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Leonard’s Escape: A Short Story by Shelley Robinson

7 Nov

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Leonard:  The Journalist

Writing Prompt:  “Resurrection”:

I saw the body of a woman with her arms spread eagle, and her hair feathering out around her at the bottom of the pool.  How had I missed this? I jumped into action, blowing the whistle, and commanding everyone out of the pool.  My military officer’s voice of authority came back to me.  I dove into the calm underwater, reached her still body, and pulled her onto the deck. 

I had never rescued anyone.  I had been a father, and was not able to save my daughter, Vivienne, who had died when she was five.  I leaned over this woman, frightened for both of us as the crowd watched us battle for her life.  I breathed into her several times, and with relief, saw her chest rise and her eyes flutter.  I rolled her to her side so she could wretch out everything that had attempted to drown her.  Her daughter sat beside us, and I could hear her whimpering in alarm contemplating life without a mother.  The resurrection of this woman from one who could not breathe to one who could, was miraculous.  It was the one time in my life where I had been a hero, and I remember every second of it with crystal clarity.

Leonard was satisfied with his words after reading them over a couple of times like he had edited his thoughts when he was a journalist.  He waited for the others to finish their writing.  He always loved the sound of pens on paper in this little writing group.  For a few hours, once a week, he felt like he belonged somewhere important.  Interestingly, his son had taken to writing as well.  He was his only other child with a girlfriend from the States which was a lifetime ago.  Through Adam’s childhood, they visited once or twice a year, sometimes in Canada, and often in the States.  As a result, they had grown to appreciate each other through travelling in ways that normal father-son relationships did not allow.

Leonard looked over to see Sarah, another writing group member.  Her red hair and green eyes reminded him of what his ginger daughter might have looked like later in the life had she had the opportunity to live.  She had fallen overboard on one of his sailing trips with he and her mother.  Their marriage never survived the devastating loss of their only child together.

Sarah: The Teacher

Writing Prompt:  “Awe-Inspiring”:

…I remember the sunset on the Grand Canyon.  It brought to life the magnificence and the enormity of this wonder of the world.  It changed the hues of the rock as it descended into darkness transforming from atomic tangerine, to coral, to burnt sienna, and then in its final declaration of light, to glorious luminescent sinopia.  No painter would ever really be able to capture it.  I have tried.  It is impossible.  

Now, I sit on the little veranda in this little town and watch the clouds shape the colours in their rippled striation.  Every single awe-inspiring evening dazzles me with a different light show.  Then the curtain of light closes, and my heart applauds.

Sarah:  The Bank

She deposited her cheque, withdrew some cash from the bank machine, and then grabbed the receipt.  It was considerably more money than she could remember depositing.  Had she made a mistake?  She quickly reviewed her statement.  She put her card in again, and looked back through her banking history.  Fourteen thousand and forty-four dollars was deposited last Monday.  How could this be?  She walked into the bank to speak with a teller who reviewed the situation in detail.  Someone had deposited the money in cash.

“How did this person know my account information?” she asked, feeling exposed.

“They likely never knew your account number, but likely gave us your name and some details, and offered it as a gift to your account.  It is legal.  If it had been over fifty-thousand dollars, we would be obligated to notify you, but in this case, it was not necessary.”

“So, there is no way to track it?”

“No.”

She gathered up all of the statements that they had printed out for her, and left the bank in a daze.  Who would give her such a substantial amount of money?  Would there be unknown strings attached to such an anonymous monetary gift?  Would someone show up on her doorstep and expect something in return?

Leonard:  The Boat

Every time it came time to finally launch his boat, some other matters came up.  His son would phone up and talk him out of it.  Adam was irritatingly sensible which was probably why, Leonard concluded, Adam was still not married.  Or, Leonard’s friend would fall ill and go into the hospital and need a visit.  Or, he had to collect clothes from the laundromat, or food from the grocery store.  Eventually, he would lose his nerve wondering if it was truly the right decision to simply sail away into the sunset.

He had an Island Packet Long Keel Cutter 35 and named her Gloria.  It was the Volvo of sailboats, boxy, not sexy, but very safe and comfortable.  It had been a lot of work restoring sections of it over the last few years, in an effort to finally get off the grid away from this little town.  Escaping had become his primary reason for living lately.  He wanted to feel alive again.  It was time to feel the pulse in his veins that had become shallow and unpredictable.  He wanted to explore some of the world that remained open to him like a gaping question mark.  Most importantly, he wanted to know himself again because he had become lost in this old body that housed a young man’s heart.

Sarah:  The Survivor

Every week she attended a writing group.  This eclectic group of creative writers met in a little community hall that was built when this little quintessential BC hippie town was first built by a paper mill company in the early 1900s.  The Douglas Fir floors creaked under the weight of her feet as she moved carefully through its hall carrying coffee and loaf cake to her seat.  Each week, she was ready to sit around the old wooden table with eight or so other members who came to free-write with their journals and pens in hand.  They were given a writing prompt by Fran who was the leader of the group who then carefully timed them for ten minutes to compose something out of thin air.  “Time” she would call out in her loud deep voice when it was time to stop writing.

