Release

Capture

I was poking around a bookshop on 124 street one day in July. Plans for my week were about to change, and I knew it even though no one had said a word yet. There was an electric charge in the air. I took myself to the bookstore and out for coffee as I do when I want some alone time but still want to be around people. I know it’s a weird trait I have. I like being alone but in a crowded room. As I was browsing, a woman came up to me and said – “This is going to seem strange, but I am supposed to give you this.” Then she walked away.

I have come to embrace strange and exotic messages coming from unusual sources. It has become a thing, and I no longer find it odd. The Universe is always speaking to you.

The woman handed me a book by Caroline Myss. I looked her in the eye and said thank you. As I often do, I asked a question in my head: What would you have me know? I randomly opened the book to a page and read: Just let go. Let go of how you thought your life should be and embrace the life that is trying to work its way into your consciousness. I said, “Thank you” and took a photo of the quote, closed the book and put it away. I promptly forgot about the quote until this morning when I ran across it again in an Instagram story from a person I follow who lives in Atlanta. Then I saw it again from my yoga Nidra Teacher in Venice Beach. I was looking for a particular image for a work thing, and I saw the photo from the book I took the quote. Okay universe, I hear you loud and clear.

To add more to the idea that the Universe is always speaking to you – Caroline Myss randomly showed up in various social media feeds, and until this summer, she was never on my radar before. I listened to her lecture from when she was in New Brunswick and loved how it added a new perspective to my thoughts and ideas. I shared it out – not that I think anyone actually listened, I share more for me so I can go back to it and look again.

I watched another video yesterday, and the speaker Jerry Hicks said he was living in stress and trying to please everyone, trying to help everyone, things were falling apart. And finally, he said out loud, “I am done. I can’t do this anymore.” He said it more as a prayer than as an act of defiance. He said once he released it, he felt immediate joy.

The underlying message I finally understood after the Universe had been pounding me over the head with it is, Let Go. I always thought it was acceptance, but I was wrong. Letting go is part of forgiveness. Oprah says, “Forgiveness is letting go of the idea that things could have been different.” One day last fall, I said I am done. I expected to feel guilty, but I didn’t. in its place I felt peace. PEACE! Do you know how amazing that felt? I loved the peaceful feeling so much I wrote “I am meant to live in peace” on my arm so often people thought I had a new tattoo. I posted it to my wall at work — a regular reminder of a beautiful way to live.

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One day this summer I said to no one in particular, “I AM SO DONE.” I also said this to a few people, but it was intended for me. I thought I needed to accept, get along, bend, change all in an effort to please and help everyone. But I don’t. How they live their lives and treat people is on them. How I react to it is on me. I have been mired down, and I just can’t live that way anymore. I do know it isn’t an all or nothing type of response. I have just released me from expectations. I let it go. The side benefit is joy is creeping into unexpected areas of my life. Its as if there is only a finite amount of room and now that I have released it… I am free.

Thank you, Universe.

 

Edmonton Tourist: September Staycations

I get a lot of questions from people who live beyond the borders of Edmonton. I’m asked about things to do in Edmonton beyond the MALL. Questions about transit and accommodations or best places to eat. Honestly – I don’t take transit, nor do I stay in a hotel because my bed is super comfy and free. Other than offering my place to stay, I thought a monthly guide of things I might do in Edmonton might be of interest to actual tourists and locals alike.

If I was visiting my beautiful city I would stay central. Airbnb or an actual bed and breakfast in Old Strathcona, Windsor Park, Oliver or Glenora would be my first choices. Hotels downtown or Strathcona would also be on my radar if I didn’t have a car. That way walking or transit would be easier. I would want to be closest to the river valley or arts districts.

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I would consider coming in the summer during festival season. To be fair, Edmonton has festivals all year long with the Flying Canoe in February being my favourite (but the weather is TERRIBLE! It is often -40C), but the Fringe and The Works are a close second. September has Kaleido and that is charming too! I am seeing an Arts and Cultural theme here…maybe I have a severe bias.

I rank a restaurant on their breakfast menu, coffee or wine list. I am not hip and trendy, but I enjoy a great meal (mostly breakfast) and a really great cup of coffee. My favourites include but are not limited to, Café Bicyclette, Workshop Eatery, Little Brick, Sugar Bowl, Juniper Bistro and Mandolin.

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My favourite things to do are usually free or a nominal fee. You can often find me poking around any public art installation, browsing used book shops, exploring the river valley, visiting the art gallery, Royal Alberta Museum, strolling down 124 street or 82 Ave, or attending small community theatre at the Varscona, Westbury, Walterdale or Trinty.

