Friday, August 27, 2010

August 27 ... family reunions...

Ok so I'm a little nervous - hence the mass amounts of grocery shopping I have done over the last two days. That's what I do... I guess.. It calms me down when the fridge is over flowing.. I know this about  myself ... insight is ever only half that battle.. that's what I tell my clients :-). At least I'm not eating it all by myself.

So the girls are on their way with their boys, and Archie. And tomorrow son and my father are joining us, and by evening time there will likely be a full house.

I have decided this is going to be nice, calm, fun.... all the things our family wasn't through the years. If you believe something is possible.. then it is, no?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26 .... outta my head...

I'm grateful for my work. It gives me the opportunity to focus on someone else. Too often it's so hard to pull yourself out of your own drama. Let me rephrase that. Too often I have a hard time pulling myself out of my own drama. I like owning my stuff. Sometimes - when times are tough and relationships fraught with whatever, I can get caught up, or shut down, or numb, or rageful, or sad ...... so much so it gives me a splitting headache. I was there today - headache and all. Then I went to work. I worried it would really affect my work. Perhaps that's why it didn't - affect my work that is, because I paid attention to it. By the end of my work - no headache, no knot in the stomach, no sadness, no rage. Sometimes you just need to get outside of yourself - as a way to let things go. Wish I could bottle that.

I had a nice dinner out with Honey. Our last night alone before the arrival of Archie - who will inevitably change our lives without even trying. He will be bringing much needed light and joy into this house once all the grandkids leave.

I'm a little whooped from the drama - but not so much that I can't stand back and be grateful for what is fine and right and good in my life...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August 25 .... visitors...

Young daughter of mine and grandson Levi arrived this morning. Everyone is safe and sound and as I write, asleep. Levi is such a joyful baby. He demonstrates a great curiosity.  After having flown all night (all right he did more sleeping than flying, but still) .. he remained calm in my arms, as long as I angled him so he could watch everyone - while his mother went off in search of her luggage. Later in the day, while we were shopping, the same thing - he remained calm, interested, observant ... was quite the thing to behold. In the tub - he is calm, happy, as relaxed a baby as I have ever seen in the water. And always with the smiles...

Ok so sue me, I'm besotted with my darling grandson. He can do no wrong - even his crying is sweet, not annoying, almost inviting.

In two days middle daughter comes with monkey Jakob. He is also curious, funny, full of life and love. I can't wait!

What a salve to this aching heart, what a salve.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24 .... Perseverance.. and kisses

We are keeping at it, Honey and I. Keep reaching out.

I was rushing a lot today. We began our day with a great cycle. Came home and ran out shortly to clients at the office. I got to come home for lunch. I decided that I would go out to buy some of the things we needed for the arrival of Archie the pooch. I rushed back home - dumped the stuff - and had to run back to the office for more clients. As I was running to my car, Honey opened the front door, called out to me, pursed his lips asking for a kiss. My step was light as I ran back into his arms.

Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23 ... perseverance and persistence...

I imagine that the fact that Honey and I have been sailing some pretty stormy seas seems pretty obvious from my posts of late. It's been hard, on both of us. Neither one of us having an clear idea of what is causing the malaise, the distancing, the sadness and loneliness that has been growing like a bad weed between us. After 20 and half years... it seems you really do have to work at things sometimes to keep them floating, growing, nurturing.

We talked again. I feel like we pierced something last night, that some important truth surfaced, made things understandable. Where to go from here? We don't really know, but fortunately it feels like a "we" again - however tenuous, fragile, unsure ... it's a "we".

I'm not sure if it's the specter of mid-life, the realization of time left, the experience of crossing things off your list because you know or believe you won't get to them, existential stuff... there is a deep and heavy sadness that lives among us - and "we" are going to figure this out. We are. I'm not going anywhere.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

August 22 ... weekends...

Another weekend of gratitude - spent with friends at their cottage. Yesterday Honey and I went on a major cycle - scenic, challenging, fun, rainy but OK. I felt strong, up to the task, glad for the opportunity.

Time with our friends was good, too much food and indulgence, lots of resting.

We watched Cesar Milan - the Dog Whisperer dude... preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of Archie.  I realize I'm cathecting an awful lot of hope onto that poor puppy. Please let him be the salve we're looking for.

