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Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

 

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Music stirs my soul and I have such fun finding just the right piece for my blog. Sometimes it is the lyrics that resonate but other times it is just the voices that make it pertinent. The rich sounds waft through my house as I listen and enjoy. This recording is no exception as these voices really do justice to Queen’s famous rendition. They just add to the Hygge in my house on this beautiful sunny day in Vancouver.

I recently came across the term Hygge. It fascinated me as it is something that I have always practiced without giving it much thought. This also explained my endless preoccupation over the last year with getting my house cosy and inviting. It is a difficult concept to translate as it vague and has many interpretations but here goes….. It is from a Norwegian word meaning ‘well being.’ The Danes, who are regarded as the happiest country in the world, practice this concept in their homes and in the way they live. If I was to give you a practical example you could imagine this…..I am sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold Canadian winter’s night with a glass of red wine in my hand and my dog curled up at my feet. That is Hygge! Another could be sitting in a steaming hot tub on a cold January evening with the snow lining the trees and an equally satisfying beverage in my hand. This is Hygge!

You could be curled up under your duvet in your apartment, watching your favourite television programme while you chomp away at a decadent box of chocolates. It could be as simple as lighting a candle just to create the right atmosphere. Or having friends over for a relaxed potluck. These are all Hygge!

My garden, a cup of morning coffee and Josh…..my idea of Hygge.

It is about being kind to yourself, indulging in simple pleasures and not denying or punishing oneself because of it. I like the sound of that. What is life all about if we can’t have a little bit of what you fancy?

But it has wider applications too and not just confined to the comforts of home. Certain aspects have been introduced into the workplace to reduce stress levels. I noticed on a recent visit to the Amazon headquarters in Seattle that principles of the idea were being implemented. Amazon staff were encouraged to bring their dogs to work. Special areas were created to accommodate their needs. There was an outdoor play area where they could socialise with their canine brothers and do the necessary ablutions. These dogs have added another ‘Hygge’ dimension to an otherwise stressful day in the life of a software engineer. It makes you think……

Leo catching the number 9 to work…….

As far as I am concerned, a little piece of Denmark is alive and well at La Ravine …..our home in the forest.

Rhododendrons beckon you to draw closer…..

 

You might like to read the book The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russel

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Been rusting in the rubble…..

Goats are not one of my favourite animals. They smell and are often bad tempered. This is certainly the case with the ones that I have encountered. They do however, have a talent that I covet……the ability to climb up steep and rocky mountains. It is another grey Vancouver day. I am lying on my back among our trees with the Mission Creek stream snow- melt pulsing in my ears. In usual Vancouver style the water is falling from the skies as well as from the mountains. The world appears magical from this horizontal position.

When last did I just gaze skywards here? Probably on another occasion that I came scooting down on my rear on La Ravine! I seem to exercise this involuntary move a great deal lately. I scurry around along our steep river course in the quest for removing the previous owner’s building rubble and garden waste. This is when I covet the acrobatic ability of the humble goat the most. His prowess would be such a valuable asset on our steep river bank. We are fortunate to be surrounded by a forest of tall conifer trees so my tumbles go unnoticed. My red face goes unnoticed.

I am learning from the news……

According to the weather bureau we had the grand total of 75 hours of sunlight for the whole month of March! This rainy weather accompanied by the grey skies is getting to the most experienced locals. They assure us that this is not the norm. I think I have heard that somewhere before…..when we moved to Toronto and we endured temperatures of minus 40 C. Torontonians assured us that this occurrence was most unusual too. So what are we to do when a garden beckons?

Nothing quite like mucking about in a garden….

Fall like the rain…..

My short fashionable all weather trench coat just did not cut it anymore. One walk to the bus stop and I was soaked! On a recent trip to a consignment shop, I found a long, very long red raincoat. It was probably relinquished with glee when the previous owner moved back to Toronto……no rain there, only deep snow! Once donned it looked a bit like a bag lady until I accessorised it with a pair of shiny navy blue Wellie boots. Now I can take on any storm.

