December 2020 – January 2021

Standard

I started typing this post some days ago and in the midst of typing and almost finishing it, an unsettling tsunami of violence erupted in Washington DC yesterday, January 6th!! It is a vast understatement to say this has been the most unusual year of our lives for most of us if not all, given the relentless onslaught of the pandemic, racial equality protests around the globe particularly prevalent in America, the insanity surrounding the US election results!! The icing on this crazy cake, for lack of a better metaphor, surely would be the seditious revolt perpetrated by Trump supporters, storming the holy shrine of democracy, the Capitol Building in Washington DC.!! That the police were ill prepared for the revolt was hard to digest! Surreal to watch. It appears America is at a crossroads … it is my nature to remain hopeful and confident that positive changes are in the wind for the future. It will be interesting to observe in the weeks and months ahead as a new era for our Southern neighbours begins to emerge. We are moving into the ‘Age of Aquarius’ now after all 😊! If any country is resilient, it is America! They have been the beacon of democratic light in our world for the better part of the last century. I am confident they will prevail. Hopefully as a less divisive, less polarized, more inclusive America where equality for all is a genuine possibility.

Adios to this challenging and unsettling year. This year of the global pause. There is symmetry to 2020, where both the focus on internal growth, and the new appreciation for a simpler existence based on slowing down, appreciating and valuing our communities, friends, family … hugging each other has been steadily growing. Surprisingly, through it all, I personally have begun to feel more peaceful and hopeful than I could ever possibly have imagined just a short nine months ago!! Throughout, the unbounded resiliency of everyone I know leaves me hopeful. As the year progressed, allowing for an abundance of quiet reflective time whether at home, on nature walks, sitting in cafes or in our back yards, it became apparent who and what matters most to us. It has been the unexpected gift of this insidious covid virus.

What we truly value, something we may only have paid lip service to in past years, became unequivocally crystal clear during covid. Simplicity rules, be it in the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the company we keep. Family matters. Friendships matter. Kindness and honesty matter. Compassion matters. Human touch and hugging matter. Generosity matters. Sharing matters. All tied together in rainbow ribbons of gratitude and love. Pretty basic.

What a beautiful Christmas and New Years week I had in Victoria with my daughter, son in law and my darling grandchildren who I cared for while Sarah and Rob worked. It was a soul soothing way to finish off this challenging year … breathing in our West coast ambiance in the company of those I love. Sadly, covid rules did not allow us to gather the whole family together. We enjoyed many seaside walks and meals in that beautiful city with its abundance of great dining options! Grateful to Sarah and Rob for making it all happen.

Over many years, the journey into living a more conscious life has been a long and winding one. Certainly this pandemic has allowed for much introspection of our inner selves. Who we are at our core, our centre. I am becoming less reactive, more accepting. We are all on our own journeys, with varying degrees of awareness and awakening to the miraculous beauty that life can be when we have eyes to see. “We are after all just walking each other home”. Though we may be on vastly different junctions within the path … how wonderful if we just enjoyed walking it together respecting each other’s various paces and detours. Reach out with a helping hand of loving support when we see each other falter or fall. Human kindness. The Golden Rule … deeply ingrained in every world religion and culture … “Treat others as you would want to be treated”.

What surprised and delighted me this year were the relatively recent friendships that grew stronger roots. My neighbours Bev and Joan are a wonderful addition to my decades long friendships with a handful of very very dear friends. We created our own little social bubble in Kelowna and shared many laughs on our weekly ‘pub dates’, sharing and listening to each other’s stories. Laughter rarely far away. Surely a perfect antidote to and brief respite from the pandemic fear and paranoia imposed on us daily from our governments and news media!

Within the oftentimes noisy clatter of a life there are large gaps of silence where the pace of life feels at ease with itself. A daily mindfulness practice has been instrumental in connecting me with that stillness, the empty spaces between the words. Creating a fine balance. It is what very young children do naturally … they are rarely if ever thinking of yesterday or planning for tomorrow … they live ‘in the now’ … in the present. Little wonder, if given a choice, I have often preferred being in the company of children 😊, be it with my own children throughout their childhood or the decade of volunteering around the world in daycares or schools and currently enjoying time with my grandchildren. I have in many ways, learned more valuable lessons about life from children than I ever have from adults! The ease that children display daily, to live in the moment, never holding grudges, so openly honest, their innate ability to indulge in all manner of goofy fun, jumping in puddles, creating art of every description … the many moments of unbridled laughter … the list is endless! I hope there was some reciprocity involved but I do think I pulled the long straw on that front 😂!

So as 2021 unfurls its fresh wings, rather than wondering what this year will bring to us, how about … “What will we bring to this new year 2021?” What will I contribute, what can I share? No matter how small the gestures, they add up. In the wise words of Mother Teresa “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love”. My mantra for 2021. 🙏

Fall 2020

Standard

I have heard that creativity has flourished for many during this time in our history. It has been my intention to create some sort of ongoing record of these historic 2020 moments but inspiration rarely surfaces in these days when malaise can so easily set in. It has been months since I opened my journal/blog. What little creativity I may possess, seems to be on a very long break indeed 😂!! Hoping words flow today.

In many respects this unprecedented quiet time on our planet has been good for our spirits, allowing us to slow down and breathe deeply into life. Some of us may even have moved from struggle to grace during this challenging year. I don’t recall too many times in my life when I wasn’t rushing about, to and fro, getting caught up in the busyness. Perhaps one gift of the virus for many of us, is the shift into more peace and quiet … into the stillness within … being, over doing. Mixing it all up with good books, Netflix, varying kinds of meditations, a home yoga practice or walks along the lake for fresh air. All these both mindful and mindless distractions have helped bring texture and balance to life in this new viral environment.

I am a rebel by nature, so it comes as no surprise that at times, I am in conflict with some of what our government and health authorities are enforcing. Our freedoms appear to be slowly eroding as we are being told who and where we can interact with others, all for the sake of keeping everyone ‘safe’. The measures are contrary to my intuitive and common sense approach to life. However, I have had to shift my outlook many times during the last several months as I strive to understand the restrictions for the sake of the common good …. (these shifts in perspective coincide with the continuing stream of scientific contradictions that continue to surface as we learn more about the virus)! Throughout my life, I have often enjoyed, indeed been stimulated by and learned much from, ideological adversarial exchanges on important issues … exchanges there appears to be little room for in the current climate. Should one attempt to question the status quo on policies regarding covid online, we are either shut down by the media server or scolded and shamed by others. At times I shudder inwardly at the prevailing sanctimonious attitude of some. When did thinking through issues, doing our own research in addition to what we are spoon-fed through news networks and our governments become labeled as self centred, selfish??!! In a free society, thoughtful contemplation and introspection should be encouraged not shut down! We are not blind sheep. We have the right to question, reflect on, reason and ponder what we are told! Yes, I am well aware of the conspiracy theories that run rampant. A discerning cool head has to prevail when wading through the many podcasts that continue to pop up with ever increasing frequency. I try to keep an open mind when reading or watching some of the more credible ones.

There have, however, been days when it has been very hard to adhere blindly to whatever edict I am fed through the authorities. Although I am not a nurse, doctor or a scientist, I do possess a certain common sense intuitive approach to life, bolstered somewhat by extensive life experience on many fronts. I continue to learn and expand my knowledge base as much as possible. In many respects, the fear many are experiencing can be as insidiously damaging as the virus itself. From our very beginnings on this planet, we have been social beings. We needed to clump together for survival. That has not changed overly over thousands of years of human evolution. We still need each other! Many around our world have sadly lost loved ones to covid and more continue to become ill with this virus or complications from it. Many have passed from all manner of illness or old age during this pandemic. Often, because of the safety restrictions, they are left alone with no family allowed to comfort them as they pass on. This seems so wrong. British Columbia’s medical authority, Dr. Bonnie Henry wisely encourages us to lead lives of compassion, kindness, love and gratitude, as we navigate these unknown viral waters … spread the love far and wide particularly to everyone suffering. We try.

So … as we near our tenth month of isolation and imminent lockdowns, let’s remember that human contact can help keep us all mentally balanced. If we can’t assemble together in order to keep the vulnerable safe, we can still reach out, even if only via a smile of encouragement to those we pass by on our weekly jaunts to buy groceries. Our collective mental health can only benefit. Our eyes can still convey a smile even if we can’t share the full expression, muzzled as we are asked to be! Zoom, FaceTime, Texts, social media, phone calls are still allowed! Let’s all aim for some form of connection and share our love, compassion and kindness as best we can. When we falter, let’s pick each other up, not pick each other apart.

I have had the good fortune to enjoy some wonderful breaks from solo isolation in the last months within my family and friends social bubbles ❤️. Vancouver Island with a dear friend in September, family visits in both Calgary and Victoria in October and November. Soul food that continues to sustain me. I share pictures below.

Harbour House dinner with Georgia

September moments in time with Mickey, Madeline and Mickey’s grandchildren, Tiernan, Jay-Lynn and Georgia in Mill Bay and Victoria. Fresh air for the soul when we were still ‘allowed’ to share experiences in small groups. 🙏🏽

Early October I drive that old familiar highway between Kelowna and Calgary. The golden hues of fall soothe as I drive. Happy to be able to share a Canadian Thanksgiving with family. 🙏🏽

Tim, Liseanne and Wilma at the Peace Bridge in Calgary
Delicious turkey is served! Followed by a tasty Chocolate cake for dessert!
Thanksgiving October 2020 at Sarah and Rob’s with the family and neighbour bubble! Today as we approach the end of November with yet another round of social restrictions in place,
this kind of gathering would not be allowed 🙄!!
The kids built a snow family complete with a dog !!
Family picture day at Peace Bridge ❤️
My little love!
My other little love … enjoying a late fall game of golf!
tennis practice
Exploring French Beach, Vancouver Island
Out and about in Victoria shops
Royal BC Museum, Victoria

Loved my week with these two darlings and their mommy ❤️ … we managed to explore a bit of Victoria despite the rain which actually served to add to the overall coastal ambiance! The cabin at ‘Point No Point’ was a relaxing oceanside stay. West coast at its finest!

