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What About Bob?

When Gregory MacDonald and I fought over whose dad was stronger, I was 100% confident that my dad won that contest hands down! My dad was taller than most fathers. He could do almost anything. Why just look at him here demonstrating his extreme Spartica workout! WorkinOutOkay, perhaps I was a bit off in my estimations of physical prowess. But I don’t think that I was ever mistaken when it came to reflecting on his exceptional capacity for emotional and spiritual strength.

Where did this man of mystery garner his power? Just like Clark Kent, it was all in those horn rimmed glasses. DadReadingAll the rage in the Buddy Holly era, this style of horn rimmed glasses was embraced by dad then and for decades to follow. It wasn’t a fashion statement for him. Rather, I believe that dad just had other priorities, which often focused on giving to others and on being kind, and those priorities trumped fashion. But it was more than just that. He wasn’t interested at all in being cool and all that goes with that pursuit. In not being a part of that longing, he was free to embrace a unique quirkiness, full of Bob-esque silliness and style. DadGrandpaDad can stand within a sea of inebriated sports fans at the Roger’s Centre during the seventh inning stretch and passionately sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with his daughter and son and be fully in that moment. Oh the horn rimmed glasses are now gone. They collided with a tragic death by fire when dad accidentally left them on a cookie tray under a frozen pizza. The rest is history. But a myriad of other cute and quirky fashion statements live on, and in me too, even at these well attended sports venues.

Drayton AvenueNot a lot of people know that my father lost his entire immediate family at the age of 16. If you have gone through any significant loss, you can appreciate and understand the feeling of a raw and broken heart. And for those who have said goodbye to both of their parents know the stark vastness of being orphaned. Now imagine experiencing all of that at 16. At that very pivotal time in his life, when he stood at the precipice of emptiness, dad chose to fill the void with spirit and community. There is an element in mystery in my reflection of this time of his life. I imagine all of the possibilities that could have occurred for him at that time. When my father experienced that loss, he was fortunate in that he had loving people surrounding him who wanted to adopt him as part of their family, but he was also courageous in his choice to trust and reciprocate the invitation. I wonder what would have happened if my dad didn’t have those people around him, or if he had chosen to fill the void with distrust and cynicism. What I do know for sure is that my father’s sense and experience of family is immensely plentiful. Whether you meet my dad at the grocery store, work, church, or in a line at the bank, you can become part of his family quite naturally. He will remember what is important to you. He will care if you are hurting. He will pray for you.

MeDadXMassI have been the lucky recipient of my father’s resiliency. His family is my family and the essence of his daily prayers supports me in ways that I cannot begin to comprehend. In my darkest moments I have always felt that something within the web of life continues to support and sustain me. I will never fall through the cracks of loneliness. I have inherited this legacy from my parents and their parents and for this I am truly grateful.

Now you may be thinking that this picture that I am painting of my father waxes pristine, and that I am still that girl in the sandbox with Gregory MacDonald so sure of her father’s heroic strength. Maybe I will always be a bit starry-eyed about certain people in my life. Nonetheless, I can tell you that Dad is not perfect. That is what makes him so lovely. He struggles to find balance between the head and the heart just like everyone else, but the struggle does not tire him out. He has not been defeated.  So what about Bob? He is following the Hero’s Path well into his late 70s.

We have not even to risk the adventure alone
for the heroes of all time have gone before us.
The labyrinth is thoroughly known …
we have only to follow the thread of the hero path.
And where we had thought to find an abomination
we shall find a God.

