Memories Light the Corners of My Mind

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Returning to a country for the third time has been an experience tinged in nostalgia. Memories resurface of a twenty four year old me, motoring throughout Austria with my boyfriend Brian (we married a year or so later) and his parents, Norm and Edith … Brian had long wanted to treat his parents to a cultural tour of Austria, home to all the various famous composers, Beethoven, Strauss, Haydn, Mozart. Norm knew every piece of music they had ever written … he was a virtual virtuoso …. his extensive knowledge of classical music and his collection of albums was legendary in Brian’s family. I was a total classical music neophyte. We coached along throughout the bucolic Austrian countryside in 1975, visiting the former homes, now museums, of Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn … Norm was often moved to tears, as we walked through the homes, viewed the pianos and violins once instrumental in creating the music he so deeply loved … music that sustained him his whole adult life. I think it may have been his only ‘hobby’ and he excelled at it! It was a magical trip for me too … I well remember the me of decades past, a young woman so full of wonder and hope, so in love with travelling, exploring … new adventures around every corner. I like to think I have retained some of that youthful verve 😙! The body may be showing its age but the attitude remains reasonably fresh 😊.

Flashing forward to my mid fifties, I was again exploring Vienna but this time with a group of friends … I toured the palaces, museums, music halls with my good friends Mickey and Gordon and the rest of the Springbank Travel Troops. It was in many respects, a two week long party throughout Austria and into the Czech Republic. Lots of happy hours where local delicacies were consumed by us all … from the ubiquitous wiener schnitzel and street side stalls serving grilled wurst of every variety or the myriad of pastries such as apfelstrudel, palatschinken, sacher tortes …. washed down with frothy cappuccinos or tasty local white wines. The cafe culture has always been central to life in Vienna and we certainly tried many out after full days of exploring the historical sights … certainly a different experience and perspective from that of my first visit … diversity always welcome in my world.

A dozen or so years later, I am back with my dear friend Linda Mackid. It has been a more sedate trip in some respects … thoroughly enjoyable in its own way. Linda had two back to back knee replacement surgeries in the last few years, resulting in painful sciatica issues as a side effect. Although it curtailed how much exploring we could do, we adapted and explored differently. Linda is a world class trooper with a healthy attitude despite the lack of mobility. Hop On/Hop Off buses and cabs came in handy. Deva Premal’s concert was a highlight for both of us … Sanskrit chant satsangs are by far our favourite kind of concert these days! We did enjoy more classical fare as well, Vivaldi in the beautiful Karlskirche church and Mozart in the stunningly beautiful Musikverein Concert Hall.

Enjoyed lots of great food wherever we stopped. Linda’s favourite .. wiener schnitzel, mine .. gulasch. Surprisingly, we did not consume too many of Austria’s famous pastries. A favourite stop was at an ‘heurigen’ wine garden where we tasted a variety of Austrian white wines that are rarely exported outside the country. On another day, Belvedere Castle to view Gustav Klimt’s famous ‘The Kiss’ … followed by yet another great lunch stop at the palace cafe.

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Our Airbnb apartment in central Vienna was simply lovely … shabby chic elegance throughout … a warm home to savour both our morning coffee or enjoy a glass of local wine in the evenings and some days, crash in our comfy beds for a most welcome nap 🙂

There is no denying the aging process and remembering the verve of a youthful me at 24 , the still somewhat me in denial about the aging process at 55 to the reality at age 67 that time ticks on and muscles, joints and energy may not always be what we wish them to be! But what does remain unchanged, is my intense nomadic tendency to savour and relish walking the cities and towns of whatever country I am in, endlessly exploring, chatting with locals, learning about our differences but more importantly, celebrating what unites us … I hope I never lose my sense of wonder and awe, captivated as I can sometimes be, walking through nature trails or gazing at an amazing piece of art or wandering the hallways of churches, castles and palaces, steeped in the history of bygone days. My gypsy spirit is alive and well … travel continues its hold on my senses, still a strong gateway for exploring both my inner and outer landscapes.

