Category Archives: Adventures in YYC

Despite your regrets, are you willing to ‘live the better’?

The river moves like sludge this morning. Its free-flowing surface is becoming clogged with chunks of ice that dip and bob as the waters flow towards the rapids that have formed beneath the bridge where the ice has gathered on either side and created a narrowing in the river. Once through, the waters rush forward, racing towards the sea, or the next impediment to their progress.

The river reminds me of life.

We move along, picking up hurts and pains, clogging our flow with things we refuse to let go of, tell ourselves we cannot forgive or forget. We come to a narrowing, deposit bits and pieces of our past and dreams unlived that keep piling up along the banks and then race through whatever opening we can slip through, hoping the way ahead is clear.

Sometimes it is. Sometimes, like the river racing through the rapids, the way ahead is marred by a curve that creates space for ice to gather and impede the river’s flow.

As C.C. and I have both been battling a cold this past week, I have spent a fair amount of time lying on the couch watching Netflix movies. (After I watched the new season of Grace and Frankie of course) In one movie, the protagonist asks the hero as he’s about to attempt, yet again, to kill him after the hero has, yet again, foiled his plans for world dominance, “Did you actually think you could get to the moment of your death and not carry some regret for the things you couldn’t do?”

I don’t think you can — get to the end of your life and not carry some regret for the things you couldn’t do. I also don’t think that’s what matters.

What matters is, what we do with our regrets for the things we’ve done we wished we hadn’t. How we choose to live our lives because of the things we regret yet cannot change.

Are we willing to quit using our regrets as an excuse to continue to behave badly? To continue to not do the things we want to do? To live our dreams fully?

Are we courageous enough to face our regrets and say to those we’ve hurt, “I behaved badly. I’ve hurt you. I apologize. I am committed to doing better.” — and then… live the better.

Are we willing to look in the mirror and tell ourselves, “You are not some automaton destined to live by other people’s standards?  You deserve to live life on your terms, and as long as your terms create better for everyone, go for it!”

See, that’s the crux of it. Whatever we do, it must create better for all, because if it isn’t good for all, it’s not good for the one either.

And when I live my life by that maxim, my regrets no longer have the power to clog up the river of my life, no matter how stuffed up my head feels because of a cold or how deep the Arctic freeze that is clogging up the river outside my window.

Everything Changes and Some Things Stay the Same

My Writing Space

In the winter, when I sit down at my desk in the morning, it is usually dark.

I find it comforting. The soft darkness of the room enveloping me, the glass in front of me separating me from the air outside, which on a morning like this when the thermometer registers a chilly -32C, is a good thing.

This morning, the sun was already up by the time I sat down.

I slept in.

I think it’s becoming my new normal. To fall asleep and to rise later.

But I’m not sure I like it, or at least have adjusted my creative juices to the shift.

I have always been a morning person. Creatively, that always meant the muse was most active in the mornings. Words flowed easily. Ideas sparked naturally. Images cascaded onto the canvas with ease, in the early hours, slowing down as the day progressed.

It’s not to say that the rest of the day isn’t filled with creative expression. Just that in the morning, I don’t think about the process. I am one with the process.

It is possible that this current late rise phase is because of the cold that has settled into my body like a bear curling up in his den for a long winter’s nap. No sense coming out until the temperature outside rises.

Or, it could be that because of the absence of a formal workplace with its time clock demands and deadlines, my body and mind have decided I can relax.

This morning, as the sun peeked in through the blinds and I lay in bed contemplating my day, it dawned on me that I am in the final quarter of my first year of being in this rejuvenation phase of my life. And then, later, as I sat at my desk writing, I realized my math was, as it often is, somewhat wonky!

I left the formal work-world May 31st of last year. That puts me into the 7th month of re-designing my life. Lol — given that there are 12 months in the year, I’m still almost two months away from the final quarter.

Just goes to show, some things never change. No matter the changing circumstances of my world, math has never been, and still is not my forté!

But lots has changed. Where once I bemoaned sleeping in, now I welcome its luxury.

Where once I told myself I ‘had’ to go to sleep by a certain hour, I’ve relaxed my standards and let my natural rhythms have their way.

I also no longer feel compelled to fill my calendar with ‘things to do’, meetings and coffee dates. In fact, given the weather and this cold, I may not schedule anything until spring, just in time for the bears to come out of hibernation.

Everything changes and somethings just say the same. What hasn’t changed for me is the delight I feel every morning when I arise knowing my day is mine to organize, let loose, let flow as it may.

Baby, it’s cold outside, but inside, well, let’s just say I’m off to the studio to put it back in order — something I haven’t done since clearing off the tables which I needed to use for Christmas dinner. We went away, my daughter moved in for three weeks and used the open floor space as her dressing/suitcase area.

They moved into their newly renovated home last night and now… I am off to play.

Of course, that’s after I take Beaumont to the park for a short, and I mean short, romp. Even with his new coat and boots, it’s still too cold out there even for a furry friend.

