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Pressed:  The Forest Chapel: A Short Story

3 Aug

Source: The Forest Chapel: A Short Story

The Forest Chapel

by

Shelley Robinson

The massive front door made of Douglas fir planks blocked me from entering.  The little sign hanging from a single nail, said, “Closed Today”.  I was disappointed because I had made it my habit of coming to this heritage lodge.  It had become my rustic forest chapel surrounded by enormous legacy trees that guarded over it like faithful soldiers.  Over one hundred species of tree seeds brought back by the owners from countries around the world, had been planted here. Logging had been what helped them build their empire and beautiful home.  As a result, cedar and Douglas Fir were used to build and decorate the interior.

Today, the quiet visit that I had anticipated here was put to an unfortunate halt.  I peeked through the mottled hand-blown window glass, wondering if maybe there was a mistake.  ‘Surely there were some people inside’, I hoped.  I strained to see the grand yew staircase, with its one large bannister limb reaching down to the newel post at the bottom.  Everything about this lodge was about trees.  Trees fortified it with its posts and beams, and fuelled it in the large stone fireplace.  The energy that it imbued provided respite from a stressful life.

Because the house was closed, I was relegated to the front covered veranda.  Two drift wood lounge chairs welcomed me to sit.  I had an eery fixation with this place. Sometimes, I would come here and listen.  My adult son had commented when he had visited here, “I can feel the ghosts in this house, Mom.”   He was a big believer in the paranormal; whereas, I was a skeptical believer.  If there had been ghosts, I would have seen some by now in my five-plus decades on earth.  No angels, ghosts or demons had ever come to say hello and actually pay me a visit.  However, I had always felt some strange connections to buildings in the past.  I sometimes heard, smelled, and witnessed things that were a bit unusual.

“Is it open?”  I turned to see a tall backpacker approach.  He sported a paisley bandana and sunglasses, and carried a large overnight backpack.  He clunked up the stairs with large shoe-laceless hiking boots.

“No,” I answered disappointedly.  “It usually is, but I’m not sure what is happening today.”

He smiled slowly revealing a large toothy grin.  “That’s too bad.”  He looked to be nearly half my age and a well-seasoned traveller with all of his weathered gear.  He seemed to be relaxed in his Bohemian lifestyle that I might have embraced if I had had another lifetime to trek around the world.

I nodded, unwilling to share with him my irrational preoccupation with the estate.   He took off his pack and sat down in the other chair.  He pulled out his water bottle, and drank most of it.  He explained, “I am related to the owners.  That’s why I came.”

“Are you the long lost grandchild due to inherit all of it?”  I joked.

“Wouldn’t that be interesting if I was,” he laughed, appreciating the possibility as he looked up at the building.  “No, I am related to the cousin of the owner’s daughter somehow.  My mother used to talk about this family like they were the royal family.”

“They had a strange history.” I explained my limited knowledge of it.  “He inherited the money by marrying his wife and working his way into the family logging empire.  In the end, he was the last surviving of his two children, who died fairly young, shortly after their mother.  It was all very sad.”   I was momentarily distracted by the pretty pink hollyhocks knocking up against the porch front.

“You know quite a bit about the owners,” he mused looking around at the acres of manicured gardens leading away from the forest and down to the Comox Bay.  In the distance, the Beaufort Mountain Range and its white glacier framed this pretty ocean paradise set in the Valley of the Whale.

“Not really.  I did a bit of reading, but there’s not much to learn about it aside from what the tour guides tell us.  I just like sitting in the quiet of it when no one is around.  I suppose I come here expecting answers. I listen for some kind of advice from the walls,”  I admitted to myself and to him.

“The walls…” I could feel him summing me up as a bit odd, and he was likely correct.  He contemplated my strange disclosure for a while, and then said, “I do that too.  I look for answers in odd places, especially in nature.  What are you hoping to learn?”

“I want to learn why I keep coming back here.  Every time I do, I see things changing inside of the house.  I feel a conversation stirring inside of me as if there is something on the tip of my tongue that needs to be spoken.  There are also smells…”

“What kind of smells?”  he pondered.