I think however Honey and I are coming down with some kind of cold. So this is short and sweet.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

August 19... dog days of summer

We are having the nicest summer we've had in years. So after a super frustrating morning of taking care of dad things again - found me out tending to gardens, cutting grass, picking tomatoes, and pitying my squash plant. At some point we will celebrate because I will in fact harvest ONE spaghetti squash! One! Which, on the grateful side of things, is better than none!

I have been reading up on puppy training and the like. Today, I am very excited (same physiological response right - panic, excitement - it's all in the head after that??) about Jackson's arrival next week. Best to be prepared.

I'm in a good place today. That cycle did wonders, and a weekend of that coming up sounds good to me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August 18 .. sorta bittersweet I guess...

So I did a big cycle today, easily 45K. It was great. Wasn't arduous.. seriously Ireland really did a number on me! So I cycled out to my girlfriend' s in Pointe Claire. Dinner plans didn't pan out for no real reason - totally fine. I get on my bike to go home. I have a major hypoglycemic something or other.. and you know what so big deal (that's the inner critic looking for an excuse for what follows). Stay with me. I decide, based on the sugar drop, I really would like to stop at the St. Ambroise brewery - they have nice pints and a BBQ, how wrong could anyone go with that? For whatever reason, sometimes for no real reason, sometimes for no good reason, all these years we have been cycling that path, we never stopped - couldn't, wouldn't, shouldn't - in the end didn't.

The things you do when you are alone are different I guess. I stopped. I LOVED it. Never has a pint and those Tostito chips they throw in with the sausage sandwich ever tasted SO good! I didn't feel bad being alone either. And no, that does not mean it would have sucked had "someone" been with me. What I am saying is - is that being alone was perfectly lovely, the ambiance was perfectly lovely, the food and the vibe and I, were perfectly lovely. 

Personally - I find that kind of bittersweet. 

I'm grateful for my strength, my body's endurance, St. Ambroise Cream Ale, my perseverance, my self, endorphins, the cycle, the weather .. it was a perfect night. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August 17 ... the cat's out of the bag...

I broke the news to Honey today, it's still settling in. We will be acquiring a new pooch. A puppy pooch as a matter of fact, and while I woke up at four this morning in a panic about it - I know in my heart of hearts it will be a very good thing for this household.

This is an awfully big house for two people - and sometimes, lately, the space has been made even bigger of our own volition. I have a hope and a prayer that Jackson, that is his name, will fill some of that sad, lonely space up. And I know enough to know that is not a good enough only reason, and it's not.  My other reason for inviting a pooch into my life is that I love what a dog makes you feel: loved, cherished, loving and cherishing, like you have a friend, like you can be a great friend, like its important to be happy, like nothing is so bad that a good ball throw or walk can't fix.

I'll post a pick when I can.

Welcome Jackson, I'm looking forward to meeting you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16 ... keeping up!

Well.. yes, I have been slacking here lately - and young daughter gave me a piece of her mind. "It was fine while you were in Ireland - but now you're slipping! Come on Mom!".... uh, ok :)..

So the last few days have been nice, calm, loving even... that's nice.

Last night we had dinner with new friends. We were supposed to go to a free outdoor opera - to celebrate the end of Italian week. We went, set up our chairs - and then the heavens opened and gave us a monsoon of sorts. That was fun .. we were completely soaked by the time we got back to their home. Towels, borrowed clothes, jasmine tea and pie.... that wasn't too bad of an alternative to tell the truth.

In 9 days young daughter and little Levi arrive. Two days later, we'll be joined by middle daughter and Jakob! I am excited! The family therapist in me .. never mind that .. the mother in me is a little nervous.. excited, but hoping the ugly history of our family stays at rest just once.. and just long enough to love each other and have a good time. How wonderful it is that we are getting the opportunity to do just that! That weekend, the last weekend in August, we will be having a family jamboree of sorts, with my son and father in tow as well as friends of the family and possibly other surprises!!

Life's a hopping these days .... nice way to know you're alive.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 14.... summer evenings when we're all in the groove...

It was a wonderful day. A cycle in a new place (I wasn't too crazy about the place - industrial Beauharnois, meh - what the hell is with Velo Quebec?)... but a good and nice cycle nevertheless, waterside picnic... We come home, Honey and I, with a minimum of bickering, which is much to be grateful for. We opt for a dinner at home, the two of us on the deck. We work together to make it lovely. We bring out the portable stereo thing and have an evening of loveliness, good food, good imbibing, good conversation, and good music. It's beautiful out tonight in many more ways than one.

I gotta tell you, after the months of feeling not good here at home, it sure is absolutely lovely to have an evening of connection and care like tonight.