And where we had thought to slay another
we shall slay ourselves.
Where we had thought to travel outwards
we shall come to the center of our own existence.
And where we had thought to be alone
we shall be with all the world.”
~Joseph Campbell

This path is a choice, a calling. On this Father’s Day, I celebrate that my dad has chosen this path. Super Bob, Man of Mystery. He stands alone in his quirkiness and walks with us in love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on June 18, 2017 in General

 

Listening to The World’s Loneliest Whale

Whale FinSince 1992, Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute have been tracking a solitary mammal, known as the 52 Hertz Whale. It was first discovered in 1989 by the U.S Navy. This whale communicates at a frequency 2 times higher than its kin, that chat on 15 – 25 Hertz channels, which means that it cannot be responded to by other great blue or fin whales. The whale’s migration pattern is also unique. It swims alone, podless, and within more southern borders than most filter-feeding whales that migrate way past Alaska to feed. And so this one-of-a-kind mammal has garnered the anthropomorphic title of “The World’s Loneliest Whale.”

When I am roaming downtown to run errands in my wee corner of the world, amidst the bustle and flow of my kin, I often come across a woman who walks up and down King Street to talk to the equidistant parking meters which dot along the edge of each curb. I have never been close enough to hear what she says to them, but it is clear to me that she has a very important and urgent communication to pass along. Although she doesn’t come across as lonely, I would say that she too is on a different channel than the rest of the herd that surrounds her.

When I was four years old, my family moved from our parent’s starter home to a new sub division on Meredith Drive. Because the surrounding area was still under development, lots were not bordered by fences, nor were any lawns seeded. Rather, the space in between each home was a vast sea of dirt. And since we moved in the spring time, our home was really an island within a sea of mud! Soon after our arrival, my older brother, Matt, and I set out to explore our new digs. We took a few boxes, left from the move, and some sticks, found on our property, out into the muddy pools behind our home. The plan was simple: the boxes would be our boats, the sticks, our oars, and the large puddles of water, the gateway to our “New Found Land.” After finding the largest puddle on our lot, and within moments of boarding my cardboard box, I was transformed into a sailor at sea, setting out on an exciting and unbounded adventure! The world around me felt huge and exciting. I could sail anywhere! I was free. Now I look back at this scene from my mother’s point of view. Did she see me from the kitchen window, perhaps whilst washing dishes? I can only imagine her laughter as she watched her daughter, most likely talking out loud to herself, while gleefully sitting in a box wedged in a pile of mud! Okay, perhaps I tune into a “special channel” sometimes, too!

waveOver the past month, I completed Deepak Chopra’s 21-day Meditation Challenge. In it, he describes universal abundance, or unlimited potential, as the stuff that exists in between each thought, or experience of the collective unconscious. It is the soupy void out of which creative thought and all possibilities are born. The meditations made me re-think communication. We don’t know what the World’s Loneliest Whale is communicating or feeling no more that we can know what the woman by my local Farmer’s Market sees in the parking meters. Although I was convinced that my cardboard box was sailing in an endless ocean of possibility, an onlooker’s view would have me stuck in a puddle of mud. Perhaps the interpretation or understanding of a communication isn’t as important as appreciating its source. It is much more interesting to envision each thought, or expression of a thought, as a vast, undulating wave, that arises out of the sea of pure consciousness. In that way, no being is alone, no expression is isolated. All communications are suggestions of something new waiting to be born, heard, or realized. And maybe sometimes they are expressed purely because this soupy void, also known as love, is just too beautiful for silence. Yes, I now see our universe as an exquisite, ever unfolding, Chatty Cathy! Tune in. Take your pick. The channels are endless!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Animals, Destiny, Nature

 

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Be The Artist You Wish to See in the World!

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Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking. By walking one makes the road, and upon glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again. Wanderer, there is no road– Only wakes upon the sea” – Antonio Machado

Think of the song that made you stop what you were doing, look up, and turn a sharp left or right, so that you set your course to a new and unknown horizon with complete conviction. Imagine a painting that stole your attention to the point of timeless adoration until your entire being was transported into the scene. Recall that one book that loosened and rewove every fabric of your being, one strand at a time, with each paragraph, so that you were a completely different person upon reading its last sentence. And envision the dance that made you truly believe that you could walk right off of that fearful and dreaded cliff before you because you finally understood that your heart really did have wings and that it could fly you to any perch of your choosing. When we consider these gifts, offered up to the world by way of the hard working artist, we know that each one is transpersonal – it is much larger than the artist and its recipients combined. It forces us to ask the question, “from where did this communication come and why did it arrive at our doorsteps now?”