Now I am hypnotised……

There is nothing like a garden to ground you and to keep you present. I while away the hours as I dig, make new features and discover lost treasures under the soil here at La Ravine. The steep slopes have their challenges and the miserable weather a test of patience. But slowly I chip away at my Canadian soil and carry my Canadian rocks to new corners of my garden. With each spade full of earth, I feel that I am getting closer to making Vancouver my home. I am most grateful for my red raincoat!

 

The light is what guides you home, the warmth is what keeps you there. Ellie Rodrigues

There are rocks to be carried……

 

 

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I must stay conscious
Through the madness and chaos…….

 

“You do know that the rain never stops in Vancouver!”

It was move- in day and true to form, it bucketed down. Soggy people and boxes filled the front doorway. The movers lurched down our four flights of stairs and the piles of boxes steadily climbed towards the skylights.

“Where would you like this?”

I looked up from my pile of paper in the kitchen.

“I really don’t know! Find a space……anywhere.” I wanted to weep.

Boxes,boxes everywhere and no inch to spare....

Boxes,boxes everywhere and no inch to spare….

So I call on my angels….

I lay and listened to the loud squawk of the Steller’s jay and the deep blast of the cruise ship’s horn that resonated from the harbour. My brain was still trying to process ‘all that is new’ from my unfamiliar environment. These sounds sooth the jaded unpacker’s weary muscles. I decide to lie just another 10 minutes. I can see down to the river from my uncurtained bedroom window. I jump up and open the door onto the balcony…..just a fraction. Enough to keep the cool morning air out and to let in the sounds of the bubbling stream. It is still too early for our grey heron who has regular fishing trips along our banks. He must be having a lie in too! I have begun to recognise the clicking hoop of his call and the enthusiasm of his flapping wings through the giant cedar trees.

Our resident Stella's jay...the national bird of BC.

Our resident Stella’s jay…the national bird of BC.

The ceremonial placing of my African pot that has traveled the high seas....

The ceremonial placing of my African pot that has traveled the high seas….

I won’t just conform
No matter how you shake my core
……
My days disappear as I fill them with trying to create some order out of this chaos. I am making headway with the unpacking of boxes and am slowly becoming an expert at discarding unwanted clutter. Yes, I am still at it! My heart has hardened and am able to toss that favourite scarf or special ornament. This is round two of my clear out session! Hopefully the thrift shop will find a home for all these once ‘special things’ that have no place in our downsized abode. Fortunately we still have a Black Hole which runs under the house. It is slowly filling up with the camping gear, Christmas decorations and seasonal items like the skis. I hesitate to place anything there. It is dark and awful and I hate going down there! It feels like any piece of furniture or box that gets put down in the hole, is being committed to a stint in solitary confinement.

Josh on his morning fishing expedition....

Josh on his morning fishing expedition at our river.

Victory is in my veins…..

Nature reminds me of the rhythms that surrounds me. I feed off the familiarity in the sounds of the birds and the consistency of the flow of the river. Some things don’t change.

The view across the bay from the north shore quay...with some tech assistance.

The view across the bay from the north shore quay…with some tech assistance!

 

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This rendition is by Heart at the Kennedy Centre with the original group in the audience. It was performed for the first time in 1971.

There is a lady who is sure all that glitters is gold

And she is buying a stairway to heaven…….

My legs ache as I trundle up, what feels like the 100th time, the four levels of our staircase to the road. The garden debris duly deposited, I make my way down again for the next load. The overgrown garden is getting a facelift. I tug away at strings of rampant creeper and slowly the magnificence of this garden is being revealed. There are all sorts of treasure troves beneath this blanket of green…..two earthenware pots, old garden tools and discarded lights. As I unearth each object there is an unraveling of the story behind this house.

Two earthenware pots emerge from the undergrowth....

Two earthenware pots emerge from the undergrowth….

There is a feeling I get when I look to the west…..