It had been the one morning every week that Sarah would force herself out of bed.  She was always five minutes late no matter what her efforts to be punctual had been.  It was a struggle to get moving in a life where she no longer had any real time commitments.  She chose to move to this small town to be near the ocean, and the woods where she could breathe better, rest and rediscover herself.  Recently, every time she looked into the mirror, she stared deeply into the tired eyes of a societal burn out.  She now had time that had never really been afforded to her in her previous educator’s life composed of bottom lines, deadlines and front lines.  She now sat dormant on the sidelines in the grey weather of the Canadian West Coast where she came face to face with herself.

She wrote in order to preserve her sanity and to ward off a sense of purposelessness, isolation and depression that threatened to devour her each and every day.  She was not the only person healing in this eclectic group.  Leonard was the oldest member.  He was in his eighties, and had been first an officer in the military; then a journalist; next a commercial diver; and finally, a recluse on one of the Gulf Islands where he jokingly described his profession as selling pot out of the back of his motorcycle.

Leonard was an articulate writer who spoke softly of his plans to escape this town.  Sometimes he wrote about sailing away on a boat he had been building and harbouring nearby for over a decade—Gloria.  At other times, he told them about his motor cycle and his plans to drive down into the States to visit his family, and then camp along the beaches of the Oregon Coast.  The group quickly learned that there was always some sad delay with his boat, or his bike, that prevented him from launching his dreams.

What Sarah learned was that no one in the group really aspired to publish, and as a result, there was no real expectation to critique each other.  Instead, these people let down their masques and disclosed intimate details of their lives in this profoundly free writing.   It was here where she started to heal.  She did not disclose much about herself because she felt like an imposter in her own life.  These people made space at the table; welcomed her warmly when she arrived; and listened to her intently when she read aloud.

Leonard:  The Motorbike

Writing Prompt:  “Roadways”:

I had found the perfect two-man tent that would fit nicely into the saddle of the motor bike.  I have done a ton of upgrades to my Road King.  It is more than just a lot of chrome.  Last week, I put on a new rear tire with lots of tread.  It has seen miles of highway, this motor bike.  I think that it is ready to hit the road again, and I phoned my son to let him know that I am coming down.  He talked about us getting over to the Grand Canyon which has always been my favourite place to go. 

The roadways always feel good to me under a motorbike with a good engine.  When I am heading somewhere with my helmet on, and my gear stowed behind me, I know that my life has purpose and adventure.  I like not knowing what will happen next.  

The thing about travelling is that when I travel, I miss home.  This is the harsh reality of the traveller.  There is the tugging of the heart to leave and the pulling of the mind to return to its comfort zones, just like canaries that fly back into their cages when they are released…

After the writing group, Leonard walked downtown.  Without really remembering how, he found himself on the town ferry without much money and no real destination.  He just sat comfortably in a seat looking out over the water.  The captain announced a sighting of a pod of Orca on the starboard side.  They breached for quite a few minutes right in front of him.  They were marvellous in their enormity.

Sarah:  The Departure

“Where is Leonard?” she asked.

“He was put into the hospital because he was caught wandering.  He has been struggling with the onset of dementia for quite awhile and his behaviour has become unpredictable,” one of the members who knew him well, explained.

They talked quietly, contemplating the writing group without Leonard.  “Will he need anything?  Should we be visiting him or sending him anything?”  Silently they contemplated their own cognitive mortality.

“I think he is being assessed, and will be medicated.  The hospital is likely the best place for him to be right now,” Anna reassured us.  “There aren’t many places for someone like Leonard here in town.”

Sarah sat listening to the gentle rhythm of people reading their weekly devotions.  This little community hall had become her church, and this group, its spiritual congregation.  Their religion was the written word.  They wrote to prove their existence.  Leonard shone here.

Adam:  The Visitor

He came up the steps and found her sitting, enjoying some morning coffee and sunshine on her veranda overlooking the water.  Her hair was wild with curls, and she was wearing her favourite flannel pyjamas.  She did a double-take when he showed up.  He looked familiar.

“I’m Leonard’s son, Adam,” he announced awkwardly.  He set down a parcel by the door and came over.  He looked around at the view of the ocean in front of them.  He was the spitting younger image of Leonard with dark red hair, blue eyes, and fewer wrinkles.

He sat next to her and got straight to the point, “Leonard passed away.”

“I’m so sorry,” she gasped, taken back, pausing to find the right words to continue.

“He wanted me to give this to you.  He said that you would appreciate this painting.”   The artwork leapt out at her with vibrant intensity.  She could visualize the exact spot from which this artist had rendered this perfect twilight moment on the rocky ledge above the canyon.  Someone had actually been able to capture the colours and light of this beautiful place on canvass.