“Apple pie; a man’s cologne; and roses…lots of roses…oh…and strong cigars.  I can almost see the smoke.  It all happens when no one is around, nor when anyone nearby would be making these smells,”  I tried to change the topic.  “But no matter, I just enjoy the place.”

He sat back in the chair, and folded his arms.  “I am a little bit psychic sometimes,” he spoke tentatively.  It was my turn to wonder if he was a bit daft and disoriented, or in these parts, maybe a bit under the “influence”.  “I have spoken to ghosts,” he said convincingly in a whisper as he leaned in to me to explain further.

The elderly lodge caretake interrupted coming up the steps.  “Can I help you?” the portly older man with an uncomfortable looking limp, stopped to inquire of our loitering.

“We were wondering why the house is closed,”  I prompted him to explain why to my myself and the backpacker friend who had introduced himself to me as James after complimenting on my long hair.  “This fellow here came to see the house because he is related to the owners.”

***

“You may kiss the bride,” the minister announced.  We leaned in to kiss each other very passionately, and then turned, almost surprised to see to the house full of guests.  They clapped in celebration, recognizing the joy we were experiencing together.  We had finally found each other, and we were thoroughly caught up in this special moment.  “We’d like to invite everyone into the dining room to enjoy some wine and toasts,” my new husband, Chris, cleared his voice and announced.  He was very handsome in his dark pin-stripe suit.  His red rose boutonniere complimented the white and red rose flower arrangements that had been brought in by my family.  It was Christmas time, and we stood in front of the Christmas tree, humouring my father for a couple of pictures before heading to the other room.  

“You have finally found each other…” my best friend began her toast, while my other friends filled up their glasses with champagne in preparation to raise them in good cheer.  The rest of her toast was a bit of a blur to me as she reminisced about my childhood, and some of my accomplishments.  I was also distracted by my husband who leaned in to kiss me on the head during it.  I could smell his sweet cologne, and could sense his excitement and fatigue from the many days of preparation that had led up to this special day.  It was both a triumph and a relief to have it all come together in such a beautiful venue.  I had always liked this house. I had doubted that I would ever marry at all, let alone in such a special place which sometimes felt to be more a church than a heritage home. 

We could smell my sister’s apple pies cooking in the kitchen.  It had been decided that it would be an old-fashioned wedding and what better way with which to bring in a new life together than with the taste of her nutmeg and cinnamon seasoned dessert.  However, there were more toasts, first by my husband’s brother, and then by my other friend, who broke into tears before getting very far in her speech.  It was all a bit of a dream for me, as I had wondered how it all happened so quickly.  

We met each other over coffee, and we spent our first date exploring the park around this very house.  Then, on our second date, we walked further over to the spit, and enjoyed a beach fire by the ocean.   From there, our lives together unfolded naturally, as we shared a mutual love of hiking in the trees.  He would laugh when I would go up to an old-growth Douglas Firs and sacredly hold my hands on their trunks.  I had been told that these parent trees nurtured the smaller ones in the forest.  I believed that they gave me energy too.  We were tree huggers, and for us, there was no finer place in which to share our vows than in a home and park dedicated to appreciating them right along the harbour front. 

It was raining and we wrapped our arms around each other.  The damp pungent smells of the cedar shingles, and the fragrant foliage that stayed green here even into the middle of winter, sharpened our senses to this magical evening.  We sat under the tin roof of the veranda, and Chris pulled me in to him, savouring this quiet moment together before we headed back into the lively celebration. “I love you beyond belief,” he whispered. 

***

“Just come on in,” the lodge caretaker laughed, amused by our interest in the house.  “I have dishes to clean up from the wedding this afternoon.  You can poke around.  I’ll be here an hour or so.”  He pulled out a key chain with dozens of keys on it, and opened the front door.  We were welcomed into the woody living room with hand-woven Persian rugs.  This cozy sanctuary was filled with antique, hand-made mahogany and oak furniture surrounding a large stone fire place that still burned wood on special occasions. “Please take off your shoes,” he looked at James dirty boots and backpack.

