Category Archives: Gratitude

Put a happy face on it

On Tuesdays when I work in downtown Ottawa, Canada, I get out of my office at noon and go for a walk.

Ottawa is a beautiful city for a walk. I pass the tremendous Parliament Buildings that never fail to awe me with the power of their structures and the peace and freedom they represent.

Centre Block, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

I stroll down by the Rideau Canal locks and along the Ottawa River.

The locks on the Rideau Canal.

I walk by green parks and look up at rugged rock cliffs.

The cliffs behind Parliament Hill

No matter what’s happening in life, the sights of my noon-hour walk lighten my spirits, re-place events into proper perspective and bring me joy.

Everything in life might not be perfect, but I can smile regardless.

The bicycle path where I walk along the Ottawa River flooded last year in the mighty spring flood. The concrete developed potholes that repair crews later patched. Someone who enjoys a touch of whimsy added a smiley face to one of those potholes.

Even though we occasionally get flooded, even though we need to get patched up from time to time, we can smile and know that all shall be well for moving forward again.

All is well.

Thank you: Fair and softly goes far

From the Charter for Compassion Facebook page:

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We feel the influence of the United States of America here in Canada. When “sleeping with an elephant,” as former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau put it, we cannot help but feel the effects. Sometimes the association challenges us—the past year has been eyebrow-raising to say the least—but most often we celebrate the gifts of the mighty nation. Like this week, for example. Even though our Canadian Thanksgiving is long past, this week we sense the American time of gratitude. Knowing that our friends to the south are taking time to be thankful reminds us to seek it out ourselves.

We practised a “heart of the matter” form of gratitude in our house during the period within our kitchen renovation when the sink had no running water. Inconvenient, right? You betcha. But when we walked the ten feet to one of the FOUR bathrooms in our house to turn on a tap to access CLEAN, ACCESSIBLE water effortlessly, we said to ourselves, “We didn’t have to walk for miles with a bucket to fetch water that might or might not be potable.” Gratitude for the ease with which we accessed a substance so vital to survival made the inconvenience of doing dishes in a small sink something to celebrate, not resent.

Gratitude brings joy, for sure, but the real gift of gratitude is its bridge to perseverance, its ability to help you go far in celebration instead of resentment. It places you in a Now that allows you to make it to the next Now, and the next, and the next . . .

Now, America, fair and softly, thank you. Now, now, now . . .

Asking is better than wishing

wishing-for-windI work part-time at a local library. Almost every day I witness a scene like this:

A child about 7 or 8 years old enters with a parent.

“Mommy (or Daddy), do they have books about (dinosaurs . . . Lego . . . dolphins . . .),” the child says.

“You’ll have to ask,” the parent replies.

The child slinks behind the parent’s leg. “You ask.”

“No, you go ahead,” the parent urges. “It’s okay. They won’t bite.”

The child peers out from behind the leg and faces the scary prospect of talking to an adult.

Last week a scenario exactly like that unfolded right beside me. As I worked I heard a young boy ask his father about a book. His father told him to ask me. The boy took some time to work up his nerve. He said:

“Do you have The Mysterious Benedict Society?

“Yes!” I said. “Right over here.” We walked together to pick up the book he wanted.

“See?” his father said. “Asking is better than wishing.”

The boy and his father left with the book and I went back to work thinking, What excellent life advice: Asking is better than wishing.

The rest of the afternoon I pondered, Have I been wishing for things without doing the asking? Could receiving those things be as simple as voicing the request?

Something to think about: Asking is better than wishing. 

Gratitude for that which endures, on Thanksgiving

buddha-board

The Buddha Board my daughter gave me for my birthday reminds me of what endures, and what doesn’t.

A few weeks ago one of my favourite bloggers, Tuesdays with Laurie, celebrated a birthday by posting a list of 59 things for which she is grateful.

I thought of Laurie’s list on Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday when the minister at my church spoke to us about gratitude. In her reflection, our minister encouraged us to ponder mindfully where we focus our gratitude. Are we thankful more often for material things that perish at day’s end—life’s manna, if you will—and do we remember to express gratitude for those aspects of our life that endure?

Laurie’s gratitude list impressed me because so many of the items on her list are those intangible qualities that a person cannot hold in a hand, and yet they somehow endure: connection, creativity, healing, safety, peace, kindness, spontaneity, imagination, comfort with being alone, dreaming, curiosity, enjoyment of learning something new . . .. Other items on her list require some physical element to achieve them but still lead to something that endures: photography, mental acuity, travel, music and singing, laughter, glasses with which to see clearly . . ..

In the comment section of her post I wrote that I’m grateful to work in a place where I see children. Their uninhibited approach to life and their infinite creativity inspires me; they are physical beings who give me a gift that endures.

Uninhibited creativity

I love the uninhibited creativity of children.

I’m grateful for inspirational books that enlighten me and brighten my days.

three-questions

I’m grateful for the Famous Five who made my life as a woman so, so much easier and more fulfilling.