Lovely view from our living room window … will surely miss this.

On the last few days, Linda and I finally stopped to enjoy a food stand wurst sandwich … Austria’s idea of fast food 😊 … delicious! Before heading to the airport, we stopped for cappuccinos, eggs benny and a green smoothie at Cafe Schwarzenberg, one of, if not the oldest cafe in Vienna. A most fitting final Austrian meal 😊.

Auf wiedersehen Austria, tschuss Linda’s Austrian family (love them like my own❤️) … til we meet again.

Austrian Adventures

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Linda and I have been friends for most of our adult lives. Our mutual travel experiences included a long ago Alberta camping weekend with our husbands, a few blissful Kingfisher spa weekend getaways on Vancouver Island and several jaunts to our little bit of heaven in the desert city of La Quinta in the Santa Rosa Mountains of California. Austria is our first venture together to Europe.

Exploring Linda’s birth country of Austria together is new territory for our friendship. Despite having undergone two major surgeries in recent history, Linda is a trooper so onward and upward .. we charged forward, hopping a train to Kapfenberg a few days after our Vienna arrival (ok, a more accurate description might be that we scrambled aboard, hoping we got in before the doors closed behind us 😂😂!!) Linda was born in this charming little town of Kapfenberg. Sharing the experience with her and meeting her extended family has been a delightfully heart warming joy I had not anticipated. What a fun weekend getting to know her first and second cousins and their families … Gerti, Erwin, Olivia, Christian, Felix, Rudolf, Elizabeth, Larissa, Vanessa and of course her Auntie Martha!

Felix shows us an edible seed reminiscent of a sesame seed, inside a local flower.

At Rudolf and Elizabeth’s home we were introduced to some local treats … tasty liver pates and bacon fat spreads on my favourite kinds of breads … wholesome dark, seed heavy Austrian bread, (surprisingly delicious spread, despite my first rather reticent reaction to a spread made with bacon fat!!), roasted chestnuts wrapped in newsprint to keep them warm, making for easier peeling … so delicious, as was sampling the local sturm wine! For a very brief period, from the end of September to mid October it is Sturmzeit in Austria. This is the only time of year the drink called Sturm is consumed throughout the country. Because of rapid fermentation (which could cause the bottle to explode if corked), Sturm cannot be stored and must be consumed within a few days of purchase.

Sturm is a young wine that is basically fermented freshly pressed grape juice. And that’s exactly what it tastes and feels like you are drinking … carbonated grape juice 😊!

After a rather hair pin curvy drive up a narrow mountainside road, we arrived at the Burg Oberkapfenberg (Castle) to enjoy a tasty lunch of the ubiquitous Wiener schnitzel … certainly Linda’s favourite, goulash, tafelspitz, spaetzle, warm potato salads, fresh horseradish salad … it was quite the luncheon the eight of us savoured … all in a cozy castlesque cafe overlooking the town of Kapfenberg below …

A short drive up the same mountain and an even shorter walk later through an idyllic farming landscape, most of us somehow still had tummy room for an assortment of typical Austrian desserts at a nearby historical old house in the hills … apple strudel of course, palatschinke or palacsinta (a thin crêpe-like variety of pancake) a torte or two … while sipping cappuccinos. A bit of a surreal experience was discovering an Elvis impersonator entertaining a private party inside the log house when I stepped inside to use the WC 😊

Altogether too soon, and after exchanging heartfelt hugs at the train station, we were back on the train heading for Vienna … Auf Wiedersehen my new friends ❤️

