Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sidney David

We’re on the road! Our amazing Subaru (2005) cruises through the highways as if she knows exactly in which direction she is being driven. The Rocky Mountain loom ahead. They are majestic, even from far away. We are definitely on our way home.

I am Canadian, no doubt. But the fact of the matter is, I was born in the United States. I left very early in my life, and did so intentionally. Spending time in Billings Montana reminds me of some of the reasons I left some 43 years ago.

Reason #1- I order my coffee at the local Coffee Roasters. “I’ll have a medium sized bold coffee, please.” I said. As I receive my coffee, and move away from the counter, the man with the cowboy hat behind me orders his…”Give me a gunpowder green tea, please.” I walk away quietly. Who would name a green tea “Gunpowder”? And who would want to drink that anyway?

Reason #2 – Paul went to make his coffee this morning in the lobby of the Days Inn where we stayed last night. He looks for milk to put in his coffee and, when he doesn’t find any, he says to out loud, “They serve coffee mate in all kinds of flavours. I’m looking for regular milk! There doesn’t seem to be any.” A woman hears him and, pointing to the container on the shelf advises, “Look over. There’s a big jug of milk over there for cereal!  Halllloooo!” As she and her friend walk away, her friend says, “I wouldn’t take him snake hunting!”

The United States is rough, in some places. I’m happy to be Canadian. I’m thrilled to be making my way towards those mountains.

The radio station plays 60’s music. Again, I am reminded of my youth. My dad once took me to see Diana Ross and The Supremes. I remember how excited he was when he brought home the tickets, and, though I don’t remember the whole evening, I do remember feeling appreciative of his gesture to be with me at the concert.
I’m thinking of my dad today, and how we become who we are because of those early influences in our lives. My dad died 14 years ago, and he still remains a presence in the way I chose to live. My dad was a gentle, loving soul. He found solace in his spiritual expression and sought opportunity to connect, in his own way, with God. He was meek and afraid and determined, and never really felt satisfied in what he was doing. He worked hard, waiting for the time when he could retire and ‘enjoy life’. He died before that was able to happen.

During the last workshop I facilitated with teacher candidates a few weeks ago they made mention of host teachers who they found to be rigid and cold. They question then, the pedagogical advantages of ‘teaching the whole child’, which emphasizes compassion, a more gentle approach, and focuses on developing trust, active participation and inclusion in a classroom instead of strict and conforming culture. Our discussion led to the idea that, as we develop critical thinking abilities, we learn what to accept and adopt into our practises and what to let go. It’s a little bit of knowing what not to do!

As I live my life and appreciate each day while mindfully nurturing my relationships, I think about my dad and how he wanted to live. He talked about living a ‘free’ life. 
Even though he was paranoid and suspicious about others, his fears never prevented him from seeking universal love. He had compassion and interest and a strong sense of adventure; all of which he never got to actualize. So much of what I do in my life, I think, is inspired by his dreams. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Life is Not Always Perfect!

Life isn’t always perfect. These last few weeks have been reflective of that idea. I am learning more and more that I absorb the energy around me. I used to believe that we generate our own outlook and create our personal nature according to our attitudes and perceptions of our world. I strive to find the positive even in dismal and irritating circumstances. I struggle to maintain balance and compassion and a non-judgemental disposition. Circumstances, I am finding, sometimes make that practice more challenging.

Our trip from Belize to Cancun in early March was our final stretch in Central America. Our 3 months of Guatemalan culture and natural surroundings quickly rolled in to city life. We flew right from Cancun to New York City where our car was parked in our friends’ driveway. My mother awaited our visit, and the busy city beckoned our participation. We spent time with family and friends. By Friday we were on our way driving to Toronto, a short 9-hour drive.

While in Toronto I had a fantastic workshop with a group of 25 amazing new, excited energetic and smart teachers, eager to make a real difference in the world of education. We got to visit with many friends who we love and cherish and consider very close. We spent lots of valuable time with those of our children who live in Toronto, and gathered some of our belongings from our (rented out) house, to bring with us to set up our new home in Gabriola.
The 2 weeks that we had planned to spend in Toronto, turned in to 3 weeks because Paul got sick with a staph infection and had to spend 6 days in the hospital and then, after he was released, needed daily home care until the IV contraption could be discontinued. The day after that, we left.

Our time in Toronto left me with a dark sense of confusion. In that great city I lose myself to what is going on around me. I get lost in the busy and frenetic lifestyle there, and can’t help but feel oppressed and disconnected from the natural world to which I have become so familiar. In Toronto, traffic is everywhere. Horns honk constantly and people yell at each other. It’s normal.

Keeping soulfulness is difficult in Toronto. Having time to reflect is challenging, considering the many daily experiences. Being mindful about how I spend my days, trying to establish routine of Yoga practise, and maintaining calm is difficult.

Being in Toronto inspires a lot of nostalgic thought. I have visions of our children growing up, playing in the parks, eating ice cream at the local Baskin and Robbins and walking to school. My work brings me back to the schools where my career started some 33 years ago and I can’t help but remember those years and so many of the people with whom I worked. Some of them are still there!  My career has developed considerably since those days.  I remember running through the streets of Toronto, a daily routine of 12 miles, before going off to work, or riding my bicycle with the child seat secured to the back, sometimes, empty sometimes, carrying one of my children. Remembering is good, and also a little bit sad.

Leaving Toronto and driving through the United States is a bit oppressive too. People seem depressed. Miserable grimaces and unhealthy looking bodies seem to be marching all over the streets. People seem suspicious of each other and avoid eye contact.

I don’t mean to complain. I don’t want to wallow in these feelings of negativity. I want to remember what really matters to me and to continue to design my life where and how I want to live.

That’s the point of this blog. That’s the ‘learning’ piece of it for me. Living positively and finding good is easy when the surroundings contribute. I’ve been surrounded by incredible beauty these last few months and have had ample opportunity to live a balanced and fulfilling existence. Sometimes I have to make the move to change my environment and allow joy to penetrate. I know where ‘home’ is and how to connect with my heart space, and yet sometimes I need to be intentional about going there and remind myself of how and where the good exists. We all need to do that. It doesn’t happen by it self. Sometimes we need to make it happen.

Paul recently created a perfect metaphor for this. He said, "If you’re walking on hot coals, and your feet are burning and you’re reacting to the pain under you feet. it is not the time to decide how to heal. First, you have to get off the coals. Then you can fix the pain in your feet!"

Our move to Gabriola is what that’s about. We will put up a yurt when we get there because the weather is still too cold and wet to sleep in our tent. We will set up our home, living outside as much as possible, because that’s what we want to do. Our garden will be a priority this Spring and working in and with the community is a big part of the plan.

I’m on my way to Gabriola, and my feet, having been removed from the hot coals, are waiting for the soothing, comforting, peace that awaits us.