Our cozy cabin

Summer 2020 Memories

Standard

August 12th today as I start typing! … and just like that, summer is breezing by in the shadows of the pandemic! Somehow through it all, life goes on … our family still managed to enjoy some actual holiday time, including a celebration sailing day in and around Victoria for Brian’s 70th … a delayed birthday gift from our children that coincided with Aliana’s 9th birthday July 19. The birthday duo steered our boat admirably through mostly calm waters, the wind having gone into hiding. Made ‘no never mind’ to our enjoyment of the day 😊!! An oyster dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf followed …

It has been an extraordinary year on so many levels. On any given day, I have oscillated between happiness that we have somehow managed to squeeze in some quality family moments within the isolation and lockdown periods … and sadness about all the covid deaths, the covid everything, the racial protests, so necessary, but the violence and looting? … unacceptable! Certainly America appears to be taking centre stage in that regard with a relentless barrage of violent protests mixed in with the more subdued ones. Addressing racial injustice is long overdue whether in North America or globally … nothing changes unless changes are made! And sadly, changes rarely occur without ‘making a lot of noise’. If nothing else comes out of this covid year, equality for all should be a main priority.

We are all one … why do so many need to feel superior to anyone based on the colour of their skin, or their gender, or the country they come from … ‘or or or’?? Certainly my explorations and volunteering around the world have helped forge a more global perspective … less likely to fervently embrace nationalism and more likely to value each and everyone … even silly horrible old Trump! He must have had a really sad childhood, deprived of love and acceptance to have grown into such a nasty human being. I remind myself everyone was once a baby, a young child, just looking for love and acceptance from those entrusted with their care. I aim for compassion ….

In many respects, I feel we are witnessing the unravelling of a once global super power. When all the dust has settled, America’s hold on that distinction will have eroded substantially. China is patiently waiting in the wings to take over the power strings from this once great nation. My husband and I had many discussions over the years about how power circles the globe looking for it’s next host! We always felt China could eventually resurface as a world power because of their economic might. Ironically, this economic might has surfaced in no small measure, thanks to the materialistic zeal of America where shopping is a national pastime for too many and most of the products they buy are made in guess where?? … China!!! Hmmm 🙄

Of course we all prefer a democracy no matter how messed up it may seem at the moment, to the socialist authoritarian style of governing in China!! Well … let’s wait and see what materializes out of this global reshuffling! My own country is experiencing its own struggles, politically and economically. Who knows what the landscape of Canada will look like when this infamous year comes to a close?? Or America or any country for that matter??! It is an understatement to say we are living in interesting times.

Glen Lake was a delight as usual. Our third year enjoying the quiet little lake not far from Victoria. It is as close to the idyllic Northern Ontario cottage life of my childhood as I have found anywhere in the West. Most build big houses on lakefront, not cottages … so beyond happy my daughter discovered tiny Glen Lake for us!

Me enjoying a dip in the lake 😊

We enjoyed a week in Kelowna at my place prior to the island … both of my kids under the same roof once again … hardly an every day occurrence! Tim’s new puppy Wilma joined us 😊

Always happy to spend an evening with this little munchkin in my arms … my niece Jennifer is an awesome mom … her mother, my sister Marg a cool grandma!! Happy also that my son Tim was able to come for a visit and meet little Penny ❤️
Wilma after a bath 😊
Onward to Victoria !
While in Victoria, Aliana and I had a special ‘birthday date’ shopping for school clothes followed by lunch and a creme brûlée birthday dessert ❤️

Early in July, we had our fourth annual family picnic … a small group of us gathered at Reiswig Regional Park on the shores of Woods Lake

… a few were not comfortable to attend with covid in the air and health compromised people within their ‘bubbles’. Smaller group but a good fun day … very windy and cooler than last year!

Summer 2020 .. more fun moments

Aliana and Oliver took art classes in Victoria ❤️

They arranged a delightful gallery of their paintings and clay sculptures in my wee yard 😊

❤️

A quick stopover to visit Mickey in Surrey/White Rock area, who is in the midst of transitioning from life in the big house to a smaller condo, all without her precious Gordon. We have been friends for almost five decades and travelled extensively together for much of the last twenty years. Yes, the three musketeers as we called ourselves, now down to two 😢!

The three youngest in our family … Aliana, Oliver and Penelope ❤️❤️❤️

Covid 19 … And The Beat Goes On

Standard

Almost three months have passed since I last felt inclined or inspired to write down any thoughts on this global pause, this global pandemic, this global fear that appears to have taken hold of even the most logical, most rational of us. Fear can be the most insidious obstacle to peace, happiness or progress as we navigate our way through this time on our planet. That fear can certainly test our faith … so crucial to stay focused on positives as we move forward.

I choose to remain calm, positive and hopeful. Some days certainly test that resolve 🙄!

After three weeks of solo isolation in my own home in Kelowna, my daughter suggested I come to Calgary to ride out the rest of the lockdown period with her family … in her bubble, as it were 😊! I realize, because of my age, I am in one of the high risk groups. We discussed this at length … I told them I have been fortunate to have lived a most extraordinary life, full of adventures, experiences, global travels, volunteer postings, resulting in oh so very many beautiful moments over many decades, that simply took my breath away … (surely the birth of my children tops that long and winding list!!) … that should I be taken by this virus, there would be no regrets on my part. I would want to be surrounded by family, not hiding out from the virus in isolation. If they were willing to take the risk, then I was totally on board. So, in early April, I packed up the car and hit the highway, ready to ride out this storm around family. No problem social distancing 🙄 … pretty much everything along the way, including all washrooms were closed!! The highways, virtually empty! I made it to Calgary in a record breaking six and a half hours 😊

I knew that decision would elicit disdain and disapproval from some … I opted for moving forward with realistic optimism!

I have experienced and lived through tough times, many times in my life … times that challenged me to the core. Who of us has not experienced something similar?? This lockdown has in many respects been a breeze compared to some of those times. However, the economic impact of shutting down global economies does concern me. I pray we will bear up, dig deep for inner strength … our ‘sisu’ guiding our way. The world is in a state of chaos with riots and protests dominating our news for most of June. Racial inequality and injustice has been bubbling in the background for many years. It is time to repair, heal, and move forward with a new commitment to work towards creating a world where there is equality for all. How can we even consider anything less?!

By all appearances, our world is in the process of undergoing a major paradigm shift, a long overdue transformation. If nothing else, this pandemic, via isolating in our homes, is allowing for quiet reflective time.

One day, while watching talk show hosts on their various programs, now filming from their homes, it became obvious they are applying their own makeup or not at all and dressing in comfy sweats some days like the rest of us mortals and wow … they even look like the rest of us 😂!!! No razzmatazz available to pump up their image building. It occurs, and not for the first time, that women in particular sure devote a lot of time to their external packaging!! … the list is endless … hair dyes, pedicures, manicures, Botox, facials, cosmetic surgeries, applied cosmetics of every ilk, endless workouts to sculpt that perfect body, weekly shopping missions … can’t miss out on the latest styles! …. yikes … that external packaging sure takes a lot of time, money and effort … seems a bit shallow in many respects. So … it all ground to a halt for four months!! The only thing I missed were pedicures and massages😂! Quiet time moved in and all the above had to go on hiatus. So what IS important in our lives? For me it is pretty simple. Connecting with my family or with good friends, health, a meditation and yoga practice, nutritious food, a safe place to call home, some money to keep it all in balance, all washed down with a nice glass of Pinot Noir 😊. All the rest is a bonus. In the last months, I have noticed in my own yoga routines, that I have slowed down considerably, taking time to breathe deeply into a stretch … and wow … I am actually and surprisingly enjoying them immensely. No more rushing for me! A new appreciation has set in. For far too many years, workouts were just something I wanted to get done … ‘get on with that fitness business and get in shape’ 😂🙄! Yes, this covid pandemic has presented us with a precious gift … quiet times to appreciate and evaluate what we truly value.

I feel we are all being challenged to move beyond outdated limiting beliefs, prejudices, judgments, behaviours … to evolve into kinder, more compassionate, more accepting, more loving versions of ourselves. It is time.

Two of our new family members: Oliver’s little Olaf the hamster, and Tim and Liseanne’s Wilma our grand dog … welcome additions, both these little darlings ❤️

At Sarah and Rob’s for most of April and May, I was able to enjoy so many beautiful moments, be it celebrating birthdays, Sunday dinners with extended family, playing with my grandchildren or savouring something as simple as sitting on the patio in the early morning sun, a cup of steaming coffee in hand! As the weather improved, we moved extended family dinners in the garage to outdoor spaces in the back yard … both spaces allowing for social distancing … who of us is not tired of that term by now??!! …. despite recognizing the need for it 😝! This whole concept of distancing to protect each other has certainly challenged my personal boundaries … I am all about touching, hugging, showing affection … !!). Aaahhh … I remind myself, this too shall pass.

May we move forward to more auspicious times in the second half of 2020🙏

Back in Kelowna, connecting with the other side of my family … pool party in Tim and Angela’s lovely yard (resort 😊) with the Whites and Cuddies.

