Dear Friends who live in Cities

IMG_2143Dear friends who live in cities, in urban centres with concrete and towers and suburbs… how do you do it? How do you live without berries underfoot and hills to climb and rivers to dip your toes in? How do you pass your days without escape?

How do you make your way from 8:30 am Monday to 5pm Friday without a climb, a walk, a deep spruce tip infused breath? How do you navigate a week without air too big to gulp and skies too large to see?

I love your cities. I love the fast and the bright and plentiful, the rich and delicious. I love the available and the nearby and the best… but I long for dirt. I long for air and odour, unexpected fungus erupting from moist ground and moss.

My too long week is eased, aided, tempered by yellow leaves and spongy ground. My bad days are righted by rain on lichen and the snap of dead branches underfoot. My therapy is a walk alone in the woods.

Dear friends who live in cities, where do you go to breathe? How do you live without a berry patch?

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Aside

Take a walk and call me in the morning…

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Sometimes I believe I know things; I’m known and what I say has weight,  my words can be included – they have merit. Other times, like today, I believe the value of my words is almost entirely dependent on whether my audience deems them worthy. That’s not blog speak; that’s life speak. I’ve been reminded this weekend that it doesn’t take much to silence me. That surprises me…  that it is sometimes dead easy to make me simply shhhhhh. To stop talking. To lose confidence in my own voice.

That sucks.

I felt that today…badly. But then, I took a walk in nature… a hike. I walked with a good friend along a ridge overlooking an achingly beautiful river bend; swans below, ravens and eagles just overhead and magpies calling from the trees. Ha. No silence there… no silence outside or inside of me. I am thankful for the walk, for the insane beauty all around me, for the snowless ground and the startling gift of a few extra days of autumn sunshine in the Yukon.

I came back calmer, more peaceful… confidence in my voice restored. Perspective; it’s out there, thank goodness. Sometimes you just need to take a walk to find it.

Gratitude, Joy and Land Sickness

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Last weekend I swam naked in the inky sea at midnight under a billion stars. The sea was filled with the magic that makes phosphorescence… I became a glow stick. A giggling, swirling, giddy glow stick. If I raised my hand out of the water, a thousand stars trickled down my fingers and arm back into the glittery sparkly sea. It was magic. Pure magic.

I spent three days with friends who exist entirely outside of my normal life. They have never been to my home, never met my family, my husband. They’ve never seen me in my space, my comfort zone. They don’t know my work, my reputation, my art, nothing outside what I have told them. They know only the me that exists when I am away from my responsibilities and the weight of expectation.  They like me, and I like them. Interestingly, I have never seen them in their day to day either. They live in another city and we met through mutual friends. Every time we’ve visited it’s been an event outside of the ordinary, and that’s amazing and freeing.

I am not one to swim naked at midnight under any kind of sky, as a rule. I’m also not one to sit for three days on the bow of a sailboat imagining a life quite different from the one I have. I am rarely still…I am rarely aware enough to notice things like the wonder of phosphorescence… like the frequent passage of satellites overhead.

I want to be someone who swims naked. I want to be someone who lays back on the deck of a boat and gazes upward. I want more time to gaze…

As with anything else, if you want change, you’ve gotta step up and make change. It’s in the wind… change.

If you find phosphorescence in your life… anywhere, I recommend jumping in. Naked. And if you feel a bit land sick when you come ashore, well that’s a small price to pay, don’t you agree?

Beer from Heaven

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The wilderness of the Northwest Territories is an unusual honeymoon destination, but that’s where my new husband and I headed when we were married 21 years ago. Our courtship had included a wilderness river canoe trip on the Beaulieu River and we returned there after the wedding.  The 7 day trip was a major feat of planning, requiring a float plane to get us in and another to get us out. Packing required military discipline…nothing extraneous, nothing heavy. This was important as our first day had something like 13 portages (oh bliss).

Bug spray was the top of the list as far as liquids in our luggage; we carried a small flask of Grand Marnier and a 6 pack of beer to begin the trip. After it was gone, we were drinking river water. Period. Our wedding was early July, and even in Canada’s north the days get pretty hot… after those river chilled beer were emptied and the cans crushed and packed…. well, you can imagine how good they tasted in retrospect.

We were paddling down a fairly narrow stretch of river, about the width of a secondary highway.  In the middle of the river about a kilometre away was a small island, preceded by a few large rocks -each about the size of a small car, emerging from the water.  The nearest of these large rocks was taller than it was wide;  pointing up at the sky from the icy river  with a small, flat ledge on top.

And now, picture us for a moment… sun baked, about the 4th day of our trip, hot and paddling in our swimsuits.

As we approached the first rock…. we both blinked, shook our heads, looked at each other and back at the rock. Incredulous, eyes bugging in disbelief, a giggle bubbled out of first me, then him. Not a word of a lie… perched as if waiting for us atop the rock… a six pack of Labatts Blue. How the hell?! Was it a mirage? Were we hallucinating?  Was it beaver fever?! As we got closer we could see it was indeed a six pack of beer, and amazingly it still had the plastic rings holding it together. What?!!

We paddled a lot faster, suddenly… pulling up alongside this rock; Tim leaped from the canoe and scrambled up to the shimmering, gleaming prize balanced at its pinnacle. He looked at it and hollered OH MAN! The cans aren’t even OPENED!!!

This was heaven…this was manna from heaven! He reached out, grabbed the six pack and lifted it triumphantly overhead, letting out a loud bark of surprised laughter. I laughed along with him… even more when water started pouring from the thousands of tiny puncture holes all over each of the cans.

Unopened, they had obviously gone overboard when some previous paddlers dumped. Battered by the rocks their golden contents had long since been replaced by… river water.

Although  unsure who had placed the trophy on its perch to tempt and torment us, we were not about to mess with success.  When we stopped laughing, Tim carefully replaced the cans where he had found them, high above the water, ready to glint in the sunlight and play siren to the next paddlers to come down river.

I mean really…. wouldn’t you have done the same?

Found at the side of the road…

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I spend a fair bit of time walking, running, cycling the roads and trails of the Yukon. I have a mental gallery of images of  the sometimes bizarre items I’ve seen abandoned roadside… shoes of course, but clothes, underwear, tools and more. Expand the “roadside” idea further and we’ve found a saw in a tree during a shore lunch, a six pack of beer perched perfectly atop a rock in the middle of a wilderness river and so on.

The find that prompted me to finally do something about creating a place for all this weird random lost stuff was recent. I walked from my office to Starbucks for an afternoon coffee in June and saw, lying sadly in the gravel at my feet, broken dentures. Two pieces of eery pink plastic and chiclet teeth laying there, never again to fulfill their purpose. That’s a find I chose to leave where it lay…

So I’ve created a Facebook page entitled Found at the Side of the Road. It’s intended as a gallery of images and stories of these sometimes inexplicable finds. If you have a photo I invite you to share it. If you don’t know the story I welcome you to make one up…it might be fun.

If you don’t have a photo please, tell us the story anyway. I’ve got a great story about that six-pack of beer on the rock that I’ll tell you someday. I hope you’ll come on over and share.

And maybe someday I’ll fulfill a crazy personal dream I’ve had for a long time; a curated exhibit of single shoes found roadside…. hahahaha! Maybe I can get a Canada Council art grant… maybe lost soles can be reuinited at last!

Come on over and join the Facebook page.