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September has a few things I will be checking out in my city.

  1. I woke up on Sunday morning to learn about the #yegwalk or more formally known as the Commonwealth Walkway. Download the app. As you walk along the walkway you come across medallions and the app gives you voice recordings and photos of the history both colonial and indigenous as well as flora and fauna knowledge. I listened to everything already and have been on the trail thousands of times. It is a great walking tour of my beautiful city. Check it out!
  2. Something newish to the Downtown City Market is Market Sundays! IMG_6638Saturday Market is on 104 street and is my usual favourite outdoor market, plus the little shops along the way (wine and chocolate) can’t be beat for additions to my groceries. I am going to visit the Sunday market for the first time ever. It is located on 103 Ave between 96 street and 97 street. 96 street also is called the Armature – that is new-ish (new to me) and is the City of Edmonton’s first city-led green street.
  3. No Change in the Weather is a Newfoundland musical and will be at the Westbury Theatre running September 25-28. It promises to have traditional Newfoundlander songs and music. I am all for that. I love a good toe-tapper.
  4. This weekend is the Kaleido Festival It is September 13-15 over at Alberta Avenue (118 Ave between 90-95 Street). Billed as a family-friendly arts festival. There is a Front Porch music series. People playing on their front porch! How Edmonton is that? I love it!! I try to go every year. The Friday night lantern parade was super cool and begins at 9:30 pm Friday. It’s worth the price of admission (free). You make lanterns and carry them through the parade. It begins at The Carrot. I will miss it but will be back in town to catch the last bits of the festival on Sunday. While I am there, I am checking out a few of the Public Art pieces at that end of town. You should too because Edmonton is an amazing city.

Listen

Day two of my Staycation had me exploring Whyte Avenue in Old Strathcona. When I was in my 20’s, I worked and played in Old Strathcona. It still is a place that I love to explore but I don’t get here very often anymore because to unwind I tend to head into the forest. It energizes me. Occasionally I need to be around people and that’s when I grab a friend or famjam member and head to Whyte Ave.

We popped into shops, bought books from Wee Book Inn and a tiny plant from The Little Plant Shop. We ate the best ice cream on the planet at Made By Marcus, saw cool and interesting things at the Plaid Giraffe and headed towards Chapters before it leaves the neighbourhood.

Along the way we spotted this sign:

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I was intrigued.

There were two people, one male and one female, sitting back to back with chairs in front of them. The female had a gentleman sitting in her chair and he was talking to her. Her partner looked at me and offered me a chair. Not one to miss an opportunity to try something new, I sat opposite him. He began to explain that he was there to listen to anything I had to say. He promised a safe environment where no one would know what we talked about unless I confessed a murder or something else that was criminal because he would have to report that. But other than that he encouraged me to talk to him about anything. My companion stood beside me and I asked them to leave because I wanted some private time with the listening man.

I looked into his eyes and felt compassion. He smiled and asked me what I wanted to talk about. So I began to tell him how angry and hurt I was over a situation I have been living with and I didn’t know what to do with the feelings. He asked questions that made me think and draw out the conversation. For the first time in a long while, I felt like someone was invested and interested in what I had to say. But me being me, I quickly turned the tables and began asking him questions about why he was doing this and to tell me his story because I am also a listener. He began telling me his story and then as if he could hear the sound of a needle scratching a record, he said “Whoa whoa whoa…You are supposed to be talking and I am the listener.”

I smiled because I am good at gaining other people’s confidences and getting them to talk about themselves. I explained, “This is what I do. I get people to talk so I don’t have to talk about myself.”

Listener: Why do you think that is?

Me: Easy question, it keeps me safe.

We continued the conversation and he had me thinking about my role in my relationships. It takes two to have a conversation. Equal parts sharing and equal parts listening. I do feel as if I trusted the wrong people and maybe that shouldn’t stop me from trusting completely. Not everyone can be who I need them to be, but I do need to accept who they are. I often feel like I take things too seriously when I should be practicing the social norm of How are you, I am fine type of conversation. But I detest small talk. I’d rather jump right into the conversation. I test people to see if they are loyal, trustworthy and kind. When they blow me off, I get my answer. I haven’t found the loyalty I am looking for. With people I am close with, I haven’t shared enough.

