Category Archives: Lifestyle

Happiness is . . .

Welcome mat reading "this is our happy place, at the bottom of a set of stairs.

This is the welcome mat below deck of the Pride of Baltimore II, a Baltimore Clipper tall ship, circa the War of 1812.

The crew of the Pride of Baltimore II find their joy on a craft that catches wind in mighty sails that carry them across the bounding main — and the Great Lakes. They rest easy on a ship that can anchor when needed, save them in peril, and fire up weapons to fend off foes.

Their happy place is nothing like mine — I prefer dry land, uncrowded sleeping space and luxurious showers — but I find joy in knowing that the crew of the awesome tall ship is in their happy place when skimming across glinting waters .

What is your happy place?

New and beautiful out of old and broken

Some days I feel ancient.

Some days it feels like so much of my life, so many people and events, lie on the path behind me, how much more can be ahead?

On those days, it’s helpful to stumble upon trees like these growing together on my friend’s property near Lake Huron.

A twig sprouting out of the sawed-off portion of a cedar trunk

A sprout of a completely different kind of tree is growing through the trunk of the sawed-off trunk of an old tree.

I searched from all sides and from high and low angles, and I could not find the root system for the younger twig. It is below ground, an integral part of the roots of the cedar.

The largest trunk on the original cedar was cut off—a loss that must have felt like the end. But no! Something unexpected was hiding there all along, intertwined with the roots, waiting to spring to life.

Temenos: Sanctuary

I am away for a short vacation at a place that looks very different from this, but is a sanctuary nonetheless.

Where is your Temenos?

Bless that which you want: Vacation

Four people making the letters of the world love with their bodies.

According to the ancient Polynesian wisdom of Ka Huna, shamans of Hawaii use the power of words and mind to build self-esteem to heal the self, others and situations.

The wisdom says: Bless that which you want.

If we are jealous of others who received something we desire, or if we declare ourselves unworthy of receiving it, that drives away the object of our desire.

It’s impossible to bless something and be negative at the same time.

Blessings expand positive and creative energy and reflect it back to us. Blessings increase the good in our lives.

I’m taking a short vacation. I bless the mental break, the time for reading, the visits with family and friends, the swimming and the sunshine. I bless that when I return I will be rejuvenated.  

What do you want? Take some time to bless it.

Two Muskoka chairs facing each other on a lake-side dock.

The beauty of making do

We replaced kitchen cupboards at our cottage on the weekend.

The old ones had been there for decades—probably since the 1950s when my father-in-law bought the place. They were functional, but not perfectly so. The drawers, without sliders, squeaked closed, wood against wood. One cupboard door was hung crooked and sprang open again if not closed with authority.

I was excited to replace the old cupboards with units that had proper shelving and drawers the slid home easily with a quiet thunk at the end.

And then we took the old ones apart.

Those gliders on the wooden drawers? Hockey sticks. (Canadian stereotype alert!)

The side panels were pieces of used decorative paneling (that I suspect he picked up for free from a discard pile somewhere). Every screw used to cobble the whole thing together was different. He’d obviously empty every jar of used screws in his work shed.

We bowed down to the skillful frugality of my father-in-law, the King of Making Do. What we found behind the smooth white front was a masterpiece of creative re-purposing that gave new meaning to the term “custom kitchen.”

He was teenager during the Great Depression and those years of poverty marked him. He lived Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Re-purpose, Recycle before it became an environmental mantra.

It was marvelous. And so beautiful.

Syd, if you’re out there somewhere, I hope you know that I am bowing down to your work and the beauty of making do.

Bank of lower kitchen cabinets
The new look: Functional yes, but not NEARLY as interesting.

Modern tree stumps

Pioneer woman in long dress moving a tree stump.

Meet my great-grandmother.

I’m told I have her chin.

There are many things to love about this picture—the long dress, the apron (!), the hat that looks like something Charlie Chaplin might have sat upon, the natural grass untouched by any lawn mower, and the corner of a barn that was probably raised on a good old-fashioned barn-raising day.

And, of course, the tree stump she’s wrestling into submission.

The thing I love the most is that she doesn’t look unhappy. There might even be the hint of a smile.

The woman is digging tree stumps in a long skirts and she doesn’t seem to mind.

In some ways her challenges were greater than mine. She probably sewed that dress that she had no choice but to wear. She had to clear the land where they grew the food they ate, she had to bake from scratch every single cookie and loaf of bread she consumed, and she had to can her green beans and tomatoes. She was driven to do those things because otherwise her family would go hungry. She worked hard—physically—from dawn to dusk.

In other ways her life was simple. She had food, faith and family. She never had to suffer the irritation of four-way stops, she never had to receive emails from hackers trying to scam her, and she never had anyone in the next cubicle eating curry for lunch.

The modern “tree stumps” I have to wrestle into submission are quite different, and I don’t have to do it while wearing a long dress. (Although I can if I choose.) My tree stumps challenge my mind, my emotions and my spiritual equilibrium more than my body, but they still challenge me from dawn to dusk.

But, from what I hear, I inherited another thing from my great-grandmother—the calm joy of moment.

No matter what’s happening—no matter what—there’s joy to be found, even if it’s the flip-side of sorrow.