This wild child was designed and built in the 70’s and is a real mix of eclectic west coast charm. Plenty of light pours in from the large windows and skylights. Besides her cheerful disposition, this old rocker was due for her Botox rejuvenation.  It seems that she has had 2 other owners besides us. Each adding their own taste in style with ‘creative flair.’ As a result some cohesion and updating was necessary. I can assure you…..not all of it cosmetic either! Most of the updating centres on the damp issue. The house is built on rock and where you have rock, you have water. The scourge of any home owner up near the Grouse Mountain.

The original plans

The original plans of house in the forest…..

And a new day will dawn for those who stand long,
And the forests will echo with laughter…….

I hear you saying……why no house inspection? The Vancouver house market is so vicious that if you request a house inspection, you lose the house. We had already looked at so many mouldy oldies and this one certainly captivated us with her forest and her stream. It was a choice we made with our eyes wide open. We had to just jump in and swim! And swim we did, with the reality of what lay ahead of us. In record time renovators were organised. Matt, you are a gem! You have taken charge with such professionalism. Each week brings progress and with that my sleep pattern improves. So far floors have been ripped up and it has revealed this lady’s checkered past. We deal with each of these transgressions in turn. A gas line will be brought down from the road for heating and cooking. Areas are being damp proofed, gutters replaced and electrics updated. But always the one to prepare for the unforeseen. I have bought myself a really fancy new bathing costume…..just in case!

'n Ruskansie ......

‘n Ruskansie ……

Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder……..

Our lease on the apartment expires this weekend, the fate of our cars unknown, we have an unfinished house and our dear hound sits in the kennels! We are joining the ranks of the homeless in Vancouver! On the bright side, we have a 70’s rocker who is dusting off her dancing shoes. She is about to emerge from her chrysalis and will be rejoicing in her new found splendour!

Her second childhood has begun……

There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold……

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I’m only one call away……

It is hard to believe that 5 years have passed since we landed here in Canada. There was so much to absorb and learn over that time. Many of you have followed me through my blog with these trials and tribulations. You have encouraged and sometimes commiserated with me and I have so appreciated your impute. No longer a stranger here in Canada, I have the feeling of permanence and belonging to this vast country. But ‘life’ decided to toss me another surprise, just in case I decided I might go down the curved path of complacency…..a move across Canada to Vancouver!

“Oh no! How do I put my head around this one?”

We say goodbye to Oakville and all our favourite haunts.

We say goodbye to Oakville and all our favourite haunts.

Change is never easy but change in those Golden Years is even harder. But our South African pioneering spirit stands us in good stead and before too long I was ready ‘to pack and follow.’ As I slowly sift through the contents of the house in my effort to downsize, I reflect on our time here in Oakville. A lump surfaces in my throat when I think of the family I leave behind. Hopefully the attractions of Vancouver and us, of course, will bring them over for frequent visits. We have family nearby across the border in the US which is an added bonus. So Morkel gatherings will be easier to orchestrate once the Toronto family have hit town.

Our forest in our new home .....

Our forest in our new home …..

Call me if you need a friend……

Friends are going to be hard to leave. These ladies have taught me so much with their generous spirits. I am richer for having them in my life and am grateful for their kindness. They have given me a rudimentary appreciation of Art, taught me various Pilates positions which have put a spring in my step, shown me how to wield a paddle so that a canoe moves, familiarised me with the property market in Canada, instructed me in the art of interior decorating so that I know how to group and use colour or have just been my companion on long walks or a coffee date. I am going to miss you all so much.

No matter where you go
You know you’re not alone……

I leave here with a full heart.  We do hope that you will visit us in the beautiful city of Vancouver.

The view from the north shore across to Vancouver.

The view from the north shore across to Vancouver.

 

I’m only one call away
I’ll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I’m only one call away.

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This is what I have been waiting for……..

My car is parked surreptitiously down the side of our house in my neighbour’s driveway. Josh is next to me in his basket. He watches intently as the ‘foreign’ visitors make their way up our stairs and through the front door. He is accustomed to the ritual of ‘clearing out of the house’ each day. Private viewings seem to be the format here in Canada and Show Days are reserved for the inquisitive shoppers. Once he notices me grab hold of his bed, he rushes to the door. He is ever hopeful that this evacuation might include a walk. We sit there in the sub-zero temperatures until the viewing is complete. Each prospective buyer is sized up by myself and my canine helper. Is this the one?

