Peace at Presqu’ile

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The Peace of Wild Things

“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
[Wendell Berry]

An item in today’s news reports that more Canadians are worried about what is going on south of the border than what is happening here in Canada, but we Canadians should not blithely assume that such an atrocity could never happen here.

My disquietude is born of the nasty changes I am witnessing in my country, my province and my small town. It’s as if the success enjoyed by Forty-five – despite/because of his overt bigotry – is empowering the closeted racists, misogynists and xenophobes to reassert their small-mindedness in a very public manner.

And. It. Scares. Me.

I am also frightened that the members of the CPC may choose Kellie Leitch as their next leader. This is a woman who chose to run her political ads on Breitbart News which is at best alt-right and at worst white supremacist. She wants immigrant screening based upon “Canadian Values” but who, exactly, does she consider to be Canadians and how did she collate her list of their values? Her popularity is growing and with it, my despair…

When despair for the world grows in me I go my place of peace where the still water and wild things always work their magic and today there were three amazing signs of – perhaps – an early spring:

First, as I drove into the park, I couldn’t help but notice that the pannes have thawed and that, despite the minimal snowfall this winter, contain lots of water to host the frogs. Surely my beloved frog song can not be far off now!

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Second, the ice is off the lagoon – first day – and Tristan und Isolde are enjoying their home again.

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And third, for the first day, the marsh is also clear of ice and being thoroughly enjoyed by Odette and her Siegfried this afternoon. Siegfried, the park’s consummate show-off, is noticeably absent from this shot; any time a camera or scope appears (I swear he can recognize them) he takes off, flying – clumsily, as swans are wont to do – hither and yon trying to impress the photographers. Odette, meanwhile, remains elegant and dignified throughout.

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It was a glorious day to rest in the grace of the park today; I found my peace and am free.

I hope you, too, are able to find your Peace of The Wild Things!

‘Til next time, y’all…

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Peace In Your Heart

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“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
[Proverbs 4:23]

Today is 20th February 2017. Here in Ontario it is a holiday known as Family Day. I hope wherever and with whomever you are spending your day, it is steeped in love and peace.

Today also marks the two-month anniversary of the inauguration of forty-five and, far from abating, the craziness Stateside seems to be burgeoning and worse, spilling into Canada. This second month’s turmoil south of the border includes the fraught executive order to limit immigration, the courts’ overturning of that ban, confirmations, a resignation, a refusal to serve, conflicts of interest, familial ethics concerns and my favourite, #ShePersisted. What horrifies me though, is that the right wing President, his rhetoric and his racism has given rise to the sudden spread of racism here in Ontario. Islamophobia and antisemitism are playing out very publicly. The wave of hatred is steadily swelling. With so much drama, how does one find and protect one’s peace? That peace is very important because peace in our souls radiates in ever-widening circles – through our families, our communities and beyond.

In my own pursuit of inner peace, I’ve learned that I need to begin with a pause so I can tune out the excessive noise. Then, and only with great intention, can I move forward. I use my pause to meditate; always mindfulness of breathing, lately adding Mettā or loving kindness, which I am still learning. Meditation is a daily practice for me, one that has had an enormous and ultra-positive impact on all aspects of my life. My meditation coach stresses “peace comes from within, do not seek it from without” and I have accepted the verity of that advice.

The second, but equally important, element of my search for inner peace involves spending time in nature, almost always at Presqu’ile which has become my home-away-from-home. Walking by the lake or through the woods is always uplifting, restorative and calming. Fresh air and exercise: The ultimate tonic! The enormity of the lake and the majesty of the forest are home to a wide range of natural aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Observing the resilience of this biodiversity never fails to boost my optimism.

Finally I try to guard my heart, for everything I do flows from it – my actions, my reactions, my thoughts and my words. A kind and loving heart will spread loving kindness into the world.  Mettā for you:

May we all be safe from inner and outer harm.
May we all be filled with loving-kindness.
May all beings live in peace and harmony.

’Til next time, y’all…

Faux Spring

♪Oh, what a beautiful mornin’,
Oh, what a beautiful day.
I got a beautiful feelin’
Ev’erything’s goin’ my way.♪

[Oscar Hammerstein II – “Oklahoma!”]

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A perfect mornin’ in fact, to kick off the Family Day long weekend. What better place to spend at least one day of your holiday weekend than Presqu’ile Provincial Park where birds and animals, woods and beaches provide delights for all.

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This balmy, sunny weather is a wonderful reprieve from winter and the forecasted three days of bright spring conditions could not possibly have turned up with better timing.

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Stonehedge Cottage. Built in 1942 by Jack and Luta Wilson. Sold to Presqu’ile PP in 1956.

Do we think this taste of spring will last? Of course not, we’re Canadians! We know there’ll be lots more winter to come – snow to shovel, icy roads to navigate and sub-zero temperatures to survive. But….

