Category Archives: Nature

Around the bigger obstacle

For the past few years, every time I walked on my favourite wooded path of the NCC Greenbelt, I have had to step over this fallen tree.

A decaying tree trunk, approximately 6 inches in diameter, across a forest path.

No big deal. The decaying trunk is small, and so many human feet and knobby bicycle tires have knocked wood chips out of it over the years, it is returning to its earthy source. I notice this fallen tree, and I must be certain not to trip, but all I need to do is take one larger-than-usual step to clear it.

Yesterday I arrived at the spot. Beside the smaller fallen tree, exactly parallel to it, lay this larger tree trunk, knocked over by an overnight storm.

This one stumped me (pun intended) for a second or two. Too big to clamber over (at least with dignity intact). Too low to crawl under. Must go around.

In only one day so many others had resolved not to let a bigger obstacle block their path that the ground around it was already trodden flat.

New path being forged through the woods.

Every day I clear small obstacles in my path. I must notice them and take extra measures to deal with them, but I manage, no problem. I navigate the pylons narrowing the roadway on my way to work, and I take a few seconds to put on a mask before entering a store.

I ask myself though: Am I allowing some bigger obstacle to block my path? How can I go around?

May you have a day of small obstacles only. Do you have bigger ones you must go around?

In the moment: Non-waiting

“When we release our clinging to what used to be and our craving for what we think should be, we are free to embrace the truth of what is in the moment.”

—Frank Ostaseski, in The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully

Life lessons come to us when we need them. Sometimes they brush against us gently, and we recognize them with a grateful nod. Other times, they clobber us senseless.

Usually they cluster, as if they know that we need more than one of a thing before we’ll open our eyes to important information.

A cluster of lessons about embracing the moment dropped in for tea with me lately.

First came a post on The Good Karma Cabin blog. In The Space Between Karen wrote about recognizing the need to surrender, even when everything around you is not going according to plan.

Next, I spoke with a friend who accompanied her mother in her final days. That’s hard. To navigate the difficult emotions she tried her best to stay in the moment.

This morning I read about non-waiting in The Five Invitations:

“The difference between ‘don’t wait’ and ‘non-waiting’ is like the difference between detachment and non-attachment. Detachment implies distancing ourselves from a particular object or experience. It can feel cool . . . Non-attachment simply means not holding on to, not grasping . . .

Non-waiting is a quiet welcoming, more of an invitation than a demand. When we stop leaning into the next experience by hoping for a particular outcome, or leaning into the past by hoping we might somehow change it, only then are we free to know this moment completely.”

—Frank Ostaseski, in The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully

Here I am, doing my best to recognize this life lesson with a grateful nod, so that it doesn’t feel the need to clobber me senseless before I get it.

It’s better to live in the moment in the mess than to miss the moment by focusing on why it’s not good enough.

Yellow daffodil in bloom
In this moment, my daffodils are blooming

The up and down journey through tasks

For this week’s post, I thumb my nose at a piece of writing advice. (Well, two pieces actually, since I just used a cliché.) Good writers, they say, opt for the word “said” during dialogue so as to avoid scenes like:

"Let's go to the movies," he posited. 
"I disagree," she demurred.

Herewith, consider my nose thumbed.

Task

“I want to climb that mountain,” she says.
   The foothill lures her spirit,
   Beckoning wide paths seduce her.
      Flooded with energy, she skips.  

“The path gets narrower,” she notices. 
   A switchback challenges her footsteps, 
   Scribbling tree roots trip her.
      Worried but still powerful, she continues. 

“Should I carry on?” she puffs.
   The incline steals her breath,
   Aching muscles betray her.
      Depleted of oxygen, she schlepps.

“I can’t do this,” she whines. 
   An obstacle blocks her progress, 
   Darkening skies shadow her. 
      Deprived of hope, she sleeps. 

“But . . . my goal is just there,” she awakens.
   The dawn illuminates her next steps,
   Daunting barriers dissolve before her. 
      Reinvigorated by inspiration, she climbs.

“What a view!” she cries.
   A summit reveals her success, 
   Haunting memories flee from her.   
      Satiated with completeness, she savours. 

“Now what?” she wonders.
   The downward path answers,
   Waning desire to remain prompts her.    
      Evolved for a new task, she descends.       

“If I go down, I can climb a higher mountain,” she says.  
      

Irish-ish and vaccinated

My family is so many generations deep in Canada that I don’t really feel Irish. A little Irish-ish, maybe.

Enough that tomorrow I will drink Irish beer and eat Guinness Stew sopped up with Irish Soda Bread.

I do it to honour my ancestors who immigrated and suffered—really suffered—so that I can sit in my warm house and eat plentiful food in good health. They lived in a remote log cabin. No plumbing. No furnace. No Mac’s Milk on the corner or butchery down the street.

It is especially fitting to do so this year, during a pandemic, because in 1866 my ancestors lost three children in one week to a diphtheria epidemic.

Children aged 13, 11 and 9 just . . . gone . . . in the space of a week.

Three children in one week lost to a disease that we never have to think about because WE HAVE VACCINES.

Time has made some people complacent. North Americans born after 1920 don’t know how death used to brush up close in daily life. Our generation has never seen with our own eyes an entire family wiped out in a week, because WE HAVE VACCINES.

Cheers and Éirinn go Brách!

And when it’s your turn, get the vaccine.

Shamrock cookies
Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Nameless: The downside of privacy

A few weeks ago I posted this photo of a mailbox. I speculated about groundhogs snoozing abed under the snow.

A country mailbox with no name written on it.
The mailbox with no name.

But I really took this picture about a year ago, not thinking about groundhogs at all. I took it while on a drive with my mother on the country roads around my hometown. As we drove, I was struck by something: the mailboxes had no names written on them.

In my youth, every mailbox at the end of every country drive bore the name of the homeowner. The letters might be scrawled crookedly, or the stick-on kind you find at the hardware store, or beautiful script, but they were there. During country drives you would pass by and say, “Oh, there’s the Miller place,” or “The McLaughlins live there.”

No more.

The namelessness feels like a dent in community. Something that used to be open now closed.

Protecting our privacy is good, they say. Still, the need for it makes me sad. Nameless, if you will.

Chill cat, fast cat

In honour of World Cat Day tomorrow . . . some tidbits.

According to the cat calendar I received at Christmas, owning a cat reduces the risk of stroke or heart attack by a third. Chillin’ with a creature that’s chill is medicine for body and soul, or catspirin as the calendar calls it.

Who couldn’t use a little blood pressure relief right about now?

Also from my cat calendar: Olympic sprinter, Usain Bolt, can run 27 mph (43.5 km/hr), but cats can run 30 mph (48.3 km/hr).

If they want to. 🙂

I know. These cat facts have made your day better already. A little cat medicine for you.

Don’t let this cat’s repose fool you. He could outrun in no time flat.