When provincial parks were finally opened, I drove out one day to visit my sister Maija and her Otto at their campsite on Mable Lake. Maija fed raw peanuts to the squirrels who skittered and munched away at our feet! Yes, another beautiful Okanagan lakeside day to enjoy and savour the simple pleasures that are everywhere if we just slow down enough to see them. Perhaps that is the hidden message, the hidden blessing of this virus … ❤️.

Viral curve flattening, allowing for more family gatherings … introducing Penelope to her cousins … celebrating Sarah’s 38th birthday at Auntie Marg’s❤️

Sarah, Aliana and Oliver arrive in Kelowna in mid June … Sarah continued on to Victoria for work, leaving me with little people to play with 😊. Aliana and Oliver had fun mini golfing with my friend Jane’s three grandchildren and swimming and splashing around in their pool. So wonderful to listen to children having fun, giggling, hanging out together, being kids!! They have missed having their friends around these past three months!

Otto and Maija surprise and thrill the kids with their arrival on Otto’s cool motorbike … so ok maybe not Maija, who opted to follow in her car 😂!

Building a teepee with beach driftwood … Aliana and Oliver helped ‘clean’ the beach for their project ❤️

Gable craft ladies meet up for first Bookclub since January … thankfully we have a great neighbourhood Central Park that we put to good use .. not sure how we will gather after the summer. Hopefully we will be able resume the meetings in our homes once again!

New Reality 2020

Standard

Whenever I start a new blog entry, my mind is often blank for many long minutes. The very act feels self indulgent, self centred, egotistical. It has, however, grown to be a source of comfort to me over the years, much like the diary I used to write in occasionally as a child. Initially I started my blog ten years ago to record and trace my travels and experiences of a year long solo trip around the world and share those moments with my family and a handful of friends. I see now that it has shifted more into the realm of a record, a personal peek into me and where I am at on this life journey, as much as it is a travel log .. blog. I read between my own lines lol 🙄 for clarity of thought. In many ways, I feel I have returned to the diary of my youth.

So … the Coronavirus …. I don’t even like capitalizing that pesky germ riddled word!! Yes, I am most definitely feeling testy on day eleven in the midst of solo isolation! That tiny highly contagious little germ has taken our planet Earth captive in a way no one could have predicted just one short month ago! The impact of that continues to ruminate around in my head … yes, lots of time for thinking now. Invariably, it is a gift in disguise, one that we can all learn from. Not quite there yet, but working on it 🙄!

Surprisingly, despite having eerily realistic dreams most nights, I have been sleeping better than I have in years. A welcome by-product and yes, a small gift during this global pause. What I deeply and intensely dislike about the uninvited, the unwelcome coronavirus guest bringing to our table however, is this distancing from family, from friends. At a time when we all need each other for human comfort, we are told to stay apart. A grandmother … that would be me and millions of others, advised by our government that we should not see our grandchildren, healthy as we all might be. How can we possibly be infecting each other, all sequestered in a house, away from the masses, away from public places?? Paranoia Patty seems to be taking over the global mind! So many seem riddled with fear, common sense appearing to have jumped ship altogether! Stay tuned … rumination eventually turns into words … see what day twelve brings in revisions to this blog entry.

“If you can’t go outward, go inward” …. on that note, my yoga, meditation and chanting routine beckons … keeps me sane in a world seemingly gone insane.

The Far and Wide Reach of a Helping Hand

Standard

A few years ago I had heard through a good friend in San Miguel about Amistad Canada and the good work they support in this area of Mexico. Health and the well being of the disadvantaged children and their families in the rural communities is the focus of five projects out of the fifteen they support in Mexico. Amistad is a Canadian endeavour and continues to be for the most part, started up by a few Canadian retirees over ten years ago. Responding to the vitality and warmth of San Miguel’s community life and the very evident need of the local population for more social support, many people in the expatriate community become active in supporting social agencies that provide services to those in need. Their reach has extended to a dozen or so projects today in Guanajuato, Oaxaca and Jalisco.

Bev and I, together with our friends Anne and Rick, fifteen other Canadians and Americans and the Patronato Pro Ninos staff head to the campo (countryside) to a small community where the mobile units were stationed for the week. We learn and see first hand what this amazing little company has been up to. As well as a Central Health Centre, it operates a fleet of mobile medical and dental vans, the newest ones, being funded by Amistad Canada. The programs give financial support to sick children and dental and medical care to those who have no means or access to either without the help of the Pro Ninos program.

It is amazing what can be accomplished when people gather together, sharing their organizational talents, passion and desire to help those less fortunate in our world. San Miguel is not just a winter haven for retirees. There are committed people wanting to lend a helping hand. Fundraising is a constant to keep the programs running smoothly. Many San Miguel residents have been very generous over the years. To move these vital programs forward, the goal of Patronato Pro Ninos is to include corporate fundraising in the future.

Mother watches as her child’s teeth are examined.
We meet teachers and students at the local school in the village … lots of support from Patronato Pro Ninos here as well
David Winfield, President of Patronato (on far right in beige) and his Executive Director Nory Contractor (center) share information about the programs
Doctor in the mobile unit
The Dentist in charge of the mobile dental van
A flock of sheep greet me as I explore the village
We gather around with Patronato President David Winfield and his highly enthusiastic Executive Director, Nora Contractor, who I must say is the most enthusiastic human being alive. Her passion is helping others.

I am humbled totally. This enthusiastic organization blows me away. There is much good in our world.

I loved watching this little girl ‘watching us’ 😊

Discovering yet another layer of San Miguel de Allende.

March 12, 2020, Amistad hosts a 10th Anniversary Party at Instituto Allende, inviting all Canadians living in San Miguel to the festivities. Bev and I volunteer with a handful of others, helping set up for the afternoon party.

Hanging of the flags
Loved the children’s choir

Bev and I form part of the backstage ‘security detail’ along with local staff 😊


I loved helping out, little as it was .. volunteering is in my blood

Hard to believe I started working on this post just ten brief days ago … how the world, yes literally the world, has changed since then! We learned shortly after that Amistad party on March 12th, that as Canadians, we would have to make our way back to Canada as soon as possible!! I waited another week and just managed to squeak in prior to border closings and the cancellation of many flights back to Canada. I rarely jump into a situation at first blush … I tend to wait for the furor to die down and as such, despite being borderline crazy to leave booking a flight to the last moment, it was pleasant to arrive at all connecting flights and airports with hardly a person around … have never in all my many years of travel, been in such empty airports! It was beyond a surreal experience. I breezed through Queretaro Airport in Mexico, same through Houston and Vancouver, disinfectant handy wipes in hand. Kelowna upon arrival was a total ghost town. Surreal indeed.

To think on March 16th, Bev and I hosted a small going away dinner party for our friends before we all dispersed on various flights to our homes in Canada. It was before “social distancing” became the new normal in our human interactions for the next several weeks if not months!! A few stayed on in San Miguel to weather this coronavirus pandemic here in the comfort of their homes.

Will miss them all 😢

How much has changed since this wonderful night together with good friends. Was it really just a week ago today??!! We now live with the reality of a viral pandemic that is already changing our lives forever. Stay tuned as I sit here in the midst of a 14 day solo isolation period in Kelowna, British Columbia as this global virus situation evolves. It is heartbreaking to be away from family at a time like this.

San Miguel de Allende Magic 2020

Standard

It is early morning. The familiar sunrise ‘song’ of a nearby rooster, our reliable San Miguel alarm clock wakes me up. The rooster is an early bird … getting rather randy at 3:00 am on many mornings 🙄!! Bev and I return for our seventh year, to share a home in this charming cobbly colonial small town in Central Mexico … a town that never ceases to awaken the senses. We settle in, comfy in both our friendship and our home!

Local ladies creating amazing beadwork
Bev skipping along the cobblestones 😊

Travelling with friends has always added a totally different dynamic to my adventures! It is a definite departure from travel with my husband or children and grandchildren or my more frequent typical solo excursions. I welcome the diversity and remain grateful for both family and friends, so willing to share the experience of opening ourselves to different cultures, countries, experiences.

Many years ago, on our first adventure together, Bev and I were delighted to have the opportunity to soak in the warmth of the San Miguel ambiance in lieu of a wintry Calgary. We committed to a month initially, now stretched to two 😊. We get along, despite the odd mild spat once in a blue moon … how cool is that to say after all these years??!!

Love the local street vendors ❤️

I was not always much of a ‘girlfriend’ throughout most of my childhood or even in the decades that followed. I grew up with five sisters, most of us barely a year apart in age … that seemed about as much female company as I needed or wanted.

Times have changed and I have grown to value my women friends over the years … more then I ever thought I would. Despite that, I do so relish a daily dose of quiet solo time, be it walking a nature path in the mountains, parks, beaches or walking the streets of San Miguel … I have heard this yearning for quiet moments in solitude could well be a Finnish trait 🙄. One of my all time favourite ‘activities’ is still laying down in a sauna, in total silence 😌! My Finnish roots run deep. The sauna available at the Rosewood Hotel remains a main draw every year as I sign up for the monthly membership! The gym and pool are peripheral benefits 😂!

A tradition when I sign up at Rosewood … margarita and guacamole on their patio after a good workout and sauna!
Iconic San Miguel street view

A year or so ago when I stayed at the Osho Ashram in Pune, India, what delighted me no end was when I discovered a true Finnish sauna, tucked away in their tiny spa!! Needless to say, I rarely missed a sauna day 😂! I was often the sole occupant! Though my passport is Canadian … and despite that I love and value my country dearly, a substantial part of my soul remains Finnish to the core!