I do know far more about other people than they know about me. Listening man gave me lots to think about by just listening and asking the right kind of questions. I briefly fell in love with him while he listened and asked questions for clarity. It was a wonderful feeling to have someone be that …I don’t know the word….intense? Kind? Involved? Interested? Compassionate? Caring?

Me:  I am grateful you invited me to sit.

Listener: I am grateful you sat. I get as much from this as you do. Now, let’s circle back to your original story about your hurt and anger over that friend. What is it that you really want from them?

Me: <I thought about this for a minute or two.> I want them to say what they mean, be truthful and honest so it shows respect for me and my time. Show me that I am as important to them as they are to me. But what I really want is for everything to be different and that isn’t going to happen. I cannot change the past and turn it into something that never happened.

Me: I really appreciated this.

I reached in my purse and he was worried I was going to give him money.

Listener: NO NO NO, keep your money.

Me: Can I take a photo of your sign?

Him: Absolutely.

We shook hands and I stood to leave but I wanted to hug him. I thought about taking his photo but I knew his face would be etched into my memory forever. He was the kindest man, the type you suspect was an angel that came to chat with me because I needed it and he likely doesn’t exist in this realm.

I thought a lot about what he had to say and how he made me feel. I think that is the important part. He listened hard enough so I knew he cared and that made me feel special. I have been thinking about our conversation since.

As you go about your day or your week or the rest of the year when someone talks to you maybe you should listen. I mean really listen.

  1. Ask them questions so you can gain clarity. This helps them think you are interested.
  2. Don’t offer solutions, they just want an ear. If they want your opinion they will ask for it.
  3. Look them in the eye or gaze on their face. Check to see what they are looking at.
  4. Don’t make it about you. It’s not about you. It’s about them and how they feel. They aren’t thinking about you at that moment.

I haven’t been a good listener or a good friend lately. Listening isn’t as easy as you might think. But when you find that friend who is really good at it, hang onto them. They are a keeper.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Thunder Lake Provincial Park

After working my summer away doing cool things. I took a much needed mental and physical break to do more cool things. This time of year I like to visit the west coast but I was there in the spring and honestly, I don’t have the vacation time or money to spend. I took my daughter to Disneyland for her 21st birthday this year. My children can convince me of anything but don’t tell them that. I am putty in their hands and they will always come first. Even now that they are adults, they are the most important thing to me. So, vacation dollars were wasted spent on her. That leaves me with enough spending cash to enjoy a staycation with a few little side trips. Honestly, Edmonton is just as interesting as hundreds of other cities I have visited, the only thing missing for me is the ocean. I still seek out water, it just doesn’t sound the same as my beloved Pacific Ocean.

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Day 3 of my staycation took me to Thunder Island Provincial Park. It is about a 100-minute drive northwest of Edmonton. This is another one of those places in Alberta that I had never been to. It amazes me that I have walked on Vimy Ridge, gazed up at the Sistine Chaple, explored the Seven Apostles and the Great Ocean Road, felt the spray of Niagra Falls, kayaked with orcas, hiked a rain forest, looked at a shrunken head and gazed upon the Book of Kells and stood at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity but I have not explored much of my home province. I am not sure what inspired me to explore Alberta Parks, but here we are.

I am having a hard time being alone with myself lately so I invited the hubs and my Chatterbox to join Captain and me on this day-trip north. I packed a lunch that included the hub’s favourite road trip cookie – the Fudgeo. The lunch is the classic hobo lunch my daughter(s) prefer while on a trip. It is an assortment of good cheese, Italian meats, crusty bread, balsamic and olive oil, veggie sticks and fruit. We threw in extra spicy Cheetos for funsies. I tossed in the trusted Bearclaw quilt that goes to all beaches with me and the 25-foot tether for Cap. There was a bear warning at this park – one was in the area so Cap needed to be close by…just in case.

We arrived at about 10:30-ish and headed straight for the day-use area. We had the vast parking lot to ourselves. We jumped out of the car at took in the view. This place was gorgeous. The leaves were beginning to turn and the air was crisp. Fall is definitely here.

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We walked along the beach for a bit and I imagine this place will be packed over the weekend.  For now, I was just enjoying the silence. Its something I had not experienced in a while. I thought it was quiet at Pigeon Lake but this was the kind of quiet that made you think you were the only person left on the planet. There were no car or boat sounds. No other human voices. Only the occasional bird. Even the trees were quiet, my daughter quipped, “they must be mad at each other”.

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We walked along the shore towards the pier, a small but reminiscent pier of my grandpa’s cabin at Isle Lake near Athabasca. It was solid but small and was yearning for a boat so we could go for a ride or head out to fish.