“Did your father leave me some money in my account?”

“Probably.  Money was always showing up in my account too.  It is his MO.  He explained that you would sometimes drive him home from writing class.  To be honest, I think he loved how you wrote about travelling. Now that I see you, I think you remind him of Vivienne.”

“Yes, he told me.”  They sat transfixed with the masterpiece in front of them.  “Thank you for bringing it over.”

He struggled with his story. “I got my love of motor bikes from Dad.  Anyway, I thought I would come and pick him up and we would just hit the road.  When I showed up, he barely recognized who I was.  I said, ‘Pops, let’s do that road trip’.  I remember looking over at him sitting beside me with his helmet and a big grin on his face like a small child.  He didn’t care that it had come down to me driving and him sitting in a side car.  He was just so happy to finally be on the highway.

“It sounds so good,” she squeezed his hand.

“But, he didn’t wake up at the US border.”  Adam wiped his face with his hand.  “We rushed him to the hospital, but he had passed away somewhere on the last part of our trip.  He left me everything—what is left of it anyway, and his treasures.”

“And Gloria?”

He nodded.  “…and he mentioned that you loved the Grand Canyon and should have the painting.  I asked around to find out where you lived.”

He stood up to leave.  She was as startled to see him go as she was to have him arrive, and felt disappointed.   They both hesitated about how to end their brief encounter.  “Thank you for bringing it by.”

He walked down the steps, and turned around.  “What do think about going for a sail?”

via Leonard’s Escape: A Short Story by Shelley Robinson

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52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 52: How 52 Weeks Became 156 Weeks

22 Jun

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Looking Back to July 2012:  Three years ago, I made a journey from Calgary to Comox.  It was a leap of faith and one where I had very little idea about what lay ahead.  I decided to write about my journey and experiences and began with this one 156 weeks ago:  https://adventureahead.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/52-weeks-begins-now-moving-to-comox/  I was both excited and scared to make my way out West to live out a dream of being by the ocean and in amidst the rain forests on Vancouver Island.  Despite some nerves in doing so, I felt oddly sure of myself moving ahead.  I knew deep inside of me that there was a reason for going.  I felt a readiness to leave Calgary, and an even greater belief that where I was going was where I needed to be.  I was confident that I would meet new people, and explore new opportunities in my career.  Most importantly, I felt that I would meet someone who would be like-minded in his passion for the outdoors.  I hoped that together we would find ourselves together in the woods.

In many ways, as I review my blog entries over the last three years that were intended to be written over the course of one year, I realize that I have filled a lifetime into three years.  There really was very little time to sit down and write about it.  At one point, I began writing a novel entitled Coast to Coast Calling. My experiences were stranger than fiction, but fiction-worthy, never-the-less.  My blog entries have helped to inspire some of that writing, and it has been a helpful process as I attempted to make sense of my experiences in my new homes on both Pender Island and the Comox Valley.

Dreams Do Come True:  Perhaps I moved to the Comox Valley with such conviction (and naivete) because I was intended to meet my partner Chris.  He has been both an inspiration to me and someone who challenges me to be my best.  He has afforded me the belief that there is a purpose in the life experiences that we have had to date.  All of my life seems to have led me to this place where my vantage from Pender looked out onto the Crawford homestead on Saltspring Island (without knowing it), and from where he looked many times onto Pender Island to see my neck of the woods (again without knowing it).  And from there, our tales collide.  We have learned that our ancestors come from the County of Tyrone, and that we have many similarities that have afforded us to land in the same spot in exactly the same time based on our families journeys to Canada, and then our respective journeys to the islands.   https://adventureahead.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/pressed-52-weeks-begin-now-week-forty-eight-what-happens-when-god-answers/

We both express daily how fortunate we are to have found each other.  I feel very fortunate to know that someone who is so expressive, and responsive to me as a person, can actually exist.  Every day is a new adventure now that we are learning to live together in the same home.  We have big plans ahead of us.  We have stories that we want to share with each other and our grandchildren to come.  However, before those grandchildren come (from my son, or his three sons), we have some things we want to do, accomplish and experience around the world.

New Blog Site:  As a result, we hope to share some of these adventures (and misadventures) with our friends and potential blog followers on the following site that is still in its infancy:  https://stretchingcomfortzones.wordpress.com/

We hope to see you on our new blog post.  I will continue to write, and Chris is hoping to share some of our pictures from our experiences together.  We both feel that it is important to map out our journey in advance, during and after our experiences so that we can also savor every aspect of each new trail we encounter, and each trip we have the good fortune to share together in Canada and abroad.

Thank you for reading my blog entries so far, and I hope that you will feel inspired to share your feedback, input and ideas with us as we move ahead together.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Nine: Creating the Grand Adventure

6 Aug

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Nine: Creating the Grand Adventure.