Sauna in Pune, India

But … onward and forward to this charming city of San Miguel where life moves along at a leisurely pace. We walk these familiar cobblestone streets where an interesting array of entertainment offerings are available daily … talks and documentaries at the Biblioteca, musical concerts at Paprika, Bellas Artes, Instituto Allende, plays at Santa Ana, movies at Mercado Sano, dinners in or out with friends, yoga with maestro Antonio, or sometimes opting to just stay put, have a nap, read or enjoy an evening of Netflix, wine and leftovers 😊.

Sunday mornings find Bev and I bathing in community at the Unitarian Universalist Church, where joys and sorrows, music and stories are shared in a deeply spiritual accepting atmosphere of love and respect for all, where every one is welcome … inclusivity permeates the atmosphere!

San Miguel can be as busy or relaxing as one wishes. It is said there are many layers to this magical little city. After living here for a part of all these winters, we continue to peel away layers, always discovering something that stirs and stokes the intellect, warms the heart, connects us to what ultimately sings to our souls …

Bev’s Calgary yoga group, in San Miguel for a retreat join us for lunch
The grand lady of San Miguel .. the neo-gothic 17th century pink spired Parroquia
UU Sunday church services
Me in a happy place, mixing with our spiritual community
The wooden chalice sculpture, a UU symbol created by and donated to the church by a local artist
Rooftop patio dining at Casa Papaya with Anne, Rick, Owen and Heidi
I make weekly stops to sit quietly inside the Parroquia
A visit with Francoise in her new apartment
Police presence in town 😗
Bev’s indulgence above and mine below 😊
Tequila tasting with chilli powdered fruit 😊

Beachside Solitude

Standard

On my own once again. Linda left for the comforts of home last week, leaving me with a bit of quiet time before my next leg of travel to San Miguel de Allende.

I head off for an afternoon stroll to explore the markets, the street side cafes, the graffiti art along the side streets, the Pochutla produce market … all capture the brilliant textures and vibrant colours of this coastal region of Oaxaca, home of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico … undoubtedly the earliest inhabitants!


Given the past few years have been somewhat emotionally charged ones, losing my sister, brother in law and a dear close friend, it has been pure ‘comfort food’ to start off a new year, a new decade in the company of a friend who knows me so well … someone I can just hang with, be myself around, who accepts me despite my many quirks. Good soul infused companionship! Sometimes I even make Linda laugh out loud 😂!

It’s been a pleasant month. Leisurely mornings, sipping coffee on our patio, listening to the waves, the ocean view so soothing. Often we strolled into town for a late breakfast of fresh papaya juice, toast and beans or an omelet at either Posada San Cristobal, Nice Place on the Beach or Buda-Mar next door.

Zipolite has a unique small town vibe with an eclectic mix of accommodations. There are tents perched on the beach, mixed in with thatch roofed huts, small boutique hotels, all manner of little casitas with rooms to rent dotting the hillsides and main streets. Not a five star luxury place within a hundred kms of Zipolite … some sort of building ordinance I would think? The town consists of a handful of streets along the stunningly beautiful Zipolite beach …. normally these bits of real estate are nabbed by the big chain hotels that dot tropical coastal regions around the world. The population is somewhere in the range of a thousand people. It is an interesting mix of various indigenous Mexicans, tourists from everywhere … Americans, Canadians, Italians, French, Germans, Austrians, Finns, Scandinavians! Many are young backpackers who often come for a week and decide to stay for months or years … seekers of every persuasion, artists, musicians, surfers. Some seem lost in a different era … the sixties perhaps 🙄. Lots of alternative lifestyle sorts are drawn to Zipolite … the eclectic extends beyond the accommodations 🙄 … we are definitely an interesting assortment. As a local homeowner told us “there is no place anywhere quite like Zipolite” 😌

My favourite part of living here is enjoying a daily glass of freshly pressed papaya juice every morning! A simple pleasure 😊.

Since Linda left, I have walked the beach to welcome sunrise every morning, sans clothing as many here choose to do. Very natural and freeing. “When in Rome” …….. 😊! I sense this may well be a main draw for many ….. the only legally sanctioned nude beach in all of Mexico. It has become a rather pleasant side benefit this week. I opt for early mornings just before sunrise … fewer if any people around 🙄!! The play of morning light on the water mesmerizes … the gentle ocean breeze on my bare skin … perfecto!

After too many years of a rather haphazard “on again, off again meditation practice”, a meditation routine of sorts is slowly taking shape. I am learning to apply a meditative attitude wherever I am, whatever I am doing. My emotionally turbulent self of old, rarely surfaces … still I do honour that too … it was a chapter in my life … ok maybe too many chapters 😂 … all part of my journey. Today, thankfully, I feel at peace more often than not.

Aaah these rambling reflections rumble around in my head, competing for space with the zenny more mindful moments 🙄

Aiming this year for more calm, less doing, more being, less having, more sharing, less judgement, more kindness, more compassion, more love ❤️

Zipolite – January, 2020

Standard

And so a new year, indeed a new decade begins. Hola 2020! January 1st, Linda and I meet at the airport, catch an early morning flight – Calgary to Huatalco, Oaxaca … and onward via an hour long cab ride to Zipolite! Linda had never travelled to Mexico and was keen to stay at a condo offered to us by a friend of hers … so onward ho to our second global adventure together! Monarca, an 18 suite condo project smack in the middle of the only ‘legal’ nude beach in all of Mexico! A nude beach in this Catholic country ??? 🙄. Say what??!!

It was not tucked away discreetly in a remote part of the beach area, as we had thought, but ran the entire almost two kilometres of beach! Took a few days to become accustomed to bare bums and various other body parts, fully displayed in all their free flying glory!

So after a few days of visual adjustment, the sleepy, zen like ambiance of Zipolite took hold of both Linda and I. There is a relaxing bohemian vibe to this wee Oaxaca town, drawing both young and not so young from all over the world. Gay folks constitute a good number … nice to see such a relaxed accepting atmosphere for those who in past decades, have been so cruelly marginalized. On daily walks through this primarily one street town, cannabis smoke wafts through the air.

Oaxaca is, by and large, the most ethnically complex of Mexico’s thirty-one states. Oaxaca is the historic home of the indigenous Zapotec and Mixtec peoples.

At least half of the population of Oaxaca still speaks an indigenous dialect! Sixteen different indigenous groups have been formally registered as indigenous communities, defined through dialect, customs, food habits, clothing, artistic beadwork, embroidery, rituals. By all accounts, most are gentle, helpful and kind to all of us foreigners invading their turf. Of course as tourism helps keep most everyone employed it becomes a circle of reciprocity. The history of this state intrigues .. onward with some research!

No surprise running into two Finlanders one evening. Seems wherever I travel, I run into someone who is from Finland!! Be it in such far flung unusual places as Pune, Dubai, Quito, Ulaanbaatar, or parts in between throughout Europe and Asia, Finns are out there exploring the world! So why not add tiny town Zipolite into the mix??! I imagine my own gypsy tendencies could well be a cultural heritage 😂

Sunrise to sunset …. papaya juices to margaritas, Linda and I indulge ❤️

Morning view from our patio ❤️

December’s Tender, Joyful, Celebratory Moments 2019

Standard

December 10th, I close my Kelowna home down for the winter, head to the airport and arrive shortly after to a rather … hmmm … minus Celsius double digit wintry Calgary just in time to celebrate Oliver’s 5th Birthday. I doubt there is a sweeter more dear five year old anywhere. He is a kind, thoughtful, giving, sensitive, compassionate little soul. He is also a little rascal trickster at times, delighting my heart no end! I love him so dearly.

It was a busy month with many family dinners, skating and skiing outings, Christmas gift exchanges and of course, Sarah, Rob and Rob’s brother Jackson’s annual Christmas Eve party! New this year was sharing Christmas Day at Rob’s sister Lisa’s home with the James and Overmann families and Lisa’s partner Rick and his mom Janet. (Drats … totally forgot to take pictures at Lisa’s!!!). Delicious dinners all with many love filled moments sharing them. Pictures tell the story 😊

These last weeks are reflective ones … it was a year of both sadness and celebration. Family members and a dear friend passed on to the other side.

When we lose those we love, it reminds us to savour the moments … they are after all, transitory … nothing lasts forever.

I love the Ram Dass quote …. “We are all just walking each other home”. How love filled is that?? What if we collectively made sharing moments of kindness, compassion, love and hugs all around, our daily acts of creativity, of grace? What if we make it a goal to live in the moment, every single day as the wisdom traditions and sages suggest. What if …..

No doubt about it … my grandchildren epitomize living in the moment ❤️. Probably why I so enjoy being around them 😂 … they ground me to the exquisite beauty of life.

And so ends 2019 ❤️.

California Dreaming … A Return to Desert Serenity

Standard

Mickey and I decided early this spring, shortly after Gordon’s passing, to return to La Quinta for our first trip together sans Gordon. A quiet kind of tribute journey … the three musketeers reduced to two. Our time here is short and although poignancy may hang in the air, we are still both buoyant with humour as we revive memories of our early years of friendship and the many global travels we shared over the decades. An early morning sunrise walk in the peaceful Santa Rosa Mountains soothes our souls … There are so many precious memories to savour as we reminisce when walking along these well worn trails or hopping around the boulders of Joshua Tree National Park. Mickey never ceases to crack me up … her sense of humour remains contagious 😂. We sip Gordon’s favourite Sauvignon Blanc at the various desert happy hours in La Quinta, Joshua Tree or Palm Desert. The desert has long been our Webb family favourite for golf getaways or short winter breaks at the PGA Residence Club villa … many memorable holidays were enjoyed over the years with extended family and friends often invited to join us. The desert ambiance is comfortable, familiar, soothing.  A great spot for some quality time with Mickey 😊

Memories Light the Corners of My Mind

Standard

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.

.

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

Standard

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

Standard

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.’