“Amazing,” James exclaimed.  We wandered into the dining room with rough cut Douglas fir planks across the ceiling.  A used silver tea service was spread out over the dining room table.  We stepped down into the little breakfast nook and admired the mosaic floor with its inlaid multi-coloured tiles.  They had been brought over in the ballast of ships from the Far East for lumber.  “There is such a powerful energy here.”  He looked carefully at the family pictures on the wall, reading about the family history.  There was one of the owner’s daughter and the owner on the front steps of the lodge where we had been sitting earlier.  She was joyful in her wedding dress, holding wild flowers.  The owner looked on at her with pride.  The photo captured this family in its golden years, and it was with sadness that I thought of everyone who had lived here, and were now gone.

He came over to me and spoke quietly so that only I could hear him.  “I think that this house holds memories of the past and the future in it.”  He reminded me of his son in his youthful belief of mysterious and unexplainable things.

“How can you have a memory of the future?”

“This house seems to have something prophetic about it.  I don’t know if I would call it a memory.  It just gives me some feelings of things to come.”  He touched the heavy wooden mantlepiece above the fireplace.

“What kinds of messages?”  I had been alone for along time.  I always liked to speculate what lay ahead me.  I had many tarot card readings foretelling pretty average events.  Most were vague and inarticulate at best.  I wished that somehow I could know what lay ahead for me.  Would I grow into my older years alone?

“I feel something about you.  You are attached to this home in the past and in the future.  Have you ever been here before?”

“I don’t think so,” but I tried to think about where I might have somehow come across this lovely place in my history.  My family had come over to the island when I was a child, but I had no real recollection of it.

***

The men’s laughter rang through the night louder than the rain that pelted overhead onto the tin roof of the veranda.  They spoke heartily about the deal of the day.  “…and I told him to bugger off if he didn’t have the cash for the lumber.”  All five older gentleman dressed in distinguished evening attire laughed in unison enjoying their whisky and lox.  He pulled out a cigar and clipped the end of it in a definitive stroke, and then handed the cigar clipper over to his friend who did the same.  They savoured the slow catching of the flames before inhaling them.  “Dad,” a woman poked her head out of the front door.  “Can I talk to you?”  

“Sure,” he responded, handing his cigar to a friend with a pat on the back, excusing himself.  He followed her into the lodge, past guests in the living room, with whom he shook hands.  They ended up in the sitting room of the master bedroom, where she sat with him on one of the sofas.  

“I am not sure that I can keep doing it,” she confided to him.  “He has been moody and unpredictable.  I am exhausted with all of the money he has been spending lately.”  She looked over as a little girl peeked around the corner, looking up at them shyly as she made her way from the bathroom back towards the living room to find her parents again.  Mary smiled and beckoned the girl over to her, and had her sit between them, playing with her long red curls as the girl looked up at them through sleepy eyes.  

“I don’t know what to tell you.  Marriage isn’t easy, Dear. It seems like yesterday when you were the bride here in this house.  I think you have to talk to him and make it work,” he looked into her sad eyes, and offered, “Would you like me to talk to him?”

“No,” she was quick to reply.  “He would be furious.”  She started to cough. “We have to get back in and pay our respects to the beautiful bride.  She is such a lovely New Year’s bride, isn’t she, Dad?  She has so much hope for the future, doesn’t she?…”  She sighed.

“Yes, she does,” he held her hand.  “1967 is going to be a good year for all of us. You lie down,” he pulled her in for a hug and then encouraged her to rest.  “You don’t look well.  I’ll pass on your best wishes to the new couple.”  

“Okay,” she agreed.  She never left a social occasion early. He held out his hand to the small girl who looked up at them with wide green eyes.  “And we need to find your parents, Missee,” he smiled down at her, and then led her out to the living room.

***

“It’s a beautiful place,” James looked around and then down at his phone where he typed a message.  He looked up at me and then spoke a bit distractedly.  “I do feel the energy that you are talking about.”  We had wandered around the upstairs and we ended up in the owner’s daughter’s bedroom.

