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Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

Click on the link for superb drone footage of Canada.

Listen to the Scientists!

What is the point of going to school if we have no future?

Our earth is burning!
The posters flashed their messages as we drove through Vancouver’s on Friday. 120 thousand people took to the streets, many of them children. They swarmed out from schools and colleges and eventually gathered at the City Hall. Many took the day off  to let their voices be heard and this certainly sent an earnest message to us adults. The message was clear. We need to get serious about protecting their future!
It was with a heavy heart that I drove back to the north shore over our scenic Lion’s Gate Bridge. Vancouver is beautiful!
The mostly calm sea with the islands in the distance, the majestic mountains that frame the harbour and the forests that stretch into infinity. These children had really hit home and I valued my beautiful surroundings as I pondered its future.
This theme continued to plague my thoughts over the weekend.  I came across a research scientist from the UK who was expounding the merit to your health of spending time in the garden. Francis Williams used a term called ‘forest bathing.’ Don’t you just love that term? I think I fantasize about the other kind of Forest Bathing!

My Lady Anne Barnard moment…..

 While at school I came across the character, Lady Anne Barnard, who supposedly partook of this rather scandalous act of  bathing in a forest pool in Cape Town, South Africa. She was the wife of an English governor during the British occupation at the Cape. She was somewhat older than her husband and was not too concerned about being a demure Georgian wife. This was in the late 1700’s! But I am getting off track….
The ‘forest bathing’ that Francis referred to was the practice of spending time outside surrounded by nature. It did not have to be a forest walk. It could simply be a stroll through a park or time spent in a sunny spot in a garden. In expounding on the merits of this activity, she added that you get to experience all the senses…..the smells, the sounds and even perhaps the feel of the breeze. Just 15 minutes of being outside daily can lower your heart rate, your blood pressure and your cortisol levels  It can be explained like this…… by being present in your experience you relax your cortex,. that is your thinking brain. It is no wonder that this has become a popular practice in Japan. Doctors even prescribe ‘time outside’ to their patients who struggle with various ailments including stress and pain management.

Forest bathing at the bottom of my garden….

My garden continues to draw me in. I play in it and tend it for hours. While I might not be adding much to climate change, I can take care of and manage my small piece of this magnificent world here in Canada.

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This video brings home the fact that here in Vancouver we have a tremendous amount of rain. So excuse us when we wax lyrical when we get the odd dose of sunshine…….

There was much excitement today when 2 massive cruise ships sailed and docked on our north shore. We are used to watching them disembark with all the usual hooting and fanfare across the bay. This was different as it was right on our doorstep!

A local company were refitting this 27 000 ton, 680 passenger liner in 16 days. Each cabin was to be gutted and remodeled as well as the hull stripped and repainted along with updates to the propulsion system and rudder. As you can imagine this is a tall order and it would require a large workforce to complete this scale of job. It proved to be no problem to the organisers. I can imagine there was some bright young spark on that team……the second boat was drawn alongside that could accommodate the 2000 strong band of workers. How ingenious is that? Imagine falling out of bed…. a quick brush of the teeth and then a walk across the gangplank to the office. Once the day was done you could meet on the deck for a quick sun downer with a view across the Bay. Not too shabby for a day in the working life of the crew!

A surprise on our North Shore…

I had to smile as the company doing the refitting apologised for the noise that the locals would have to endure during the fitting out of the boat. How amazingly polite we are as Canadians and conscious of our environment.

I took this all in on my walk down to the quay last night. As the sun was setting a resident tugboat pulled in right next to me. A ship’s pilot shot me a greeting over his shoulder and then jumped aboard. He was obviously going out to one of the tankers to bring them into the port.

There is so much to see if we just take the time to stand and stare.

A tugboat greeting along the pier….

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing –half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Kenneth Grahame

Wind in the Willows

 

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In the mirror of your eyes…….

My rugged African pot stood sheepishly at the foot of my driveway all decked out with its hessian bow. It had to endure the humiliation along with the many other corners of my house. There is much to celebrate….the Winter Solstice heralds the fact that our days will slowly become longer and our nights shorter. Then we have my favourite time of the year. Need I say, it is Christmas.  The wonder and joy of the season here in the northern hemisphere is magical.

A delicate twist to my African roots!

I can see it all so clearly…..

The steep pathway down to the house is lit up with fairy lights. They have a double function; both to illuminate the slippery staircase and to add a flickering twinkle to the arduous task of getting up and down to the house. Although when your arms are piled high with copious bags of groceries and replenishment stocks to the bar fridge, the lights are the last thing on your mind. But it is so worth the effort!

Like an image passing by……

The twins made a quick pre-Christmas visit to drop Leo off for a few weeks while their parents had a well-deserved family holiday. Leo is the much loved golden retriever. While the dogs got reacquainted, the twins helped decorate the Christmas tree.  There is much to be said for having your family traditions and I sat back and lapped up the scene. Deliberation reigned as the two placed the carefully chosen ornaments on the branches. There was much teetering on the chairs and discussion. Both of them are fiercely independent and I had to restrain myself from intervening in their creative activity. I watched and listened as the two repeated history.