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…. But this winter reprieve is like a tonic – it’s a glimpse of what’s to come that gives us the much-needed emotional boost that will fortify us through the remaining cold ’til spring finally arrives – for real.

So, my friends, get out and enjoy the three days away from work and school.  Grab your kids, your friends, your parents – everyone you can, hop in your car and drive east to Brighton to enjoy the fresh air, the sun and the wonders of Presqu’ile. Might I suggest a ramble through Jobe’s Woods?  You might catch a glimpse of the fox who made this path!

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Happy Family Day weekend!

‘Til next time, y’all…

First Robin of Spring

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“Stay, little cheerful Robin! stay,
And at my easement sing…”
[Wordsworth]

Almost every description of the Robin I’ve been able to find includes some version of the phrase “is a migratory songbird”. When and why did they stop migrating, I wondered.

Although their diet includes small invertebrates (worms, bugs, etc.) more than half their diet is made up of berries which makes their winter survival much easier, hence more common. As to the when, this is the first winter I’ve seen so many Robins (observed in the hundreds, if not thousands) in our part of Ontario.

Sadly, it makes watching for the first Robin of spring (whoever sees the first robin of spring will have good luck) redundant. Shame, really, but maybe it means we will all have good luck all year long!

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Have a lovely Family Day long weekend!  Keep your eye open for Robins on the roadsides!

‘Til next time, y’all…

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Path to Spirituality

“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked,
in which you can walk with love and reverence.”
[Henry David Thoreau]

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This blog began and continues as my recovery journal. In a previous post I wrote that that one element of my path includes living a spiritual life. Defining, accepting and owning my spirituality has been a difficult process and just the thought of sharing that experience with you is terrifying. Still, as my spirituality has been a huge factor in my recovery, it has a major impact on my writing.

What is spirituality?

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I have four close friends, two women, two men, all unrelated, who I’d describe as living spiritually-driven lives and who all have a great spiritual cognizance. I asked each of them what spirituality meant to them and got four entirely different responses. I learned that spirituality is not one-size-fits-all. It is personal and contextual and I realized that it is not the definition so much as the practice that is important to me.

Amongst other friends, just the mention of spirituality seems to cause discomfort to spread like wildfire. It is a squirm-inducing, uncomfortable, flop sweat-generating, embarrassing and anxiety-laden taboo topic, best avoided at all costs. In the past I have allowed this stigma to limit and govern my words – for fear of what other people might say or think about me – but this is counterintuitive to my intention, so here goes…

My spirituality is a concept I’ve grappled with for a very long time; carefully, gradually clarifying my beliefs and what matters most to me. My parents raised me as a Christian and our faith was the centre of our lives all the time I was growing up. Both my maternal Granddads were Protestant ministers so one might say religion is in my blood, but I do not believe that leading a spiritual life is the same as being religious. Too often, religion becomes a weekly activity, like band practice, quilting, golfing or sailing. When that happens, scripture is recited/hymns are sung/prayers are offered by force of habit, the lessons shelved until the next service. For me, spirituality is so much different, so much more – it is a daily choice, a daily practice.

Thinking back to my Sunday School years, the earliest lesson I remember is “God Is Love”. That’s it! Love. I’ve given this subject a great deal of consideration during the past few months and my answer to the question is always love. Always. For me, spirituality is the act of welcoming God into my heart and allowing that love to guide my thoughts, my words and my actions. But which God?

For the most part, I do still consider myself to be Protestant. However, I have been learning a lot about Buddhism from my friend who is Buddhist majjhima. There is much about the Buddhist faith that I adore, and the more I study, the greater that love becomes. Again, love.

God is love, all is love, I welcome that love and try to live it day by day. I am walking my path to spirituality with love and reverence.

That, my friends, is my truth. If it’s going to make a difference as to whether you like/respect/love me or not, then it should start making a difference right now.

May you be happy and peaceful, healthy and strong.
May you be free from mental and physical suffering.
May you be filled with loving-kindness.

‘Til next time, y’all…

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“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked,
in which you can walk with love and reverence.”
[Henry David Thoreau]

Trees, Version 2

“But we shouldn’t be concerned about trees purely for material reasons, we should also care about them because of the little puzzles and wonders they present us with. Under the canopy of the trees, daily dramas and moving love stories are played out. Here is the last remaining piece of Nature, right on our doorstep, where adventures are to be experienced and secrets discovered. And who knows, perhaps one day the language of trees will eventually be deciphered, giving us the raw material for further amazing stories. Until then, when you take your next walk in the forest, give free rein to your imagination-in many cases, what you imagine is not so far removed from reality, after all!”
[Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees]

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Bliss!  Mind clears, serenity prevails, spirit soars, and equilibrium returns every time I roam the many woodland trails at Presqu’ile. Nothing is nicer in winter than enjoying a brisk, invigorating walk through the bush either with a companion or alone, with or without my camera. Minus the canopy of leaves, the sun’s rays penetrate all the way to the ground, creating brilliant patches of warmth and intriguing shadows. Interested hikers can see far deeper into those woods minus summer’s foliage and the unobstructed, barren vista is inspiration for my creative imagination.