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Getting on the Train: My recent move to the Comox Valley to live on my own in a new culture, and in a paradise setting, has taught me three things. I can do it. Secondly, that it is not exactly where I want to be at this time in my life, and thirdly, I am not living out my true potential in my major career (although I appreciate my good fortune in having such a good job in the Comox Valley, and I enjoy some of this work very much). I am at a critical turning point. Pender Island, the cottage that I bought in tandem with moving to BC to work as an administrator, was clearly the right decision. This has become a place where I will set down some roots and return to it time and again, as my little sanctuary for as long as I can afford to do so.

My friend, who recently visited my cottage, left me with an interesting quote that she found from watching the movie The Lunchbox: “Sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station.” To some degree I feel similarly to the lead character in the movie. I have gotten on a train, and am confident that this was a good step towards getting towards where I need to be (although I am not exactly sure of my destination). At least I got on a train, as many of us talk ourselves out of doing that because we want guarantees that we are safe in whatever we do. Whereas, life is really a journey. It is about taking a series of steps that head in the direction of our souls, and hopefully, allow us to do what we are called to do along the way so that we live authentic and rich life experiences.

What is the Grand Adventure? It is difficult to describe to someone what a grand adventure actually means. So many of us get into relationships to achieve the outcome of having a relationship. We work at jobs for the satisfaction of achieving our career goals. We have children to raise and launch them into adulthood. In many ways, we go through a series of developmental tasks that help us to experience key personal and professional goals through to fruition in very componential and linear ways.

Whatever the goal, the Grand Adventure is something big, important, meaningful and memorable. It is deemed an adventure because it requires preparation, courage, and possibly, training, to carry it through to fruition. It is something that we will be proud to tell our friends and family, and to look back on with happiness and pride. We will be able to reminisce in the glow of accomplishment, and say, “We did this together!” Or, “We built this!” This memorable lived legacy can be something either internal, external or both.

I believe that a Grand Adventure is something bigger than any one developmental task in our lifetimes. It affords us to have a relationship within a bigger life trajectory. It allows us to consider our career within a larger overarching plan or series of plans. We can then bring our children into a bigger conceptual space about their purpose for being. Rather than simply raising them within some established structures and formative milestones that are typically accepted as “growing up” in our cultures in safe and acceptable ways, we broaden their life experiences through a bigger life vision that often involves building strength, confidence, and helping ourselves and others to be better people.

Vision-Making: The Grand Adventure is something that we can do ourselves, or with others. I believe living out this type of big dream would be most satisfying, albeit, most challenging, to do with a partner. I also think that this is the type of thing that relationships benefit from to help us align our spirits. Living on a shared Grand Adventure requires a kind of vision-making of each partner so that we can first find meaning in our own independent plans, and then in our shared visions. I believe that it is important that both people in partnership own part of the dream so that we feel some shared passion and motivation in fulfilling it. We are co-pilots and rely on each other flying towards our connected dreams.

Essentially, when striking out towards this vision, we each sit side-by-side at our easels considering what colours we will throw onto it, or how we might delicately paint over our blank canvasses. Everyone has a different visioning style. There are no paint by numbers. There are no rules that make one painting right and the other wrong. It is dreaming aloud without any preconceived notions. Writers refer to this as “free writing”. As we create, ideas come into shape, rather than what is typically accepted which is that all things need to have an outline, or clearly measured blue prints.

From time to time, we will peek over at our partner’s painting, and see what is emerging. We give each other space to dream and grow, trusting that we are both committed to building something together and in some synchronicity and on a similar timeline. And then together, we compare our creations. It might be a cacophony of colour, or a clearly rendered painting from a picture held in our minds, perhaps from childhood. Then we consider how the ideas align. What brainstorming needs to occur to make each one independently as beautiful as possible. And then, what happens when we bring them together and merge them? What are even more possibilities when both dreams are combined? The logistics are not the point at this part of the adventure. All that is required is hope, enthusiasm, inspiration and raw courage.

Imagine travelling to a foreign country to work with a non-profit charitable organization to help bring water to communities. Consider what it might be like to climb key mountains in the world that are both beautiful and challenging. What if the grand adventure is to co-author a book while travelling and living somewhere that is unfamiliar and new? What if it looks like sailing from one coast to another and learning to live off of the sea? What if it means living in a community of people working towards the goal of saving an animal or ecosystem that is fragile? Perhaps it is living for a year or two discovering different spiritual practices? What if it might be to research a certain thing or situation and publish the findings? It might be simpler, and could involve setting personal goals of physical well-being or building something tangible that has value to both people and is helpful to others who need this support. What if…? is the type of talk that occurs at this stage.

Living the Dream Aloud: Eventually, the time comes to live it aloud. The architect and the carpenter need to work together to carefully craft what the dream might be. The logistics of how the blocks from the quarry are lifted, cut and crafted together, need to be considered. It takes ongoing communication and disciplined planning in order to see it through so that there is a nice sense of possibility and momentum in its creation. Most importantly, both partners need to share in the leadership. The skill set of each partner is respected, but neither is made responsible for motivating the project. Instead, it is agreed that if it matters to both, both must contribute to its launching. Each must relish in the work and joy that it will bring the partnership. Both must appreciate how to open our arms and abandon ourselves openly to the unknown that happens on every adventure. No one person is left holding the bag, as having a trusting and reciprocal commitment is the key element of a shared adventure. At times, this takes discipline, effort and might require education or guidance from external sources where challenges emerge.