Austria with a Dear Friend

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Seemed a very long journey indeed to get from Calgary to Vienna …. I had somehow forgotten 🤪 that Linda would require extra help, having gone through two knee replacements in one year!!!! We spent a good bit of time searching out wheelchair accessible assistance in Calgary, London and Vienna!!! All staff in all cities were so kindly helpful and went way beyond!! … however, it left no time at all for airport shopping in London, despite a five hour connection time 😂 … perhaps a good thing 😗. Wish I had captured some of our moments navigating it all, some of it quite hilarious, but alas, we were dealing with just getting through the process and iphones were left tucked in our bags 😊. We had some memorable moments to be sure!!! Such a relief however, to finally arrive in Vienna, check into our airport hotel and fall asleep around midnight!!! An early morning natural wake up at 10:35 am stunned us both!!! We had missed both our breakfast, and early check in with our Airbnb host in old town Vienna at 11:00 am … jet lag and travel insanity to blame 😂!! We forgot to set an alarm 😗!!

Check in to our elegant shabby chic charming apartment in old town Vienna followed, a bit of exploring, savouring Austrian cuisine and local wines and we were set for our Austrian adventure!!! Perfecto!!!

‘A fallen leaf is nothing more than a summer’s wave goodbye.’

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A whiff of fall was in the air yesterday, despite the warmth of a Kelowna September day. The flowers are still blooming, and with tourist season pretty much finished, the beaches are reclaimed by locals enjoying the quiet once again.

August found me relaxing at the Mackid lake house in the Kootenays … always a pleasure to visit my dear old friends Linda and Court … such a joy to sit together, enjoying the stunningly beautiful lake view, be it at sunrise, sunset or plunging in for an afternoon swim!

At the Yasodhara Ashram for our afternoon chant and meditationThere is something so comforting as being with long time friends … that feeling of complete comfort that just spills over into everything … much like the feeling one gets, when pulling on a pair of comfy sweats, pouring a cup of steaming coffee to just sit awhile …. savour and absorb life’s many gifts …. the warm accepting ambiance of friendship is undeniably one of those gifts …. Om Namah Shivaya 🙏❤️

Back in Kelowna, a few quiet weeks followed … a simple life with daily walks along the shoreline of Lake Okanagan, work outs at a gym, a morning wake-up yoga stretch routine, curling up in the evening with a good book, sometimes accompanied by a glass of local rose 😊. A few visits with neighbours, a bookclub get-together, a dinner out with friends here and there … all good, all pleasant ways to round out another Okanagan summer.

It occurred to me recently that I rarely call Kelowna my home, even though I feel at home when I am here 🤔 … I do not say “I am going home” … but rather “I am going to Kelowna” …. strange fact, that 🤔!!

Being on the road so much both in Canada and outside these last several years undoubtedly has something to do with that peculiarity 🤔. I do have a tendency to adjust reasonably well to new circumstances, new places … wherever I am, I make it my home! … perhaps I have had many lifetimes as a nomad and it continues to seep into the present one😂! I have friends who can hardly wait to get home from a vacation. I suppose I did too once upon a time, when I had a family to care for, children to raise, a home to keep, but life has changed … those days, those priorities have shifted. Still figuring it all out as I muddle along, adjusting and exploring these new internal and external landscapes that are my life …. home has become wherever in the world I happen to be. When I connect with my children, grandchildren, family or friends … I am home! When I fly to a new country, a new city, town or village, or hang out in Kelowna, I am home! Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea but it is mine 😊.

I have always been a rolling stone at heart and am only now coming to terms with it and accepting it. Something to ponder as the summer days grow shorter, and fall patiently waits to blow in. Hmmm so yes … a rolling stone … 🤔

I tune into the final Grand Slam US Open Tennis to watch crowd favourite Spanish sensation Rafael Nadal defeat the amazingly talented, calm natured young Russian, Daniil Medvedev (my current favourite when Roger Federer is out of the running 😊).

Yesterday, nineteen year old Canadian tennis whiz, Bianca Andreescu made history, winning the women’s final against the incomparable American juggernaut, Serena Williams who has dominated women’s tennis for over two decades! Andreescu is the first Canadian woman ever to win the US Open! Move over Serena, there’s a new girl in town 😊 … the inevitable changing of the guard …

Scenes from my daily walks, the foliage still bursting with colour ….