I am truly grateful.

Friday, August 13, 2010

August 13 ... Sir Paul...

I had the privilege to see Sir Paul McCartney last night. This is as close as I ever got to the Beatles thing. Actually it was unbelievable. It was unbelievable to be there and hear Let it Be, Hey Jude, The Long and Winding Road, Blackbird for God's sake... I have never cried at a concert but last night I did and I can't even tell you from where that sprang. Music, as Oliver Saks and many others have written, reaches into primordial space with in us. It ties itself to emotional memories, and can evoke them.. in some way I'm kind of thinking that's what happened last night.

Then there is the energy factor - I am ashamed to say that a 68 year old man far out lasted me, and most of the people in the audience. At one point I thought, finish already, I'm exhausted! And he just kept on going. Paul McCartney has to be one of the most generous musicians I have been lucky to see. Yes the tickets were expensive but for a change, they were worth every penny - and he made sure of it. He was engaging with the audience, calling up a lucky Jessica to get her arm "signed" so that she could get a tattoo, and another young lady got her dress signed. He read the signs held up by people in the audience - and responded to them. He shared tidbits - and I'm sure he does this all the time, and I'm sure its part of the script and show - but he makes it feel very personal. Maybe thats the emotional leverage his music gives him... you're hooked from the first note... when you first start singing, you're in your living room (in my case it was the basement) listening to those records that you played over and over and over again. See, I'm tearing up all over again...

Then there is the group phenomenon. Holy shit can 18,000 people make a lot of noise! There was no doubt that Sir Paul felt the love last night. From the second he stepped out - actually it was a few seconds before he did, there was such a surge of cheering and screaming - the papers this morning dubbed it The Roar.. no kidding. Throbbing, pulsing, LOUD, loving, you could feel it... and the singing .... we were one voice joining with Paul.. again.. like in the basements of our youth... belting out the words to songs we will surely remember when our dementia sets in. That's not as crazy as you might think.

I'm grateful to have shared a history last night. I'm grateful that back in 1960 something, when my parents bought their stereo console, and were given 75 free records as part of the deal, they got the Beatles Hard Days Night album... without that I would have grown up with Heinte and Elvis Presley only ... and let me tell you THAT is something to be grateful for.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 11..... the quiet beauty...

I am going to try and make this a pictorial blog today. Pictures you are going to see are courtesy of the lovely Diane Holloway, Melba Atkinson, and myself. Seeing these sights personally, took my breath away... so words, in my mind, won't do them any justice.... enjoy.

Thank you Diane, I'm honoured to post this...

Thank you lovely Melba....

The peace and solitude of Aran Island.....

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August 10... the Stones of Ireland...

It seems to me that Ireland has an intimate relationship with stone. I suppose if it didn't, the ruins that we so admire would be long gone. The Galway region I am told, has a particular fetish, every where you look 3 foot high stone fences fill the landscape. I didn't think much of it at first, but then the sheer number of these - the miles and miles of them ... and to think that each stone was laid, someone's hand touched each and every stone. These are not apparitions of the earth, but intentional, mindful, thought out stones that have been laid in order that they maintain their stability, define a boundary, protect the animals, perhaps even give a purpose to the stone!

As you cycle through the region there are literally hundreds of "ruins", although there is no real way to tell if they are from 2000, 1900 or 1800 or beyond. Billy the Tour Guide explained that many were abandoned during the Great Potato Famine.

The picture above is a ruin that apparently dates back to the 1400's if I'm not mistaken. It's across the road from the Croagh Patrick. That mountain (Croagh = Mountain in Gaelic?) is an honoured and religious place which many people come to and climb as a pilgrimage.

The Irish use stone to build homes, fences, monuments, to hounour their dead.

On the tour in the Dingle Peninsula, there were "beehive" shaped buildings that date to B.C. that they are now preserving.

The Irish's relationship with stone is such that on the Aran Island, Mother Nature even spits the stones back at the land by virtue of the ocean. You are warned not to walk along a certain part of the coast there as you could get hit with a stone!

I wonder at the stories that could be told about these ruins. Whose lives happened here, whose deaths, what joys and sufferings? The landscape of Ireland speaks to me of endurance, of an impenetrable spirit that will last .... like the stones that so define them.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August 8 ... a wee bit o' Irish

So the next chapter in the Irish story was that the day after the mountain challenge, we cycled the Delphi Valley. What spectacular landscape. Lakes dot the valley, and these amazing green yet treeless mountains rise up on either side. The last 7 km (at least) of that day's cycle ended in a torrential downpour. That sucked - but we made it and were stronger for it, and hallelujah, this B & B had bathtubs! So all was good. Had I had a place to write a blog that day it would have been all about the wonders of a hot bubble bath.