I know it is going to be a good day……

I struggled to write this passage as I found the whole process of selling our beloved house emotional and difficult. Strangers were in and out of our Maison de Morkel. They quizzically sized it up from all angles and inspected every corner. But 3 weeks have passed since then and I am happy to announce that the deed is done. Our house is finally sold!

It has happened!

It has happened……

Canada is a huge country and to move from east to the west coast is like moving to another continent. It would have taken us 4 days to drive the distance. Instead we are going to wing our way over this vast country while the contents are being shoved into containers and onto a truck. Josh has had his very own designer wooden crate made and squeezed back into the hold on the plane too.  The Groot Trek Mark 2 is about to begin.

I shuffle my slipper less toes to the kitchen……….

A house does not just shut itself up! Besides the disconnection of all the usual utilities like gas and water, there is mail to be redirected. We won’t even mention the sorting and discarding that needs to happen. Conveniently I am the only one left at home once my youngest son leaves for university. So the lot of packing and throwing out has been unanimously delegated to mom. A quick word of warning…….Don’t play the ‘Where is it?’ game with me once we get to Vancouver!

Hello, you beautiful thing……

There is some merit in the sorting frenzy as one gets to re-evaluate your worldly possessions and to say farewell to those that just don’t bring you ‘joy’ anymore. I know that might sound trite, but hear me out. I recently read The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up. According to the author on the New York best seller’s list, Marie Kondo, “If it does not bring joy……chuck it!” This book could not have arrived at a more timely moment when all our household goods were about to be scrutinised, categorised and some eliminated. You begin to realise how little you really need.

My thoughts are all I have so I try to make them brave……

In my mind’s eye I can see myself with my head buried deep in a cupboard looking for the elusive joyless item!

 

 

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There’s a rhythm that beats from within …….

As I opened the front door this morning I was greeted by the glorious sounds of spring. The birds are all back and are beginning to do their fan dances to attract a mate. I was quickly brought back to reality with the recognisable stench of our resident skunk. He had awakened from hibernation and no doubt had had a nocturnal tussle right outside our front door. It is a vile smell and no amount of flushing with the garden hose could dull that impenetrable aroma. To add to my delight, today is a Show Day at our house. What a greeting this was going to be to all our prospective buyers.

skunkWC
Many of the ‘window shoppers’ are from the East so the layout of the house and its feng shui is vital. Already many had remarked that the patio door lined up with the front door. According to feng shui principles, this signifies that all the accumulated wealth would flow right out of the house! Now we could not have that happening! What about the fact that there were 2 large pots on either sides of the front entrance? In accordance with these very same principles, they are meant to act as bastions and therefore welcome in any guests/energy into the house. I wracked my brains …….what could I do to mask these factors which were playing havoc with the ‘energy’ today?
One of the big parts of winterising your house here in Canada is you need to drain all the outside taps and empty and pack up water features. That was it! My tranquil grey water feature was hiding and gathering dust right up on the top storage shelf in the garage. I gently pulled the ladder off its hook and slid it into position. Up I went like a spring rabbit. I leaned across and manoeuvred the heavy bowl to the side of the shelf. It wobbled and I took up the slack. Oh the spirit was so keen! There was no way I could get that huge dish off the ledge and down the ladder. That was if I did not want to somersault right off and onto the cement floor. I stood there and weighed up my options. I decided to take the sensible one which went so against my grain. I had to play the waiting game yet again. Big muscles and a steady hand were called for ……..and my son who had both those attributes was sleeping soundly.
I continued to clean and polish and the bright spring flowers were placed at strategic positions. I opened the door onto the deck and the fresh spring air blasted through the house. The sound of the returning mallard ducks could be heard from the stream below.
It is time to leave. Everything is ready. My water feature bubbles at the front door. The energy feels right and is here. You just have to open your eyes, ears and heart to feel it!
And the echoes of your melody will always live in these walls…..

Maison de Morkel jpeg

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