Sunday, September 16, 2018

End of Summer



When we say, "The sky's the limit", what do we mean? Because to see the sky is to see a limitless space. Do we ever consider the sky a symbol for both constancy and change? It is always there yet everything cast upon it -- whether clouds or contrails -- is always moving, never the same. The sky is both our talisman and our goal, our fear and our optimism. The sky's the limit.

I took this photo last weekend when Dwayne and I had a cookout in our backyard. This is what inspires me in rural Nova Scotia: the sky, the light, and the shades of green; the garden, the birds and the animals, sun and wind, the river and the field.
All the elements gather inside me -- earth, water, air and fire -- and through some process, some magic, come out as words. Not chemistry; it's so inexplicable, so impossible, it's alchemy. It is creation.
And in six months, when this same view is white-washed and wind-swept, I'll admire it and absorb it and be inspired by it just as deeply.

Still hard to believe we didn't have an osprey family with us all summer. No one to say good bye to this year. By the end of August, the ospreys "fighting" for possession of this nest -- a new pair and the one believe to be the "abandoned" mate -- had been long gone. Did they disappear about the time Dwayne -- my mate -- had his stroke? I wasn't paying attention.

Do you know what is still my favourite sound while walking across the field under that big blue sky? The whup-whup of a pair of raven wings overhead. I am always amazed at how loud the sound is when the bird flies overhead. When I can hear the wind through those black feathers, I know the sky's the limit.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Sunflower Man


Be careful what you wish for!
When we were at our family doctor on Monday, we said we hadn't had any referrals for speech or occupational therapy or a swallow test...and now the medical appointments are rolling in.

As the calendar fills up and I don't get my morning walks and the work gets pushed aside, I'm trying to remember that we are lucky to be where we are: together, at home, in the midst of the sunflowers. Dwayne's stroke could have been much worse so a lot of driving around - together - to establish a baseline and a timeline for recovery is not as big an inconvenience as travelling to a hospital every day for several months for in-patient rehab.

Perspective is so important.
So is acceptance. That's our biggest struggle, I think, when it comes to, well, everything: Fighting against reality, being in denial, not accepting what has happened and the changes that have occurred -- all of this causes more problems. It causes frustration for the caregiver and for the person needing the care. It can slow recovery, it can make you sick.

Acceptance has the power to free you. It is what it is. That sounds cliche, almost flippant but it's true.
We cause our own misery when we refuse to accept what has happened and what is happening. We cause our own misery when we refuse to "go with the flow". We cause our own misery when we try to ignore the reality of a situation -- even if it's a situation we don't want to be in. Illness and death are the big circumstances that change everything, and as hard -- as painful and gut-clenching and mind-boggling -- as they are to experience, acceptance is the only way to keep breathing, keep moving, keep living in the "new normal".

I'm not naive -- or in denial -- when I say acceptance is the most important part of living. I learned the power of acceptance when my father has Alzheimer's disease. I learned to accept him as he was each and every day, and I learned to accept the situation, even though none of us, including my mother, wanted to be in that situation. But refusing to accept the disease, and the changes they wrought in my father and in our daily living, merely made everything worse.  Acceptance allows us to live with grace and dignity, and more importantly without fear.
Ah, fear. If we really look at what our denial is built on, we'll find fear is the cornerstone. But acceptance is the great fear-buster. Acceptance looks fear in the eyes and says, "I know what I'm doing. You're not needed."
It is what it is -- the appointments will come and go, the work will get done, the beans will get picked, everything will be "good enough", and it will all happen if we remember to go with the flow, whatever that flow is.


Thursday, September 06, 2018

A Tree Is A Friend In Need


I don't have a credit for this graphic -- I've searched but found nothing definitive; it seems to have been shared around, which is how it came to me.
But I love what it says, and it's how I feel.

An essay I wrote called "The Trees Have Ears" was longlisted for a prestigious writing competition recently. This is the first time my work has made a longlist and I'm grateful for even that recognition of this special piece of work.
The essay was inspired by the clearcutting that has been going on around our rural Nova Scotia home for the past decade (similar to my Field Notes essay, "What Future Does A Tree Have"), and the "body parts" I found in the most recent cut next door to our house.

Here's an excerpt from the longlisted essay that describes my search for the spirit of a tree:

"The clearcut looked like a battlefield and it had been a one-sided war: tanks and machine guns against spears and rocks. The trees didn’t stand a chance.
     The first time I saw the circular, bark-covered hole of wood lying on the mossy ground of the former forest floor, I knew what it was: an ear.
     “I’m sorry,” I said.
     Thankfully, the logging company working next door didn’t have plans to supply the insatiable appetite of Nova Scotia’s biomass boiler, so I have a bag of tree ears, gathered from the clear cut after the machines departed and the trucks hauled the logs away.
     Like a scavenger on the battlefield, I wandered through the remains of the woods, climbing over stumps and limbs, and discovered body parts: ears, elbows, femurs, a pelvis, a heart. I have collected enough to create my own Frankentree.
     What I haven’t yet found is the spirit to animate it.
     I believe trees have spirits. Perhaps I’ve always believed this in that subconscious way we believe certain things about the mysteries of life. It became concrete knowledge for me after a local woodcarver sold me a Stick Santa designed from the branches of an alder bush.
      “The wood is carved green and as the wood dries and cracks, that’s a spirit coming into your house,” Faron Young told me. “It’s supposed to bring you good luck, health and fortune.”
       This was the proof I needed that spirits abide in trees, but I didn’t care about luck, health and fortune. If you could carve a slit in a branch and release a spirit, what happened when you cut an entire tree down in the woods? Where does the spirit go?
     When I interviewed Faron months later for a magazine article, he told me that trees have hearts. He explained that the heart is the hardest part of the tree.
     “When the wood dries, it’s the heart that cracks,” he added.
     In our basement, I looked at the wood piled inside to feed our wood furnace, to keep us warm all winter. The centre of every round log had a crack through it.
     That’s how the spirit escapes. Through the broken hearts of trees.
     But where does it go?"

Right now, as I share this, my husband is planting trees around the pond. My father was a tree planter and I married a man just like my father. 
How lucky am I? 
If we all planted a tree a year, we might save ourselves. For what is a tree but a saviour?