Then came the day of the long cycle day - 73km from Lenanne to Roundstone. I was worried, I mean 73 Km - jaysus, how would I manage. And of course my stubborn pride assured me there was no way in hell I would make use of the van! So off we went. More stories will come I am sure, of our long trek, which in the end didn't seem so long thanks to the wind at our back...for at least 20 - 30 km. We didn't even notice that until we had to turn right to go to Roundstone proper, and we all nearly got knocked off our bikes. In 73 km you cover a lot of territory. In the Conemarra region, you cover so many different landscapes that when thinking back to it, it's hard to grasp that all these things were seen and happened on the same day.

We crossed our first "bog". For whatever reason, Ireland doesn't have fields with "earth" in them, it's "peat". They harvest this peat and use it for fuel. It's this fuel in their fireplaces that makes Ireland smell as good as it does. We were in valleys of farmland, saw those small stone fences everywhere, saw what is called the Twelve Bens - the mountain range that sort of encircled us through the bog. Amazing.

Upon arriving in Roundstone everyone except Honey (oh well) said to hell with our rooms and changing, we're having a pint right now! So we sat outside of our hotel, stinky and sweaty and spent and happy, on this tiny strip of street that was Roundstone, and soaked up the grandness of what we had accomplished. We made it, through clouds, and rain and wind and loveliness, we made it.

I loved Roundstone. As a matter of fact I think it may have been my favourite little town. It's where we had the day off (next day). They have a spectacular bay and beach a 6 km walk away, which we did the next day.

The evening of our second night in Roundstone was definitely a peak moment. To begin with, our friends, Team L.A., and Honey and I were excited about our upcoming dinner. We had read the menu at the restaurant we thought we would be eating at and were salivating at the great seafood options. Team L.A. are a lovely young couple, they are both teachers, voracious readers, appreciators of good food, liberal, open and curious, and just a real pleasure to hang out with. As dinner time came, Billy the tour guide said we were not in fact in that restaurant but upstairs. The four of us decided to sneak out and have the seafood offerings downstairs - and were we glad we did! Never have I tasted oysters so fresh and delicious - like the sea. The fish curry had to be the best I have ever had. The four of us sharing appetizers of crab, mussels, prawns (huge ones!) and oysters that were all fished out that day! There came a moment where none of us spoke - we were all too busy enjoying!

We were told that after dinner there was a local concert, and if we really wanted to enjoy Irish culture this would be the place to go. I had thought that it would be an outdoor concert, but no, it was held in the local community hall - and the funds they collected were to support that.

When we walked in, on stage were seated about 15 people from the ages of 10 to 90 something. Each person was a musician. I was taken aback by the coming together of the generations. Such respect one for the other, such importance was placed on passing the knowledge to the young people, of accepting this gift from the elders. The emcee's grandson was a 7 year old dancer. There were Shamus (I'm sure I  have that word wrong) dancers, a girl of ten who wowed the audience, a boy of six, two others in their teens, all excellent, all committed to their craft, all proud. They have steps that are particular to their family and that have been handed down for many generations. A 90 year old man, born and raised in the community, was invited up to sing. He sang a love song, part English part Gaelic. As he croaked out the tune "When Ireland is free, I'll come back and marry thee.." you heard people stifle sobs in the audience. The women behind me, long time, life time members of this tiny community, sang quietly under their breath. Another two men got up - both easily over 80, they regaled us with several Gaelic tunes, and again the women behind me singing along. I looked back at them, admired them, they flashed warm smiles at me. Another gentleman played an instrument I have never seen. Probably belonging to the family of bagpipes, he played such a mournful tune it hit me to the core. I couldn't help but think how perfect it would have been to hear that music while cycling through the Delphi Valley - I suppose Irish music is inspired by their landscape. More kids danced. Then a group of 8 adults got up to show the audience Irish step dancing. What fun! Near the end of the show they called out to the audience. They needed 16 dancers - come up and learn.. don't be shy. I had ants in my pants and couldn't resist. So I grabbed Team Vancouver's arm, and hauled her up with me!!! We danced the Irish, with the Irish, and hooted and howled and twirled and skipped as we tripped over ourselves, and were privy and invited in to this loveliness.