“Apparently this room has been reported to have ‘an unexplained chilly draft in one part of this room’”, I read the description of the room posted on the wall.  “‘Over the years, various lodge caretakers and workers have reported sensing a ghostly, yet benevolent, presence about the property, particularly in the owner’s former bedroom’.  Spooky!”  I turned to James and we both looked out of the room with a stunning view of harbour.  “This is the room where I smell a lot of lavender.  I asked the lodge caretaker before if they used lavender oils or perfume in the room, and he said that they do not.  He also confirmed that there was no longer lavender on the grounds because it was sometimes invasive to other flowers.”

James turned to with a strange look in his eyes.  “I think you will have a significant moment in this room.”

“Really?  Unless I break in here at night, I don’t think anything really interesting can really happen to me here with all of the tourist traffic,”  I teased.

His phone chirped again, and he made apologies.  “My girlfriend is texting me, and I’m going to have to go.”  I was taken aback by the abrupt ending to our brief encounter.  He continued, “It was nice meeting you.  Remember, good things are going to happen to you in this house.”  He said a quick good-bye, leaving me to wonder about where he would end up.  I was left alone in the quiet of the house.  I explored the adjoining dressing room with its built-in cupboards, and coal fireplace.  I felt a presence, and heard a hint of laughter, but I wasn’t sure if it was my over-active imagination.  I stayed still, listening.

***

“She is so perfect,” I held my sleeping grand-daughter, Jane, breathing in her lavender talcum powder while her mother, Andrea, explored the room. Jane’s little eye lashes fluttered and her tiny fingers twitched while she slept in my arms.  I was in love with this little biological heirloom that my son and his wife had given our family

“This is an amazing house,” Andrea exclaimed as she wandered around the room, appreciating all of the antiques.  “Do you think this room is really haunted?” 

“I don’t know.  I’ve always felt like it had something magical about it.  Now you are here to share it with me,” I revelled in the intimacy of this moment together, just the three of us.  

“It looks like they are setting up for a wedding on the front lawn?” she pointed down to a man who was setting up a table next to a full garden of pink hollyhocks.  I leaned out of the open window, and recognized him. I couldn’t quite place where I had met him.  He looked up to the window that we were leaning from, and squinted up at us.  

“Hey, Christine,” he seemed excited to see me.  “Remember me?”  

“No,” I yelled back, smiling.  My daughter-in-law’s awkward laughter suggested that this might have been a forgotten lover from days gone by.  

“I’m James…”

Like a slow processing computer, my mind finally crunched out a memory of my very brief encounter with this man.  “James!  The backpacker.  I remember you.  God, it has been almost ten years.  Do you work here now?”

“I took over that old caretaker’s job.  It helped to be a long lost relative.  I love the trees, and hell, the pay was pretty good.   I got married too.  We live in the little cottage behind the house in the forest,” and as an after thought he blurted, “…and you still have that pretty long red hair.”

I smiled a bit awkwardly.  The dots in my head were starting to re-connect the many pieces of the puzzle of this house that we had spoken briefly about a decade ago.  “I got married too, and we got married here in this house. This is my daughter-in-law, and their baby!”  We both waved a bit awkwardly to him, holding up the sleeping baby who was oblivious to our hollering back and forth.

He gave us a thumbs up and flashed us those big white teeth.  He still wore a flannel shirt, and I wondered if he had finally gotten shoe laces for his big boots.  “You see,” he yelled up happily to remind her knowingly, “Good things did happen here, didn’t they?”  Our conversation years ago had been a foretelling of things to come for me, and stirred a memory from my childhood that I had long forgotten.

“Yes, they did!”  I gave him a thumbs up, and held my other hand to my heart at the immense realization of it all. 

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Fifty: The Top Ten Things I Learned in My First 50 Years

22 Jun

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Fifty: The Top Ten Things I Learned in My First 50 Years.

 

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Shelley’s Truisms

1. Time is everything. Do not take it for granted, and do not fill it with empty experiences that you will never remember. Make every minute of it create a memory for you and the people around you.

2. Love is a verb. Do not waste time on people who do not say what they mean and do what they say. Life is too short to wait around for other people to keep their promises. The little promises mean the most.

3. Solve problems, make decisions, and stop talking about them. Life is too short to sit around agonizing over things. Roll up your sleeves, and find ways to fix things right away before they become bigger. Better yet, look ahead and prevent problems before they happen.

