Oct 23, 2014

What a difficult and emotional few days it has been for the whole country. There was a lot to think about during and after the shootings in Ottawa, but I find my thoughts circling back to a few things. 

The first is an interview with Barbara Winters, who ran BACK to the war memorial after she heard the gunfire and was one of many people who tried to aid Nathan Cirillo. "I told him you are loved. You are brave. You are good," she said. It was one of the most moving pieces I've ever heard on As It Happens. 

I find myself also thinking about Kevin Vickers, the House's sergeant-at-arms who some credit with shooting the shooter, preventing anyone else from getting hurt. And I keep going back and mulling over something Margaret Wente wrote about Vicker in the Globe and Mail

He has made a career of reaching out to Muslims, Sikhs, First Nations, and others who haven’t always been included in this country. When the Idle No More movement marched on Parliament Hill, he formally exchanged tobacco with a First Nations chief and said, “I understand your frustration. I understand the conditions in which you people live and I also understand the importance of tobacco and what it means as not only a gift, but as a sign of respect for your people.” After the Quebec National Assembly banned the kirpan, he made sure the ceremonial dagger would be allowed in the House of Commons. As he told one gathering of Sikhs, he doesn’t like the word “tolerance.” “No,” he said. “As head of security, I am going to accept and embrace your symbol of faith within the Parliamentary Precinct....."I told them that if they made me their sergeant-at-arms, there would be no walls built around Canada’s parliamentary buildings,” he said.

Oct 15, 2014

Experiences, not things

I've been trying hard to get outside more often. I think it's good for my headspace. On Thanksgiving Monday, the young man and I went to the valley to have lunch in Pete Luckett's vineyard and to hike Cape Split. Here's the view at the end of the hike. The sun was setting on a day filled with glad things.

And today I went on another hike with my friend S. We walked up into the backlands to look down over the south shore coastline. We've started doing more together on Wednesdays, when most other people are at work. It's restful. We always end up doing something new. Today after the hike we visited a blacksmith she knows, who invited us back to make hooks in the forge someday. Later, we climbed up on her roof and looked out at the bay. I always feel happy when we're out doing things together. I think that's because I'm not thinking of anything except what is happening at the moment.

The Atlantic published an article last week about buying experiences, not things. "When you can't live in a moment, they say, it's best to live in anticipation of an experience," author James Hamblin writes.

On the roof in the sunshine I was just happy to be there, with maybe a touch of pleasant anticipation for the next time we do something. It's a good place to be.

Sep 11, 2014

Summer Vacation

September already? The summer was too short, as always. Got to wonder where it goes. 

I spent most of it working. Some of the stories that stick in my mind include two parents searching for their missing daughter, concerns about a new policy for ESL teachers, and pro wrestling (which included a crash course in arm locks). This August I took a crash course in sailing as well. I sailed many summers in my teens. It was wonderful to get back on the water at Bedford Basin Yacht Club. I kept running all summer and explored some new trails around Halifax. I'll be doing another 5k in the MEC Race 4 at the end of this month. Also, I finally started working on how to throw a baseball properly. I mentioned this goal that I'd been procrastinating about to my friend A, who went and got me a baseball and also told me to look up Mo'ne Davis, the 13-year-old star Little League pitcher. Now that's throwing like a girl. 

For the Labour Day weekend I went up to northern Nova Scotia. My friend F told me long ago to get up to Cape D'Or. There is a cottage there that used to belong to the lighthouse keeper. Now it is a guesthouse. 

I kept the window open at night to hear the ocean on the rocks below the cliff. Sometimes you can hear it, and sometimes you can't. 

Two conflicting streams of tide come together at Cape D'Or. They call it the Dory Rips, and it was roaring away when I first arrived. I've never seen the ocean act like that anywhere else. The Dory Rips crashes especially when the tide is turning and you can see the waves churning just beyond the lighthouse point and the rocks. But sometimes - I think when the tide is fully in or out - it is silent at Cape D'Or. The "lighthouse keeper" and owner of the guesthouse is Darcy. 

We stood out after dinner and listened and it was absolutely quiet in the dark. He said sometimes he turns off the fridge and all the lights just so he can hear the silence better. That's how quiet it is; you can hear the refrigerator going when you're standing at the cliff. 

And on one day of the year, if the conditions are exactly right, you can look east across the Bay of Fundy and the sun comes up and sends a beam of light right through the split in Cape Split across to Cape D'Or. It only lasts for a minute, and you can only see it if there's no haze or fog. In 15 years at the lighthouse Darcy has only seen it twice. The day is around August 29 or so. I missed it by two days, though with the fog I wouldn't have seen it anyway. But it was charming and quiet and lovely, and I'm glad I made it up there at last. 