Famous Five monument, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

Famous Five monument, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

I’m grateful that my friend, Jennifer, gave me my two-word poem: Laughing Thinker.

postcard poem Arlene

And at this time of year, I’m grateful for baseball. The players, the teams, the stadiums may change, but the character development that comes from participation in sport endure.

Peanuts-Charlie-Brown-baseball-sun-600x127

Our Thanksgiving turkey leftovers and pumpkin pie are almost gone already. In a few weeks the baseball season will be in the past. When that happens, this Laughing Thinker, a woman who enjoys full benefits in our society, will be pondering wisdom she gleaned from inspirational books and learning life lessons from those fabulous children she sees at work every day.

Those are wonderful gifts that endure on Thanksgiving and all year round.

From war and hardship to pleasure cruising: Thoughts on Colonel By Day

Yesterday most Canadians celebrated a civic holiday. Not every Canadian (some provinces don’t have a long weekend in August) and not all for the same reason.

Because there is no specific occasion for a holiday in August (other than it’s really great to have a long weekend in the summer) provinces and municipalities have creative licence. In British Columbia, it is British Columbia Day. (Okay, maybe not so creative.) In Alberta it’s Heritage Day. (Better, if a little vague.) In Toronto it’s Simcoe Day. (For John Graves Simcoe, first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada.) Here in Ottawa we designate the weekend as Bytown Days and Monday specifically as Colonel By Day.

The locks on the Rideau Canal.

The locks on the Rideau Canal.

Ottawa’s original name was Bytown, in honour of Lieutenant Colonel John By. Colonel By, a military engineer, was the first city planner, and he laid out plans for the area that has become our downtown core. He oversaw the construction of the first bridge across the Ottawa River, a vital link between the provinces of Ontario and Québec. Most famously, he engineered and supervised the building of the Rideau Canal and the lock system that connects the Ottawa River to the Rideau River. (Here in Ottawa, Rideau is pronounced REE-deau, with the emphasis on the first syllable. Pronounce it Ri-DEAU and we’ll know you’re not from here.)

Canadians first had the notion that a navigable trade route other than the St. Lawrence River might be a good idea after the war of 1812, when American/Canadian relations were a little more fraught. At the time, the unquestioned need to maintain water transportation avenues that could be protected from American attack made the prospect of carving through 125 miles of bush and swamp and rock seem not only possible but imperative.

For six years, thousands of Irish and French Canadian labourers and skilled stonemasons endured hellish working and living conditions with high incidents of accidents, disease and death to build the canal and the lock system. Malaria, of all things, was a major threat. They did it because they needed the work to survive, and they believed that their labours would ensure the survival of future generations.

These days we are at peace with the United States. These days our supplies travel by airplane or highway or train. These days, the trade route that Colonel By envisioned, that water transportation link that people lost their lives over, is a place for pleasure only. In the summer yachts fill the locks and cruise the canal.

Pleasure craft on the Rideau Canal.

Pleasure craft on the Rideau Canal.

In the winter skaters laugh as they glide way between Beavertail stands.

Rideau Canal Skateway

Rideau Canal Skateway

I wonder, what would Colonel By think of how we use his creation today? I walk beside the canal and the locks on my lunch breaks in downtown Ottawa. As I stroll in peaceful, malaria-free Ottawa,  I imagine Colonel By surveying his city from his vantage point on the great cliff at Major’s Hill Park where his house used to stand. I envision his stiff British bearing as he peers down to watch us walk and bike and boat in the same area where men suffered and died.

I wonder if Colonel By, a man who lived in harsh times, would despair at how we luxuriously and thoughtlessly take his engineering marvel for granted. Perhaps he would scowl over our carefree abandon. Or maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe he would commend us all for shaping our city into one of safety and freedom. Maybe he would give us a rousing Hurrah! for creating a vibrant, economically progressive, multicultural and compassionate city to honour his name.

____________

Read more Rideau Canal history here: http://www.rideau-info.com/canal/history/hist-canal.html

For the Light: Something to aspire to

For Canada Day, for Independence Day, for those figuring out how to deal with Brexit . . . a poem I wrote for my friend, Ellie Barrington, who is for the Light. Something for us all to aspire to.

 

the-lightFor the Light

For the Light
She sees in all people.
Divine Presence glowing in Every Body.
Accepted. En-Couraged. Embraced.

For the Light
She shines on ancient stories.
Enlightened Insights illuminating Ancient Wisdom.
Explored. Excavated. Evaluated.

For the Light
She makes for hurting souls.
Healing Compassion lightening Heavy Hearts.
Comforted. Soothed. Carried.

For the Light
She channels in a spirit community.
Raised Hands receiving Flowing Grace.
Transmitted. Shared. Reflected.

For the Light
She is called to be in a needful world.
Engaged Advocacy targeting Wounding Injustice.
Balanced. Restored. Righted.

For the Light
She encompasses in her very being.
I AM permeating her Sizzling Presence.
Blessed. Brilliant. Be-Loved.