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As usual, my fraidy-cat dog walked on it and scared himself thinking he might get wet. He quickly scampered off so we decided to get on one of the trails to see what we could see.

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There was a look-out indicated on the map, so we planned to look for it. But the map wasn’t very useful. Eventually, we figured it out. First, we travelled along the shore.

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The water was smooth like glass. We saw beaver evidence and counted the loons on the lake – or ducks. They were so far out of my vision range, I couldn’t tell which they were. We watched a few bees gather pollen from the flowers. Thrive little bees, the world needs you!

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As we continued on our exploration, I pointed out asters and goldenrod, rosehips and dogwood, always reminding everyone they wouldn’t get scurvy being shipwrecked with me! Keeping Cap alive will also be important once we are shipwrecked because that boy is a hunter. He flushed out a grouse who flew into the tree to watch us. Cap was having a great time and I think he would have caught the bird had we let him go. With the bird in the tree, Cap was at the base just teasing it and laughing the whole time.

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We stood watching each other for a few minutes until the grouse had enough and flew off. Cap pulled Chatterbox into the brush but she slowed him down and we got him back on course.

We backtracked to the trailhead for the lookout which went straight up. You could tell we were out of the prairies and headed into the boreal region. More hills and forest than meadows and fields.

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When we reached the top, we discovered the ‘Lookout” was grown over and all you could see was choke cherries and hazelnut bushes.

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So much for seeing the lake from up high.

We walked along the road towards the beach to have our Hobo Lunch.

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Picnics are the best.

The drive home was quiet, mostly because I slept all the way. I think I am still recovering from my weekend at Pigeon Lake. Thunder Lake Provincial Park is gorgeous and I highly recommend packing up a picnic or your tent and go spend some time exploring this gem.

Prairie Honey Creative: Indigo Shibori

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On my lovely weekend to Pigeon Lake Provincial Park, I had the great fortune to participate in an Indigo Dye and Shibori workshop. Blaine Lunsford, the mastermind behind Prairie Honey Creative, was the alchemist behind this session. I felt as if I was a part of something larger than myself. It was a unique experience that I am not sure how to put into words. But I will try…

Blaine was on site all day and offered a morning session and an afternoon session. I joined the afternoon group of women. It was a group of 10 coming together to create these beautiful and unique rayon shawls. Every person in this group came with intentions to learn, share and support each other in these creations.

We were given the history of indigo and taught about the healing benefits of this ‘Blue Gold’. It is considered a valuable commodity and has been used for centuries. Knowledge of this craft is passed down through the generations and is still used today in many parts of the world. I had read about indigo dying in the Book of Negroes and thought it was only an African craft, what I learned that day was, indigo is found all over the world from Japan and India to Africa and South America. I felt grateful to be a part of this experience that thousands of women used before me.

We began with learning about the vats of dye. The more foam and froth was apparently a good thing. It meant the dye was active and ready to be used on the natural fibres. The smell reminded me of a time and memory I couldn’t place, yet I knew I had smelled it before.

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The women of the group were handed a white shawl and we were instructed to think about how were would use materials to resist the dye. Blaine had everything from marbles and buttons, to clothespins and popsicle sticks. String and clamps were abundant in glass jars found all over the room. I knew instinctively how I was going to create my cloth.

I first set an intention for my cloth to be healing for me. Then I folded my shawl and pleated in an accordian fashion. I staggered clothes pins to create a smocked appearance all over the cloth.

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I was so focused and knew exactly what my plan was, other women explored other mediums and took more time tying and twisting their fabric. Once I was done I joined some other women closer to the vats and we just started sharing stories of our different experiences. Once everyone had completed the first step, Blaine explained the dipping technique.

We were instructed to dip our cloth and leave it in the vat for 10 minutes. Then we would squeeze the excess dye out of the cloth. There were rocks to weigh the cloths down and keep them from floating. Six cloths went into the vat at one time.

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Blaine never dipped on our behalf. She allowed us to have the experience. I suspect it had to do with our energy and intent that we placed on the process. I added an extra step that we didn’t talk about. This past spring I became a Reiki practitioner. I channelled Reiki energy into the dipping process to magnify the energy and healing properties of my shawl.

We let the shawls sit in the indigo dye and when it was time to pull them out, the first dips were green.

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This was completely unexpected by everyone except our knowledgeable alchemist. She explained we needed to rub the garment to allow for oxygen to enter the fabric. The more we rubbed, the bluer the fabric became.

