Saturday, September 3, 2011

Freedom 55


Elsas is a small community at the north end of Kapuskasing Lake, about 75 km west of Timmins, ON, that can only be accessed by float plane, train or canoe. It used to house a lumber mill and four hundred people at its peak, but now it has only a handful of cottagers and various Canadian National Railway employees.

My husband, Alan, read about the place a few years ago in A Paddler's Guide to Ontario's Lost Canoe Routes and ever since had an itch to go. Since one of the joys of being retired is we’re free to work on our bucket lists (things we want to do before we kick the bucket), off we went, put our canoe on the train, and arrived in the middle of the day in the middle of nowhere to find a wonderful adventure awaiting.

 Dave Quigley, a friendly man in his late fifties, was sitting on the porch and came over to greet us. Alan, a history buff, had lots of questions, especially about the two fellas mentioned in the canoe guide book. They were truly a couple of storied characters who hated each other even though they were the only ones left in town. Dave pointed to where the old-timers had lived before passing and noted one place was up for sale.

The weather report said it was supposed to clear later in the afternoon, but we didn’t see any sign of it. Remaining hopeful yet cautious, we grabbed our raincoats, put the canoe in, and went to find the mill downstream at the junction of the Kapuskasing and Nemegosenda rivers.  There were whitecaps on the lake, but past the trestle the river was flat, a totally different ecosystem with its tall, grassy shoreline.

I spotted a red bird with black wings in the bushes, and Sharon Quigley got out her guidebook when we returned and suggested it was the Scarlett Tanager – another new bird for me.

Soon we glided up to the site of the old mill and tried to break our way through the thicket, but since Alan was wearing shorts and the sky was getting darker, we decided to head back.

Before we got a chance to set up our tent, the rain started and Dave invited us to stay in one of the cabins. How wonderful!  We settled in, played Scrabble over dinner and looked forward to a campfire. Unfortunately the weather didn’t co-operate so we crawled into our cozy new down sleeping bags with our books and lamps and unwound.

Thankfully, the next day was sunny. With a packed lunch, we ventured out directly into the head wind and stayed close enough to shore to see a scurrying red fox. Gosenda Lodge, at the other end of the bay, was active as we paddled around the point with young and old enjoying the sunshine.

Around the next bay I thought I heard voices in front of us, or was it squawking ravens? Sure enough, the CNR guys were working on the track where we were headed. Agate was never a town, only a siding, which I learned is where one train sits so the other can pass.

We got out and walked the tracks and learned some more of the history from the workers, then went to look for a treasure. Kicking around at the dumpsite, Alan eventually found an old C.N.R. oil can and we went back happy.

It rained again the last day, but we were determined to see the Continental Wood Products Corp. mill. Alan found its history online and was eager to explore it with his metal detector.

Properly dressed, we trudged our way back into history and were in awe of the standing structures. Seventy years later, you could sense the fifty foot walls had stories to tell.

We picked up a few rusted parts then headed down the Nemegosenda looking for the old metal bridge the Quigleys told us about. But five miles is a lot farther in a canoe than it is in a motor boat, so we turned back as foreboding skies once again approached.

Sitting at the tracks, waiting for the delayed train that evening, the rising full moon entertained us with her beauty. Swapping tales and swatting mosquitoes, the large family from the lodge, the Quigleys, and us, all intermingled and buzzed with delight.

You know, I don’t think a person has to be retired to enjoy that Freedom 55 feeling. From what we’ve experienced, all you have to do is slow down and fill your heart with appreciation. Time and money aren’t enough. It’s appreciation that gives life that extra dimension, that wondrous joy - and that can be accessed anywhere, anytime.

Summer Break


Summer is here and I’m enjoying so many gifts. The company of family and friends has been delightful and delicious; the festivals and events around the county have been entertaining and inspiring; and the board games on the dock have been stimulating and fun.  Life is good; love is here!
Today I have no desire to analyze any of this. I’m just opening my heart and taking it all in. And, since we’re all in it together, I’ve turned to others to help fill up this month’s column. 
Enjoy!
“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses.  That is why we get a heart-ache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty.  Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths.  We all derive from the same source.  There is no mystery about the origin of things.  We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, to discover what is already there.”  Henry Miller, author
"For one human being to love another is the most difficult task. It's the work for which all other work is mere preparation." Rainer Maria Rilke, poet

"Love is not a thing to understand.
Love is not a thing to feel.
Love is not a thing to give and receive.
Love is a thing only to become
And eternally be."
- Sri Chinmoy, Indian spiritual teacher, poet, artist, composer, author and international emissary for peace

"Anger [hate] is an acid that does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured." Mark Twain, author

"In the beginning was noise. The Big Bang. And noise begat rhythm. And rhythm begat everything else. Everywhere we look we see rhythms, patterns moving through time - in the cycle of the stars and the migrations of animals, in the fruiting and withering of the plants. Rhythm is the heart of mystery." Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart in Drumming At The Edge of Magic

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in giving creates love.” Lao-Tzu, founder of Taoism

'LOST' by David Wagoner
Stand still.
The trees ahead and bushes beside you are not lost.
Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know
Be still
Be
-A meditation on Psalm 46:10

“Our people know that the land and the language are one. If we lose one or the other we are no longer who we say we are.” Grandmother Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance, International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers

"Some day after we have mastered the winds, the waves and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love; and then for a second time in the history of the world, humans will have discovered fire." Pierre Teillard de Chardin, French philosopher, scientist and
Jesuit priest