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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, beach fun in Mexico! For a brief time when Margaret and Brad lived in Calgary, we shared many wonderful Sunday dinners together at both our home in Stonepine and their condo in Kensington. Warm poignant memories.

So yes, introspection … the focus these past weeks! 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. As the decades pass, I become ever more aware that kindness and love are wise guides to walk hand in hand with in any and every situation, perhaps especially through the difficult times. 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 relentlessly, experiences, accomplishments, recognition, accolades, rarely taking time to swim in the silent stillness of our own inner rivers. Dare I say the addiction to social media is endemic adding a rather superficial distraction to the lot! Still … I have observed that a more mindful approach to life IS slowly emerging albeit at a snail’s pace, the pace of evolution 😙. Hmmmm … the musings continue ….

The Merry Month of May

Standard

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.

Life

Standard

A quote that seems to always come to mind in troubling or emotionally charged days …. “life is what happens while we are making other plans”. And so it is. I lost a great friend on April 18th! Just two days previous, we sat in the Gibson kitchen enjoying a morning coffee discussing the somewhat high risk surgery Gordon would be facing the following morning to remove a brain tumour. To keep the atmosphere light and positive, we discussed plans for our next adventure, possibly to Puerto Vallarta in the fall after his recovery. How quickly and with such abrupt finality life can change on a dime, despite the best laid plans.

All kinds of reflective moments just seem to have moved in during these last ten days since Gordon’s passing. Losing a friend I have known for almost fifty years leaves such a sad and empty feeling deep in the heart. Life takes on different hues when people we have shared so much of our lives with, loved and cared about, pass on to the other side! Gordon’s family lost an amazing patriarch. A kind, compassionate, loving, generous, gentle, honest, reliable, highly principled gentleman. I will miss his sense of humour, his sense of fun, his basic decency and oh my, how I loved discussions of all kinds with Gordon. He knew so much about the world around him and humbly shared his well researched thoughts and opinions about all manner of topics. I always learned something new …. my intellect receiving a welcome jolt of stimulation from these discussions.

Words seem to fall short to adequately share what I am feeling. Perhaps in time the words will flow. I will instead post pictures through the years with the three musketeers, something Mickey, Gordon and I so often called ourselves as we travelled around the world on so many wonderful adventures … we have hiked the coastal villages of the Cinque Terre, enjoyed the best goulash soup in Vienna, savoured coffee in a cafe along the old city walls of Dubrovnik, ‘galloped’ on camels in the sand dunes of Morocco to watch a desert sunset, walked the crumbly steps of the Great Wall of China …. and who could forget the sight of Gordon sashaying on stage at a fashion show in Turkey!! We had been touring a leather clothing factory with our Springbank travel group and the organizers regularly invite guests to participate and model the clothes for the fun event … who should volunteer but Gordon? There he was decked out in full leather, wig and heels! … his sense of humour fully engaged! In more recent years our travels together were mostly to La Quinta and Palm Desert, where we enjoyed many memorable moments walking in the Santa Rosa Mountains. Puerto Vallarta in Mexico was another favourite in our travels together as was Vancouver Island. Yes, the adventures have been many and varied. The three musketeers are now down to two 😪 … but Gordon’s spirit will travel on with us. At this point one would normally say something along the lines of ‘rest in peace’ but I think not!! Gordon, get that Matua Sauvignon Blanc chilled and get on with happy hour up there my friend … cheers 🥂

Captured some poignant moments at Gordon’s Celebration of Life at the Gibson home. A very emotionally moving day, many of us sharing stories and memories of Gordon through the years. There was much laughter and joy mingled with the inevitable tears as we shared and celebrated a life well lived. Gordon was loved by us all. 

San Miguel de Allende February 2 – April 2, 2019

Standard

Back to what has most definitely transitioned into my winter hangout, the charmingly cobblestoned colonial-era San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the central highlands of Mexico … known for its baroque Spanish architecture, thriving arts scene and a multitude of cultural festivals! In the city’s historic center the neo-Gothic church Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel greets us every year. The dramatic pink towers dominate the skyline from the myriad of rooftops in restaurants and homes, hillside streets … well, pretty much wherever you find yourself in SMA!

A favourite for me and what I do on my first day here, is walk to the Jardin and savour the ambiance around this classic church, a main draw for many. San Miguel has become the wedding capital of Guanajuato in recent years …. one sees several every weekend and invariably the Parroquia is the church of choice for the ceremonies!

… I have rested my weary feet, body and soul within the cool spiritual comfort confines of this church for many hours over the last six years!! Although I do not nor will I ever embrace Catholicism personally, the Mexicans who flock here, whatever their religious inclinations and reasons, sure love this church … they are sweet and kind in their religious beliefs. Wherever you gain spiritual comfort, and if you are not hurting someone, I’m cool with it. On reflection however, Catholicism with its outdated celibacy policy has sure resulted in much sadness, trauma and grief for many young children, primarily young boys. A sad state of affairs that needs to be addressed.

This year, perhaps more than in any previous year, getting settled felt much like putting on a favourite pair of sweats and getting comfortable! San Miguel just feels like home!

Six years ago, Bev and I were not sure this arrangement of leasing a house together … initially for a month, now stretched into two 😊 would work for either of us. However, we both figured, what the heck, let’s give it a whirl. We jumped in with enthusiasm and a positive attitude fuelling our decision, certain it would work for us!!

We have been friends, albeit not close ones initially, for over twenty five years. What a pleasant surprise to discover we are so darn compatible as roommates!! Who knew 😊?!! We respect each other’s quirks ….. (well, perhaps tolerate would be a more accurate term … certainly from Bev’s perspective 😂) … 😗!! … we enjoy each other’s company, attending the various festivals, plays, dinners out with friends, hanging out together in our home away from home …

or attending documentaries at the local bibliotheca, movies, and oh my yes, yoga with the incomparable Antonio, a highlight every week.

We also fully recognize and respect each other’s need for ‘alone time’ … a must when sharing accommodation for extended periods of time.

Bev’s husband Dave often joins us for a week … he makes the best margaritas and we eagerly anticipate his visit next week 😂!!! … oh yes, and his company 😂!

A month and a half has flown by in a ‘blissful state of beingness’! (Does such a word even exist … it should ! 😂 ?)

The sound of roosters waking us up during the first few weeks is always a tad annoying but soon enough, even through that racket, we can easily stay asleep 😊! The muscles and tendons in our feet and legs have long grown accustomed to the uneven cobbly surfaces that make up every ‘sidewalk’ … I loosely use that description … they are angled cobbled paths, usually a foot or two wide with all manner of possible tripping obstructions poking through the cobblestones 😗 … and oh my, the roads of San Miguel?? Roads?? 😂!! Dare I say, all of these quirks so very particular to San Miguel, form a part of this tiny city’s ‘charm’ and character! One learns early to stop …. not continue walking … when you want to look around 😂!

New for us this year was attending the writer’s conference with the added delight of hearing Paul Theroux discuss his many decades of travel experience … a delightful, interesting and warm speaker!

As always, it is the friendships with a handful of people we have known for six years that warm our hearts ❤️ …. newcomers are always a welcome treat and add flavour!

Yoga with Antonio remains a favourite … he is such a kind and wise soul. His classes always reflect his warmth and compassion towards all!

So yes, my San Miguel respite from Canada’s blustery winter opens my heart, nourishes my spirit, calms my mind, exercises my muscles, stimulates my intellect, warms my body ❤️.

In my happy place 😊

Calgary to Puerto Vallarta January 28 – Feb. 2, 2019

Standard

The journey … my personal journey of the heart, of the slow and steady awakening that relentlessly continues … a runaway train perhaps, for lack of a better analogy 😂 … Osho teachings are rarely far from my conscious awareness and continue to alter me in subtle ways. I trust the journey and will stay the course.

I left behind a wintry Calgary on the very early morning hours of January 28th to catch a flight to the warm coastal Puerto Vallarta region in the Jalisco Province of Mexico. I could not have chosen a more serene and perfect spot to savour the sea ambiance than this small family run boutique hotel perched on a steep hillside in Conchas Chinas! I was stunned into silent reverence. I savoured every last hour of my five days here ❤️. The staff became my friends. Several times, I took a bus into town just to enjoy a walk along the iconic Puerto Vallarta Malecon, breathing the moisture rich sea air deeply into my lungs. But even more enjoyable was walking the cobbly streets and rather steep pitches of Conchas Chinas to the beautiful and virtually empty beach below. It was a good time for me to be alone, to assimilate the past few months of my time both in India and with family in Calgary.