The Emcee kept repeating how vitally important it was for the Gaelic in this community to carry on their culture and language and how proud she was of all the children that were rising to the challenge. Her passion was contagious. And when the old men got up to sing and play - we all understood that yes indeed, many things are worth preserving.

I will forever be grateful for how I felt welcome. How privileged I was to have witnessed that show, that  community, that commitment. And for being given the opportunity to dance a wee bit o' the Irish.

Friday, August 6, 2010

August 6 ... of sheep and sheep and cupcakes...

Before we ambled up that mountain that I wrote about yesterday, our tour guide Billy, told us about an agricultural fair that was happening just 5 km down the road. He told us that if we were relying on the folk that were waitressing us, or B & Bing us, we weren't really ever going to meet any authentically Irish folk and that going to the agricultural fair would give us a peek at the real McCoy. So we went...

Who knew that there were at least 20 different kinds of sheep. There were men there testing them for what I assumed was durability or strength, checking teeth and ears, and rubbing the fur between their fingers. There were prizes to be awarded for the best sheep in each category - blue faced sheep (I'm serious), dread lock sheep, crinkle wool sheep - I was fascinated. There was a first, second and third prize for just about everything. There were horses - some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, their owners walking them proudly in a large sweeping circle while the judges did their thing. Under the big tent there were muffins, breads, cookies - all qualifying for a prize. Honey and I both enjoyed an award winning cupcake. There was hand made jewelery, quilts, knitted things - on and on it went.

Near the back of the tent was a board - it had tacked on to it colouring book pages - children had coloured the pictures and the picture of the rooster won first prize. I can't tell you how touching I found that to be. They were honouring everyone, young and old, and even the animals that offered them sustenance, companionship, livelihood.

Before we left we met a man who had this amazing dog - it looked like the first dog you see in the Purina slow motion commercial - youtube it, it's great. We spent time talking to him. He told us his wife wanted to enter their pooch in the contest, the Dog Show contest - that's where she was now, arranging it. He thought it was hilarious, he was being all bashful and shy. We asked if he had groomed his dog for the occasion and he said no the pooch always looks like that. It was nice, friendly, inviting, lovely...

I'll never forget the colouring book page of the rooster, with a big first prize ribbon on it. The child in me felt very honoured.

But really - I loved the sheep! Get a load of the curly-que! I can't imagine what this weighs on the poor things head!

And check out the little guys "fur" below. I bought a scarf for Mrs. Mooka and it's exactly the same wool! Crazy!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

August 5 .... Peak Experience #1 - head up in the clouds.

All right, I had a reprieve.  So we get to Dublin, and I loved Dublin. Crazy, bustling, funky, noisy, old, architecturally totally interesting, there's a castle in the middle of the city - I mean come on! Our holiday was split into three parts: three days in Dublin, 7 days cycling the Connemara region, 3 days in Killarney, and the last night in Dublin, then home. These next few posts are pieces of the adventure...

I have to share that my first peak experience came when I got to the top of the Partry Mountain that we had to cycle up and over on our first day. Holy Cow ... what an amazing feeling. I was communing with nature, I was cycling through a cloud, a real cloud, I was talking to sheep, I was inspiring myself, having biblical moments - maybe I was hallucinating because of the effort required to cycle up a mountain? I don't know. I felt at one with God and the universe a number of times. All along the road we were cycling up, someone had the kind heart to paint how much further there was to go, cheering us on from another time and dimension so it seemed. At the beginning I didn't realize what the painted messages were. Finally at the top of the mountain there was a sign saying I had made it! When I came to that spot I was alone, Honey having cycled on ahead of me. We were a group of 21, all of us in our own head space, challenging ourselves to make it, to not give up, to keep pushing - this despite wind, rain, clouds, a vertical ride rather than a horizontal one! I was alone up there - and it was stupendous. The scene when I crested the mountain totally breathtaking. I cried. I was overwhelmed, feeling like the beauty and grandness of the mountain was going to swallow me up.

And yes, that is a cloud you see just behind me, and yes, it really is that low, or I really am that high :)

That, was peak experience number one.

August 5 .... reflections...

Well hello everyone. I'm back from Ireland. I have lots of stories to share. However, I'm so mindf*&^ed from jet lag I can't think straight enough to write what I want to write.

So I'm just letting you know I'm here, I had an awesome time in Ireland. I aim to write about the several peak experiences I had, about people I met, about things I saw.

Happy Day ... see you tomorrow.