Doing It: Finally, the adventure begins to unfold. It can sometimes happen while it is still being planned, and it might continue and branch off into many directions; but most importantly, it happens. It might not happen exactly as planned. It might become too large or too small, and require revisions along the way. There might be some breaks for rest, or modifications so that both people can sustain the journey. However, again, the point is that there is follow-through. The dream comes to life. There will be a wonderful story to tell before, during and after it happens. I like to believe that the partnership will benefit and grow from the experience, and so will others that we encounter along the way, provided that we act from a place of love and integrity. And then, at the end of the adventure, hopefully we will find that it is really only the beginning of our next adventure together.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Nine: Creating the Grand Adventure

5 Aug

IMG_7181

Getting on the Train: My recent move to the Comox Valley to live on my own in a new culture, and in a paradise setting, has taught me three things. I can do it. Secondly, that it is not exactly where I want to be at this time in my life, and thirdly, I am not living out my true potential in my major career (although I appreciate my good fortune in having such a good job in the Comox Valley, and I enjoy some of this work very much). I am at a critical turning point. Pender Island, the cottage that I bought in tandem with moving to BC to work as an administrator, was clearly the right decision. This has become a place where I will set down some roots and return to it time and again, as my little sanctuary for as long as I can afford to do so.

My friend, who recently visited my cottage, left me with an interesting quote that she found from watching the movie The Lunchbox: “Sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station.” To some degree I feel similarly to the lead character in the movie. I have gotten on a train, and am confident that this was a good step towards getting towards where I need to be (although I am not exactly sure of my destination). At least I got on a train, as many of us talk ourselves out of doing that because we want guarantees that we are safe in whatever we do. Whereas, life is really a journey. It is about taking a series of steps that head in the direction of our souls, and hopefully, allow us to do what we are called to do along the way so that we live authentic and rich life experiences.

What is the Grand Adventure? It is difficult to describe to someone what a grand adventure actually means. So many of us get into relationships to achieve the outcome of having a relationship. We work at jobs for the satisfaction of achieving our career goals. We have children to raise and launch them into adulthood. In many ways, we go through a series of developmental tasks that help us to experience key personal and professional goals through to fruition in very componential and linear ways.

Whatever the goal, the Grand Adventure is something big, important, meaningful and memorable. It is deemed an adventure because it requires preparation, courage, and possibly, training, to carry it through to fruition. It is something that we will be proud to tell our friends and family, and to look back on with happiness and pride. We will be able to reminisce in the glow of accomplishment, and say, “We did this together!” Or, “We built this!” This memorable lived legacy can be something either internal, external or both.

I believe that a Grand Adventure is something bigger than any one developmental task in our lifetimes. It affords us to have a relationship within a bigger life trajectory. It allows us to consider our career within a larger overarching plan or series of plans. We can then bring our children into a bigger conceptual space about their purpose for being. Rather than simply raising them within some established structures and formative milestones that are typically accepted as “growing up” in our cultures in safe and acceptable ways, we broaden their life experiences through a bigger life vision that often involves building strength, confidence, and helping ourselves and others to be better people.

Vision-Making: The Grand Adventure is something that we can do ourselves, or with others. I believe living out this type of big dream would be most satisfying, albeit, most challenging, to do with a partner. I also think that this is the type of thing that relationships benefit from to help us align our spirits. Living on a shared Grand Adventure requires a kind of vision-making of each partner so that we can first find meaning in our own independent plans, and then in our shared visions. I believe that it is important that both people in partnership own part of the dream so that we feel some shared passion and motivation in fulfilling it. We are co-pilots and rely on each other flying towards our connected dreams.

Essentially, when striking out towards this vision, we each sit side-by-side at our easels considering what colours we will throw onto it, or how we might delicately paint over our blank canvasses. Everyone has a different visioning style. There are no paint by numbers. There are no rules that make one painting right and the other wrong. It is dreaming aloud without any preconceived notions. Writers refer to this as “free writing”. As we create, ideas come into shape, rather than what is typically accepted which is that all things need to have an outline, or clearly measured blue prints.

From time to time, we will peek over at our partner’s painting, and see what is emerging. We give each other space to dream and grow, trusting that we are both committed to building something together and in some synchronicity and on a similar timeline. And then together, we compare our creations. It might be a cacophony of colour, or a clearly rendered painting from a picture held in our minds, perhaps from childhood. Then we consider how the ideas align. What brainstorming needs to occur to make each one independently as beautiful as possible. And then, what happens when we bring them together and merge them? What are even more possibilities when both dreams are combined? The logistics are not the point at this part of the adventure. All that is required is hope, enthusiasm, inspiration and raw courage.

