Category Archives: Gratitude

Why I live here: Answering the Trevor Noah questions

Nailed it! Traffic mess, great show.

The city of Ottawa received more snow in January than in any other January ever before. And most of that white stuff fell in the days just before Trevor Noah arrived.

The narrow streets that surround the stadium where he performed barely accommodate two cars in sunny summer weather. With snowbanks? One car, and it had better be small.

Unprecedented snow + rush hour traffic + Trevor Noah = Mayhem.

The bus we were taking to the stadium stopped dead in the gridlock. We hopped off and walked on the snowy, icy sidewalks for more than a mile to get there on time. We bustled along with people in the same situation. We acknowledged each other with:

“Trevor Noah?”

“Yep.”

People who didn’t have tickets to the event saw the mess and wondered about it. “What’s going on?” they asked.

“Trevor Noah,” was the answer.

The words Trevor Noah are likely to raise the blood pressure of many Ottawans for the next while.

But a little snow (or a lot) didn’t stop us. We arrived in time for the start of his show. He started with questions a South African who doesn’t like snow and cold would ask.

Why do we live here?

Why do we not move?

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since, because I love it here. But what exactly do I love, and how, and why?

Trevor Noah wasn’t a fan of our showpiece attraction – the Rideau Canal Skateway. But for us, it is JOY itself to skate for what feels like forever.

And we feel vindicated by the Lonely Planet’s selection of the skateway as one of their top 10 winter destinations.

And, if I don’t want to venture as far as the canal, I love that volunteers from my neighbourhood flood the area around the play structures so people can skate in a circuitous loop.

I love that I can drive for half an hour and go downhill skiing.

I love that the snowbanks serve as sofas when waiting for a bus.

I love that neighbours played a pick-up “Super Bowl” football game, with dogs, in two feet of snow in the park, and it was WAY more entertaining than the real Super Bowl.

I love that it’s just plain beautiful.

And I love that I know that proper clothing makes enjoying the beauty possible. Short coats and jeans? NO. Long coats and windproof pants? YES>

And those are just the winter thoughts . . .

I love that in May our parks fill up with displays of tulips like you will see nowhere else.

I love that the Rideau Canal that we skate on in the winter becomes a canoe/kayak/boat/picnic paradise in the summer.

I love that Ottawa is the capital of a country that is not perfect, but tries really hard to be so.

I love that we acknowledge our failings and work to improve.

And most of all, I love that we can laugh at ourselves, and our stereotypes – the accurate and the not-so-accurate. (A-boot? Huh?)

Devotion and transformation

“In every religious tradition there is a practice of devotion and a practice of transformation . . .
Devotion means trusting more in ourselves and in the path we follow. Transformation means to practice the things this path imposes on us.”

Thich Nhat Hanh in Living Buddha, Living Christ
city street with a large tree in the middle
Trusting in the path, and growing through what it brings us to do.

2019 New Year glass: Half empty, half full of potential

Are you a half full or half empty kind of person?

Perhaps an impartial view is best? The glass is neither half full or half empty; it just is.

No matter how you see your glass, it is yours to do with as you wish. You can choose to drink from it and savour the contents, or empty it and fill it with something else, or add something to it to make it more interesting.

Your 2019 New Year glass is here, and there’s one thing it’s full of: potential.

Savour it. Fill it up. Make it interesting.

half-full glass

Jessie’s music: Rejoice and be glad in it.

Last week we travelled to the funeral of a friend who lived for 99 dynamic, gratitude-filled years.

During the service, the leader spoke about how Jessie made notes in her Bible beside meaningful passages.

“This is the day that God has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24

Beside that psalm, she had written, “I do! I do! I do!”

And she did.

Jessie had learned to persevere and find gratitude through the hardest times, including the loss of a spouse when she was a young mother of four children and, later, the death of one of those children. 

Almost ten years ago when she turned 90, I wrote this poem to rejoice and be glad in a friend. It was inspired by this Hafiz quote.

“I am the hole in a flute that God’s breath moves through.” 

Hafiz
Jessie's Music

The wind blows, tentative at first
Gentle lullabies for new life
“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”
First Steps
Inkwells in school desks
Hopscotch and hide-and-seek.

The breath wafts, bright youthful notes
Transcending the Great Depression
“We Sure Got Hard Times Now”
Never enough
Hand-me-downs
Sweets a treasured treat.

The wind gusts, stronger and unbending
Rising above war years all too real
“Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye”
War bonds
Silk stockings painted on
Evenings by the radio.

The breath carries, steady and assured
Young wife and mother in her home
“Teach Your Children”
Scraped knees
Hands on feverish foreheads
Love disguised as irritation.

The wind slows, a sombre requiem
The loss of those far too young
“Paint It Black”
Tears fall
I heard the news
Hugs shared through hurt.

The breath renews, harmonious and healing
The first laugh after the pain
“A Brand New Day”
Comforts shared
Scars fade
Looking to the future.

The breath moves, celebrating and dancing
Life not defined by age
“Never Grow Old”
Vivid grace
Her music
The breath of God.
Jessie and I sharing smiles and stories. 

Wonder walking in Britain

Last week one of my favourite bloggers, Roughwighting, wrote about adding an eighth day to the week: Wonder Day.

Eight Days a Week

Her Wonder Day would not be for work, worry, doing or wanting. It would be for walking, dancing, holding hands, contemplating and enjoying the sweetness of life. 

This week I’m wonder walking in London, England. As I walk and bump up against history on every block, I wonder and learn. As I meet new people, fall into the magic of West End theatre productions and expand my knowledge of British ales, I appreciate how “wonder” full the city is.

If a full Wonder Day is out of reach, even a Wonder Moment pivots a day from ordinary to holy. 

What in your environment right now makes you wonder about it?

What in your environment right now make you think, How wonder-full?

Enjoy an ordinary, holy Wonder Moment. 

Street Sign for Amen Corner Leading to Amen Court

 

 

Bam! Gratitude lessons from a child

It was Thanksgiving in Canada yesterday. 

I’m grateful for the combination of creative solitude and family celebration I enjoyed over the weekend.

I’m also grateful for past blogs to turn to after I used the creative solitude for other purposes, and the family celebration was way to fun to interrupt to write.

The boy I wrote about in this post from last year has grown up and he no longer follows this practice. I miss it! But no matter. He taught me a timeless lesson during that brief delightful phase of his childhood.


Monday evening is the regular library time for a father and a small boy. Those two are the highlight of my week.

At the time of their visit, I work in the room that houses the book drop. The murmur of their voices and the scraping sound of a step-stool being pulled into position comes to me through the slot. The child’s feet climb up one step on the stool and  another as he prepares for his book return ritual.

“Thank you, book. Good-bye,” he says to the first book. He pushes it through the slot. “Bam!” he shouts.

He performs this small ceremony for every book. He returns 10 to 15 books, on average, so his process takes some time. If there are people waiting behind him, he doesn’t adjust his pace; he savours his moment.

I stop whatever I’m doing and savour his moment too. I smile widely.

This child shows me:

  1. He respects and cherishes books.
  2. He expresses gratitude.
  3. He knows how to “be here now.”
  4. He celebrates each moment with a Bam!

Some lessons for all of us, from a child.

Bam!

img_0198

I’m also grateful for chocolate.

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