Here are the three stages of oxygenating the fabric.

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It only took minutes for the fabric to go from green to blue. It felt as if it was a living breathing process.

We repeated this process two more times. Dipping, squeezing and rubbing.

While we waited for the dips and drains, the women began to share more and more personal things. One lady explained how her family escaped the war in Central America and how here nephew was murdered in the process. Another woman talked about the loss of her son and how painful it was. Another spoke of her estrangement from her daughter and the stories went on and on. It was a time of healing and sympathy. We all came together to honour each other’s loss and supported each other in healing. It was an incredibly moving experience.

By the last dip, we were all excited to see the wraps unfold. We were told not to expect that we could control the designs. We were to expect to receive the design we needed. As mine unfolded, it looked like tiny fireflies to me. Others looked like hearts or smiles or hugs. All beautiful and all incredibly special.

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As I waved it through the air it became bluer.

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By Sunday night it was a deep indigo blue and I wore it all night. It felt like a warm hug. I have an unexpected attachment to it and plan to wear it often.

The group went out into the sunlight and we held up our shawls for all to see.

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The experience was as powerful as the end product. Blaine does this workshops all over the place, but she will also come to you if you want to organize a private dying session. If you do that, invite me – I really want to experience this again. Tell her I sent you.

You can find her on Instagram @prairiehoneycreative

Thank you, Blaine, for the transformative experience.

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Edmonton Tourist: Pigeon Lake Provincial Park

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Up until this summer, I had never been to Pigeon Lake. I have lots of friends who have cabins out there or who spent summers on the water, but my family always went to  Miquelon Lake or Wabaum. Pigeon Lake was never a thought or possibility. I am not sure why. All I can say is, we missed out.

I created a big event for work that took place at Pigeon Lake Provincial Park. This required me to visit the park and get familiar with it so I could be an expert on facilities and location. I visited enough that I felt comfortable to plan activities and work in this environment. What I didn’t expect was learning how beautiful and lush this park is.

Pigeon Lake Provincial Park is located about an hour southwest of Edmonton, west on Hwy 13 and North on secondary 771.

The park is green and lush with ample day-use and overnight facilities. The Park’s staff is knowledgeable, accommodating and the most lovely humans to work with.  Work took place over in the Group Camping site for three days. Huge spots that accommodate up to 50 units, each come with a large four-foot diameter fire pit, camp shack, 10 electrical hook-ups and one water tap. We used this area to the maximum. We had games, workshops, campfires and concerts. But unless you plan your own weekend, these activities are not available to you. Sorry – but the Parks people have great interpretive activities going on over at the Day site near the camp store.

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I took time to explore the endless trail system that winds around the campground. Great for hikes and exploring. One morning a bright orange fox stopped on the road to look at me but as I pulled my camera out – he left me and made me feel like a liar as I told everyone I saw a fox. The mosquitoes were abundant as were the dragonflies. There were still wildflowers in bloom on the paths, such as asters and columbines.

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I explored the paths most travelled and the paths not taken. I felt like I betrayed Captain being there without him by my side.

But…

Once the dust settled on the weekend and I took a moment to enjoy the peaceful setting, I was grateful for the opportunity to explore parts of my province and be paid for it. As a traveller and explorer, you have no idea what that means to me. I have been to parts of the province I never would have thought to explore and all I can say is, wow Alberta, you are beautiful.

The best part of this park was the smells. I love the smell of the Boreal Forrest. We are on the cusp of the boreal and with that comes the smells of the aspens, low and high bush cranberries, deep loam and other vegetation only found outside of the city. The park was quiet except for our group – but we kept it quiet after 10 pm – an hour earlier than we were required to. Three steps down the path and suddenly you are in the middle of nowhere.

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I walked down to the beach. The park staff suggested I head to the boat launch because fewer people would be there rather than the day beach. They were right, just a family bringing in their boat on a Sunday afternoon. Further down the beach, people were in the water, apparently, it was a good year for swimming because there wasn’t enough heat to bloom the blue-green algae that prevent the lake from being swim accessible.

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As I stood on the peer I felt the tension of the weeks float away. I always loved being at the lake – didn’t matter what lake – I find water incredibly soothing to me. I prefer the ocean but lakes and rivers will do in a pinch. The energy is the same healing energy that soothes me.

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I walked a bit down the path that led to the day area but the screams and laughter from the playground made me reconsider. Instead, I headed in the other direction where the land was vacant of humans.