Jul 21, 2014

The Laughing Heart

Last week I threw a party. It was a no-reason party, a let's-celebrate-because-we-can party. A dozen people came. We ate off mismatched plates and drank the wine from mason jars and used every last spoon in the drawer. Everyone had a good time.

My friend E stopped to look at my fridge. Many people look at my fridge for entertainment when they come over. This is my fridge.


E found a poem tacked to the fridge and got rather excited and came over and said, "I used to have that poem written down in the front of a book, but I lost it and I never knew its name or the author, and here it is on your fridge!" This is the poem.

The Laughing Heart

your life is your life 
don't let it be clubbed into dank submission. 
be on the watch. 
there are ways out. 
there is a light somewhere. 
it may not be much light but 
it beats the darkness. 
be on the watch. 
the gods will offer you chances. 
know them. 
take them. 
you can't beat death but 
you can beat death in life, sometimes. 
and the more often you learn to do it, 
the more light there will be. 
your life is your life. 
know it while you have it. 
you are marvelous 
the gods wait to delight 
in you.

Charles Bukowski

I asked E how she came to lose the book. She said, "I had a friend who was going through a rough time, and she seemed to need it more than me. So I gave it to her." I said things we love tend to come back around. Maybe that didn't make sense. Maybe it wasn't, in the strictest sense, true. But we were happy and it felt true at the time. 

So anyway, here it is. I'm posting it for someone who needs it more than I do. Be on the watch. 

Jun 25, 2014

First 5k complete

A couple of months ago I told you that I was training for my first five kilometre race ever. Well, I ran it on Sunday and I'm very pleased to say I hit all my goals. It was the MEC Halifax Race 3, along the Salt Marsh Trail and Cole Harbour Heritage Park. A beautiful run through a forested area - but damn those hills!

I ran with a friend, which made the time seem shorter. I finished in 34 minutes exactly, which isn't going to win me many prizes, but I was satisfied. I thought my time would be between 35 and 37 minutes. Also, the more important goal: I didn't stop to walk once. It was awfully hard on the last hill, but I kept thinking about something that happened to me during training:

A few weeks back I was struggling to get over the 20-25 minute mark. I run with my phone, which has an app that counts down several different markers. I try not to watch the clock, but during one particularly tough run I glanced at the timer, thinking, "It's got to be time to stop."

There were six more minutes left on the clock. I gritted my teeth and settled in for six more minutes of pain, when suddenly the bell rang to end the run. I'd mis-read the timer. Instead of six more minutes, there were 60 more seconds to go. But I'd been mentally prepared to go farther, which made all the difference. 

May 27, 2014

The World Cup


It's almost time for the World Cup again. Hard to believe four years have passed. Sadly, I can't take a road trip like I did last time, but I will watch when I can. Normally I'm not huge on football but I can see there's an elegance to it, this beautiful game. I like the energy and the feeling of being united with other people around the world. 

My friend O, for example, took this picture of people celebrating on College Street in Toronto after the Spanish win in 2010. She told me it was incredible. She wanted me to be there with her on top of the streetcar, but I know at that very moment I was in the orange Netherlands camp in Halifax, and we were all a little let down because we'd just lost, but it was okay because it's just football and we were all there together. 

I'll be with you in spirit!


May 14, 2014

25 minutes and counting

I cracked 25 minutes of straight running yesterday. It's still tough for me, but two months ago I would never have said that was possible. 

I also worked out my run time. It's somewhere between 6.1 and 6.6 minutes to a kilometre. I'm told this is on the slow side of perfectly respectable, though it doesn't really matter in the end. My goal is not to come first, second, or in the top percentiles of the race. It's simply to finish. I said that I would run five kilometres. That's it. No stopping, no walking. I'll run slowly if I have to, and however long it takes me I will keep running. 


I didn't start this project to lose weight, or even to get in shape (though I've undeniably been feeling the benefits). In fact, looking back I don't think I did it for bodily exercise at all. It's more of an exercise for the will. 


All my life I've avoided physically tough things. The handful of times someone got me to try running in the past, I've always stopped too early. Say I'd be running along the sidewalk, trying to get to the next corner before slowing to walk. Almost every time I'd give up before getting to the corner, right about when my lungs started to burn. 


The problem was, I had more in me but I wasn't used to pushing myself. It was easier to walk away. Oh sure, I could push myself academically, but not physically. I wasn't an athlete, never even played sports at school. I simply didn't know how to dig deep, how to "just do it." It never occurred to me until now that physical courage and grit can be cultivated. I just thought there are some people who are naturals at this stuff and some people who aren't. 


Some of my friends (rock climbers, marathon runners, triathletes) have the ability to push themselves too hard. They'll force on until they vomit or collapse or cut their hands open on sharp rock. That isn't good, but there's certainly nothing wrong with their force of will. Given enough exercise, mine might measure up someday.