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 ….
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.
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. ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼
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 ❤️.
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.
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
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 …
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.
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.
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 🙏.
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”
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 😊
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 🙏
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.
Fall’s orange and yellow hues were not quite yet in full ‘bloom’ as I drove through the Rockies towards Calgary. What was unexpected however was the early very heavy record breaking snowfall a few days later … wow … 😲
Mother Nature’s snow dump made for some interesting days … mostly spent shovelling and attempting to dig my car out from under a few feet of snow …. it kept snowing for days! No sooner had we cleared a path, than it would once again disappear! Being Canadian, we learned to go with the flow … errrrr … snow 😂!!
Also made for a wintry white family weekend in Kananaskis …. I personally love being in the mountains any season … the snow and piercingly stunning blue skies created a magical landscape!
Love time with family ❤️
A beautiful weekend followed by Thanksgiving dinner at Sarah and Rob’s where we were treated to both a roast turkey and a smoked turkey! Rob and his brother Jackson were the ‘turkey chefs extraordinaire’! A most delicious feast indeed!
Never keen to leave these munchkins and no sooner do I arrive back in Kelowna, than I find myself missing them 😙 Yes, children grow up so fast and no where is it more noticeable than in the lives of grandparents who are well versed in the quickening trajectory of our lives ….
Early fall was perfect for a return to Vancouver Island with my good friends Mickey and Gordon. I always enjoy the ferry ride over and the fresh sea air after this particular smoky Okanagan summer felt nothing short of heavenly! I breathe deeply, letting the freshness wash through me. We visit Mickey and Gordon’s grandchildren Tiernan and Georgia and their partners Jay-Lynn and Connor in Victoria and Mill Bay and move on to the amazing ‘Bridge House’ at ‘Point No Point” a short drive from Sooke. The small seaside cabin we had booked earlier, was undergoing renovations so they put us up at no additional cost into their largest ‘cabin’ … stunning views surrounded us … A wonderful soul soothing West Coast week in every respect! Mickey, Gordon and I have been friends for almost five decades … in four short years, we will indeed hit that milestone and I hope we can celebrate in some fine fashion exploring some remote corner of our world. Travelling has always been a passion for us! Over many years, we have explored countries together around the globe … some research would be in order for something fitting for the 50th milestone of our friendship! At times I feel my friends know the ‘real me’ better than anyone in my life. They accept me, warts and all … oh yes, no rose tints here … they DO call me every now and again on various things but kindly so, well ok, not always kindly 🙃 … Mickey remains as candidly outspoken as I am 😙 but the acceptance is never questioned. Fall, my favourite season, finds me usually in quiet contemplation …. no exception on this rainy fall Kelowna evening! I feel such gratitude for the gift of friendship❤️.
My sister Raija Tyyne Maarit Leppanen passed away in the late evening of July 30th, a few short months after her 63rd birthday, cancer having taken hold in her throat area, compounded further by early onset dementia. My sisters Margaret, Maija and I had been sitting with her since early morning into the late afternoon, sometimes singing songs from our youth, or I, chanting my favourite Sanskrit Gayatri Mantra, sometimes reminiscing, sometimes just sitting in silence. The air was certainly tinged in sadness … so much potential now slowly fading into a quiet death. I cradled Raija, lying beside her as she passed. It was my first time holding someone as they took their last breath. Three months later, I remain in awe of the moment and am slowly moving into yet another new awareness of the preciousness of our lives. How important to love and accept rather than judge and critique. Negatives and positives live within us all! Death is such a teacher … Accept, breathe deeply … let the good prevail! I was very touched by the memories both my children and husband shared for the memorial service … humorous memories. How fitting for my sister, who in her finer moments, her early years, always had a great sense of humour! The memories everyone shared including a wonderful letter written by an old friend were heartwarming. It was a memorial tribute at its finest, to pay homage to the good in all of us. I was happy to see Raija’s sense of humour return in her last year of life. Today, three months later, I picture Raija’s soul flying … saying “well that lifetime was a bit of a weird ride but cool to be back here flying free again, waiting for the next lifetime of lessons” 😂!