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If you camp, there are lots of options including yurts for a glamping experience. If you paddle a canoe or kyack, you are in luck, lots of open water to explore. The lake was filled with anglers trying their hand at capturing the daily catch. I was content just standing there watching the water lap against the shore.

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I know most people head to the North shore or Ma-Me-O Beach but I suggest you forgo the usual and head towards the Provincial Park, it doesn’t disappoint.

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Gratitude

As I sit here this morning with my coffee in my hands, I gaze out the window in my office that overlooks my back yard. The sky is blue, the leaves on the trees are shimmering in a light breeze and the flowers still look good considering the rain and hail they have endured this summer. One week left of what I consider summer. As an Edmonton gal, summer for me is only July and August. Even at that, it has been cooler than most people would like. I sat on my deck all day yesterday wrapped in a shawl and had a blanket over my legs. If I hadn’t been wearing shorts and a short sleeve tee, I am sure I would be fine, but its SUMMER damit and I was dressed in shorts. Even this morning, the back door is open to allow for fresh air as my pup sits and enjoys the summer’s end and its not warm.

Its been a hecken couple of weeks. Hecken is my daughter’s favourite swear word. I have taken to it fondly as well. The busiest two weeks of my summer of work things had me leaving work early on Friday and sleeping for four hours only to wake up to Fringe and then I slept for another twelve hours, ate some food and slept hard for another two. I worked hard for the last two weeks putting in all the hours the day had to offer. I still am sore and tired but I am no longer delirious and can actually spell my name: Robyn – see? It wasn’t a sure thing Friday morning.

Heading into those busy two weeks I was feeling as if I lost my best friend…I did. And I felt as if I would be alone for a really long time…I’m not. I had been meditating on loss for about a month. I was focusing on what I didn’t have instead of what I did have. I suppose grief does that for people. You look at what you don’t have rather than what you do have. I was grateful for my heavy workload because I was able to stay focused and in the moment. I was too busy to dwell on what was absent from my life. I knuckled down and got to work. I am incredibly grateful for having that at this time. What I didn’t expect was reconnecting with things at bringing me so much joy. Joy was the last thing I expected while feeling so low. I changed my meditation practice to gratitude and the most amazing things began to happen.

  1. Usually, in my line of work, you need to have a lot of plans in your back pocket anticipating failure or wrenches or bombs thrown into the mix. Sure we ended up going through plans A-H and maybe ended up with plan Q but it wasn’t stressful. It went very smoothly. There was an energy I didn’t expect. Everyone was happy, grateful and kind. It made everything worthwhile and I actually loved my job for the first time in 30 years. (I loved my first year of teaching – it went downhill from there). What do I think the difference was? Gratitude. I was never grateful for my job, my coworkers or any part of my work life. I was this time and my experience was a million times better than I ever expected. Every night as I tucked myself into bed I said, ‘Thank you”.  I was rewarded with more of the same.
  2. I continued to be grateful as the week progressed and I found myself in Southern Alberta. Everything that could go wrong from my hotel room being cancelled to not having resources to extend to those who required them. I even was detoured on my route a few times and none of this made sense. I was rewarded with not feeling angry and defeated. I even got the sense that all of these roadblocks were there to prevent something worse from happening. Who knows what that might have been. In the end, it all turned out better than imagined. I continued to say “Thank you” at the end of the day and as I opened my eyes in the morning, it was my first thought. Thank you altered my frame of mind and kept me calm. Sure it could have been better but it could have been much worse.
  3. I have been searching for someone or something for a while. I haven’t found it in the people I know. I can’t tell you what it is I am looking for because I don’t really know myself but I can tell you I will recognize when I do find it. I have been treating myself better and I have acknowledged that I deserve better than the way some people treat me. Sure they have reasons, but I still deserve better. I think I have finally broken the unending pattern of abuse I have lived with since ‘the dark times’. I kept attracting people who treated me the same way. This happened in my personal and professional life. I would end it and a new person or situation would pop up teaching me the same lesson. I finally recognized it as a pattern. I purged all those people and have left space for them if they want to change and be kinder. I don’t expect them to. I am grateful they were in my life. I learned a lot and let them go. As soon as I did that, two old friends resurfaced. They were always kind and loving but I don’t think I was a match for them. I am now. Gratitude amplified my vibration and now I feel connected to them. This makes me incredibly happy.
  4. I grew up with a sense that you have to do everything to be valued. Let me be clear, it was never told to me or expected of me, it was just something I saw and therefore placed those expectations upon myself. Do more, be more, ignore your health because you can do more when you aren’t sick. Fuck that. Being sick and nearly dying two Christmases ago taught me a valuable lesson. I matter, not my work, not how clean my house is, not how much I can get done in a day, not how little sleep I get so I can produce more, me – I matter. I am taking time after these past two weeks to sleep and rest and read and write. I am doing what I feel like, napping when my body needs it and only looking after myself at this time. Nothing matters if I am not around to enjoy it. When my well is full then I can do for others, but right now, I am replenishing the well and I am grateful for the time I have to do that.

