Monday, April 21, 2008

True-blue friends

I have been blessed with wonderful friendships throughout my adult life. There are the women that I met when my children were small. We formed a babysitting co-op and propped each other up through the many challenges of child-rearing. Then there are my friends in the writing community. The three of us in my small writing critique group are especially close, but I've also developed friendships in the larger community. The women in both my book groups are very special to me, and the friends I've made here in Deep Cove, through the school, children's activities and my own activities are like rare birds - I treasure each one. I only wish I had the time and energy to be the kind of friend I'd like to be - all of the time. I have wonderful men friends too, but the vast majority of my circle are women.

"I believe that these circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we are weak and sing with us when we are strong. Let's lean back and let the arms of women's friendships carry us and help us to know ourselves better, and live our lives together." Sark

There is one friend that has stuck by me since my early 20's. We met during her first year of teaching, I was in my second. We looked alike so the kids often mistook us for each other. We became fast friends, as did our husbands. We each gave birth to our first child within 3 weeks of each other - totally unplanned. Sue went back to teaching when her maternity leave was up, and I decided to leave teaching to pursue my passion for writing.

Life became busy with small children, careers, family and the daily grind. Long months would pass and we wouldn't see each other, but Sue never forgot a birthday, not mine, my husband's or one of the girls. There was always a card in the mail (on time) and/or a cheery phone call on the special day. I was not nearly as good at reciprocating, but Sue never pointed it out.

When we moved to North Vancouver it became even harder to connect as the distance was greater, but that didn't deter Sue. She is always willing to drive across town to have a visit. She supports my children with her presence at their special events, even though her own life is full to over-flowing.

As each one of my books has been launched, Sue has made a homemade, symbolic gift to mark the occasion. Last week she arrived at the book launch for Gotcha! with yet another thoughtful and beautiful keepsake to mark the occasion. On the way home from the launch my girls were discussing how special Sue's gifts are. I told them that Sue is a true-blue friend. "What's true-blue?" they asked. I told them true-blue is, " loyal, trustworthy, forgiving (very forgiving!), steadfast, honest, and there for the long-haul." I have been blessed to have Sue in my life. The posted pictures are of the gifts Sue's honoured me with, as well as the newest piece to my collection. The photos are by Cara Hrdlitschka (for some reason I have trouble posting pictures to this blog, and they never appear as wonderful as they are.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


We did a breathing exercise in yoga today and the teacher suggested we imagine the deep inhale as breathing in new life, and the exhale as a cleansing, or a shedding of the old skin, as a snake does. In shedding the old skin we are reborn.

I hung on to this image all day. I've never before identified with snakes, (primates being my current obsession) but I like the image of shedding the old skin, of becoming new and fresh again. Snakes do it to allow for growth. I feel poised on the threshold of shedding my old skin, my old self, allowing for personal growth.

I did a little research and discovered that humans actually shed 1.5 million skin cells every hour with a new skin surface regenerating every 28 days (kinda gross when you think about all those skin cells floating around... sort of like the millions of dust mites that live on our mattress... okay, don't get me started.) So, we are shedding too, but this image of flaking skin isn't nearly as powerful as that of that snake, who loses the skin in one entire piece.

Apparently the stresses associated with shedding can be substantial. Sick snakes experience delayed and incomplete sheds. Also, shedding is a slow process, and I imagine there must be some discomfort. So it is with humans embarking on a rebirth. First we have to shed the old skin. Unhealthy humans, people who are emotionally, spiritually or physically ill will struggle more with the shedding. The changing of old routines, adjusting to losses, these are uncomfortable, but by maintaining our health and embracing new opportunities we can aid the shedding process that leads to our own rebirth.

Maybe I can identify with the snake afterall.


Monday, April 7, 2008

How shall I live, knowing I shall die....

Random Thoughts on my Spiritual Journey

I've recently returned to the Unitarian church after a 3-4 year absence. There is a new minister there, and he is everything I would hope for in a minister: wise, reflective, funny, humble, human, laid-back, well-rounded/grounded ... I could go on on on. I feel like I have found my way home after an extended trip away. It was at yesterday's service that someone (not the minister) posed the question ~ How shall I live, knowing that I shall die. I jotted the phrase down, realizing that it was extremely relevant to where I'm at in my life right now.

No no no, I'm not facing a life-threatening illness (that I know of) but I'm trying to become more fully aware of how I am living, and whether it's a meaningful life.

By coincidence, or maybe not, I walked into an art gallery in San Diego last month and found a book by Jane Goodall: Reason For Hope, A Spiritual Journey. Even though my to-read stack of books is a mile high, this book went to the top and I'm now half-way through it.

I've always known of Jane Goodall and her work with chimpanzee's and I've held her in the highest regard, but I've never actually read anything she's written. Now I feel like I've discovered a soul-mate. The questions she poses, the thoughts she's had... they speak directly to my own soul. I know I don't have the hardiness or character to do the kind of scientific work that she has done, but what she has learned from her life in the African wilderness speaks directly to me, and millions of others, I'm sure.

In the following passage, she reflects on her first trip to Gombe, when she was totally alone in the forest in Africa.

"Together the chimpanzees and the baboons and monkeys, the birds and insects, the teeming life of the vibrant forest, the stirrings of the never still waters of the great lake, and the uncountable stars and planets of the solar system formed one whole. All one, all part of the great mystery."

Ahhh. Lovely.

I haven't had the opportunity to be alone in the African wilderness, but I understand this feeling of being one part of the whole, of the great mystery.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I fell in love during Spring Break

Cinta, a young orangutan and Little Lucu, a siamang ape, have stolen my heart, lock, stock and barrel. My daughters had to drag me away from their exhibit at the San Diego Zoo. They were behaving - yes - just like little monkeys! Or small children. I was captivated by their antics - the teasing, the tackling, the swinging, the swaggering. Watching these magnificent young apes was like sitting on a bench at a playground, watching preschoolers romp. They were absolutely delightful, and seeing the patience and affection that the older apes had for the younger ones - well - it was simply stunning. Human parents could learn from them. One of my daughters, standing beside me at the glass wall that was all that separated us from the animals, commented... "I don't understand why some people don't believe in evolution."
My thoughts exactly.

Photos by the the enormously talented Cara Lee Hrdlitschka