4. Live with integrity. It is important to be able to look at yourself everyday in the mirror, and know that you take the higher road in life, regardless of how you are treated. Your character is measured by how you behave under pressure.

5. Live with passion. If you are not doing what you love with the people who matter, you are not living. You are simply living a life of obligation. Only do (where absolutely possible) what you love.

6. Make grand gestures. Who says Valentine’s Days don’t matter? All celebrations, whether commercially driven or other, matter. Celebrate everything often, and treat the people around you with big and happy gestures of love. Again, you are making memories.

7. Do Nothing:  The sweetness of doing nothing, or as the Italians say: “Il dolce far niente” is something that I still aspire to have more of in my life. Meditate. Slow down. Do nothing…often.

8. Eat well. Avoid foods that inflame the body. You know what they are. Just make the discipline to stop eating them. Your body will thank you for it.

9. Exercise in nature. Avoid institutional exercise, and get into the woods. The trees help rejuvenate our minds, bodies and souls.

10. Be Open:  Reach out to God through intentional living. Keep all of your doors open because when you keep your options open, good things happen at every turn. Be open to whatever he has in store for you. God is taking care of us.

Love, Shelley

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Eight: What Happens When God Answers?

10 Jun

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Getting Bossy with God:  Elizabeth Gilbert references in her book entitled Eat, Pray, Love this idea of petitioning God for what we want. Earlier this year, I made a very deliberate request to have certain things happen to me in order for me to be the best that I could be for myself and everyone around me.  It felt a bit like bargaining with God and saying, “Look God, I have been waiting for a long time to find, accomplish or experience certain things in my life, and I am determined to make this happen.  Your help is required, and I hope that you will ‘step up’ and help make it happen.  If you do, I can fulfill my dreams and be in a place of greater abundance to help others as well”.  It was not a typical experience to negotiate with God as a conservative Protestant who was always a little bit shy to ask the universe for anything knowing that I am better off than most people around the world.

However, I had been waiting 49 years for one very important thing in my life–a relationship with someone special–a champion.  I wanted a relationship in this new and wonderful place where I had dared to start a new life on Vancouver Island.  People were starting to worry about me being alone, saying things like, “There is no perfect person out there, and you might have to lower your standards.”  I always shook my head and responded quite confidently, and convincingly (even to myself) that I knew what I was looking for.  I would find it, and when I met him, I would know it.

One of my friends asked me, “What if you had to wait until your next life time to meet someone?  What if you are not intended to meet this person now or any time soon?”  I replied pretty definitively, “No, I am not prepared to wait on this one, nor die in order to experience another lifetime to do so.  I am going to get bossy with God and say exactly what I want, and when I want it.”  The deal that I had made explicitly with God was this:  Meeting someone special to share a life with would need to happen before I turned 50 years old.  This relationship would need to be a good fit, and so much so that I would feel very “wowwed” by this person.  The “wow” factor was something very important to me.

She continued to debate the matter, “You don’t need to have someone in your life.  When you are ready to really love yourself, you will not need anyone else, or you will attract someone to you who loves you just for you.”   Of course she is correct.  This is absolutely the case.  I have spent many years learning how to love and respect myself on many levels and for many personal and professional outcomes, not just finding a partner.  However, I felt ready.  In fact, I was liking myself so much that I was starting to choose my own company instead of going out with people on dates on the off-chance that they didn’t have crazy deal-breaking habits that I could not overlook (smoking dope, lying, being married, being a workaholic, posting naked pictures online, cheating, anger management issues, addictions, etc.)

And then one day…just when I was pretty close to closing down my online dating site (as it always seemed a bit more like viewing America-Canada’s Most Wanted than a perfect life mate), I got a message.  He commented on my profile picture that happened to be a picture of me in the exact same setting as his profile picture on the top of Mt. Maxwell on Saltspring Island.  We were posed similarly, and had the same gorgeous Gulf Island view behind us.  I was in a practical mode of thinking at that point, to meet over coffee.  My observation in the cyber dating world was that there is a serious “failure to launch in the real world” phenomenon of emailing and texting, and I was not interested in this type of protracted dating process with little outcome.  Given some recent dating encounters that I had experienced since I had moved here, a couple of which had gotten my hopes up about, I did not want to invest too much energy and hope into something until I investigated the situation first hand.

