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Gratitude 2 comments

This morning, my cat Sophie woke me up. She thinks it is fun to bring a toy onto the bed at around 6:30 and to play with it. This morning, it was her new catnip mouse – the toy du jour. Often, it is a crinkly foil ball. She likes crinkly things. Sometimes, I am the toy she plays with, although the noises I make are more yelps than crinkles. Recently, she has taken to lunging at whatever necklace I have on. With no warning. Earrings are also popular.

But, this particular morning, it was the catnip mouse that got things rolling. I lounged in bed later than I meant to, patting happy purring Sophie, rolling my eyes at Andy Barrie, drifting in and out of consciousness, before finally getting up. This is a “non-contact” day for me, meaning that my presence is not required on campus. I have a series of projects that require my attention but that can be worked on from home. I did, however, need to take Sophie to the vet first thing. The vet won’t prescribe standard flea stuff without seeing Sophie first, and weighing her. Which, personally, I think is a cash grab, but … whatever. Sophie was deeply unhappy about this adventure, meowing all the way there, and all the way home in the car. There was parking right outside the vet clinic so, round trip, we were gone less than 25 minutes. I released a relieved Sophie back into her habitat, and unloaded clean laundry out of the dryer. My laundry machines are in the “powder room” on the main floor which is also where Sophie’s litter box is, so I mumbled about the one thing that I wasn’t looking forward to when I considered getting a cat – tramping over cat litter on the floor in my bare feet. I really am not a fan of treading on cat litter.

I made some breakfast, mid-morning. I’m reducing carbs, especially after Cate forced me to eat extra potatoes last night at dinner, so I skipped toast. I fried onions, mushrooms, red peppers together and then threw in beaten eggs with low-fat cottage cheese as well as a tiny lump of bleu cheese crumbled in. I sliced a tomato on the plate and fetched some fresh basil from my window box while the eggs were setting. Chopped the basil, sprinkled it on the tomato and drizzled some balsamic over top, and finished with a tiny flourish of kosher salt. Stirred the eggs and then plopped the eggs on the plate beside the tomato/basil garnish. Needless to say, the coffee was excellent.

I sat with my breakfast and coffee at the computer, fetching also my schedule and lists of things that need to happen today, tomorrow and for the rest of the week. I had a momentary brain fart in terms of remembering what I’m up to this week in the evenings, but between Outlook and my homemade paper schedule, it all came flooding back. I ate my breakfast, and started to review my projects, opening files on the computer and reviewing them.  I answered e-mails. I sipped yummy coffee and checked in with Facebook. Sophie, having forgiven me for hauling her off to the vet for no apparent reason, assumed one of her favourite vantage points, at my right elbow on the computer desk. She sits there, her fur just lightly touching my arm, purring softly as she looks out into the living room, keeping watch in case anything unusual should happen. I spoke with a friend on the phone about some plans we have for later this week. I texted my lover. OK, perhaps I texted her several times. I thought about my projects and did some planning and organizing.

All this time, this morning, I’ve been anticipating the conversation I knew would come, and that I knew would put all this in some kind of perspective. A dear friend, someone I’ve known for a long time, has had a tragic death in her family. A suicide. There are so few words of comfort or solace as my friend and her husband re-enter their lives and attempt to find some sense of normalcy and balance. I am humbled at the courage and strength her family will need to get through the shockwaves of grief and mourning that are bound to reverberate for a long time. I am sad that someone so loved, so intelligent, so skilled, would see no other options before him.

I am guilty, as we all are, of taking so much in my life for granted on a day-to-day basis, starting with my health in all its aspects: mental, physical and spiritual. It is true that I’ve done a better job of looking after myself physically in the past few years, paying more attention to what I eat and to my general level of physical activity. But, I wouldn’t be motivated to do that if I didn’t think my life was worth living. Thus, really, that effort begins with giving a damn, and understanding that my existence has value of some kind. I’m grateful that I have sufficient mental and cognitive fortitude to grasp some sense of my own value, and my extreme good fortune, and enough spiritual awareness to be occasionally reflective about it all.