Today I want to give thanks to the artist: mother, midwife, medium, watcher, and the gateway between this world, the one before it, and the next. It is easier for most of us to associate heroism with athletes. We imagine them waking up at inhumane hours to fine-tune and evolve their crafts. We expect that they have forsaken all vices for their one love. We can see them honing their skills with incessant and unwavering repetition. But consider what it takes to give birth to an art form that changes the course of history. Yes, there are endless hours spent on fine-tuning skills and technique, but that is just the base from which the artist begins. Beyond that, an artist commits to withstand the effects of extremes and repetitive strain of the heart. To the dedicated artist, the color red, a c#, jeté, and the smoothness of a weathered rock can all feel like and express the same thing. We call this synaesthesia – the ability to hear a color, dance a sound, and/or speak a movement. To be open to that kind of sensing requires more than commitment. It comes at a great cost. To achieve this, one must remove all inhibitions and offer him/herself up to the dark and the great unknown, in strength and in vulnerability, so that what courts and obsesses the heart takes shape through all of the senses. A great book may begin with just a nagging gist that perpetually knocks at the writer’s door. An epic dance may be birthed by one consonant, frequency, and/or rhythm. The gifted artist knows how to answer the call of that first heart beat, not knowing where it may lead, and lets it infuse her being until the life behind the impulse is palpable and the divine is made incarnate.

So the next time you are deeply moved by a work of art, whatever it may be, try to imagine it coming to you before its infancy. What is the root of it all? Better yet, take that understanding and imagine yourself as the artist to your own life’s expression. Watch for the impulse that asks you to stop what you are doing so that you can become something else. Listen for the movement that begs you to change things up, ever so slightly, or drastically! Know when to let go of an old and tired technique and let yourself fumble and sputter through learning a new way of doing things. Let yourself walk into the dark, with no map or candlelight, until you own the one road that is only yours to pave! At that point, the boundary between performer and audience fades, and then and only then, will you become the artist that you wish to see in the world.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Art/Artists, Destiny

 

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Carpe Diem

I take the same route into work each morning. I walk the same trail in the Shorthills during my time off. Committing to common pathways and trajectories allows me to appreciate how a landscape changes and renews itself throughout the seasons. The perpetual motion of life and death creates a sense of intimacy between me and my surroundings. Of course, the obvious drawback is that it can lull me into vaguely blending the movement of change and time, so much so that I fail to witness each moment as a unique snapshot of seen and unseen forces colliding together – never to find its replication again.

Today I offer up thanks for a wonderful awakening. As I glanced off to the left of the highway, towards a hay field that I have seen thousands of times over, I was completely stunned by its breath-taking beauty. This field never struck me as particularly beautiful on previous occasions. But in that moment, the grey and purple hues in the sky blended so well with the green in the trees that the hay was experienced by me as a vivid and undeniable gold – not yellow. And it wasn’t just the color that was striking, it was the way the wind commanded the hay to form beautiful, undulating patterns of waves across the field. All of this was possible because the timing was perfect: the season and weather conditions, the maturity of the crop, the way the field was cut, my mood, the music that I was playing in the car … the list goes on.

This experience reminded me to appreciate moments within the seasons. Although I may be subject to slow and subtle changes, based on the the overarching and prevailing conditions of my life, it is the unbidden moment that has the power to redirect me in very deep and profound ways.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in General

 

The Power of Striking a Pose

I ate my mother-in-law’s chocolate Easter egg! It looked like this one, with a small, but rather telling exception: it had “Mom” inscribed on it, in lovely, white icing – cursive, of course. The plan was that I would head down to the store from where it was purchased and buy a replacement one the next day – a signature move on my part. As a middle child, I am naturally prone to mooching. We live by the creed, “what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine,” liking the later part the best. Conversely, eldest children hate the entire phrase all together! In fact, I’m sure that there is an eldest sibling lobby group out there, right now, attempting to have the creed abolished, while seeking harsher penalties for those who do not get the concept of boundaries.