Osho Awakenings

Standard
  • I have tried to remain somewhat impassive to the energy that permeated my last week in India. I simply have no words to effectively describe that internal shift in awareness that was slowly evolving. I am left wanting to sit in silence more often than not. It is a peaceful wanting. Back in Canada, totally immersed in family functions and interactions for the past month and a half …. left little space or time for reflection. My grandchildren remain a major focus as young children so delightfully do … they are beautiful lights in my life. My children have long been adults and have found their own way. Sooo …. as I explore these next chapters in my own life, the internal changes continue to dominate … the external ones happen with little input on my part 😗. I have a few days for quiet time in Puerto Vallarta prior to meeting up with friends in San Miguel de Allende. I sat the other day, along the seawall for a very long time, just being, just listening to the waves. So peaceful, so soothing, so healing. I have never considered myself to be the sort to follow any particular ideology or religion but if Osho, the Bhagwan Rajneesh were alive today …. who knows??? His ways resonated deeply, his laser piercing eyes that seemingly see all, know all … the clipped clarity of his messages … I have no words to describe the effect on me. I simply remain humbled and grateful for the insights and lessons learned in Pune from the wisdom of his meditations, his discourses, his very energy that still wafts through the Ashram decades after his passing. To quote one of his early followers, “Osho was a beautiful gift”. Yes, so he was/is 🙏🙏
  • A quote of Osho’s I particularly like:
  • “Move in the world with a light foot, and with laughter in your heart. And then suddenly the whole existence starts turning into a divine experience. The mundane becomes
  • extraordinary.” ❤️

Aaah … Back to Western Culture

Standard

Confronting the commercial landscape of a typical Canadian Christmas season created a bit of a culture shock after my return from India! Having lived in a meditative ashram environment for six weeks, it took a few days to adjust 😌!! Despite my deep love of family and savouring the warm squishy, oh so loving hugs of my grandchildren, I was surprised to find myself yearning for the simplicity of the Osho Ashram, an environment totally devoid of the primarily western based Christmas zeal. Hmmmm … I have been facing this personal dilemma about Christmas for a few years now and have yet to dig up the courage to do anything about it 😗. I love my family … I love being a positive loving and often playful influence on my grandchildren, I love the family parties and get togethers but every fibre of my being wants to be as far away as possible from the commercial aspect of the Christmas season. Yikes …. have I morphed into a Grinch?? Hmmmm … I hope not … it could just be a natural evolution of the human spirit as we age along. I would so willingly hand over the age old traditions of Christmas to my children, to handle as they see fit and inevitably develop their own traditions for their families and partners as they are both actually doing, now that I think of it 😗. And as for me? … maybe take a hiatus from it all …. it is time. But then again, I have been saying this for a few years now 😂! Torn.

With my emerging grinchy attitude put on hold, the family functions of the season were a delight and warmed my heart immensely. I happily and lovingly share a pictorial journey into the past month of family time with my precious ones …. ❤️ Sharing family functions, be they dinners, mountain getaways or a breakfast of Finnish pancakes … they will always be treasured …

Hari om my family and friends ❤️

How To Say Goodbye

Standard

Hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago, I was still somewhat ambivalent about this whole place! I was beginning to think I had booked a few weeks too many here! Ha! What wonders await when one lets go of judgements and preconceived notions. The door opens and fresh air moves in.

Curiosity about Osho’s got me here in the first place so I persevered, opened my heart and gave the place a chance . Eventually, the magical energy everyone talks about made its way to me as well. It is such a calming and beautiful experience. I now totally understand why so many return yearly. The energy and meditation practice helps facilitate a deep connection with our Buddha selves, becoming the silent witness rather than the reactionary. The energy and teachings subtly weave themselves through the fibres of our hearts, settling in, giving a wee taste of what I imagine the mystics, zen masters and devotees have always experienced and known. To catch even a glimpse feels so right in every way. 🙏

The staff here are amazing … kind, caring, thoughtful, helpful … I will miss them as much as anyone. I have made friends with both local Indians and foreigners, employees and guests, auto rickshaw drivers and children in parks. Many Osho guests stay a week or two, but rarely longer … it can make for fleeting friendships though not necessarily so. A small handful come for a month or two. I was mentioning to Akshay, my newest dear friend, that I love the smiles I receive daily from Indians. All I do is greet people with a friendly hello smile and I am rewarded with a ‘glorious genuine light up a room kind of smile’ in return. Akshay tells me it is because Indian people smile with their hearts!! How beautiful is that ❤️

Vaipav below … Guest House Manager … a lovely kind human being who helped enormously as I navigated my way around the Ashram in the early days.

So yes, home beckons but saying good bye to India is tougher than I imagined this time around. Just finished my last Osho discourse and evening meditation. The tears flowed freely. On this last evening Akshay, Marie and I opt for dinner out of the Ashram … at Dario’s, an Italian restaurant of sorts and a two minute walk from our gate! I met Marie while we were both checking in on our very first day at Osho’s. Akshay and I ‘met’ at the celebration of life a few days later … I say met, but in reality, I sensed his presence there … a somewhat mystical experience … it happens here 😊

Marie, from France, has been travelling for the better part of a year and plans on continuing to do so for awhile yet. She is a lovely young woman … no coincidence we were at the check-in counter at exactly the same time .. I have always felt we meet who we are meant to meet in life! The decades that separate us become insignificant when one meets a kindred soul.

Always a joy for me to connect with people I have in some ways come to view as my ‘global tribe’ … a common trait runs through them all … a silent understanding … we “get” who we are at our heart level, without the necessity of knowing or rehashing each other’s background history or engaging in overly long winded personal stories. A connected ‘knowingness’, an acceptance from the heart just happens. It is an experience that permeates the very air at Osho’s. A reminder for me to always keep an open heart, to engage in loving connection with whoever crosses my path. We really are all on this journey of life together … all of us! One big human tribe with love as the connector … John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ comes to mind … imagine! ❤️

Akshay lives in a small town a few hundred kms from Pune and has been coming monthly to Osho’s for a few years. His rivers, like Marie’s, run deep. Both spiritually wise beyond their years … so amazing to have shared even a small portion of this experience with two such beautiful souls. Both contemplate remaining for an indefinite period of time at Osho’s and indeed are considering staying on as sannyasins. Here we are in our evening robes at the front gate to Osho’s where pictures are allowed … after the meeting and meditation.

So, what to say other than ‘alavida’ India. Alavida Osho Ashram, alavida Marie and Akshay, alavida dear children of India. Til we meet again.

Silent Witness

Standard

How else to phrase these past several weeks other than to reference my slowly developing ability to be a ‘silent witness’ in my own life. The purpose of Osho’s every meditation is to connect with the Buddha energy that lives within us all, Buddha simply referred to as the awakened one! It is the quintessential term that runs through many of Osho’s quotes, every meditation, every multiversity course, every evening meeting, every discourse …. seemingly every single moment! … as I walk these marbled and concrete tiled Ashram paths, as I sit in marble auditoriums, in parks on concrete benches, or in plastic chairs or even as I lay on my bed as night falls … silent witness! It remains a challenge to even attempt to find the words to express and share the experience of the past weeks.

The meditations are many and varied …. there is the dynamic (my least favourite), kundalini, nadabrahma, devavani, chakra breathing, chakra sounds, vipassana, silent sitting (still my favourite 🙏), no-dimensions, mandala, whirling Sufi style meditation, darkness meditation, nataraj and of course the final evening meeting, Osho discourse and dance celebration!! …. exhaustion comes to mind if one does all six hour long meditations listed per day on a new schedule released weekly! Almost all meditations have vigorous movement, fast or slow breathing techniques and dancing components for half the time hence the exhaustion! The evening is usually for socializing, with yet more dancing, singing karaoke or even an evening of painting for exploring creative expression … they have the bases covered 😗!! In many ways, this place is a very well oiled ‘business’ (and, despite asking, I have yet to hear a definitive answer on who actually ‘owns’ this Ashram/meditation resort since Osho passed 28 years ago!!) … but it does maintain much of what Osho initially started … even if I tend to think that perhaps some of the soulfulness of Osho is missing from the place overall. Every practice and course, whatever shape they take on, appear to be geared towards releasing repressed emotions be they from childhood and beyond or past lives. It is an emotionally exhausting journey to be sure! There is little doubt that all these different styles of meditations draw out repressed emotions as is their intention. The multiversity courses go further and deeper from what I have observed and discussed with participants, although I personally have only participated in ‘tasters’. Often I feel emotionally raw, turned inside out, in a good way. Perhaps like life itself, some things have to be experienced and cannot be explained.

On another note entirely, it has been a relief in many respects, to be offline most of the time. Photos are not allowed to be taken anywhere on the grounds.

Cell phones are not allowed anywhere except in a few isolated spots with so-so wifi and not allowed in any meditation areas, cafes, public areas period!! … so most of us choose to leave them in the safe in our rooms. We are ‘living our lives’ here rather than photo documenting or constantly checking social media, entertainment, news media sites, information networks, music videos, games … a phenomenon that has became the new norm for most of the world. Undoubtedly some of that may be business related but not most! New for me not to whip out my iPhone for pictures … a part of me sure does want to capture the moments and the people I have met here to keep as memories …. hmmm. As I step outside the gates and leave the serenity of the Ashram behind and enter into the more chaotic ‘other side of India’, just a few blocks away, it would appear most Indians also are on their IPhones and Samsungs …. gone are the Nokia phones from just a few short years ago! The new phones and the instant connection to all manner of information can be addictive!

How freeing to not have the technology noose around my neck … aaah my analogies 😂!!

Throughout the weeks … (I tend to think of the Ashram as a mini United Nations) … I have sat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, evening dancing celebrations and of course zillions of meditations with people from India, Brazil, Switzerland, Britain, Israel, Mexico, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Australia, Germany, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, France, America, Wales, Czech Republic, Iran, Chile, Romania … whew! As conversations evolve, all of us agree that Oshos is a welcome retreat/respite from our phones and laptops and none of us really misses it that much. Yes, most of us do check phones every now and again albeit briefly and once or twice a week I am online for an hour but mostly my phone is “out of commission”. It feels good.