It is true that I have struggled with a lurking sadness that sometimes dips into depression. I have known a lonely, valueless desperation and, in a sense, I’m grateful for that experience, too. It taught me a lot, including an understanding of what it takes to steer my emotional ship to safer, healthier waters. I’ve been able to keep a steady hand on the rudder for some time now.

I’m grateful for being employed in a job that allows me to do good in the world, and that, miraculously, pays well enough for me to afford to live in a comfortable, safe, kinda funky home, drive an outrageously nice car, and shrug off the occasionally ridiculous vet’s bill. I’m grateful that I have clients who find my skills worthy of remuneration and who understand my need to work around a teaching schedule. I have a comfortable bed, my own laundry facilities, and a refrigerator that is never empty.  Every three weeks, a nice young lesbian brings me organic vegetables that I then have to figure out how to eat before they go off. I can afford flea prevention medication for my cat, hockey fees, gym fees, and prime rib dinner from time to time.  I can afford fistfuls of supplements that fill in my nutritional gaps and keep me healthy. I have a clean stove to cook on, with gas supplied from who knows where. Clean water comes out of my tap and my computer turns on (usually) when I ask it to. The water goes into making my coffee, and my computer helps me source out new fair trade coffee beans – which I can afford to order, have delivered, and can grind in my Italian burr grinder. It is ridiculous, really, how abundant my life is at times.

I have a broom to sweep up the cat litter, and the musculature and coordination to achieve such a task.

I have the ability to appreciate good music and to allow it to lift me up and take me to new places. I can afford the occasional film that also transports me, and am determined to put one new piece of original Canadian art on my wall annually.

I have a multitude of friends to eat with, cook for, laugh with, cry with and play with – hockey and music, usually, but also Scrabble.  Old friends, new friends, close friends, fun friends, oddball friends, long-distance friends, neighbour friends, sometimes friends, always friends. I’m grateful for all they show me of themselves, and for what they reflect back to me, of me.

I have a lover whose heart is even more beautiful than her arms, if that is at all possible. Together, we have plans that make me look ahead with eagerness in a way I haven’t done for so long, if at all.  If now is this wonderful, I can hardly fathom how fabulous later will be.

It is abundantly clear to me, as I deal with my students each week, as I turn on the news and see strife both close to home and far away, and as I hear of tragedies such as the one my friend is confronting in her life right now, that not everyone has it this good.  Even if a person has the trappings of a life of abundance, it isn’t a given that they have the capacity to appreciate it, to savour it. For whatever reason, what looks like a rich, colourful life on the outside may look grey and shadowed to the person living it. It is also true that it is almost impossible to show someone the colour and beauty within their own life if they are not able to see it themselves. Sometimes, I wonder if we nursed this single capacity in our children – the ability to not take even the simplest beautiful life-giving things for granted – if we’d have less aggression and strife in all aspects on this planet. If we knew we had all we need, already, I wonder if we’d be so anxious about acquiring more?

That does seem an over-simplification, doesn’t it? I know. Wishful thinking, I’m sure. But, if you would indulge me, please, give a few minutes to this exercise yourself. Today. Think of what you have to be grateful for. Hug someone you love.

Or, in my case … shrug, sweep up the cat litter … hug the cat. Can’t hurt. And, you never know, it might help.

All We Have Here Is Sky 1 comment

“is it lasting?”
and in asking
the sphere becomes a line
a dotted line
and to follow it
you must make a jump each time

I’ve been quite effusive on Facebook of late about feeling “blessed”, almost to the point of absurdity. Sometimes I stumble through my day-to-day life, taking everything from my own footfalls to the air in my lungs to the structure of my life for granted. Then, I will be overcome by the enormity of the privilege I’ve been granted, through whatever miracles of DNA or circumstance or training or sheer shit luck, to live this life.

Here are some things that have struck me recently:

A Normal Day: I wake up.  All my limbs, organs and muscles work. My brain gets active. My emotional life stirs. I am hungry. I am thirsty. There is food and there is water. See? I open a tap, and clean – if somewhat bleachy – water appears in endless amounts.

Doesn’t that just knock you out when that happens? If it doesn’t, it should because there are more places than I’d care to mention – including right here in Canada – where access to clean, potable water is not taken for granted, at all. No, I’m not on LSD and no I’m not going to wax poetic about the beauty of water. But, seriously, consider that the majority of the population of the world cannot do this simple thing we take for granted, many times a day. It is a humbling and precious thing, our access to water.