My son Tim and his partner Liseanne made it to the memorial service in the nick of time, which warmed my heart no end. They stayed to visit for a few days, treating my sister Margaret and I to a wine tour of various small vineyards in the area. A most enjoyable afternoon sampling tasty local wines, including mead wines 😊! Tim and Liseanne’s visit ended far too soon. However, the positive side of that left me much needed quiet time for reflection, contemplation … life, death and all our various incarnations.
No Summer feels complete, without a visit to Linda and Court’s piece of heaven on Kootenay Lake. Linda was recovering from a knee replacement operation and was not totally mobile yet but we still managed a side trip to the Yasodhara Ashram, always a great outing where we sit in quiet meditation and chant. Our friendship has always had that something extra special … it sometimes seems we have known each other forever … living our whole adult lives as friends, sharing, always sharing … through decades of dinners and theatre nights, from drumming circles to the infamous Mackid New Year’s Eve parties, or ‘girls’ trips to The Kingfisher Spa … those Vancouver Island spa weeks were some of my favourite times with Linda … a memory from such a spa week still warms me … we had been laying down reading for a long time after a spa treatment and realized we had not spoken a word for hours!! … the comfort of true friendship!… knowing we do not always have to fill the silence with words, that our presence is all that is required ❤️
Sarah, Aliana, Oliver and Sarah’s sister in law Lisa and her daughter Brooklyn came for a ten day visit in July … the moms were enrolled at a university course for a week, while the kids and I enjoyed a lot of beach and park time in addition to the various Kelowna entertainment offerings of mini golf, Enerplex, bowling, kangaroo farm etc. It was certainly a whirlwind week of swirling youthful energy to spare 😊
Watching morning cartoons 😊
A Webb, Overmann, White, Gauss, Cuddie (the Exner arm and a few Webbs from Calgary were missing this year) picnic was held at Tim and Angela’s. Steve and Jenn were housesitting at Tim and Angela’s who generously allowed our troop to invade their gorgeous yard! Goofy Uncle Otto kept the little folk amused in and out of the pool … he remains a big kid at heart and of course the little folk love that 🤪!! Maija on the other hand, loves her photo bombs 🙃!!
Newest addition to the family is cute little ‘Nila, a sister for Meelo … Margaret and Brad’s grand-doggies! A great second annual get together!
Lisa and Brooklyn head for home and Sarah, the children and I head for Vancouver Island where we found a great little gem of an Airbnb home on Glen Lake! Managed to fit in a beautiful afternoon at Butchart Gardens, complete with high tea. The week was a most perfect finish to a BC summer holiday.
Thankfully the wedding week for my niece Jennifer and Steve was blessed with clear blue skies and sunny warm weather … the relentless summer fires had yet to take hold of Kelowna, where for most of July and August, the air quality rivalled that of Beijing and Delhi.
A gathering of generations of family came from all directions to Steve’s Dad Tim and his wife Angela’s beautiful home for a meet and greet barbecue extraordinaire the night before the wedding. It was an absolute delight in every respect … the adults enjoyed getting acquainted and the little people enjoyed mingling in the pool, hot tub and play center! Tim and Angela sure know how to throw a party … wonderful generous, warm hearted hosts!
Onward to June 2, 2018 Wedding Day! Held at Sunset Ranch, a historically significant spot for the White Family. Margaret and Brad lived and raised their children on that golf course where they were regular golfers for many years. It was certainly an appropriate and beautiful spot for Jennifer and Steve to seal their wedding vows. More than a few tears of joy were shed that day! I love weddings ❤️
A It was great to have Mickey and Gordon at the wedding and have them stay with me a few days for a well overdue visit!