We efficiently negotiated our early morning meeting time and place like a business deal in a quick phone call.  It felt like a business transaction.  You can tell a lot about someone by their ability to engage in a phone call.  He was polite, responded to my questions, and asked me a bit about myself.  I had been used to phone conversations where I either had to carry the entire interaction, or had to sit listening in a zoned out state of utter disengagement.  Instead, this gentleman had phone call etiquette figured out, and I liked him immediately.  I reminded him that I would prefer to meet him in person instead of walking in the woods alone with a stranger, which was his original suggestion.  I joked that I might be an axe murderer, and it might be in his best interests to meet me in a public place.  He agreed.  We met for breakfast in downtown Courtenay.

At First Glance:  It did not take long for me to know that I would love this man.  Not only did we like the same food, but we loved to hike.  We quickly decided to go on a walk by the ocean, and I noticed that we were literally tripping over ourselves to talk about what we liked to do; and the types of experiences we hoped to have in our lives.  We did not talk about our personal lives (families, ex’s or anything really intimate).   It was an immense relief not to be interrogated by someone about personal matters that I preferred left to a later time.

The topic of travelling quickly identified itself as a priority to us.  I had done more than him, but he was keen about it.  He had lived a few places around the world because his father had been in the military, and liked being centered in a home base on the island.  I had lived in one solitary city all of my life, and had travelled to escape the monotony of living in one city for my whole life.  However, we both agreed that as we approached turning 50 (although he was quick to remind me that he was 10 months behind me from doing so) that we had to start putting some other priorities ahead of work and family.  It was quickly apparent that we were the responsible types, used to taking care of other people–the stable, yet predictable backbone of society that had the potential of propping up others instead of ourselves.

At one point on my dating site, I had simply asked, “Who is interested in travelling the world?”  I had a couple of responses, but none that were very serious about the idea.  Most men wanted to travel the world (and never had), and those who had travelled the world were somewhere else in the world at this time living a nomadic experience far beyond my reach.  This fellow seemed tenuous about life changes, but keen to reconsider a life plan where he was presently working in Fort McMurray to frugally save and help support his family.  I presented to him early on in our walk, the fact that at some point soon, I intended to quit work and travel the world.  He did not baulk at my candid admission which I usually used to scare men who lacked any sense of wonder and adventure, away.  However, in his own even-tempered way, he considered my question, and he seemed interested.

See You Around Sometime:  However, just when I though the date had gone well, he dropped me off at the car, and left me with the words, “I had a great time.  Give me a call if you would like to do something outdoors.  I hope to see you around sometime.”  I smiled, and thought to myself, “Like hell…”  I have never been interested in passive men lacking initiative, and especially a man who would choose to leave me to ask him out on a second date after one that I felt had gone very well.  I smiled and said, “See you around sometime,” and walked away.  As I drove home, I thought to myself glibly, “Well, you win some and you lose some.”

The next day I got a text.  He invited me out for a date for dinner.  A text, I pondered, was not the best way to be asked anyone out, especially me, but it was a start.  I contemplated the demise of our social norms as texting in sound-bytes in incomplete sentences and poor spelling or grammar was quickly becoming the new social reality.  I had grown up in a face-to-face age.  However, I decided that I would meet him again because I had enjoyed our first date.

Oh, by the way…:  Somewhere between a walk on Goose Spit in the Comox Harbour and our date for dinner at the Atlas Cafe, I knew that something magical was happening to us.  We talked about very innocuous things–in fact, we talked a lot about nothing at all.  We spent most of our evening talking about places we had been and food that we liked to cook.  I liked the simplicity of the encounter, and his good humor in response to most topics.  He was witty, and made me feel interesting.  The conversation was easy, and it was pretty apparent that we shared some similarities that we marveled at each time something came up that we had in common exclaiming, “Me too!” numerous times throughout the evening.  It was obvious that we had good connection.