Imagine travelling to a foreign country to work with a non-profit charitable organization to help bring water to communities. Consider what it might be like to climb key mountains in the world that are both beautiful and challenging. What if the grand adventure is to co-author a book while travelling and living somewhere that is unfamiliar and new? What if it looks like sailing from one coast to another and learning to live off of the sea? What if it means living in a community of people working towards the goal of saving an animal or ecosystem that is fragile? Perhaps it is living for a year or two discovering different spiritual practices? What if it might be to research a certain thing or situation and publish the findings? It might be simpler, and could involve setting personal goals of physical well-being or building something tangible that has value to both people and is helpful to others who need this support. What if…? is the type of talk that occurs at this stage.

Living the Dream Aloud: Eventually, the time comes to live it aloud. The architect and the carpenter need to work together to carefully craft what the dream might be. The logistics of how the blocks from the quarry are lifted, cut and crafted together, need to be considered. It takes ongoing communication and disciplined planning in order to see it through so that there is a nice sense of possibility and momentum in its creation. Most importantly, both partners need to share in the leadership. The skill set of each partner is respected, but neither is made responsible for motivating the project. Instead, it is agreed that if it matters to both, both must contribute to its launching. Each must relish in the work and joy that it will bring the partnership. Both must appreciate how to open our arms and abandon ourselves openly to the unknown that happens on every adventure. No one person is left holding the bag, as having a trusting and reciprocal commitment is the key element of a shared adventure. At times, this takes discipline, effort and might require education or guidance from external sources where challenges emerge.

Doing It: Finally, the adventure begins to unfold. It can sometimes happen while it is still being planned, and it might continue and branch off into many directions; but most importantly, it happens. It might not happen exactly as planned. It might become too large or too small, and require revisions along the way. There might be some breaks for rest, or modifications so that both people can sustain the journey. However, again, the point is that there is follow-through. The dream comes to life. There will be a wonderful story to tell before, during and after it happens. I like to believe that the partnership will benefit and grow from the experience, and so will others that we encounter along the way, provided that we act from a place of love and integrity. And then, at the end of the adventure, hopefully we will find that it is really only the beginning of our next adventure together.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Seven: Getting High and Staying High

3 Aug

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Seven: Getting High and Staying High.

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Getting High: Everyone wants to get high–metaphorically, literally, spiritually, through drugs and alcohol, artistically, sexually, or other. What is interesting to me is that most people don’t know what “getting high” actually means. As well, we don’t understand the following:

-We don’t know why we want to get high so badly
-We don’t know how to get high in safe, healthy, or relevant ways
-Once we are high, we are not always sure how to really appreciate it

As well, most people who do get high, want to replicate it over and over again in exactly the same way. We think that if we just re-do the same steps, in the same way, that the same outcome will result. However, the nature of any ecstatic experience is that usually we cannot re-formulate it through mere repetition. Each time, some different variable comes into play that requires the need to be attentive, creative and intentional so that there can be new unique and wonderful outcomes.

Of course, this takes effort. People who do not want to make the effort usually end up taking drugs; resorting to simulations on a computer; or need some other extrinsic catalyst to jump start them into the sublime.

Hot Air: An example of getting high for me was a hot air balloon trip in Capadocia, Turkey (see pictures below). The last time that I had taken a balloon ride prior to this adventure, was in Calgary, Alberta a decade previously. It had been a less than thrilling experience on a cold morning with a grumpy husband who wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the whole early morning escapade. As well, as we ascended into the air, our little son was waving up at us with a worried expression, wondering if his parents would disappear into the clouds and never come down again. (Because of his alarm, my father took it upon himself to follow our balloon by driving through the city underneath it to the safe landing spot, reassuring his grandson all the while). As a result, I remember the whole balloon ride as a feeling of mixed emotions about why I was doing such a far-fetched thing in the first place without my son, and with my, now, ex-husband.

As a result, when the suggestion to go up in the air with complete strangers in a foreign country, came about, I wasn’t sure that I would find the experience to be anything more than this botched attempt at getting high in the same way the first time around. While the crew began the launching process in the pre-historic landscape of this famous Turkish desert valley, the sunlight was just starting to appear on the horizon. In the darkness, the blasts of the burner flame sounded like hungry dragons, as they heated the air through the balloon mouths. Once they were air buoyant, we jumped into the balloon basket. We were all a bit nervous as the box swayed sideways before launching, but finally the ground crew released the balloon into the pilot’s capable hands.

Magic in the Ascent: As we ascended, magic began to unfold all around me. This balloon ride was different. I was surrounded by a few fellow travellers who were as equally interested in being “mesmerized” as I was by the ascent. Their enthusiasm was contagious. The desert landscape below filled with miles upon miles of wind burrowed rock formations (which we call hoodoos in Canada) was absolutely breathtaking.

