Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Gratefulness #29 Storytelling

I picked this sixty year old picture of my grandfather resting with his first grandchild, Susan. Grandpa modelled the art of the storyteller. His seemingly rambling tales included details that wrapped up in a stunning punchline, and usually included a gentle lesson. 

He talked about spending the summer in a lumber camp, and the great barrels of salt pork the cook brought with him. In the weeks that followed under the heat of the day, those barrels became more fragrant. 

At this point grandpa paused. 

“We all got really good at fishing.”

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Gratefulness #27 Running Intervals

I had to be over fifty to discover the magic of intervals. If I can run for one minute, I can train for any distance. 

Cardio responds to encouragement better than any fat cell, which seems bound to add to its community no matter how firmly I deprive myself. 

I head out in to the school yard. I walk for a minute, then run for a minute. The landscape governs my course as I run the diamond, score a goal, and weave between the trees. Resident rabbit is spooked. Gulls stare. Every new direction opens up new vistas and new goals. My fifteen minutes are up in a flash. 

The magic of intervals is that I get recovery time every minute. Do this for a week and then I can up my game to two minute intervals, then three. 

My body responds to the new demands as if it were born to run. The improved cardio fitness puts a blush in my cheek and a sparkle in my eye. 

I am grateful for the discovery of intervals and the folks at the Running Room for introducing me. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Gratefulness #26 Toast

On preparing this post I have a revelation or two. First, I like things a little rough. Not too rough, mind you, just a few nibbles and nicks to fill the corners of my senses. I like the crust, obviously. Followed by a soft, chewy centre. But not so soft it falls apart in my hands. 

There’s the hint of salt of course, and the buttery cream (fully melted, please) that promises satiation. 

Even now, in post-coital bliss, there is a hint of salt on my lips. It’s enough to transport me to my countless toast memories. 

This bread is my own creation; slow fermented overnight, brushed with egg for a wonderfully crisp, golden crust in a hot oven. 

That is a heritage butter knife, an Art Nouveau pattern, “Silhouette”.

Silver patterns. Why pick that rabbit hole now? I must be distracting myself from toast.

If anything, this sensory experience demonstrates the power of mindfulness, in discreet doses.

Have a gloriously sensory day, friends.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Gratefulness #25 Unbridled Living Things

I have the deepest admiration for those people who live their values and thereby leave a lasting impact on our world. High on my admiration list are Florence Nightingale and Albert Schweitzer. 

Dr. Schweitzer walked away from a popular and successful career as an organist - he was very good at it - to live out his highest values of service. He retrained as an (adequate) doctor and opened a hospital in the Congo. 

This is what he had to say about his philosophical and ethical journey. 

“Late on the third day, at the very moment when, at sunset, we were making our way through a herd of hippopotamuses, there flashed upon my mind, unforeseen and unsought, the phrase: “Reverence for Life”. The iron door had yielded. The path in the thicket had become visible. Now I had found my way to the principle in which affirmation of the world and ethics are joined together!”

Out of My Life and Thought : An Autobiography. [Aus meinem Leben und Denken.] Albert Schweitzer, author. Antje Bultmann Lemke , translator. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press; 60th Anniversary Edition (June 11, 2009). pp154-55. Emphasis added. 

That phrase, “Reverence for Life” has stuck with me since I found it, and has caused me to re-think my values and their implications over and over again. 

I also permanently associate an unbridled herd of hippopotami, with life and reverence

No hippopotamuses around here, so I videotaped the closest unbridled creature. Mrs. Sparrow and her mate, making short work of my bird feeder in the quiet of the dawn. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Gratefulness #24 Freesia

 I know this sounds oddly specific. I picked Freesia because it is not a rose. I once spent an afternoon with a florist and watched four men order a dozen roses. I don’t hate roses, but why? The shop was loaded with bright and exotic choices. 

I think the failure of imagination comes from a lack of confidence. Better to go with the safe choice. But really, how much work is it to look, really look at what is there?

Freesias cascade along a stem diminishing in a regular way like a fractal curl. Their scent, also, is at once delicate and distinctive. 

So today I honour the Freesia. I am grateful they exist. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Gratefulness #23 Red Sky at Night

   Red sky at night

      Sailor’s Delight

   Red sky at morning

     Sailors take warning. 

This ditty plays in my head with every sunrise and sunset. Sure enough, as the poem warns, the weather follows. Before Doppler and lightning-fast weather modelling, I made do with what I see. It’s easier living in Big Sky country. Usually there’s plenty of time for the alert to take shelter. 

I am grateful for the sky, and what I can learn from just looking. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Gratefulness #21, books

 It’s hard to overstate how important books are to who I am today. There’s a particular thought that might help put this in perspective. 

Adult learners take in new information by relating it to past experience. It’s like we have mini-movies ready to play in our heads, and if the new information fits, it cuddles in with our stash of stories.

It’s not just adults who do this, but as we get older, there are ever larger bundles of stories to resource. This habit of relating and sharing stories become more obvious as we age.

If we live in a common community or culture, we have a shared story that is communally reinforced. If we rarely venture out of our milieu, we may not be very aware that there are different perspectives, or views of the world.

Which leads to my blessing and curse with books. A book transports me, even if temporarily, in to the mind and heart of someone else, sometimes with a radically different experience than mine. I have argued with Thoreau. I have run along dirt tracks in the Deep South. I have wondered how many personalities could lurk inside me. 

As I get older, I find that I have diverged from the path of others. There is a different clamour of stories that pile in when I am faced with something new. I might not react the way people expect. 

I can’t erase my rich experience, can I? It will mark me as an outsider no matter how well I tuck the veil. I could try and explain, but it adds up to lifetimes.

I won’t trade who I have become. I can share snippets when it adds to someone else’s experience. That will have to be enough.