My signature “mooch and cover” action resulted in a signature consequence. The store had run out of Easter eggs and I was left to fess-up to my transgression. It completely makes sense to me now why I chose to paint a particularly ominous and gloomy ceramic sign during craft time at Bible camp when I was years younger. It read, “Be sure your sins will find you out.” Some deep part of me knew that this would forever be my destiny. I have learned over time that it is pointless trying to cover my transgressions. Consequently, I tend to skip forward to my confession.

So now I must describe to you my signature approach to contrition: striking the “I’m so cute you can’t help but love me” pose. One does not need to kneel for confession. One needs only to look adorable and submissive. Dogs know this very well. Find a torn up leather couch and you will see next to it a culpable canine with his tail between his legs, a hunched back, and forlorn brow. If he is really smart, he will run and fetch a toy – diverting your attention away from the couch and to a more hopeful thought, “you know that you want to play with me …”

My pose looks like this: jazz hands by the face, piano keys smile, a slight tilt to the head, and large, round and softened eyes, as to emulate baby-like innocence. I may follow this pose up with a very kind and thoughtful offer to go and get you a glass of wine or beer – just right out of the blue!

Now before you go thinking that I am a sociopath, I should explain that these signature moves are reserved for rather benign events, such as borrowing a favorite pair of socks or a sweater, accidentally breaking a valued and prized curio, or cutting in line (Ouch! Yes, I do that, but only under special circumstances). The point of the matter is this: we all have signature moves that uniquely communicate our underlying and familiar states and essences. In the example that I just mentioned, I was demonstrating my l’air du culpabilité.

Our bodies are like snow flakes. Each person possesses a unique physical pattern in response to life’s events, injury, and experience of internal/external flows of energy. If you think about your close friends and loved-ones, you can easily pick out a person’s signature smile, laugh, sneeze, gaze, or posture. Dancers have signature moves. Singers have signature sounds. A good actor, such as Meryl Streep, can drop her own tell-tale essence queues and step into character to the point where the onlooker forgets who is behind the body.

My signature posture often results in neck and back pain. A raised hip and shoulder on the left side typically makes me feel like a Picasso rendering. Then there is the lovely protracting turtle neck – a perma-shrug – communicating an anticipatory bracing for life’s next shakedown or perhaps a good old, “doh!”

On a recent road trip, I travelled 14 hours, enduring my signature Picasso pose, which lead to all kinds of discomfort and a desperate visit to my Feldenkrais practitioner. After describing my physical symptoms to the therapist, she asked me how long I let myself just rest before trying some of my helpful Feldenkrais lessons. My answer? I didn’t rest. Rather, I went right into a corrective stance, trying to adjust my left side lift. Then she invited me to start my session by exploring a new approach to working with my pattern. It involved fully entertaining and moving into the direction of the discomfort of the pattern – to slowly accentuate its expression and then to slowly release it and notice what shifted and how it occurred. Much to my surprise, on the release, my posture corrected naturally (doh!).

I imagine that Meryl Streep may use a similar strategy to step into and become the embodiment of her characters. In exaggerating one particular gesture or idiosyncrasy, she can follow the resulting domino effect of other patterns, movements, and feelings that respond in concert while other ones fall away. Eventually she is Maggie Thatcher, Francesca Johnson, or Sophie Zawistowski.

Have you ever thought of changing a habit, something about yourself that you don’t like? Why not try becoming the embodiment of that habit or quality for a moment. Really pay attention to how it feels when you step into its essence and then release it. Listen to it all. See what happens along the way. Resist the urge to change yourself and let the process change you.