A delicious luncheon at Mission Hills Winery with Mickey, Gordon, Jordan, Sarah, Rob, Aliana, Oliver, Aunt Marg and our Los Angeles arm of family, Johanna and Devendra ❤️
The White and Webb arm of family, together with our newlyweds, gather for a dinner at Cactus Club before everyone disperses for home. A most wonderful wedding week indeed!
In the fall, I am taking a course at the local college on WordPress Development, (yes, such a course exists 🤪!!) hoping to troubleshoot the problems I am experiencing with posting pictures and take my blog/journal to another level, more for my own sense of satisfaction at learning something new once again, as anything else. My computers skills have started to lag over the last few years. I have become far too comfortable and complacent embracing the state of “being” over “doing” 😗 lately … a finer balance would perhaps be in order. In the meantime, a blog entry coming soon of a rather emotionally charged summer … a summer that held many moments of celebration, beauty, goodness, joy, laughter, love, albeit interwoven with moments of sadness, disappointment, grief.
Meditation remains my ‘go to practice’, reliably guiding me to a fine and peaceful balance when life goes off-kilter, as it sometimes does 😗 Hari Om Tat Sat❤️
October 27th …. well, here I am back in Kelowna, ready to head to Okanagan College for my WordPress course today! It was cancelled … I was the only one registered!!! The travails of life in a small city 😗. Guess I must muddle my own way through the glitches for the time being ….
For many years, photo albums and scrapbooking of all family events and travels were my record keeping ‘go to’ creation. I thoroughly enjoyed the process, putting these memories into a format. Today however, these treasured
‘creations’ remain neatly stacked and tucked away in my garage for lack of space and shelving in my new home!
In addition, as if the actual physical space is not sufficient, my iPad holds well over 8,000 photos of the past several years of events, global volunteering and various explorative travel, albeit all organized in cyber albums 😊. A solo nomadic year from 2010-2011 is further documented on a USB stick … thousands more pictures!! 😗. Yikes …. this qualifies as overload!!! I console myself that at least there are no further tangible albums to add to an already overly cluttered world!
It would appear this blog, this rather old fashioned journal, has evolved into a modern day record keeper … I occasionally refer to it, if only to recall where I may have travelled both geographically and internally. An interesting journey in itself 😗
April, May and June were brimming with family moments, birthdays, parties and a wedding! As the saying goes, pictures tell the story ….
Sarah and my little loves fly in for the baby and bridal showers.
Carmel hosts a baby shower for her daughter Kristine … drats, forgot to take pictures … just a few 😗!!!
Four straight years of participating in the Holy Week of Easter in San Miguel left Bev and I opting out of too much mingling and moving with the masses this year. In years past, we had often followed and photographed to excess perhaps, the many somber and celebratory processions that flow throughout the city. San Miguel comes alive at Easter, with Mexican tourists flocking here from all over the country, intermingled with a handful of Europeans, Americans and Canadians all eager to experience the legendary Easter religious rituals performed by locals every year. Sometimes it is enough to just enjoy the general ambiance. That often meant staying behind, enjoying our peaceful garden patio with a good book in hand :), or enjoying a meal or drink at a cafe near the Centro and viewing all the hullabaloo from a distance. One can still catch a hint of mastranzo (a minty herb) and chamomile wafting in the air … masses of these herbs are used over the two holy weeks … inside homes, lining the streets for certain processions, in churches, businesses, restaurants, decorating the various altars depicting the seven stations of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Need I say, San Miguel is a very religious city, high on Catholic rituals. For some reason, Mexican Catholic celebrations sit more comfortably with me than they do in other countries and generally I do enjoy the religious ambiance that prevails here at Easter … hmmm. However, it WAS a pleasant feeling to not participate as a harried tourist, frantically trying to capture every moment through a phone lens. I have certainly done both in my day :).