(BTW – stay tuned for Sundays with Beaumont — he has a lot to say about his new outfit! Spoiler alert — he’s not impressed. 🙂

 

Santa and The Polar Vortex

Misty, frosty morning on the river.

Dear Santa,

I know. I know. It’s January and Dear Santa letters are so last decade and all but… here’s the deal. You’re the Big Guy in Red in charge of the Polar Express and all that jazz so I’m writing to let you know there seems to have been a mix-up.  You forgot to take the vortex back when you passed through just a few short weeks ago. Did you confuse the ‘express’ part of your journey with ‘vortex’?  Because this Arctic chill seems to be a tad excessive.

I know. I know. Express. Vortex. They kind of sound the same. But believe me, they’re not!

I’m not sure if you think maybe we deserve a taste of what you live with 365 days of the year, but Santa, you’re magic. You can endure inhuman temperatures. We’re mere humans. This cold is rather inconsiderate of you.

Wait! You say you didn’t send it? Well, you’re in charge of the North Pole and the Polar Vortex comes from there so who else might have sent it?

The elves?

What’s with them? Why would they want to inflict such nasty temps on a huge swathe of the land? What’s their problem?

Oh. They don’t have a problem, you say?

Well I think they do. ‘Cause Santa, you know there are a whole lot of little boys and girls counting on you come Christmas 2020 and a whole lot of adults who once believed and who keep the magic alive for you year after year.

So, Santa, listen up. Here’s the deal Santa.

Take it back. Make it stop. Make it go away.

‘Cause if you don’t, there may not be any cookies and milk for you and the reindeer come next December 25th.

Yup. That’s right. I’m threatening you with an extreme diet. Turnaround is fair game in extreme climes.

And believe me. This is rather extreme, even for the jolly old guy who sits up at the North Pole stirring the winds and sending them south!

Yeah. Yeah. You didn’t do it. The elves did.

But Santa. You’re the big boss. You need to take responsibility and get control of your elves.

You know, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle is rather displeased. His walks are mighty short and he’s blaming me. Dang it, Santa. Do you know what he’s like when he’s not happy with me? Yeah. Well. Remember the time Mrs. Claus caught you eating Christmas Cake in the back of the toy workshop and made you run laps around the benches? Yeah. That’s how displeased Beaumont is.

I can’t take much more of this Santa. The weather outside is frightful, the fire inside delightful and I’d rather be curled up into a ball and snuggled under the covers all day.

Unfortunately,  Beaumont heeds the call of nature with predictable regularity. He seems impervious to the cold and insists running and chasing the ball is fun – Polar Vortex or not!

So Santa, here’s the deal. I promise, I mean really, really promise, to be a good girl all year! Now, a year’s a long-time Santa so can you please, please, please stop with the Vortexing and just focus on shining up your Express for Christmas 2020? And I promise, there’ll be cookies and milk on the hearth when you come down the chimney!

I know, I’m pushing the calendar but Santa Baby, it’s cold outside!

Hoping for a favourable forecast, yours in the nice kind of weather,

 

Frozen

PS. For those in southern climes, here’s what the Polar Vortex means in Calgary today … -31C: -24F which with windchill feels like -38C: -36.4F  (and yes that’s a negative sign in front of the numbers)

 

Mt. Engadine Lodge Revisited

The snow started falling Thursday evening and kept falling and falling all through the night, the next day and Saturday.

When we drove away after the ploughs had cleared the road to Mt. Engadine Lodge, it was still snowing.

Saturday Morning

The world around us looked like a picture-perfect Christmas card. Fir trees laden with snow. Misty, mysterious clouds clinging to the mountain tops. White blankets of snow covering the ground, shrouding bushes and everything else in its pristine whiteness.

I went into Mt. Engadine Lodge to help out in the kitchen again for 3 days.

This time, my beautiful friend Jane joined me as my ‘Sous Chef’. She chopped and chatted, keeping the kitchen filled with her delightful presence as I baked and stirred and cooked and coerced the ancient oven to behave.

It was a delightful time filled with laughter, creativity, deep conversation, shared moments and the fun that comes with the familiarity of an almost 40-year friendship.

I am grateful.

Through the kitchen window.

The Solstice has passed and the earth has turned on its journey towards the sun.

The anticipation of the ChristChild’s birth shimmers in the air filled with the mystery and the majesty of this story that has held reign over the Christian world for over 2,000 years.

Bells ring. Children laugh and play in the snow. The sky is blue and freckled with white fluffy clouds drifting by in leisurely disarray.

From Where I Sit Today

A squirrel digs into the freshly fallen snow for the pieces of bread and nuts I scattered. He dashes across the lawn, his mouth full of the treats he’s uncovered. With one leap, he clears the fence, landing with aplomb in the bushes that line the river. Snow drifts to the ground and with a hop, skip and a jump, he scrambles up a tree. Leaps from one bough to the next landing on the branch of the tree behind. Quickly he darts down the branch and disappears into a hole in the tree’s trunk.