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Under the canopy of the trees, daily dramas and moving love stories are played out.

In my mind – I see deer runs, fox dens, rabbit warrens, and so much more. Reality, of course, is likely much different – an animal whisperer I am not. Unless I actually saw a fox exiting his den I’d never know for sure it was just such an abode, but in my imagination I picture a rich home life, even see them snuggling together for warmth. And deer… My park experience with them thus far has been that they believe everywhere is their run, but in my woods I imagine they have different roadways, just like us. For instance the one they use to get food or drink different, of course, from the one they use to meet up with their friends which is also different to the one they take to reach their playground or to go on a date. It’s always oh-so-complex and vivid – in my mind.

None of which would be possible without the trees which use their amazing skills to harbour their forest friends, to help provide them with food, to camouflage them when predators appear, and to act as the guardians of their domain. I try very hard to be aware of the trees’ communication with each other but confess that so far it, too, is all in my imagination, but… Every time I take a walk in the forest, I do give free rein to my imagination and I hope with all my being that what I imagine is not so far removed from reality!

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2017 Resolution:  Having thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Wohlleben’s book, and because of my great fondness for the woods at Presqu’ile, I am committed – each month – to learning more about the invaluable commodity of trees in our park.

What I learned this month:  January Edition

  • Preservation, nurturing, planting and culling activities related to forestry at Presqu’ile is mandated and protected in the Park’s Master Management Plan, lodged with and supervised by the MNR; and
  • The gentleman responsible for this management introduced himself and recruited me as a volunteer (not at all sure what that entails as yet); and
  • The park is culling Scotch Pines from the Pannes in an attempt to eventually eradicate them entirely. They are not indigenous, are invasive and harmful to the native species; and
  • Presqu’ile has a tree nursery; and
  • Nursery volunteers collect thousands of fallen acorns (≅5K in 2016) in an attempt to gather them before the deer/squirrels eat them. The acorns are planted to grow badly needed native Oak trees for eventual relocation to the park’s woods; and
  • Sadly, the survival rate of these oaks is poor – typically only one or two in ten live – despite constant care and nurture.

Take  yourself off for a walk in the forest – it’s likely the best thing you will do for yourself this month.  That’s where I’ll be just as soon as I hit “enter”.

‘Til next time, y’all…

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Art of Protest

Protest

To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance and lust,
The Inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
No vested power in this great day and land
Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
Loud disapproval of existing ills,
May criticise oppression and condemn
The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
That let the children and child-bearers toil
To purchase ease for idle millionaires.

Therefore do I protest against the boast
Of independence in this mighty land.
Call no chain strong which holds one rusted link,
Call no land free that holds one fettered slave.
Until the manacled, slim wrists of babes
Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,
Until the Mother bears no burden save
The precious one beneath her heart, until
God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed
And given back to labor, let no man
Call this the land of freedom.
[Ella Wheeler Wilcox]

Although we are only a little more than a month into this new year, already there is so much to be distressed about. I’m reading that anxiety in the social media post comments made by my friends almost daily. There is, indeed, a superabundance of Trump-bashing and scaremongering throughout all media; divisive, exclusionary posts based on narrow-mindedness and hate. They can, indeed, be overwhelming. I do understand the concept of Trump-Overload Syndrome and yet, to sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men.

Alternatively, I have observed the art of protest which engenders a very different, entirely positive, energizing, even euphoric mood, experienced by those who are busy fighting FOR a cause they believe in. It arises from a good place within ourselves, born of intention, caring and dedication. When a single soul or a group of like-minded, committed people stand up to declare ‘this is what I believe, what I stand for, what I want for our world’ – they are making an inclusionary, supportive and aspirational statement. These type of posts on all and especially social media give me hope, they are motivational and they make me oh-so-proud of my activist friends.

The few who dare, must speak and speak again to right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God, no vested power in this great day and land can gag or throttle.

We all need to dare, to have the audacity to stand up and be counted in support of a single cause or many causes in which we fervently believe. We all get to choose which side we are on, to choose what and whom we are willing to fight for. You may not yet have found such a cause. If you have, your conviction may be on behalf of a small group in your own home town or an enormous global community. It may even be on behalf of a group to which you, personally, belong. It may be rooted in human rights, racism, health-care, poverty, animal rights, the environment, injustice, or something completely different. But when you realize what cause is in your heart, then your voice too may cry loud disapproval of existing ills and we, your devoted friends, will not look away, will not shun your activism on-line, will in fact, rise to show our support of your bravery and dedication. This I promise, else you would not be our chosen friend.

‘Til next time, y’all…

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