As well, the Turkish balloon companies did not, at this time, have any regulations about how high they could actually fly. I had been told in my first balloon flight about the Canadian guidelines because of the dangers of flying too close to the sun, and other elevation precautions. In Turkey, words like “guidelines” or “precautions” never came up. He seemed more interested in sharing with us what we would see, not what might go wrong. All the while, we just kept getting higher and higher. At one point, when I looked down, I realized that I was “high”–very very high. Any fear or trepidation about heights was something that I should have thought about before the trip because here I was…up in the clouds. I breathed in the height. I kept my eye on the beauty, and I revered in the experience. All of it was simply too beautiful for fear to step in and ruin it for me.

Some of the high had to do with the pilot. I trusted him. He spoke confidently about the height. He seemed credible and capable handling the balloon. He pointed out what would be happening before, during and after the trip so that we were at ease. He had a certain “enthusiasm” (coming from the word “entheos”, which in Latin means “of the Gods”) that awakened me to what I could expect. However, I was confident that everyone in the basket would see and experience something very different from each other. The flight was also gilded in gold for me because of my openness to trying it–again. I was a different person this time around. I had the capacity to get high, and I appreciated the joy of doing so in a way that I had never experienced before. I was high on my new status in life. I was free.

Staying High: What amazes me about the whole experience is that the balloon ride was not the real crux of the experience for me. The rush was my willingness to embrace all aspects of the experience. I was doing something that other people had done a thousand times, but for me, it was as if no one had ever done this before. How could the universe be this wonderful? Why was I so fortunate? What would I see, and remember from the experience? For the duration of the trip, I was out of body. In memory of it, I find it surreal to consider how magnificent the view was, and I am still high in the recollection. I was in another world. I was on another planet. I was flying high. And what is most important to realize about this existential height experience was that there were no drugs required, then, during the flight, and now, in the remembrance of it (although I am sure the adrenaline rush released a bit of dopamine). This was flying high for real, inside and out.

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52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Four: Mail Order Bride and the Leap of Faith

6 Jul

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What if… you were a young woman in Finland, writing back and forth to a young man from Finland living in Canada (whom you have never met) who has taken it upon himself to pioneer out to Canada in the early 1900’s? You have been hooked up to each other through friends and are now part of a series of correspondence blind dates. Through beautifully scripted hand-written letters (as you are both creative), you forge a strong friendship over the course of a year. You start to learn more about him and his adventures in Canada, and he starts to learn a bit more about you. You exchange a couple of photos, and the rest of the correspondence is an outpouring of hopes and dreams.

You realize that you are getting older (late 20’s), and are now one of the few single ladies left in your town. This is an eligible bachelor, well-respected in his community (through word of mouth) regardless of his desire to live in another country. Even though you haven’t met him, you have a pretty good feeling and intuition about him through his letters because he is educated, articulate and motivated to make his way in the Canadian frontier. If he proposed on his next visit to Finland and asked you to go with him to Canada, would you?

From Mail to Meeting: This was the correspondence that occurred over the course of several months between my grandmother, Tyyne Kattelus; and my grandfather, Onni Kattelus while he was getting oriented in British Columbia. In 1931, he went back to Finland to finally meet my grandmother, Tyyne Kattelus) in person; marry her; and, as a result, return with her back to Canada (all in one trip). It was a magnificent leap of faith. The words and the time that they took in their initial correspondence helped them to forge a strong enough belief in each other and their respective dreams, to act upon them.

Settling: After much hardship surviving the rough and undeveloped landscape around Field, BC, they eventually settled into Golden, BC where my mother and her two siblings grew up. They had a hard-working life amongst other Finnish settlers in the Columbia Valley with very little leisure time. I remember from my visits to their home that they were always working at something on their property: chopping wood, planting and harvesting the orchards and gardens, making carpets on the loom, etc. However, I especially enjoyed the hot steam saunas that we would share at the end of the day.

They had a small farm, a larger garden and ran properties within the town, while my grandfather worked on the CPR as a carpenter until he passed away and left my grandmother to tend all of it on her own. She took care of her property admirably until she passed away in her 90’s. In the end, they were well-respected members of their community, and she in particular as one of the oldest living Finnish pioneers. In retrospect, both of my grandparents were highly conservative people with an incredible aversion to risk and failure. They worked hard and were incredibly meticulous and careful about everything that they did. By nature, they were not prone to making large risky decisions.

Leaps of Faith: Sometimes our circumstances, personalities, dreams, fears and issues call us to make leaps of faith. I am always fascinated by what actually motivates people to take that final step. The idea of “readiness” is an important one, but sometimes, people may not be entirely prepared for the big jump, but they do it anyway. Why?