Osho gave a discourse the other night about our senses … and how our vision determines most of what we experience in human interactions when we are speaking face to face (up to 80%)…. I do note his tendency to exaggerate just slightly 😗. Words may often fail to correctly convey what we feel, what we mean, what our intentions are etc. and accordingly, more often than not, are misconstrued … boy, didn’t I relate to that discourse??!!! Osho valued truth. He did not sugar coat anything. He does not believe in telling anyone what they necessarily want to hear but rather what they need to hear to further their growth as human beings. He does this in a very subtle manner as befitting a zen master … a title he would probably reject :). Simple truth, whether it be pleasant to hear or not is a cornerstone of his discourses. Probably why I enjoy his ‘philosophy’ so much 😗!! I have always appreciated straight shooters. Political correctness is rarely in my vernacular. Actions speak volumes and facial expressions rarely lie hence Osho’s 80% factor. I imagine somewhere in his books he must reference those who are blind and cannot rely on sight .. 😗

As the discourse continued on ‘living our truth, being our truth’… I pondered my own subconscious lifelong tendency to watch people when they speak! I never really thought about it much until now but that ‘watching’ has been invaluable in so many ways. From facial expressions alone it is often possible to tell when someone is truthful, or not! One learns so much from just quietly observing people at play, at work, how they treat others. When eyes meet, words sometimes become irrelevant … eyes can communicate so much!! So yes, Osho was on to something … Truth. It’s in the eyes. It’s in the actions. Wonderful if also in the words. How fortunate if all three components synchronize!

I share below a brief excerpt from Osho’s very long discourse on truth. If anyone is interested, the full discourse is online:

How to attain truth? By dropping all kinds of beliefs. And remember, I am saying all kinds – belief in me is included. Experience me, come along with me, let me share what I have seen, but don’t believe, don’t be in a hurry. Don’t say, “Now what is the point? Now Osho has seen it, all that is left for me is to believe it.”
What I have seen cannot become your experience unless you see it. And it is the experience of truth that delivers you from ignorance, from bondage, from misery. It is not the belief that delivers you, it is truth.
Jesus says, “Truth liberates.” But how to attain to truth? It is not a question of belief, but a question of meditativeness. And what is meditation? Meditation is emptying your mind completely of all belief, ideology, concept, thought. Only in an empty mind, when there is no dust left on the mirror, truth reflects. That reflection is a benediction.” …. Osho

Sooo … It would appear I am slowly warming up to the ever mystical, always controversial Osho/Rajneesh, born on December 11, 1931. 

Although I am in no danger of becoming a ‘sanyasi’ of a long dead zen master, I am enjoying learning about him and listening to his colourful, humour ridden discourses. I look forward to them at every meeting! It has come to my attention that I may well be the sole participant here who has not read a single book about or by Osho and had never attended his meditations prior to coming to Pune! What can I say, I like surprises??! 😂. My dear friend Mickey Gibson was sure I was returning to India to join the Hare Krishnas 😂! No, I am simply an explorer, exploring the many different ways we live on this beautiful green and blue planet … learning about stillness, about truth, of being the silent witness, of connecting with the Buddha that lives within us all.

My favourite cafe outside the Ashram … Zen Cafe … cold pressed green smoothie and guacamole … what a find here in Pune!

Walkway to Chuang Tzu Meditation Hall

Celebration of Life

Standard

When a participant of the Osho Meditation Resort passes away and an Osho Death Celebration requested, everyone at the Ashram is invited and indeed encouraged to attend. All other meditations are cancelled with the life celebration taking precedence. According to Osho philosophy, both death and life are celebrations! A long time elderly devotee of Osho passed away a few days after I arrived in Pune. As is custom, the celebration and cremation take place the day after the passing!

The gentleman’s body was lying on a wood and bamboo type of platform, placed on a cart and wheeled into the Osho Pyramid Meditation Auditorium by family members. He was shrouded in a simple white cloth decorated with marigolds and various flowers. There is little mourning when a Hindu dies because they believe that once a person is born he or she never dies. The soul lives on. Often there is little crying. They believe the point of a funeral is to show respect not sadness. High energy music played on the sound system as we circled his body, singing, drumming, dancing with family members.

The body was then taken to the Burning Ghats on the merging Mula Murtha Rivers for the cremation where more drumming, singing and humming continued, followed by a reverent silence as the burning commenced. This portion of the celebration was somewhat more somber and I personally felt it should be reserved for family members although many from the Ashram stayed behind. A few of us opted to stand back out of respect for the family’s privacy.

“Fire is a great symbol of purification, of detachment, of rising vertically towards the ultimate space which is our home. We come from there and we go back there”…. Osho

Despite the celebratory aspect, it certainly was a sobering early intro to my life here in Pune! Over the last weeks, I have slowly been processing this unexpected participation in a life celebration. It is such a vast departure from our Western ways. It was hard not to draw a parallel to my sister Raija’s recent and vastly different memorial service and cremation. Yes, we do things differently in our Western world … not necessarily better, not worse but certainly with a different attitude towards death.

The Ashram continues to foster an unusual kind of quiet in me. A reflective, far less reactive me is re-emerging. Puzzling because a lot of the meditations or portions of them can be quite loud and somewhat annoying for someone like me who prefers a quiet style. Perhaps the science behind these meditations, much toted here and developed by Osho long ago, is relevant after all … although I was and still remain somewhat skeptical!! However millions of believers have experienced great results in peaceful personal growth … so who am I to dispute Osho’s methodology?? I remind myself that I did not come here as a tourist for a holiday but to learn something new that intrigues me … ie. remind myself to keep an open mind 😗 !

Early mornings usually find me in the outdoor breakfast area around the pool, sipping a ginger lemon tea, munching on the fruit of the day, and a chunk of cheese. As I sip and munch, I watch the birds flying from tree to tree, chirping away as the sun slowly rises over the tree line. I have rediscovered my love for the peaceful energy of early mornings! Teerth Park for a nature bathing walk remains part of my early morning ritual. I savour the peaceful unfolding of another day 🙏.

Silence Prevails

Standard

The days pass in peaceful reflective meditative awareness. It may well be my only ‘souvenir’ of the Osho Ashram, this calm sense of me. I hope so 😊

How easy to shift into a state of being the ‘silent witness’ to ourselves here in this supportive serene ambiance. It is the way of the Ashram. Not so easy to do in the ‘outside’ world with its myriad of digital, electronic and various societal distractions, commitments, functions, interactions … throw into the mix the emotional dysfunctions that intermittently control the speech, behaviour and actions of the vast majority of us and the challenge to maintain a peaceful awareness becomes obvious. 😗.

I arrived in Pune with basically no idea on what I would encounter. I had few, if any expectations. Initially, as I kept colliding with Ashram rules I did not exactly embrace the place or the intense nature of some of the courses and meditation styles but the energy of the people, the meditations, the dance celebrations, the Osho discourses, the wholesome vegetarian food, the lack of outside distractions … the whole scene slowly worked its magic and I eased into the soothing calm of life inside an Ashram/commune/meditation resort.

Osho and his philosophy is not everyone’s cup of tea by any means, but I am open and willing to take a few sips and explore yet another way of looking at life … inevitably, I always learn something while doing so 🙏

There is value and benefit to be derived when one is taken off guard by an unexpected turn, a road less travelled, jumping into unknown waters … certainly gets us out of our comfort zones …. comfortable as they may be, sometimes a shake up is in order 😂 …. time to try out a new perspective or learn something new, be it about myself, others or the world 😊 …. or participate in something I am just a tiny bit afraid to do. Coming this far from the comforts of home, by myself, with no idea what kind of Ashram this place actually was, certainly qualified!! It was perhaps time to jiggle juggle things around a bit 🙃!!

If I had any plan in place at all prior to my arrival in Pune, it was that I was coming for a spiritual tune-up to a country I continue to be inexplicably drawn to.

I knew little if anything of Osho and his teachings. He was (still is) often viewed as a controversial guru by Western critics. Osho was a man who regularly contradicted his own philosophies in a playful manner and delighted in doing so! … he had a great sense of humour as all enlightened beings seem to have. He is a mystical icon in Pune, if not in all of India and beyond! Osho passed away in 1990 while still in his fifties … quite young by today’s standards. There is much speculation and controversy about his early death. Apparently there is a movie out on his life on Netflix and the curious questionable details surrounding his death. I think I will take it in when back in Canada.

Osho has millions of devotees in India alone … Europeans, Brits, Asians, Australians, Scandinavians also all appear to know of his teachings more readily than do North Americans … could be why between them and the locals, they totally out number Canadian and American participants ten to one at the Ashram. Distance would play into that as well of course! Despite a bit of cursory googling of the Osho website a few months prior to booking my stay here, my decision to come pretty much remains a singular one … knowing the deep and powerful impact Osho and his teachings had on two of my favourite and respected Sanskrit chant musicians, Deva Premal and Miten, the possibility existed that I would discover something worth exploring. I wing things often on instinct alone. In this case, it appears to have been enough.

I chanced upon this beautiful lotus pond in Teerth Park on the Ashram grounds the other day.

It reminded me of a video talk given by Osho on enlightenment during my first day here. A heady subject for a first day, to be sure!!! I can’t remember it verbatim as I was very jet lagged with the twelve hour time difference but this covers the bones of the discourse:

“Enlightenment is not a matter of polar opposites. There is no such thing as a non-enlightened person and one who is enlightened … rather we are all on the path of enlightenment. Some may be struggling and entangled within the roots, wrangling with all manner of negatives, chronic sadness, selfishness, anger issues, victim mentality, senseless drama, hatred, ignorance, arrogance, racism, bigotry, etc. etc., while others are slowly navigating their way along the stems, some in the bud stage, some in bloom but all are on the same path … matters little where on the path, just that we are all on that enlightenment journey together”.

Osho waves off any form of spiritual arrogance or spiritual hierarchy. The journey of enlightenment may manifest differently for all of us but we are all on it together. Inclusion rather than exclusion! What a beautiful bit of philosophy ❤️!

My own addition or thoughts on that discourse would be … ‘when circumstances or others draw us back as they often will, life being what it is, into the heavier aspects of ourselves, how wonderful to know we are on a path and need only to let go of whatever negative forces derail us, adjust the sails and continue along on the long and winding journey towards the lightness of being, of enlightenment.’