Katy added her magical touch…

Christmas finally arrived and we all gathered together to celebrate. Stuffed turkey, glazed ham and red cabbage cooked in apple juice and topped with cranberries was on the menu. Dessert was a homemade salted caramel ice cream topped with meringues. These were made from scratch too. Thank goodness Christmas only comes once a year!

Christmas traditions with Jack …..tartan and pajamas.

Like reflections of your mind……

Besides all the preparation that goes along with Christmas, it is a time of remembrance and soul searching for me. I was continually reminded how my mom managed a house full at Christmas with such grace. There was always delicious food and all were welcome at our table. I missed them both and found myself reflecting back now that I am ‘the nanny’ and all the kids descend on our house at Christmas. There is much music, laughter and plenty of food.

So now we will go our separate ways…..

So another New Year is about to begin. We all need to go out and carry on with our lives. I will bathe in the love that I feel. This was brought home to me when my granddaughter said goodbye at the car. I was securing her seat belt and she tilted her little head forward and said: “Nanny I will dream about you.”

Best wishes for 2019 go to all of you and may you always have something to look forward to.

Christmas Cousins

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“Congratulations! You’ve reached the next step in the citizenship process.”

This was the email that suddenly appeared in my inbox late yesterday. It came from the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. There was an initial rush of excitement. We were almost there. It meant there was just one more appointment with the authorities.

Within the next month we would be singing…..Oh Canada!

I slept badly which surprised me as I thought the news of the previous day would send me into a soporific dreamland. Somewhere through my wakeful periods and my jumbled dreams came these uncomfortable thoughts. They were thoughts of failure, abandonment and being disloyal. Was I being disloyal by taking on the citizenship and culture of another country? It seemed fortuitous but I then received a message from a dear friend to say she was standing outside what she thought was my family home in Stellenbosch. The tears just rolled down my cheeks. So many happy family memories and the faces of the people that I love filled my mind. I still love South Africa and the Western Cape and all that goes with that…..

Please don’t think that I need you to feel sorry for me, I certainly do not. This was all my own doing. But have you any idea how hard this is? I have knowingly left behind 60 years of all that is familiar, my history, my dear friends and estranged family members. Family often take strain with this whole process too as they feel that you have run from your responsibilities. But my responsibility had to be firstly to my immediate family. Fortunately I knew my parents understood that and they gave me their blessing.

I have allowed myself to be sad today. I mourn the life I once had in South Africa and the people that I love back there. When the time comes, I will sing the Canadian Anthem with pride but the gentle words of Nkosi Sikeleli will play a soft tune in the background of my mind.

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Have you ever wondered what a ‘bored housewife’ thinks about when she is completing all those mundane jobs around the house? There is nothing quite like a having your hands in the sink with dirty dishes or having ironing up to your eyeballs! It is the trigger for your mind to go into overdrive and to a most wonderful escape.

I am often asked the question: Don’t you get bored at home? Yes, I certainly do! There is nothing quite like coming to the harsh reality that you are no longer a useful member of the workforce. Someone who contributes to society and gets affirmation from job satisfaction and the people that work alongside you. Oh and don’t forget the remuneration at the end of the month too! I miss all those aspects of having a formal job.

Instead I am a domestic executive who runs a slick show. The washing basket is empty, the kitchen cupboards are well stocked and the freezer is groaning with enough to feed us till the New Year. The house is relatively clean too considering we have a Jack Russel that sheds at least a 1000 spikey white hairs daily. My job is not confined to the internal workings of the house alone. I even managed to run the Christmas lights up the outside staircase myself this year. I did contemplate our ladder and a more daring venture up the roof but decided that Christmas with a broken leg was not a good idea. My family would have been mortified! Who would have filled the domestic executive position? I somehow think that there would not have been many takers!

But back to the Christmas light chore …..I quickly realised that you needed to test the string of lights before you painstakingly thread it around the bannister. It is infuriating when you realise that they just don’t shine! So it was back to the drawing board. Extra bulbs were sourced and we were in business. There were many ‘choice words’ that filled the air during the whole process. But fortunately there was no one around to hear them.

The creative jobs and the challenging ones don’t require me to go wandering off in my mind.  I am totally engaged. The dressing of the Christmas tree was one such task that I just loved. I decided on a woodland theme being that we are tucked away in our forest. So all the creatures that frequent La Ravine are represented. Then I added a vintage display of old family photos. It is fascinating to note the family traits that have passed along the genes. That strong chin is ever present!

My woodland Christmas tree….

So what are my plans for the New Year career wise?

My trajectory looks rosy as there are opportunities to develop my creativity and to explore the thoughts that drift in and out as I go about my daily chores. The domestic executive has the elevated position of being a domestic goddess and I am loving it!

Best wishes go to all my family, friends and the readers of my blog for the holiday season. I hope that you get to put your feet up in front of the fireplace or barbeque depending on whether you are in the Northern or Southern hemispheres. Thank you for taking the time to read my blogs as this allows me the indulgence of putting those wandering thoughts into a written piece.

The domestic goddess with my granddaughter, Kate.

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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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