My normal day includes coffee and most of the time it tastes exactly as I want it to.

There is always music in my normal day, sometimes background. Sometimes foreground. Always present.

There are people to talk with, laugh with and work with. I have things to do, things to be accountable for. I’m connected in that karmic web of offering of myself and receiving, integrating and synthesizing what others offer.

There are students to learn from.

I have my own home to return to at the end of the day, providing that I left it at all. Sometimes I don’t. Both circumstances, either leaving or staying, are precious. They suggest I have purpose out in the world, and purpose within my own world.

Health, food, water, shelter, people, connection, purpose. How lucky am I?

a dotted page
a dotted hillside
a blast of dots
a blind reader
a flock of sheep
a blast of trumpet shots

here – all we have here is sky
all the sky is is blue
all that blue is is one
more colour now

My Jobs: I have many jobs, it seems. A main one and a bunch of smaller projects on the go at any one time. All stretch me creatively, organizationally. Sometimes they stretch me emotionally.

It is true, I admit it, that I have not always been grateful for my main job. I take it back. 😉 It can be stimulating, allows huge amounts of latitude and freedom, and stretches me in often unexpected ways. It offers an unusual amount of security, which is a rare thing these days.

I’m grateful for my ever-growing network that seems to answer most needs, even quite unusual ones, with the flick of a few e-mails. Some days, I feel like I only need ask and whatever it is I’m trying to generate appears. Amazing.

Each day represents new opportunity in so many ways. How lucky am I?

a basket of apples
by the back door
beneath the sweater pegs
the autumn leaves
lift along the street
a pair of dancing legs

same as the vendor
who likes to sing
as loudly as he can
and all he says is
it suits me fine
that’s the way I am

Full Weekends: I flash back to a time when I was newly single in the Big City. Tough times. The break-up caused a schism in my normally dynamic social fabric. Many of the friends I had remaining were coupled themselves – weekends were their “couple” time. I could place activity in the weekday evenings, but the weekends often yawned before me, cavernous and terrifying in the depths of loneliness they could foster.

Now, my weekends need to be managed. So much to do that is self-care (groceries, errands, meal prep for the week, domestic chores), social (hockey, market, special occasions, casual get-togethers, home-cooked meals with friends, parties) and the occasional out-of-town guest. Sometimes, I need a weekend to recover from my weekend! How lucky am I?

here – all we have here is sky
all the sky is is blue
all that blue is is one
more colour now

I’ve seen this THING
you won’t believe
why it’s big – bigger
than the biggest trees
high as the mountains
wide as the widest skies
(and that’s both sides)
well – at least as big as me

Creativity & Communication: When I was in Grade 12, I was literally forced – by my best friend and my drama teacher simultaneously – to audition for the school play. I had taken a couple years of drama classes yet really didn’t feel very confident that I had anything to offer as a performer. Being hornswoggled into this role in a production of Shaw’s Arms and the Man was a turning point.

As it turns out, I’m less than adequate as a stage actor. But something about this experience started me on an increasingly conscious journey. Becoming more and more conscious of creativity and communication as powerful forces in my life, within me and around me. Both textual and subtextual. Dermis, not epidermis.

Here is what I’m really getting at: I could dig ditches for a living, or work as a short-order cook, or drive a bus. I could do those things and they are all useful and honourable ways to earn one’s keep. But, by some miracle, at some point, my creative output-generating brain kicked into gear and I can use it instead. How lucky am I?

speak a little softer
work a little louder
shoot less with more care
sing a little sweeter
and love a little longer
and soon you will be there

here – all we have here is sky
all the sky is is blue
all that blue is is one
more colour now

Today: It is January 20, 2009 and, along with millions and millions of others, I am so grateful a new steward is in place in the United States. Someone of integrity, vision, and with the ability to inspire and mobilize a willing public. His very existence breaks countless barriers. I am alive and conscious on this day, able to have at least a glimmer of understanding of how momenteous this shift is in America. How lucky am I?

these are some reasons
and same as the seasons
they hold and then they fly
the goatless ledge
‘neath the honkless geese
in the speckless sky
the speckless sky
I hear you
I hear you
I hear you

