on a U.S. tour with his band, leaving just the four of us to do the honours.

It was lovely and sweet and filled with moments to cherish and while holding the slight bittersweet tang of missing those we love who have over the years always been here to decorate.

And that’s the thing about this special time of year. It isn’t about gifts wrapped under the tree, or rushing from store to store to buy that perfect something someone may or may not want. It’s about family and friends gathering together around a tree, a table, on a skating rink, a toboggan hill, a walk through the woods.

It’s about time spent laughing and teasing, telling old stories we’ve heard countless times before but that still ring true with the sounds of love and familiarity that imbue their spirit.

It’s about one of the ‘kids’ finding the tackiest ornament (the one I swear I’m going to relegate to the garbage bin every year but just can’t seem to do it) and placing it in a very visible spot on the tree because you know, I’m going to hate it there! (And yes, this happens every year and I always feel the warm glow of love in its happening.)

It’s about Love.

Sharing.

Connecting.

Belonging.

Missing and longing too.

Because it is at this time of year, along with the loving of time together, I feel the absence of the ones I love, who aren’t here, the most. Whether they have moved away or have left this physical world for places beyond my ken, there is always that mushy place in my heart that has the sweet, tender aura of absence.

We decorated the tree last night. I sit at my desk this morning, it’s lights a shimmering glow in the window before me.

The river flows. Traffic moves along the bridge. The sky is dark.

Nat King Cole sings Christmas music in the background.  Dawn light will soon creep into the dark, gently tucking night back into the envelope of day that lies in waiting just beyond the horizon.

We decorated the tree last night. My birthday has not yet come and gone, neither has my beloved’s who celebrates his the day before mine.

Possibly, in decorating the tree before our birthdays this year, we’ve created a new tradition of when Christmas appears in our home. Perhaps, this will be a new way of stepping into this season of Peace, Hope, Love and Joy that will lovingly embrace the ever-changing landscape of our family tree.

The tree is lit. My heart is light and just a teeny bit achy. All is well with my soul because deep within me is the tender knowing that, no matter where the ones I love are, they are always at home in my heart. I carry them with me always.

 

CandyCane Lane and other magical sights

The park where Beaumont and I walk is a magical playground at Christmas.

Every December 1st, volunteers from the community of dog walkers who use the park bring in bins of Christmas balls and decorations and leave them at the base of trees throughout the park. The invitation is for all park-goers to hang a ball or two upon a tree and dress up the park for Christmas.

It is glorious!

Especially, Candycane Lane which a group of volunteers decorate every year.

Yesterday, as snow fell and silence descended within the light touch of flakes drifting through the air, Beau and I walked amidst the trees. Granted, he was not as entranced by the beauty as I was, but I didn’t care. I’d remembered to take my phone and grabbed photo after photo (much to Beau’s dismay as he wanted me to focus on throwing the ball). And a few of Beau — but those are reserved for his own blog, Sundays with Beaumont. 🙂

It truly is wonderful what a group of committed people can do to create beauty in the world.

Many blessings and wonder on this day.

 

Are you willing to give up control to have what you want in life?

Early morning. Lying in my bed. Comfy. Warm. Cozy.

I listen to the sounds of the house. The gentle breathing of my beloved. Beaumont snuffling in his sleep where he lies on the floor at the side of the bed. The hum of the furnace. The faint, distant thrum of a train rolling westward out of the city. The air feels fluid, soft.

I feel enveloped in a womblike glow of peace, calm, graciousness.

Morning has not yet broken. The day is slow in its awakening.

Sitting at my desk.

Music plays softly in the background. Piano. C, Eb, G, Bb. My desk light casts a warm glow on my fingers. Lights of cars travelling across the bridge sparkle in the early light. The surface of the river shimmers in the light shining on the pathway under the bridge.

Yesterday, there was an ice island forming at the base of the middle abutment. In the warmth of yesterday’s temperature, the ice has disappeared. The river flows freely, moving in harmony with nature’s grace.

Life is like the river. We flow gracefully, effortlessly in its never-ending harmony and then, something happens. A hurt. A loss. A sadness.

We stiffen up. Freeze. And ice begins to clog the flow. Sometimes, in our pain, we isolate. Stand still. Run faster. Resist. Push back against life’s constant flow.

Sometimes, we’ll do it all repeatedly, trying anything everything we can think of in a desperate attempt to stop whatever pain is damning up the flow.