I’m off to fully embrace my inner mooch (the letting go part will be bittersweet, even though my preference is milk chocolate). I have 8 months until Christmas to transform myself from a stocking stealer to a stocking stuffer! I’ll use Halloween as my test run.

 

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There is No “I” in “Eye See You”

Here is another item that I would add to my Book of Not So Much: I hate it when a movie takes really good phrase and serves it up to the audience, like a cheap Monterey Jack cheese (that would be Kraft), shredded, and on a bed of emotional goop and slop. Take, for example, James Cameron’s movie, Avatar. I used to like the saying, “I see you.” Post Avatar and its theme songification, this phrase now has humorous appeal, complete with hand gestures (one hand over the heart while the other hand models a back and forth pointing motion from one’s set of eyes to an onlooker). When sentiment is used to manipulate our collective heartstrings, we know that we are being played, and in response, the deepest part of our beings laugh, gag, and scoff at the cheap shot, even though at another level we sob along with the soundtrack and into our super-sized bags of popcorn …. *cries momma!*.

Consume a Meat Lover’s Panormous dish at Pizza Hut and you will remember craving. Savor an artisan pizza and you will remember who you were with at the time, the sounds that serenaded your conversation, and the subtle chorus of spices that change with each mouthful.

Pop culture perverts myth. Although it has the power to reach the masses, it doesn’t sustain us; whereas mythology is spiritual super food. A good story can make us remember our earliest beginnings and imagine our far reaching destination in the future. It fuels our evolution. My recent experience has me reflecting on eyes and sight. And so I turn to story and myth to understand its true power.

The other week, a dear Italian friend told me about the Mediterranean folklore that is behind  “the evil eye,” which in Italy is called “Malocchio.”  A person is given the evil eye if another is jealous of her success, beauty, or good fortune. And in giving Malocchio to one who has enjoyed goodness, a curse is cast upon him in the form of bad luck or misfortune. Although some may intend to cast a spell of bad luck, most often it is done unconsciously, as one cannot always help feeling jealous of another. And so people who fear the curse of the evil eye wear protective amulets: nazars, blue eyes, the Hand of Fatima. The folklore holds that children and animals are most vulnerable to the evil eye, which makes sense, as they are the purest form of beauty and goodness.

Is this folklore too old country and just way out there ? I don’t think so. Consider moments when you had a great idea, a deep desire or hope, or just received good news. It is natural to guard it for a period of time. Sometimes we will say that we don’t want bad luck to wreck the opportunity or we may not want to have the work/art in progress subjected to negative criticism. We need protective space around what is precious and in its earliest stages of development until it reaches maturity. Only then can it withstand the full range of forces that will act upon it once it is released into the cosmos.

Consider another symbol: The Eye of Horus: in this myth, the god, Horus, associated with the sun, sky and falcon, avenges his father’s (Osiris) death. In the process, he loses an eye (and yes, it wasn’t funny). Thoth, a god who is associated with the moon, repairs the eye by piecing the fractional parts back together. The repaired eye, short by 1/64 of what it used to be, was given back to Horus. In return, Horus, gives the new eye to his father, which results in Osiris’ resurrection.

I love the details of this myth. The eye that was lost was the left one. Left is associated with the moon, a reflective source of light. We think of the moon moving tides. And what is most interesting is that the healed eye is slightly off of its original proportions. It is this eye that has the power to heal.

Creative vision is indirect and feminine. Various portions of the moon are visible to us at different points in time in the lunar cycle. And no matter how much light the moon may cast, there is always a reserved fraction that is dark. Imagine that kind of vision! Whereas we think of the sun as exposing, the moon reflects, reveals, and hides – the portion may vary depending on the context.

Back to “I See You.” When we say that to a loved one, we know that we don’t see all of who they are. But the vision is kind and loving. And we know that we want to extend that vision freely, sans jealousy. And for all that is hopeful in that perspective, we also know that it is impossible to offer a complete and unfettered vision of our loved one to them. So we seek and ask for protection for those parts that require more time to develop.