He drove me home, and kept his hands nervously on the steering wheel as we said our good nights.  I asked for a hug, and we awkwardly exchanged ones in the confines of his sports car.  He mentioned just as I was leaving, “Oh, by the way, I will be away for three weeks with work.”  Long distance was not something that I had met with success in my life.  In fact, no one I knew had ever found it very easy.  I was alarmed that I had the good fortune of meeting someone so special, but would be yanked away from building this connection any further for almost a month.

I smiled.  I said good-bye, and made a decision to answer God.

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

5 Aug

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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-Five: There is Something About Roberts

22 Jul

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Roberts Abound: It is with some trepidation that I confide a phenomenon in my life that revolves around the many Roberts that I have met as friends or dated. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and at the risk of sounding like a Robert stalker, or a delusional Robert reporter, I was told recently by a friend that perhaps I should share my interesting Robert journey and see what people think. It is an interesting tale.

The Tale of Roberts: From eighteen years of age on, I have had the good fortune of knowing many Roberts. I have been single most of my life, so I have had some periods throughout it where I have been dating and not in a significant relationship. Until recently, it had not really dawned on me how many “Roberts” I have known. Just to clarify, I have never actually sought out, nor asked out a Robert. Instead, they seem to find me…on trips, in stores, at sporting events, at special events, etc. For example, when travelling to Italy, I met a Roberto. I also was friends with a Robert from Australia for years. Very recently, I was asked out by yet another Robert. It finally dawned on me that something supernatural about Roberts was unfolding. I sat down and made the connection. In some ways, it felt embarrassing to know that I had overlooked this very glaring phenomenon for so long. What was it about Roberts?

Robert the Recent: Recently, I have been writing a novel with the main character named Robert. It seemed natural to choose this name as a protagonist seeing that this male name kept popping up over the past thirty years of my life. The choice was unconscious until I had my recent epiphany. The irony is that shortly after I started writing this novel, another Robert, or “Rob” entered my life. He tried a couple of times to get my attention. It was then that I started connecting the dots. Again, what was it about Roberts? I shared with him my interesting background with his name, and he was intrigued (and likely taken aback a bit) by the unusual circumstances. (Had the situations been reversed and he told me the same about Shelley’s, I think I might not have responded with as much grace).

Behind the Name: I wonder if perhaps, my last name “Robinson” has anything to do with it in some sort of magical or spiritual way. Robin is a derivative of the name Robert, and thus, “the son of Robin” could be the same type of equivalent to Robert. Another possibility is the sheer popularity of the name. In the United States, the name Robert is ranked as number 62 on the popularity scale. The name itself is from the Germanic name Hrodebert meaning “bright fame”, derived from the Germanic elements hrod “fame” and beraht “bright”. It is true that all of the Roberts that I have met have been nice men, and interesting to be around–gentlemen.

The Universe Conspiring: What I wonder is why the universe is conspiring to have me meet Roberts. Or, am I supposed to have learned something from Roberts and then move on?  Perhaps I am to stay clear of Roberts.  It is just an interesting anecdote worth sharing.  

Cheers!

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

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-One: Glad to be a Female Canadian

29 Jun

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-One: Glad to be a Female Canadian.

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I am glad to be a female Canadian because…

1. I am free to pursue my dreams, and I no longer feel that there are any glass ceilings and limitations, provided that I am intentional and tenacious (and where I feel injustice, I call people on it)
2. Men look me in the eye, shake my hand, and treat me with respect, where I hold my head high and do the same (and when they don’t, I comment on it)
3. I can support myself as a single person, and was able to raise my son as a single woman through hard work and an education
4. I do not feel that my son will be pulled into war at any moment, nor that his young life is in danger fighting for causes that are not his own
5. I am not forgotten nor invisible in my 40’s; instead, I am still valid and important in society where I also treat myself with respect and integrity
6. I have the ability to take care of my medical needs with confidentiality and confidence, provided that I research and take care of my own health
7. I can express myself openly without fear of retribution, provided that I am thoughtful of how I communicate
8. I appreciate the Canadian women of our past that afforded us the opportunity to vote and become legitimate in the eyes of law and society
9. I can be in the open, and walk on the streets at night, provided that I am thoughtful of where I tread (as there will always be danger)
10. I am free

Happy Canada Day!