Summer Sun Fun Pictorial 2019

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I wave goodbye to my daughter Sarah and grandchildren Aliana and Oliver … Sarah now faces the long drive to Calgary from Kelowna. Seven solid hours of driving plus the many park, bathroom and meal stops necessary when travelling with young children. Poignantly, I well remember making this same journey many many times with Sarah and Tim to visit my mother …. my father having passed away when Sarah was just a toddler. How those years have flown. Feeling more than a little sad, more than a little nostalgic but the overriding feeling is still one of immeasurable gratitude. Gratitude that I have such a good, kind, loving family in my life ❤️

We celebrated Aliana’s birthday after everyone arrived on July 19 (her actual birthdate) … Aliana’s party with friends had been held earlier in Calgary … hard to believe my little beauty is 8!!!

Family Picnic 2019 was held at Reiswig Regional Park at Wood Lake … just a super fabulous fun day with everyone!!! ‘Uncle Otto’, was in fine form …. his big kid self fully engaged while gathering together his posse of young folk! The water pistols were loaded in record time … no one escaped some form of getting soaked 😂! He was joined by Tim Cuddie orchestrating his own bevy of tricksters … ie raft floaters getting dumped unceremoniously, sputtering into the lake! Love my growing extended family!

The highlight of the day was surely my niece Jennifer and husband Steve sharing their wonderful news … they are expecting their first child in January!!! Hooray!!! … can hardly wait!!! A new life to celebrate, cherish and welcome into the family fold ❤️

A hike to a waterfall on the Naramata Bench followed by a picnic lunch and wine tour of some of the smaller vineyards that dot the area … another totally delightful family day ❤️

Summer fun continued on Mission Golf Course … Oliver’s first time swinging a club other than a mini golf putter!

Onward ho to Glen Lake on Vancouver Island where we embrace the beauty and serenity of simple cottage life … quickly turning into our favourite Vancouver Island holiday spot!

A stopover in Qualicum Beach for a few rounds of mini golf and a sand dollar search …. we did find a live one, left for the waves to wash back to sea. By chance, we discovered a pleasant tea spot within a short walk through the woods … the Milner Garden and Woodland. Made for a most pleasant morning!

On the road, we stop off in White Rock for the night where Michelle has put on a delicious bbq dinner for us at the ‘Gibson Resort’ … what I have always called Mickey and Gordon’s home!! The kids enjoy Mickey’s swim lessons in the pool! Always a joy to spend time with the Gibsons and Cavanaughs … they are so like my second family and I love them all dearly!

What do kids end up doing at artist Mickey’s home?? Creating costumes of course 🤪!!

Fun at Auntie Marg’s pool, and a lakeside dinner out with Marg and Jennifer finishes off a wonderful week.

Enerplex energy burner was a hit with both Aliana and Oliver this year!! Aliana can do chin-ups!!!!

Lovely also to enjoy visiting my friends Jane and Bob at their son Grant and Mary’s home where they have recently finished construction on their pool … Chloe, Tristan, Aerie, Aliana and Oliver have great fun enjoying all the water toys together!!

So ends a lovely lively visit … summer fun moments creating more memories with the precious people I am lucky to call family ❤️

Somewhat Surreal Spring 2019

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Since arriving home from Mexico in early April, introspection has become the new norm these past several weeks. There is nothing quite like the passing of those we love that focuses our attention on the present … that gift of the ‘now’! Losing my close friend Gordon, who was like the brother I never had, so very suddenly has left a tender spot in my heart.

Around the same time in Calgary, my niece Susan’s Father-in-law, Jim Hawkes passed away. A deep loss of a much loved patriarch of the Hawkes family.