A less ominous and non-threatening version of Malocchio is the stink-eye. Feel free to offer that up anytime you see something that crowds your vision of a kinder-gentler place. One does not need a protective amulet from the dreaded stink-eye, just a bit of humility and humor.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2012 in Destiny, Musings

 

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The Monkey Teapot

When I got home from work yesterday, I sank into my usual afternoon ritual: make a pot of tea, feed the cats, and veg for a few moments before making dinner. To zone out, I turned on the TV, which defaulted to a station that was airing Dr. Oz at that time. In this episode, he was selling tea to [mostly] women as a miraculous elixir for weight loss. As recommended by the visiting expert on tea, women should drink 2 cups of a Chinese tea with breakfast to shrink fat cells, 2 cups of white tea with lunch to speed up fat absorption, 2 cups of a herbal tea in the afternoon to reduce bloating, followed by 2 cups of bilberry tea with dinner to stave off cravings. If anything, he served up to America a sure-fire way to eliminate bladder infections! By the time he was prescribing the bilberry tea, I was in spontaneous eye roll mode and looking for a cosmic lever that I could pull so that some kind and benevolent deity could flush me down the rabbit hole and into a different reality. I patiently wait for my wormhole to arrive.

Why the cynicism? I love tea! It is an ancient beverage that has all kinds of health benefits. And a well made cup of tea on a damp and cold day is the perfect way to garner a bit of comfort.  In fact, I’m a bit of a tea snot. I’ll pay extra for imported and organic brands. I try to take extra care to make my tea just right – not too hot, so the leaves don’t get burned, nor too strong, so I don’t have to blitz it with sugar – and sipping tea out of a glass cup is the final touch of perfection!

So here is what caused the eye roll: I just couldn’t bear the tea expert’s love-in with the words, reduce and control, and how the audience fawned over each and every promise that they could all shrink themselves into neat and tiny managed and contained boxes (at least that is how read in between the lines). I understand the draw. Who hasn’t suffered through years of being stuck and immobilized over something and felt desperate to find some answer or method that would lead to emancipation and success? But seriously, how many times does a dame have to be told, directly or indirectly, to get smaller and to get a better grip on just about every facet of life. Take your pick: body, sex life, home, the children, career, finances? The list goes endlessly on right down to the cellular level. Pretty soon a chick could self-improve her being so much that she can apparate herself right into the ether. Boop!

This family day weekend, my kin had dinner together to celebrate a few special events. As all families do, we dredged up and reminisced over a few favorite family stories. In particular,  the one about the monkey teapot came up. How timely! Years ago, my brother, a starving artist, approached my parents for a bit of financial help to get to the end of the month. My mom gave him one hundred dollars for groceries. Matt took the cash and went out shopping. Instead of buying food, he came across a monkey teapot that looked quite similar to the one in this blog post. Love at first sight! He was so smitten with the teapot that he used the cash to purchase it, even though buying food would be the more logical choice.

We love this story because it speaks to who Matt was and what he valued most. To him sustenance included having access to beautiful things. And through all his moves from Toronto, to Vancouver, Miami, and Mexico, he kept this teapot as one of his few possessions in life.Some of our family members laugh at the teapot. They consider it gaudy and slightly grotesque. Others find it wonderfully quirky. Something in the color and styling of the teapot fit with Matt’s sense of aesthetics. The visual, auditory and kinesthetic signatures that calls to each one of us are so unique. That, to me, is the secret to being one’s best self. Simply let yourself love what it loves. By doing this, on an emotional level, sustenance and satisfaction are naturally reached. It doesn’t require strong arming at all.

The teas that were featured on Dr. Oz may all have amazing medicinal properties for sure. It is wonderful how much of what we need comes from nature. But perhaps we need to better align ourselves with how we approach nature’s pharmacy. Sometimes just letting her beauty speak for itself is good enough!

Want to know my secret to avoiding that dreaded afternoon bloat? Don’t drink so much tea!

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Art/Artists, Brothers

 

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