I used to think gratitude was about being thankful for the things I have. My kids, my hubs, my home, my family, but I learned its more than that. It’s a feeling you live in. It the sun being in the sky every damn day, it’s the fresh air I breathe, its the clear taste of water, it’s having support, it’s giving when you can, its everything I touch and everything that touches me.  I am grateful for my new outlook.

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Edmonton Tourist: Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park

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My pal Captain and I headed North West to Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park as part of our first in a series of exploring Alberta Provincial Parks. This park was created to protect Big Lake from urban sprawl. It is a stopping point for over 230 species of migratory birds. I had often heard about Big Lake but could never figure out how to reach it without bushwacking. Now that its an Alberta Park, I knew it would be easily accessible. But I didn’t count on it being completely accessible! So if you have mobility issues or restrictions, this is the park for you.

The first thing I noticed was this was not a picnic or recreation park. It is intended as a bird sanctuary. It is a stopping point for birds as they migrate north. There have been over 235 species for birds recorded here. As someone who has an irrational fear of birds, I didn’t know what to expect. But I found watching the different birds peaceful. Who doesn’t need more peace in their life?

I am making an effort to be more mindful in my day. This means just being present and not thinking about the future or problems or even memories. The more I practice this, the more simple it becomes. During this walk I watched swallows dart around snatching up mosquitos. They are such an elegant bird and I understand why my grandfather wanted them in his yeard so badly. Their song is lovely and they keep the yard free of mosquitos. I saw a falcon, swallows, ducks, gulls, muskrat, beaver and other bird species I couldn’t identify.

I expected Cap to yank me off the boardwalk, as he had at Hermitage Park and at Elk Island, but this boardwalk doesn’t float. It feels permanent and sturdy so it was nice to stop and view birds or plant life.

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There are different levels as well. The ducks didn’t event notice Cap and he left them be. At some points, we were quite close to the water. A few ponds were filled with duckweed and Cap thought it was grass to walk on. I had to pull him back a couple of times. My dog does not like bugs or being wet. He has turned into a city boy.

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As we made our way off the boardwalk to the gravel path, we turned west toward Big Lake. The largest body of water at the provincial park.

 

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Here is where I noticed the grey gravel path merged with a paved path. The paved path headed east along the water. Having never been here before I struck up a conversation with some people asking them of the paved path looped around back to the Provincial Park parking lot. That was a big NOPE. I was asked aren’t you from around here? Also a big NOPE. You see, Lois Hole was a St. Albert native. This park is located just west of St. Albert. You can follow the path into the city and walk along the Sturgeon River the entire length of the city.

I had been to St. Albert a few times, I have family here and I went to Hole’s Greenhouse long before Lois Hole was appointed the 15th Lieutenant Governor and that was where I met her for the first time. She was a lovely lady who hugged you as introduced yourself to her. She taught me about zinnias and calendula. She helped me with my ladybug conservation garden and warned me about the use of sprays in the garden. A few bugs and weeds never hurt anyone.  Everyone who met her was enamoured with her. I think to name this park after Lois Hole was a lovely tribute.

Cap and I walked along the river until he complained of being tired. He was on his way to walking 8k that day. An hour with his papa bear and now an hour and a half with me. Poor little city boy. We turned back and he immediately went into hunting mode and smelled something in the bulrushes. Likely a nest of younglings. He was determined to drag me to the shore so he could snack, but I won and righted him back on the path. He listens to me well and usually protective. I have been feeling far dizzier than usual lately so he leans against me for support and he won’t tug on the lead. He will walk at a slower pace and is careful not to tangle my legs. He did that once and I fell hard. I layed on the ground for a while and he sat beside me waiting patiently for me to rise. That was the last time he did that. He does it regularly to my daughter and laughs the whole time. But to me, he is gentle now that I am older and less stable.