A few weeks later, my Brother-in-law Brad White passed away in the early morning of May 20. He was diagnosed with pharyngeal cancer almost fifteen years ago. The residual damage to his heart and body from the many months of chemotherapy had finally taken their toll. A sad day for the White family and indeed all our extended family. He was a good friend, uncle, great-uncle, brother-in-law to my immediate family. We have so many happy memories of visits to Kelowna, munching on “Brad burgers”, while sitting on the White patio overlooking Sunset Ranch Golf Course. There were many golf holidays around British Columbia, in La Quinta, California, or beach fun in Mexico! For a brief time when Margaret and Brad lived in Calgary, we also shared many wonderful Sunday dinners together at both our home in Stonepine and their condo in Kensington. Warm poignant memories. Brad, we all miss you 😪

So yes, introspection … 🤔 … I have often said that death is the flip side of birth … both celebrations in their own way. What we do in the intervening days of our lives between those dates is what I have been pondering these past weeks and continue to do. How we all chose to live our lives. As the decades pass, I become ever more convinced that kindness, compassion, empathy and love are wise guides to walk hand in hand with in any and every situation, especially the difficult ones. Our modern day lives are so full of outer distractions … we swirl around in a constant state of ‘doing’ … of consuming, of acquiring, of pursuing …. somewhat relentlessly …. experiences, accomplishments, be they of artistic, literary, athletic, intellectual or work and business nature … rarely taking time to swim in the silent stillness of our own inner rivers … to just ‘be’ for a spell. Dare I bring in the modern day distraction of this little 6″ x 3″ gadget … the iPhone!!! 😗 …. it is an endemic addictive tool, one I strongly feel adds a rather superficial distraction for too many of us! And I remain well aware it is a global phenomenon, having travelled around the world observing it first hand …. of course, ironically, this is all the while in pursuit of my own personal distraction preference … travelling 😗!! I know these distractions are what give our lives texture, substance, meaning …. but still? … here I am in this month of loss of loved ones, pondering it all 😗 … Did Gordon, Jim, Brad lead meaningful, happy, fulfilled lives … did they feel valued, loved, heard?? …. what words of wisdom would they share from the ‘other side’???

I observe a more mindful approach to life IS slowly emerging globally, albeit at a snail’s pace, the pace of evolution 😙. On the personal front, a mental shift has been slowly evolving as I too work on adding a more mindful approach to everything I do. Hmmmm … the reflective musings continue …. 😂.

The Merry Month of May

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In my family, May has always been the month of birthdays! Two of my sisters and I were all born in May, as was my Father, two nieces, a nephew and of most impact in my life, Timothy Connor, my son’s birthday falls on May 13th! How clearly I remember the day of his birth … love just bloomed that day … a precious new life to love and cherish in the form of a little eight pound, four ounce boy. A brother for Sarah! I have discovered there is little in life to rival holding a new life in your arms at the moment of their birth. Nothing comes even close. I don’t know that I really understood love until I gave birth to my children. Words fail me when I am moved to that place beyond words where love lives. Inevitably there are many ways to experience that unique love without having children but for me it was the moment I became ‘mom’ … below, Sarah almost five, me thirty five when Tim was born ❤️❤️

May is also a time to celebrate a bit of Canadian history! As many this long weekend are celebrating what has been called “May Long”, I wonder how many today, out in the campgrounds, hiking and biking trails, sitting around campfires, or at backyard barbecues sipping their beer know the origins of this Canadian holiday? The birthday of Queen Victoria, the reigning British monarch at the time of Confederation! Seems a bit archaic to think that all these years later, we still celebrate the birthday of a Queen, and indeed have a national holiday in honour of it but it remains an indelible part of our country’s history. Lots of fighting and squabbling between England and France for supremacy in those early years. I still remain surprised that America did not just bulldoze their way in and take over our country in those early years before confederation! Probably too cold a country to consider as a viable addition 😂!!

Whether you celebrate the return of warmer temperatures and outdoor lifestyle today or toast to Queen Victoria, enjoy the weekend! Savour the precious moments of life.