“Be like the lotus, trust in the light, grow through the dirt, believe in the new”

Nature Bathing

Standard

My first week at Osho has been a surreal week in many respects. It has been awhile since I have been around such an international community of people. We flock here from all walks of life with, by all accounts, a common goal … become better global citizens, more aware of ourselves and others as we move about our lives, aiming for compassion, kindness and love in all our interactions … a lofty goal … easy to adhere to in a controlled Ashram atmosphere … harder when back in the so called ‘real’ world😗. Indian nationals understandably constitute at least a third of all residents, followed by Europeans … Germany comprising a good portion of the European contingent, but Finland, Sweden, Norway, Romania, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, France, Israel, Canada, America, China, Korea, Japan, Iran, Fiji, Australia, Britain, Ireland, Wales are all represented! Yes, certainly international participation permeates the Ashram.

The energy generated by a crowd of like minded individuals meditating and dancing in the pyramid auditorium is so strong and powerful that it literally blows me away! A very intense and internally moving experience. After a number of days, I sensed a personal need for space, for balance away from the group dynamics and energy.

As such, I got up very early one morning and decide to skip the scheduled dynamic meditation and instead opt for a walk through Teerth Park. Technically it is an extension of Osho Ashram grounds but really more an extension of Koregaon Park itself which surrounds the Ashram grounds.

The quiet in the early morning hours is broken only by birdsong. So peaceful. Surprisingly, and I must say, thankfully so, I see no one else strolling in the park! I was told to keep an eye out for snakes by the gate guard, but see none … too early for them as well perhaps. It was an undeniable pleasure to be on actual dirt walking paths!

There is virtually not a speck of earth on the Ashram walkways that is not covered in concrete tile, granite or marble including the interior of all the meditation buildings and guest houses. The appearance is certainly lovely and zen like, and cool marble is heavenly in bare feet. Undoubtedly the maintenance and cleaning is substantially easier …. but dancing, standing, sitting and walking on such hard surfaces for a week has taken a bit of a toll on my body … this walk through nature is a delightful and welcome respite and my knees are literally dancing with joy, thanking me with every step 🙏. Discovering a bench along the way, I walk over, settle quietly and surround myself in nature’s music, nature’s healing ambiance ….

Osho statue in the park …. perhaps he is watching me from the spirit world and is surely chuckling as I break rules and take photos … I like to think he would approve 😊

Osho Rules

Standard

Although it was never my intention to participate in six weeks of complete silence, zen monk style … I may reconsider, after five days of very dynamic meditations several times a day!! Just kidding … sort of 😗. Osho believed very much in a Zorba-Buddha existence, where pleasure and spirituality walk hand in hand. It is fun certainly and I do enjoy dancing … the whirling not so much. However there ARE at least a dozen meditation styles available, yes many incorporating vigorous movement, but completely silent sitting meditations are also available daily to suit every palate. I purchased a ‘silence badge’ from the compound shop the other day. I may use it yet 😊. I observe many here do indeed participate in silent days, hence the buttons.

The agenda above on a typical day at Osho ….

Osho International University of Mindfulness, implements some rather strict rules within the commune, ashram, resort …. 😗. I was not expecting that for some reason. I naturally presumed a more relaxed atmosphere on rules at a place of spiritual learning. Aahhh … that valuable lesson resurfaces … never make assumptions! It would hardly be the first time I have skimmed over the fine print. What surprised me is just how far the maroon ruling extends! We wear maroon robes during the day, exchanging them for white robes for the evening meeting and the evening meeting only!! … my first faux pas 😗 I walked over to the cafe after the two hour meeting hoping to enjoy a bedtime ginger tea and was told to change back into my maroon robe … the server looked horrified that I would even consider walking into the cafe wearing my white robe!! Oh vey!

(Found a fellow Finn wandering the meditation halls … born in Liperi in the township of my own birth! Never in all these years in Canada or on my many global travels, have I ever come across another Finlander born in my home turf!! Liperi is a rather tiny community!!! What are the odds …)

The ‘maroon by day rule’ also applies to the swimming pool. Only maroon suits allowed! I argued that no one would see my black swimsuit under the water while swimming and I would throw on my robe in the blink of an eye after my swim. Didn’t wash … the office manager was not amused and merely frowned at me while saying ‘no madam, absolutely forbidden 😗!!! The Ashram shop had a few teeny tiny women’s suits that may have fit my seven year old granddaughter!!! Is this why perhaps there are rarely more than two people in the pool??? … maybe there is an ulterior motive with a hidden message involved there somewhere 😗.

Off I went to the recommended Phoenix shopping mall, hailing a local auto rickshaw or more commonly known by tourists as tuk tuks. After a long harrowing ride through Pune’s chaotic road system … typically no one in India pays attention to lanes whatsoever … motorbikes, tuk tuks, cars, buses, trucks move along, all vying for an extra inch of space, weaving an interesting moving tapestry of vehicles that, incredulous as it sounds, manages to propel the traffic forward with few accidents! Horns are honking constantly … strangely, drivers rarely if ever get angry or lose their temper when cut off … it is the accepted way of driving here and only foreigners think it crazy! I breathe a sigh of relief as I finally arrive at the most grandiose modern mall, full of shops with all the globally recognized brand names!!! The middle class continues to grow in India and sadly, in my opinion, modern malls are part of that growth. No secret to anyone who knows me that I am not a fan of malls in general. I did note, there were only locals in the mall … perhaps the 5% of the population that can afford it! I was the sole tourist in sight … interesting to be the minority of one in a crowd of hundreds!

For a few hours, I was led on wild goose chases throughout the mall by kind, well meaning, helpful shop keepers including the young man manning the mall information booth!! Given I only found five swimsuits (alas, nary a maroon one in sight) in a mall twice the size of Chinook Shopping Centre in Calgary, I would surmise swimming is not yet a popular sport for women in India!!! At least I managed to get 15,000 plus steps in 😊!

Back at the ranch, as a last resort I chanced to check out the outdoor kiosk a five minute walk from Osho’s. Murphy’s law prevailed! The lady just happened to have a room behind her stall, full of maroon robes, shirts, swim suits, scarves, shawls and oh yes, women’s swimsuits in all manner of sizes!! Cashing in on the Osho maroon mania 😗. I did wonder why the office did not guide me to the kiosk in the first place?? … hmmm … being led astray by well meaning folks, who love to help foreigners is so typical of Indians. Even if they really do not have the answers to your questions, they try regardless to help! I wobble my head side to side and say to myself … ‘oh well’ 😊

The country remains one of mind boggling contradictions and this little Oasis in the muddling middle of Pune is no exception. As is my norm, I adjust.

Another rule … absolutely no photos anywhere inside the compound!!! I took a few very early one morning before I was told in no uncertain terms that it was forbidden … the grounds are so beautiful I wonder why they do not want us to share this with friends and family?? The marble meditation pyramid and silent hall are serenely stunning but alas one must go on the Osho website to view.

So yes, the rules continue to confound and annoy but I shrug them off, hoping no more rules surface to confront! Stay tuned as invariably, if there are, I will surely bump into them just as I am breaking them 😗

Maroon swimsuit in hand, I head towards the pool and spa area for a welcome break from the meditational whirling to enjoy the cool pool waters. Heaven answered my call … the ‘resort of many rules’ has a true Finnish sauna!! My faith is restored! I finish of a great swim with an even greater sweat in the sauna!!! Restoration complete 🙏

Zen Living in Pune, India November – December 2018

Standard

After a long and somewhat arduous journey (arduous primarily because of the weird transit in Frankfurt … a two hour connection turned into two km winding walk, two security checks, lots of confusion from the airport staff etc. before finally arriving at the gate ready to board asap … no time for a bathroom stop!! …… very unorganized for Germany … this was followed up with an unanticipated two hour fuel refill stop in Azerbaijan, necessitated by the tiny plane with only twelve passengers on board although it could have accommodated a hundred …. obviously this all played into the confusion at the airport … so a Frankfurt-Delhi connection that should have been a 9-1/2 hour flight turned into one almost 12 hours 😗!!) Aaah the travails of travel 🤪

It was a pleasure to arrive at the serene ambiance and gardens of Osho International Meditation Resort … instantly restores and soothes the spirit. As I walk through the gates into this little oasis of calm in the middle of Koregaon Park, it is hard to believe what beauty exists in the midst of the chaotic streets of Pune, a city of somewhere between 3 and 9 million souls … hard to get a definitive answer on population count from a local! Over the years, I have learned to shrug ‘Indian style’ in the face of these kinds of discrepancies 😂 … Indeed I may have almost perfected the musically wobbly side to side head shake/shrug myself!! It is brought into play when one does not have an answer to a question, or does not wish to commit to an answer or just simply does not wish to address the question period!! … the list for the ‘usefulness’ of this gesture could fill a book 😂! Truth be told, after a few trips to India, I have actually grown rather fond of it .. charming in its own way 😗. First time around I found all this head wobbling more than a little annoying particularly when requiring a response but over the years, less so. Embracing and understanding, or at the very least, accepting cultural quirks helps enormously when travelling. Eventually, I have learned to adjust to all the differing customs and quirks around the globe and for the most part appreciate their value even if I do not always agree with them. What is a great casserole or soup after all, without a zillion different ingredients to create a unique and delicious flavour?

So yes, over thirty hours of airplanes, airports, breathing in stuffy recycled air, compounded by little sleep, can leave one a tad cranky … not the best part of travel by any means but a necessary one. I adjust 🙃. The negatives shift into history as soon as my head hits the pillow in my, happy to note, very clean zenny room in Pune … home away from home for the next forty days.

Tomorrow … a zen living ‘adventure’ begins!!