We did manage to find our way to the awesome Monarch Butterfly Migration in late February! Every year, we were either too late for it or we just didn’t feel like taking a day away from San Miguel! Great experience to share with Bev and her sister Jo Ann! Long twelve hour day though … comprised of almost eight hours of driving, followed by a steep horseback ride and hike to the site. There are times when iPhone photos do no justice whatsoever to a nature phenomenon such as this! Wished I had brought a good camera … such is life … a rich imagination is required to view my photos to get a feel of what we experienced 🙂
Up close and personal with a few monarchs that landed near us … tried to post a video …. not able to unfortunately … maybe weak wifi at our place 😗.
Adios mi amigas and amigos … swell having time to share some films, various concerts and impromptu gatherings! Til next year …
Adios also to the Queen of San Miguel … the most photographed church in Mexico … The Neo-Gothic Parroquia!
Air Canada recently added a direct flight to Mexico City from Calgary …. yeah!! No American security and long lines to deal with as is the case when flying via Houston to Queretaro! Initially Bev and I were sold on the idea and remain in that ballpark of thought for the time being. The singular negative issue was the necessity and cost of an overnight at an airport hotel in Mexico City, coming and going, combined with a longer shuttle commute to and from San Miguel … a two way cost factor involved … will weigh the pros and cons for next year with a tad more thought! ….. !! The tedium of travel issues and concerns disappear quickly however, the minute my feet land on the cobbly streets of San Miguel de Allende, and adjust to the pleasant rhythms of this charming colonial town in central Mexico!
Ahhh, how invigorating it is to be back … a restorative shuffling begins within hours of arrival! Back to the multitude of joys that continue to draw me here, year after year …. reuniting with my friend Bev, the warmth and friendliness of the Mexican people, church bells ringing throughout the day, continuing to preserve their long spiritual history, long walks everywhere, excellent alternative films at tiny pocket theatres, complete with a margarita and a bag of popcorn included in the admission price of roughly $9.00 Canadian dollars, great local restaurants, fresh mangoes every morning, stimulating talks at the local gringo based bibliotheca/library, musical concerts held in parks, canyons, local restaurants or churches, reuniting with a handful of friends we have made here over the years. Oh my, and the best of all, yoga classes with Antonio Elugardo, a Yoga maestro extraordinaire … I could take up residence in his classes and be totally content the rest of my days! The list of joys continues to grow yearly …. helping out in the rural community schools outside San Miguel where poverty remains a constant will hopefully grow into a regular involvement …. joining in every Sunday morning at the Universalist Community for music, celebration and interesting talks given by people of all faiths, who work together to build a community based on justice, equality and compassion for all …. yes, the many layers that make up this magical city continue to reveal themselves. Pictures tell the story to some degree, of my life and respite here during the dark days of a Canadian winter ….
Front row seats to a Media Luna concert at Paprika ❤️ … thank you Melissa and Donna!! A local band, comprised primarily of two young brothers and a few cousins. They have recently added an accordion player and a violinist … the addition adding to our musical enjoyment! These young men have ventured to playing in various venues in Puerto Vallarta this past year … more financially lucrative I imagine than playing for tips on street corners in San Miguel. Thankfully, they came back to play at our charming local restaurant Paprika, for the many fans who supported them over the past five years! It remains a highlight to hear Media Luna every year, wherever they play. A desire to expand their horizons was inevitable …. still a tad sad to lose our folksy little street corner band to the big city lights and tourism of Puerto Vallarta!
What I continue to miss during these long Canadian winters are the ski trips to the mountains! While my children were growing up, ski weekends to Fernie, Whitefish, Sunshine and Kananaskis were a welcome and wonderful addition to a country ‘blessed’ with long winters :). Thankful to my daughter Sarah, who knows how dearly I love being in the mountains, for orchestrating a weekend in Kananaskis with Aliana and Oliver … felt undeniably exhilarating to be breathing mountain air once again !!
A California kind of month … from social time with friends, to quiet quality time with family, to the bustle of Disneyland!!! A fabulous month in every way!