Slowly, like ice forming on the river as winter approaches, we begin to move more labouriously, our hearts become heavy. Our limbs stiffen. Our minds circle again and again, like water in an eddy, around and around we swirl, trying to dislodge whatever is holding us in place, pulling us down. We struggle to control life, forgetting life is not to be controlled. It must be experienced.

And then, spring arrives and we begin to feel the first promising breaths of hope teasing our aching hearts and limbs into motion. Frightened it will not last, we cling a bit more to whatever pattern we’ve developed to keep ourselves safe from feeling the pain of hurts, loss, sadness.

The river flows freely this morning. Moving with the grace of nature. It will freeze again before winter is done, and always, it will thaw in nature’s continuous flowing of the seasons.

My heart is light this morning. Flowing freely in the beauty of nature awakening to the day.

There will be hurts to come (there always are), losses, sadness to experience. And always, when I immerse myself in the flow of life, when I release my resistance, my belief I can control life’s happenings, I am free to flow effortlessly and with grace in life’s unending river dancing in the light of each new day.

Are you willing to release the need to control life and be with the flow?

Let’s flow together!

Namaste.

Giving Tuesday – you can make a difference!

Today is Giving Tuesday, an annual day of giving to not-for-profits doing the heavy lifting of social change, supporting research for intractable diseases and other issues like healing our environment, helping animals and a host of difference-making work to support those whose lives have landed them in hard rock places.

Imagine if every day was Giving Tuesday. Imagine if we all believed in the importance of supporting organizations at the frontlines, monetarily and through volunteerism – and then did it!

What a world of difference we would make!

I also get that giving every day would be cumbersome – it would cost more to process a daily $1 donation than a monthly $30 one – but you could give a recurring donation every month to reflect a month of daily giving. It definitely does good things for your heart. And even the tax-folk recognize your giving by giving you a break on your taxes!

Colour me altruistic… but my dream is that Giving Tuesday becomes like Valentine’s Day (without the artificial sugariness and commerciality) — hard to ignore, simple to participate in, and an expression of our love — for humanity, the planet, all sentient and non-sentient beings, everything and everyone on this earth.

I like that.

— Making a difference in the world – everyday.

The original name of this blog when I started it on January 1, 2012, was ‘A Year of Making a Difference’. At the time, I had just left my role as director of communications at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre and was concerned about how I was going to keep making a difference in the world. I was doing consulting work and thinking I might continue along that vein but, helping clients (who albeit were all not-for-profits) didn’t quite feel the same kind of ‘difference-making’ as walking into a homeless shelter every day.

So I focused on finding one thing every day that made a difference in my life, other’s lives, the world at large, and I wrote about that.

It definitely made a difference in my life to put my attention on difference-making/makers every day. Eventually, I moved back into working in the homeless-serving sector and at the end of that first year, changed the name of the blog to Dare Boldly. My goal was to inspire each of us to live beyond the limits of our comfort zones and to make a difference.

When I left the sector, and the formal workforce at the end of May this year, I still wanted to make a difference — Difference-making is in my blood.

Inspiring others to make a difference is also in my blood.

So, my challenge to each of us today is to find one not-for-profit organization where a donation of any amount will make a difference. And then, make that donation.

It’s not hard and it doesn’t have to be a huge amount! A quick google search of the term “Giving Tuesday” will give you lots of links to click on to inspire your giving.

I just made mine through  Canada Helps — where for today only, every donation of $25+ is bumped up by $5 — it’s fast, it’s easy and it makes a difference, plus, your favourite charity is probably listed on their site! (And PS — you can even make the donation in honour/memory of someone you love — I did and it brought a smile to my face just to write the message — see, giving is receiving!)

And here’s the thing, if giving monetarily isn’t in your basket today, Volunteer!  Or, when you’re out and about, share a smile, a kind word, an act of grace with everyone you encounter — from those you love to strangers. Share the goodness and grace of your heart.

Seriously, together we can make a world of difference. And BONUS! Giving generates lots of feelings of goodwill in your heart that ripple out into the world in joy and harmony — and what could be better than a world awash in feelings of joy and harmony?

Namaste.

PS — here’s a 30 sec video from the Giving Tuesday org that helps you understand how Giving Tuesday works as an antidote to Black Friday and Cyber Monday — I like it!