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We eventually made it back to the car. This park does not have shade so keep that in mind as you go exploring. Protect yourself from mosquitos, bring water, watch for coyotes – their scat was around, and take time to stop and sit to watch the birds. This is a lovely place. It may have been my first visit but it won’t be my last.

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The Important Things

IMG_0178I have experienced a shift. Things that used to be important to me just aren’t any longer. I know people who talk about their bucket list in terms of things to buy or things to acquire. The bigger the house, the more expensive the car, the size of a diamond engagement ring – all really important to these people. I am not sure what it means to them. I did go through that phase. There was a list of things I want to own, certain jewelry I wanted to possess and when I had them, I didn’t feel better/stronger/smarter, I felt less than. Things didn’t fill my well like you hope it might.

When I spend time with people who are still in this phase or mentality, it makes me feel sad. As if I am wasting my time. I could be learning, doing experiencing or helping, but instead, I am watching and listening to values that are not reflected in me. I consciously spend less time in that environment because I never want to be like that again.

This takes me down a path of thinking about values. What do I value and what do I want? I have spent the last ten years thinking about what I don’t want. Now that I am 52, I don’t want to be around angry and mean people. I don’t want to condone abusive behaviour. I don’t want to waste money on stuff that has no purpose. I don’t want to hurt people. I don’t want to see crimes against humanity and spend time with people who justify it. I just don’t.

What do I want? This was a harder list to come up with.

  1. I want to show kindness to people. It’s not always easy but I try my best.
  2. I want to support ethical businesses. Are they fundraising for white extremists? Are they providing a living wage to their employees? Are they abusing the environment?  I don’t know all the answers but when I learn that our values don’t match – I look elsewhere.
  3. I want to laugh. This is what feels best. We are living in dark times and I enjoy dark humour – but… It’s a big but. I never again want to hear or participate with someone making a joke at another person’s expense. Laughing at a person for what they are or how they look is never funny, nor is it reasonable to judge and roll their eyes because people prefer a pink Maserati or their shorts are really short. What people do and who they are should be respected. It goes back to kindness. This also applies to self-deprecating humour. Just because someone laughs at you doesn’t mean you should beat them to the punch. Your soul doesn’t know the difference. Be kind to yourself and laugh at real things that are funny.
  4. I want to experience nature things. The world is full of magical things. Some can be explained by science and some things science can’t explain yet. I want to experience those things. The vortex energy of Kamloops, Sedona and Mount Shasta sound cool. The midnight sun in the Yukon and Alaska – it was cool in the NWT, experiencing it as an aware adult is my net big thing. The strange tides of the Bay of Fundy. The lava flow of Big Island. The Blue Lagoon of Iceland. Ice Canyon walks in Jasper. Berry picking on the shores of Fraser River. I want to dip my toe in all the great lakes and watch a beaver build a dam.
  5. I want to experience man-made things that interest me. Sea Glass Beach in California. Judy Blume’s nonprofit book shop (NON-PROFIT! Why can’t all book shops be not for profit? Why can’t all stores be not for profit?) Writing-on-stone provincial park. Star Wars Galaxy Edge. Cavendish PEI. Souris PEI. I want to take the train from Vancouver to Halifax. I want to explore Ottawa and see Parliament Hill – I’ve seen the White House but never important places in my own country.
  6. I want to meet people and ask them their story. You can fall in love with anyone if they let understand them. I hope this will lead me to find my people. So far, I have not found many, only three and I live with them. I need to let people in more. I will see where this takes me.
  7. I want to learn new things, take classes, watch people who excel at their craft, listen to instructions and absorb all of it.
  8. I want to make food that is so delicious you’d think it was the nectar of the gods. My pies are close but my dinners are not.
  9. I want to sleep through the night and wake up without an alarm. I have done this a handful of times. It was delicious. The weight of worry sometimes impedes this. I am getting better at letting go.
  10. I want to experience being a grandma. I miss baby cuddles and the smell of baby heads. I miss little laughs and the surprised look of wonder. If I somehow miss out on that experience, I will take myself to the nearest place looking for grandmas to hang out with wee ones and read all the best books.
  11. I want to live in peace. I think we are all meant to. So let’s agree to disagree. Let’s look for good instead of judging the bad. Let’s spend time with people who celebrate good. Let’s lie less and truth tell more. Let’s be sensitive to people’s feelings and respect them. It’s okay to remove people from your life who bring conflict and don’t allow for peace. Don’t be deliberate with hate. Be deliberate with kindness. Look at who you surround yourself with. Everyone deserves peace.