A special bottle to share after dinner is served, the dishes are cleared and the day is done.

He is home for Christmas.

May we all be home for Christmas this holiday season. May our hearts be full with treasured memories of Christmases past and the joy of being surrounded by those we love gathered around tables laden with delicacies of the season.

May we know peace, love, happiness and joy.

May your Christmas be blessed and bright. May your heart be filled with joy, contentment and peace in the New Year!

Merry Christmas everyone!

__________________________________________

My Guest Chef days at Mt Engadine have come to an end. Fortunately, J received his work visa back and is once again cooking up a storm at the Lodge.

What a wonderful opportunity to be gifted a chance to fill my bucket list and my heart with the experience.

Thank you everyone at Mt. Engadine Lodge for filling my heart with such beautiful memories. Your incredible graciousness, kindness and support made the experience one I shall treasure dearly.

 

Mt Engadine Lodge. A Taste of Heaven.

Kitchen window view

Exhausted. Exhilarated. Tired. Happy. Proud (I actually did it! And survived as did the staff and the guests!)

After two days as the ‘guest chef’ at Mount Engadine Lodge, I’m feeling content. Mellow. Weary and energized. I want to keep cooking. Just not in quite such a high-stress (to me) environment!

The stress isn’t because of the work environment or the people — they are all incredible. The stress was because I put a lot of pressure on myself to make it ‘perfect’ and, I was working in a new environment doing something I’ve never done before — be in charge of a commercial kitchen for paying guests, preparing breakfasts and dinner on a schedule that met the high standards of the Lodge in providing guests with a special experience with exceptional surroundings, service, care and food.

No small order.

And I managed to serve it up!

It was an amazing time thanks to the team at Mt. Engadine. They were friendly, accepting, supportive, kind, patient (and believe me that was a necessary ingredient for this newbie who had no idea where things were or how things ran in the kitchen at the Lodge). Tony. Andrew. Jenna. Bianca. Helena. Francoise. Mark. Cornelia. Leschak. (And if I’ve missed you I apologize. It is my tired memory cells. Not you!) Thank You!

It takes a special someone to be able to work in a remote mountain lodge. You have to be independent. Willing to work and live 24/7 with your teammates. You have to appreciate and tolerate differences and be willing to seek value in all things and people. You have to be both introvert and extrovert. Able to create your own little bubble of quiet amidst communal living which is also your workspace, and able to get along with both fellow employees and the public.

The staff at Mt. Engadine do it all with grace, laughter and a whole lot of fun!

My two-day sojourn as ‘guest chef’ at the Lodge was wonderful thanks to the team. Because believe me, while I might cook at home for our dinner parties of 10 – 20 people, it is a very, very different experience in a commercial kitchen in a backcountry lodge where the food experience is as important as the outdoor one.

The pressure is intense. Particularly when you don’t know where many things are and, in particular, how the ovens work. The stove is a black looming castiron monster with 10 burners (most but not all of which light up) and two massive ovens, both of which have their own temperamental ways of heating up. That Moffat stove has sat along the southern wall of the kitchen for over 3 decades. It is a…. (hmmm let’s call it a delightful antique… that has its own rules of operation which seem to change hour by hour.  If the oven in the kitchen at Mt. Engadine could speak I am sure it would regale you with countless stories of Soufflés risen and fallen, bread baked golden and bread baked blackened.  Roasts cooked to perfection and roasts charred as dark as the mountain night, simply because, in the moment, the oven decided that’s the way things should be cooked.

Distance definitely does make the heart grow fonder. Memories of my adventures working with that stove and its ‘peculiarities’ make me smile this morning as I sit at my desk typing.

I didn’t have much time for typing while at the Lodge. I didn’t have much time for anything else other than cooking — Not because there wasn’t time to go for a snowshoe or fat bike ride. There was.

But, my mind was so consumed with worrying about planning,  prepping, preparing, presenting food, I didn’t have room in my head for thoughts of getting out to enjoy the outdoors.

And that’s okay. I don’t regret spending most of my time in the kitchen. I was having too much fun. And, the antidote to my worry was to prepare, prepare, prepare while holding myself mindful of being present in the moment, savouring al it had to offer.

Which goes to show that worry and fun can co-exist, as long as you don’t let the worry override your enjoyment of whatever you’re doing in the moment.

For me, that was made easy because of the staff at the Lodge. I knew that whatever came out of the mysterious workings of the oven would be okay. Because the staff would help make it so.

And so it was.

I just spent two days cooking at beautiful Mt. Engadine Lodge. Surrounded by soaring snow-covered peaks, the crystalline stillness of winter-shrouded air and the exquisite environment the Lodge creates for its guests (and staff) I feel grateful for the experience and blessed to have had it.

It was a blast!

And now… I’m going back to bed!

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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.