Impetus: I would suspect that sometimes people want to jump out of the fire, hoping that they will land anywhere but where they have been. The fire that they are escaping is burning them alive, and they need to jump away, just as people sometimes do from burning buildings. Other times, people believe that what they are jumping to is so incredible–this fantasy opportunity, that they will do anything to experience it. These motivators, I believe, are the two extremes on the leap of faith continuum and can also sometimes be equated with being “impulsive”. However, other leaps of faith happen for other reasons (sometimes ranging from the simple to the complex). The stories about why people make these life-changing decisions can be fascinating as each tale holds some very small detail of their impetus for change. “Impetus”, from the Latin word “Impetere” means “to attack”. It often involves the passion to actually “attack” our dreams.

Second-Order Change: However, what is even more fascinating to me is why so many of us don’t leap. Fear is the obvious reason. None of us like to be outside of our comfort zones for long. In some cases, it is wise to stay put, and be present in the now without having any need to search and grasp beyond this moment in time, place or people. However, there are times in our lives where if we pay close enough attention, we know that we need to make a change. However, sometimes, in order for the change to be the meaningful one that we know that it needs to be, it has be to be a big change. There is no other way around it. We can’t just talk about it. We can’t pick at it or tweak it. Instead, it needs to be true “second order change” (starting all over again and building from the ground up). It requires incredible courage and then fortitude to first make the change, and then to make the change work.

Commitment: I think of so many immigrants to Canada whose stories were successful ones, they made their decisions work. There was simply no choice. They had no safety net or people or finances. They just did it. Others pioneers, some from my father’s ancestral family (writing that I will save for another article), were not as successful. Therefore, leaps of faith require leaps of intentional action, but they also need steel-willed fortitude and calculated follow-through. It may not need to all be preemptively planned and orchestrated ahead of time, but there needs to be a deep commitment by the people involved so that they can draw upon it when they need to count on it for determination: “I am going to land on the other side, and I am going to enjoy the landing.”

Sisu: I write this article because I have taken a leap of faith moving to BC, and am now working on “enjoying the landing”. What will I need to do to be sure that I am happy and successful now that I have made the leap? It will continue to require of me a tenacity that is sometimes evasive. Therefore, I look to my Finnish ancestors as examples of those who took a leap of faith (independently and interdependently) and made it work on the other side. I have to trust that I, too, have this Finnish personality trait defined as “sisu” that my grandmother always said that I possessed. It means “bravery, determination and resilience”. In some cases, I also think there needs to be a measure of good luck, and so I will wish for a little of that as well.

“If we never had the courage to take a leap of faith, we’d be cheating God out of a chance to mount us up with wings like eagles and watch us soar.”
― Jen Stephens, The Heart’s Journey Home

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Three: Messages from Up High

5 Jul

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Three: Messages from Up High.

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Signal Hills, Temples, Fortresses, Domes and Steeples: It has struck me today as I climbed up to Signal Hill on Pender Island, that I am always climbing to communicative vantage points. In almost every country that I have visited, I have this fascination with getting to the highest points where their citizens have found inspiration. In turn, they have used these places to communicate with their people because of the visibility from up high. These citadels, minarets, bell towers and other have been used throughout the centuries for various military, political and religious reasons to protect its people, and present important communication over land and, sometimes, sea. There was a sense of security in each community beneath these communication points knowing that someone was manning these towers and could communicate key pieces information to other relevant parties through light, bells, voice, instruments, flags, semaphore, Morse Code, and other agreed upon signals.

I remember, in particular, when I visited Boston, the story of Paul Revere warning his people of the British Red Coats coming. Beyond all odds, he found the highest point in the city in the steeple of The Old North Church:

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Mass Communication: Since then, we communicate through all sorts of modern means: mail, radio, telephone, email, video conferencing, etc., and in some respects, we are relying on our highest points of satellite to be our newest technology temples. We have become quite connected through multi-media across various communication management systems and social media venues. However, what seems most interesting is that the more connected we become (with less of a need to stand on mountain tops in order to be heard), the less clear it is becoming about what are truly the most important messages. The key messages are being diffused by the trillions of other messages that are being transmitted millisecond by millisecond to millions of sources in the immediate and global vicinities. We are left decoding: “What is important? What should I pay attention to?”

Messages from Up High: What becomes critical then, is to consider the source. All of this information may be coming through a place of high visibility, with what seems to be very interesting news. However, these sound bytes of information, often static in their importance and tentative in their longevity, may not be meaningful for long. What we need to be listening to, instead, is our information from our higher collective power. Our intuition and our connection to the spiritual energy within and around us is what is most important. It helps us receive information that is authentic and meaningful from the external sources from around the world.

Through these spiritual lenses, we filter and make sense of the valuable signs and symbols. We then learn to appreciate the magical synchronicities of these messages and our experiences. We learn to know what messages are the powerful ones because we start to trust ourselves with how we receive and interpret them. We become both the signal towers and the receivers. Therefore, instead of looking up to find the high places that have traditionally been the telegraph hills, look within, and in doing so, the messages we hear will be certain to be the necessary ones. The “lanterns” hung up at the steeple are never lost where we pay attention.

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
― Mary Oliver