‎"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” George Bernard Shaw, playwright

“The suffering depends, not upon the factual happenings, but upon the texture of one's mind.”
Swami Chinmayananda, Hindu spiritual leader and teacher

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi, Sufi mystic and poet

"WILD GEESE" by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

"We must be patient while we're waiting for the final chord to play out for our song.
So in the meantime, take a breath and sing along."
Swami Chinmayananda

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Break

Summer is here and I’m enjoying so many gifts. The company of family and friends has been delightful and delicious; the festivals and events around the county have been entertaining and inspiring; and the board games on the dock have been stimulating and fun.  Life is good; love is here!
Today I have no desire to analyze any of this. I’m just opening my heart and taking it all in. And, since we’re all in it together, I’ve turned to others to help fill up this month’s column. 
Enjoy! 

“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses.  That is why we get a heart-ache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty.  Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths.  We all derive from the same source.  There is no mystery about the origin of things.  We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, to discover what is already there.”  Henry Miller, author
"For one human being to love another is the most difficult task. It's the work for which all other work is mere preparation." Rainer Maria Rilke, poet

"Love is not a thing to understand.
Love is not a thing to feel.
Love is not a thing to give and receive.
Love is a thing only to become
And eternally be."
- Sri Chinmoy, Indian spiritual teacher, poet, artist, composer, author and international emissary for peace

"Anger [hate] is an acid that does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured." Mark Twain, author

"In the beginning was noise. The Big Bang. And noise begat rhythm. And rhythm begat everything else. Everywhere we look we see rhythms, patterns moving through time - in the cycle of the stars and the migrations of animals, in the fruiting and withering of the plants. Rhythm is the heart of mystery." Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart in Drumming At The Edge of Magic

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in giving creates love.” Lao-Tzu, founder of Taoism

'LOST' by David Wagoner
Stand still.
The trees ahead and bushes beside you are not lost.
Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know
Be still
Be
-A meditation on Psalm 46:10

“Our people know that the land and the language are one. If we lose one or the other we are no longer who we say we are.” Grandmother Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance, International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers

"Some day after we have mastered the winds, the waves and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love; and then for a second time in the history of the world, humans will have discovered fire." Pierre Teillard de Chardin, French philosopher, scientist and Jesuit priest

‎"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” George Bernard Shaw, playwright

“The suffering depends, not upon the factual happenings, but upon the texture of one's mind.”
Swami Chinmayananda, Hindu spiritual leader and teacher

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi, Sufi mystic and poet

"WILD GEESE" by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

"We must be patient while we're waiting for the final chord to play out for our song.
So in the meantime, take a breath and sing along."
Swami Chinmayananda

Sunday, July 3, 2011

All I Really Needed to Know, I Learned From A Bumper Sticker


I can across a bumper sticker recently that said Plant Seeds & Sing Songs. I loved it so much I bought it and stuck it on my journal. What a great reminder of how to live in this world - nurture life and harmonize with it. 
There are people in our community who truly live this way, including Bill and Lisa Kerr whose garden takes the form of a dental clinic. With a vision to provide care for those who can’t afford it, they rallied friends, politicians and associates together - like a good old fashion barn-raising - and within a year created a fully functioning office manned by professionals who volunteer their expertise and time. It’s amazing – no, it’s exciting what we can do here.
Haliburton is one of the poorest counties in the province yet there are so many who lend a hand to help others, and it’s not always to those less fortunate. Some of the givers don’t even have that much of their own.
What is it to be rich or poor? Is it strictly a financial calculation? Of course not. I think it not only has to do with close relationships but also with a feeling of liberation. Nelson Mandela, for one, has shown us that freedom is strictly a state of mind. A man can physically be in prison and still be free if he doesn’t let hate and fear enter.  And that can only happen, I think, if his heart’s desire remains focused on nurturing all life. 
When our focus is to nurture, our heart overflows and everything in its path flourishes.  When our focus is on taking care of our needs, it’s overwhelming how they can continuously arise and never be satisfied.
Nature abhors a vacuum, so if we are generating patience, kindness and imagination, there is no room for despair or neediness to settle in.  Funny, I never thought in these terms before: nature abhorring a vacuum.  But it makes so much sense.  If you’re not generating love, or even fear for that matter, you’re open to whatever comes your way.  Sometimes that may be beneficial and other times it may be detrimental, there’s no telling, and that can cause a lot of anxiety. If you are generating love, tragedy may take you down but it will never sink you because the knowledge of life’s goodness will always float you back up. 
Generating love aligns us with the creative forces of life.  It’s not about being optimistic and choosing to see the good in all; it comes from a deeper place of belonging, of knowing who you are and where you come from.  My nephew just had his initiation into the Jewish faith, and this is how I expressed some of these ideas to him.
Geoffrey, in becoming a Bar Mitzvah Boy you have learned that with hard work and determination you can stand on your own two feet. 
You count now, and as you come face to face with the many obstacles Life will put in your way, look down and see that those two feet are firmly planted on your ancestors’ shoulders.  With their help, every stumbling block will become a stepping stone, not to perfection, but to wholeness.
Remember, Geoffrey, our People have endured through millennia of suffering because we have embraced all that life has to offer with patience, kindness and imagination.
Our path is rich.  Our path is lively.  Our path is home.
Our path is now yours to dance on.
Plant seeds and sing songs: what a succinct way to sum up the simplicity of a sustainable and joyful way to live.