Retro #2: Counting Blessings 1 comment

I skipped my December 23, 2005 post from Retro #1. In it, I listed all the things I was grateful for at that moment. Here is an updated version with revised yet oddly similar content…

    1. My continued good health: Still allowing me to enjoy all the rest of it.
    2. My country: International news remains bleak and terrifying. I still count myself as being absurdly lucky to live in Canada. This is the finest place on earth to live, without exception, even with the snow.
    3. My job: There have been some ups and downs this year, what with going on strike during the coldest month of the year, and one of our colleagues dying from injuries sustained on the picket line. Still, in truth, I have the best job in the world. Immediately around me, I also have the best colleagues in the world. Blessings on all your houses in 2007!
    4. My apartment: I loved it when I saw the floor plans, I loved watching it being built, I hated moving in and finding nasty surprises, I loved it that most of the nasty surprises were resolved, I love the colours and the art and the kitchen and how the place glows when the sun rises and shines early morning light through the east windows. I love the tree outside my window. I love being able to walk easily to so many places and having access to not one but two subway stations. I love parking underground, especially in the winter. I'm not a big fan of the stairs, but they do fit into some New Year's Resolutions I've got brewing.
    5. Music: … There was less of it this year, for me, than I would have liked. (Another New Year's Resolution!) But, as far as listening goes, it was a good year with Dixie Chicks, Sarah Harmer and a few other new discoveries to keep me engaged.
    6. "New" Friends & "Old" Friends: 2006 was a wonderful year for feeling more solid with a community of good solid people who "get" me, and whom I also "get". Such interesting, grounded, creative people. The deliniation between "new" and "old" friends has gotten a bit blurry this year. I like that. 🙂
    7. Texas:  Not so much the state as the person who was a big part of my life this year. With a single statement in June, you cracked some inner code of mine that needed cracking, for which I will always be grateful. I wish I had been able to return the favour. With warmth and affection, I wish for you comfort, peace and much love in 2007.
    8. Two Fabulous House Leagues (Women's Hockey): What a diverse, funny, warm, outrageous group of women I've been blessed to find!  Incredible fun, twice a week … wow!
    9. My computer: 2005 brought its share of horrific, and costly, computer disasters. 2006 has been calm and steady and reliable. Phew! I am especially grateful for Josh, world's greatest computer tech guy, who spent seven hours "helping me" set up an external back-up drive and an external firewall. 2005 Disasters = 2006 Disaster prevention! When I say "helping me", my part was standing back, watching and ordering pizza. A toast to Josh and the smoothly running, virus-free, fully backed-up home computer! Without this machine, I'd feel so disconnected from the world at large.
    10. Curve:  Each year, the community changes at Curve, and this year was no exception. Now that I'm moderating, I have to stand back a bit more and observe rather than participate. That's ok with me. I learn so much from the experiences of others. A really valuable online resource for lesbian and bi-sexual women.
    11. Susie Bright: Although I'm not sure how to fit her name into the song, Susie remains one of My Favourite Things. Specifically, Susie's online radio show, In Bed With Susie Bright is an absolute treasure, a goldmine of current information on sexual politics, sexuality, gender, relationship issues, and wherever else Susie's impressive mind wanders. The giggle alone is worth the subscription. I've been a subscriber for four or five years now and this is probably the best Internet value out there. Just search on "Susie Bright" when you get to the Audible site and you'll find it. She keeps me sane and laughing and reassured that I do not exist in a vacuum. Goddess bless Susie Bright!
    12. Re-Connecting: I've re-connected this year with some people (specifically an ex, and my most long-time friend) who have been quite distant for a while. The distance was, in large part, created by me. I guess I needed the time and space to work some things out. The re-connecting feels really good and I'm so glad it has happened.
    13. "All my troubles …": 2006 had more than its share of adversity. This does not make it a bad year. On the contrary, I'm gratified to feel so much more able to handle it all than I was even 12 months ago. Two close friends have independently observed that I'm much better at handling the slings and arrows that get tossed at my mortal coil than I once was. Something to do with remembering the source. Without these moments of adversity, some quite extreme, I wouldn't be as strong as I am. So … bring it on!

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