Sarah, the kids and I … hmmm (well, okay okay, Sarah and Google Maps who are equal partners, equally competent!!) navigate our way from Joshua Tree through the freeway madness of LA surprisingly smoothly and we meet up at our hotel in the heart of Disneyland with more family! Rob, his mom Linda, sister Lisa, kids Brooklyn, Ethan and Addison arrive within a few minutes of our own arrival … timing is everything! We chuck our bags, complete toiletry due diligence and head straight to Laguna Beach nearby, to shake off the bugs of travel. Lunch and beach walking is in order! Best decision yet! I could happily have dumped my bag at the nearest beach hut available and stayed indefinitely … on a bare bones sleeping bag! Amusement parks are not exactly my thing as anyone who knows me, knows 🙂 but I will pretty much do anything for Aliana and Oliver! I loved Laguna Beach! It was a great way for everyone to shake off remnants of an early morning flight and the commute from Calgary or even our own short bit from Palm Springs. The kids all unequivocally (and adults too, especially me!!) thoroughly enjoyed our long leisurely stroll along the beach … the children ran in and out of the surf exploring tidal pools, revelling in beachside nature, digging in the sand! We stocked up on healthy snacks and fruit for kids and grownups alike at Wholefoods nearby and head back to Disneyland. A great week of fun for the young and old, well, older, not old 🙂 ensued … pictures tell a better story than I …
Laguna Beach at sunset …
Onward and forward to Visionary Walt’s Playland …
We all bid adieu until the next adventure beckons …. a fabulous January comes to a close.
Sarah, Aliana and Oliver arrive to defrost from Calgary’s blisteringly cold winter. We splash about in the pools for a few days, enjoying the desert warmth and just savouring time together. A peaceful relaxing ambiance prevails. … We leave the lush Palm Desert vistas behind and drive onward to Joshua Tree National Park for a little hiking and exploring around the stunning rock formations and boulders … this area has always been one of my favourite parts of the desert so it was nice to share this with Sarah and the kids. We opt for a night in an Airbnb trailer on the edge of the park, hoping to catch a starry sky, far removed as we are from the distraction of city lights. The evening’s overcast sky left us a little disappointed. We fall asleep “listening” to the silence and stillness of the desert. Winds moved in at some point in the middle of the night pushing the clouds westward! Sarah wakes up Aliana and I, leaving Oliver to his deep slumber! A fully lit, constellation rich sky our reward for climbing out from under warm comforters … the desert gets quite cool at night making it hard to crawl out from the warmth but glad we did! It is a deeply spiritual experience to gaze at the beauty of the twinkling heavens above us. Certainly a sense of Godly magnificence fills our hearts. More than twenty years ago, while holidaying at a bed and breakfast farm in Prince Edward Island, Brian and I woke up our sleeping kids to experience one of nature’s finest gifts of the night … the Milky Way!! … undoubtedly that memory lives strongly in Sarah and she wants a similar experience for her own children … prompting a return next year!ear
I was fast asleep when the bells ring in a new year, my granddaughter Aliana snuggled beside me. Party animals we were not! No major resolutions other than a promise to continue making health a priority. Eat healthy, exercise daily … do something, anything and go back to reading books more frequently. Simple and doable …
A quick Westjet connect and voila .. I am breathing in the desert warmth of Palm Springs! Hari Om … life is good! Mickey, Gordon and I meet up at the airport and drive off to La Quinta to settle into our cosy Casita Del Nido and thaw out from Canada’s relentless winter. Our friends, Carole and Gordon from Phoenix drive up for a visit a few days later. Lots of wining, dining and connecting followed. Reinforced the value of good friendships and how important to keep in touch. We commit to a return trip next January. Maybe meet up in Sedona for a change of pace? All in all, a fine way indeed to start off a new year. Mickey remains my older sister in so many ways, Gordon, the brother I never had … they probably know the real me better than most anyone I know. They have been around me at my worst, at my best, through thick, through thin and they still love me :)!!! Incredibly, our friendship spans 46 years … we thought of doing something special when the 50 crops up and man, that will happen quicker than a blink of an eye … have to start plotting and planning something.
