Austrian Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Austria with a Dear Friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Sun Fun Pictorial 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somewhat Surreal Spring 2019

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

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

A few weeks later, my Brother-in-law Brad White passed away in the early morning of May 20. He was diagnosed with pharyngeal cancer almost fifteen years ago. The residual damage to his heart and body from the many months of chemotherapy had finally taken their toll. A sad day for the White family and indeed all our extended family. He was a good friend, uncle, great-uncle, brother-in-law to my immediate family. We have so many happy memories of visits to Kelowna, munching on “Brad burgers”, while sitting on the White patio overlooking Sunset Ranch Golf Course. There were many golf holidays around British Columbia, in La Quinta, California, 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

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

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

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

Life

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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

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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

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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

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  • 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.” ❤️