My favourite part of any visit, remains the early morning walks in the prehistoric Santa Rosa Mountains that loom over the desert landscape …..
November found me flying to Vancouver and on to Crescent Beach to Mickey and Gordon’s home to celebrate their daughter Michelle’s 50th birthday …what a fun blast of a weekend … I met Michelle when she was barely four years old ….. aah these milestone birthdays that mark the passage of time. The eighties theme party was a sea of aerobics instructors, Village people, Forest Gump characters, rockers, even Tom Selleck made an appearance and ahh yes, our girl of the hour, Molly Ringwald 😂
A Gablecraft Christmas party in early December marks my second year in Kelowna … a great evening, full of good cheer. Happy I had the good sense to sign up for the Social Committee as it was a lot of fun organizing the party with the other five ladies … felt good to be part of a community once again. A few days later, I bid adieu to my new neighbours and head back to Calgary for a busy December, full of kids Christmas concerts, birthday parties, family dinners and of course Christmas festivities.
It is not always an easy transition to leave the old behind, be it locale, friendships or your favourite coffee shop to embrace the new at any age but particularly at my age! I am working on weaving all these fibres into this tapestry that is my life, a life that has at times held more complexity than I may have wished for but the threads are gradually softening and evolving into a simpler pattern, more in tune with the emerging me of recent years.
I fly into Calgary’s frigid temps from a Kelowna that has appeared to live on the fringe of winter these past few years … lots of snow with minus two temps but hardly the typically warm Okanagan winters of bygone years, when one had to drive to Big White Ski Resort to catch a glimpse of winter. Despite Calgary’s blistering -25C, Alberta’s welcoming wide open blue skies make the temps bearable but barely 🙃. Spending time at Sarah and Rob’s home with my grandchildren trumps all! Oliver’s third birthday set the stage for the weekend. Sarah had opted for a yoga/meditation party for Oliver … this is a relatively new addition on the party horizon … hope the trend continues. Hullabaloo has its place but quiet is nice too. My sister Margaret and nephew Jordan arrive for the weekend … a weekend full of fun brunches, dinners, visits and parties. Thrown into the mix was a surprise party for my nephew Bruce’s 50th birthday hosted by his new partner Rebecca and sister Susan… the family continues to evolve and grow.
Warms my heart to see Oliver and Aliana love building and playing with this old train set … it used to be a favourite of their mom and Uncle Timmy’s thirty years ago! Happy it survived storage in a Rubbermaid over the decades 🙂
Christmas as well, is evolving in our family. It seemed quiet with Tim and Liseanne in the Philippines. Sarah and Rob masterfully managed to keep Christmas gift mania of past years to a minimum …. I say it every year … little kids do not need a zillion gifts!! … it so very obviously overwhelms them, as it should anyone. But we live in this consumer based society … what is a grandma to do? Even though I continue to cut back, I still contribute to that pile of stuff that accumulates every Christmas … Well, what to do? … sit back and enjoy and repeat my daily mantra … ‘we are an evolving society’ …. everything in its own time 🎄🙃Fitting end to a wonderful year …. dancing! …. posting a fun video I took of Oliver and Aliana dancing to Hawaiian music in their makeshift Christmas light disco that they set up and decorated together 🙂
It is a truism that life can speed up as we age. Who does not remember a childhood where days stretched endlessly and seemingly moved along at a snail’s pace? With every decade that followed, the speed dial increased. It is only with my ever growing interest and participation in meditation and mindfulness that I have, if not exactly slowed the dial back to a snail’s pace, I have certainly managed to stop and savour moments, linger longer, breathing in, slowing down, appreciating more, judging less. Where once judgmental moments could erupt all too frequently, they have become increasingly rare. The consequences of a harshly critical childhood left many scars that have taken me most of my adult life to soothe and heal. The scars have faded over time into barely discernible lines. I realize they were part of the whole, stepping stones that helped forge the person I am today … a far from perfect human being, but certainly a kinder more compassionate one. Yes, fall remains my favourite season …. a time for settling in with a warm bowl of hearty soup and enjoying the reflections that flow.A fun afternoon with Gablecraft Social Committee at Vibrant Vines
A fun week in Mill Bay and Victoria with Mickey and Gordon, Tiernan and Jaylene, Georgia and Connor ❤️Good fall fun time in Calgary with family … caught Aliana in a mid air jump in her Taekwando class! Oliver reads to his babies! A gorgeous fall day hike to Grassi Lakes ❤️. Love fall!!
Our Sarah Liisa was born June 25, 1982 … memories take me back to those early months when I became a mother … what I remember very clearly from the first moment Sarah was placed in my arms, is the exquisitely tender protective love that washed over my whole being …. the blossoming of the heart valve, opening to the unconditional love of a mother for her child! Brian and I spent those early months in awe, sometimes just watching Sarah sleeping! Children are a gift so extraordinary that any descriptive somehow falls short. Perhaps this is as it should be … ♥️
Flash forward, and here I am in Kimberley, British Columbia with Sarah and her family! My own early all encompassing years of parenting, a long ago memory:)!!! As beautiful a mountain setting as any, to celebrate her birthday … it appears the Kimberley Run may turn into an annual event. It is Sarah’s second 10 km mountain run and Aliana’s second 1 km bike and run. Rob may be encouraged to start training for next year, making it a family affair when Oliver turns three and qualifies for the 3-7 year category :)!! I could hike it :)!! Sarah and Rob’s friends the Jobidon family all joined in and completed the race as well. Bravo to all!
Had some fun park moments with the kids on the weekend … Keiran, Amie, Aliana and Oliver were fascinated by a little fawn that followed us back from the park to our condo …. it was quite sweet …. almost felt like he wanted to join them in their play …. very endearing ♥️
The little ones were excited to surprise Sarah with birthday balloons, pie and ice cream! I had a hard time finding 35 on a single balloon …. a 3 and 5 balloon worked!
As if a birthday surprise to the South of France with my children was not enough to celebrate a 65th birthday, but a bonus weekend in Vancouver with my dear friend Linda thrown in? …. Wow!! Linda and I have known each other for so long, we can scarcely remember a time we were not friends. We have been there for each other through life’s many joys and many challenges. Our decades of theatre nights were always less about the plays than about the dinner before the play … a time to catch up, share, cry, celebrate, or laugh together.
We had a wonderful weekend of wining and dining, coffee stops, quiet moments people watching and savouring the coastal ambiance on a park bench at Kits Beach, or chatting benchside with the entertaining Kits Beach resident Tony Swain who, with little encouragement, shared his life story, a story worthy of a movie! Adventurer, long ago pilot, journalist, author, race car driver … the list grew as he talked …. Tony had worn many hats in his working years …. a man who dared to live by the seat of his pants for his whole life and apparently is still doing so :)! Meeting this remarkable man reminded me to always remain open to others …. what we miss when we shield ourselves from interacting with strangers!! Everyone has a story …. a story worth listening to.
Our weekend set sail with the Deva, Miten, Manose concert at Vogue Theatre …. an evening of pure Sanskrit chant magic and concluded with a solitary Stanley Park seawall walk (Linda flew home Sunday, I Monday night) ….. The pictures weave a weekend story … Namaste
The final leg of my birthday extravaganza found us entrenched in freeway traffic for seven hours! National holiday week, Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Prix all major contributors to the jam! After inching our way on freeways, all the while being charged a king’s ransom in toll fees, we finally arrived in the rather lovely mountain village of Chamonix. Summer crowds had not yet materialized leaving the town pretty much to ourselves. Only a handful of tourists and the hearty hiker crowd in town! Decades ago, Brian and I had flown there from Kuwait, to meet up with my eldest sister Pirjo and her husband Bill for a ski week! The memories were overwhelming and poignant. We were two then, just really starting out on our married lives, 25 and 27! I return with two children, their partners and two grandchildren … ‘we’ had grown from two to eight! Memories flooded my heart and mind … I had many tearful moments as I walked the back roads in the early morning mist that first day! The memories of a long ago Chamonix, coated in winter’s snowy landscape was replaced by the stillness of a mountain sunrise and a field of wild flowers, reminiscent of a Claude Monet painting.
The chalet the kids had found yet again on trusty Airbnb was everything one could wish for in a mountain setting! More rooms than we needed certainly but utilize them we did! Thrilled to find a true Finnish sauna and cedar hot tub outside!!! And once again, a child’s dream yard where Ronan, Quinn, Oliver and Aliana could play and squabble in equal measure with abandon, or soak in the warmth of the hot tub, or just enjoy a patio surrounded by mountain views one could only dream of.
We all took turns with the various activities available in Chamonix … hikes without youngsters, hikes with them, (all of us taking a turn with childcare), even a day of shopping in town for hiking boots for some 🙂 or a Gondola trip to the dizzying heights of 12,000 feet for others. Brian skied down this same hill above the clouds forty years ago! My sister Pirjo and I, being rather ummmm, tentative skiers at the time, had opted to stay on the lower slopes :). Somewhere in a dusty faded photo album, I will find those pictures of that long ago time in our personal history. I loved it at the top …. feeling cradled in the heart of a mountain. I was loathe to leave, wanting yet again to linger longer.
A final evening fondue was in order as we bid adieu to Chamonix … finished off with, what else??? Gelato for the children 🙂
Leaving Chamonix behind we sped along the Italian Rivera, going through so many tunnels, we lost count. The six km long one through Mount Blanc alone was incredible … a fait accompli!! The toll stations were everywhere at an ever increasing cost … paying the price for the engineering feat of long tunnels bored through whole mountains, I guess!
We arrived in Nice for our final day, minus Tim and Liseanne who took a bus from Chamonix to Geneva for a day, continuing on to Spain for an additional week of holiday.
A final early evening walk along the sea, an extravagantly delicious dinner at La Petite Maison, a restful sleep, a morning walk to the market for berries and we were off again for the long commute home! Thank you my children, my grandchildren, Jenn and Gary et al for a most memorable trip! Love them all very much. Au revoir français c’est un voyage amusant!
We bid au’revoir to seaside Cassis and the Mediterranean and hit the inland freeways, where cruising speeds of 140 – 160 are the norm …. toll stations appear to be part of every road network, thus far, ranging from a few Euro per use to well over twenty … beautiful roads but costly to drive! We arrive at our next destination, a converted farmhouse in San Remy …. a touch of tranquility in Provence! A place to stretch out, chill, swim, let the kids, big and small kick a soccer ball around the acres of grass, jump on a trampoline, explore a quaint town teeming with restaurants and the many nearby vineyards and oh yes, give everyone a chance to do laundry as well 🙂 ….
A wine tour with Olivier through parts of the Rhone Valley proved to be a totally interesting, informative and fun day. Olivier, of both French and English heritage is totally bilingual … the British side prevailed. A delightful man, full of knowledge, and funny to boot. We sampled our way through various vineyards …. white and rose Vacqueyras, red Gigondas, red Côte du Rhone, red and white Chateauneuf-du-Pape and various other wines that I have forgotten :). We learned the importance of ‘terroir’ …. weather, wind, soil type, and a myriad of other conditions and situations that influence and determine the quality and taste of a wine. The day culminated in a delicious late day luncheon at a restaurant located in the unbelievably bucolic tranquil countryside. Again, we lingered long, savouring the day. As I sit here today, in a cafe in Kelowna, typing this, my thoughts and mind easily float back to France. I feel so blessed to have had this experience with my children, their partners, my grandchildren, Jenn, Gary and their children … How kind and thoughtful they all were to arrange all this. It is not easy planning and carrying out an overseas trip for adults, never mind one with young children to consider …. a Herculean effort surely and one that succeeded brilliantly.