Smoke (!)….and a mirror! The tricky situation of owning things!

I am not quite sure what I should be writing here, but the incredible urge to get some words written forces me to sit my self down and do some thinking and writing, obviously.

I have recently shared my news with my Administration Team at UNIShanoi.org that I will not be returning to Hanoi in the fall of 2020 and that I will be leaving Hanoi permanently to live in Halifax. They knew it was coming, as I made it perfectly clear that those were my intentions when I took my last contract and accepted to be co-chair of our Accreditation Self-Study, an 18-month commitment….it kind of takes me into this academic year. BIG MILESTONE!!!! It’s got me thinking! Retirement, here I come!!

That aside, I am also in the throes of clearing out my apartment in Chiang Mai, giving things away, and rendering down a 12-year ‘short stay’ to a couple of bubble wrapped statues and some Celadon pottery that has caught my eye and has been very useful over the years . And oh yes, good, quality bed linens…Judith, you are the reason for that, ❤️ Of course, these trinkets will end up in Hanoi and will eventually make their way back to Canada and find their way to a shelf or a back garden somewhere….. and hopefully on a bed! I am selling my condo! I can’t believe it! The time has come!

So…why am I writing? Could it be that I have been meditating quite a bit lately and have some deep thoughts that will be my guiding mantras for the next coming months? Could it just be the CM atmosphere and the quiet? Not sure…I’m just writing!

To begin with, I just read The Art of War, by Sun Tzu and forwarded by James Clavel. It was something that I had been shunning or only paying marginal attention to over the years. Much like many other books that will start to surface once I decide to take time to read every day. My take-away? Be clever and alert! ALWAYS be clever and alert! It was an easy read….a provocative read….I think Frank left it for me bookmarked at a specific place….I was hooked in and drawn to the before and the after of the section that Frank was so clever and alert out to think of me. Bless you, Frank!

I gave away my mountain bike……not sure if the logic supports the action, but I simply had enough just looking at it saying, ‘I paid a lot for that bike’, and never riding it. As a result of my wake-and-bake the other day, I cleaned up my bike and wheeled it down to the young guy who works here at Skybreeze at the guardhouse. He was delighted to have it and I was only sorry that I hadn’t done it well before Tuesday. Oh well, done and dusted! Happy guard, happy Tom.

The books that have been collecting ‘post-read’ dust in my condo bedroom are now a part of the lobby library. Cookbooks-this, travel books-that, paperbacks, coffee table books, and gifted books….all gone and ready to be read by passers-by from Skybreeze. It wasn’t that difficult to make decisions about books that I have once read and others that guests have left in my bookcase. They ended up meaningless to me and I know they have value, so I passed the value on to others.

There is one question that has been gnawing away at my mind’s ear….I think I understand it enough now to be able to formulate it properly. It sounds something like this:

What purpose will the material things that I have been collecting over the years have in the future that I am planning?’

The fact that I ever had all that s**t makes me wonder if it was to make the present tolerable by having things to ‘hold on to’, or was there a plan for them in my future to remind me of where I had been in the last 24 years? In any event, I have come up with an answer. I unloaded once before as a result of a divorce and I did alright, so unloading is not new to me. Unless things are not practical or if they can be accessed when needed in my next chapter, then they stay behind. Someone else can/might enjoy them.

Here’s a for instance: I have a small wooden painted keeper trunk from Xinjiang Province (China) here in Chiang Mai. I have not been using it for the past several years, it stays in CM and NOT where I put my head most every night and, let’s face it…I know I have been to Xinjiang and I don’t need a small little keeper trunk to remind me of that.

Power supplies and appliances!!!! Appliances stay….definite give-always! Halifax will not support them. All said!

I guess what has been going through my mind is a lot of thinking about the present and how I will be able to be present without too many tugs, or dilemmas which will most certainly be about material possessions, and ultimately bring suffering. No attachments! No suffering!

Thay keeps me grounded!

Namaste

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Abstract Thoughts on a Concrete Path

This is not a ‘go-on-and-on’ kind of post about our future journey in life. I don’t see any use in that.

This is, rather, a collection of photos and a couple of daft thoughts.  Ha!. You see? I sometimes like to sit at my blog and have some fun.

The whole premiss of this morning’s post is to reflect on what is happening now…this very moment…..the Present!

As cliché as this may seem, it will hopefully be a bit of realia(outside of the classroom)-eye candy and an invitation for my readers to think about something they would otherwise not have thought about with having read my post.

It has stormed here in Hanoi over the past two days. Offerings from Typhoon Jenny can be seen all around. WET! Flooded alleys, fallen trees, destroyed storefronts and cheaply-made facades for fly-by-night shops. There is, most prominently, and most eerily a surreal calm over the people. It’s similar to how I think a boxer reels back from a left hook…with dander, grit and disbelief!

I have decided to stay very close to home….more coffee, some Science and good tunes: REM and Phil Collins…good writing ambiance for me.

Last night I got caught in Jenny as she struck once again on my way home from work. I had to walk home. I had to walk through ankle-deep wet cement to get to my door. Don’t ask! Just DON’T get me started!!!!! Me nerves!! I am in Hanoi! Of course……..Why not?!

I woke up this morning to the proof that Elroy as HERE! Footsteps in cement..not sure if they’re going to be permanent fixtures…..will they be my legacy to Lang Yen Phu and Maison Yvoire? From the scraping and gravelly mixing sounds coming from below, I will put 500,000 VND on the idea that they will try once AGAIN…..fix it AGAIN…..who hasn’t heard that before??? This is still a developing country, let’s not forget!

Here are some photos with abstract thoughts from MY head! The Science is GOOD, the photographer had fun, and it’s all about the NOW!

 

Confusion

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Direction

#dafuk!?

Size 41 New Balance Tom Ryan Was Here

REFUGE


CRAP! There’s NO Hole In The Middle..is this a Design issue or an ECONOMICS dilemma?….not for the faintest of heart (and watch out for Spoonerisms! )

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Imagine the stress of knowing that you are down to the last square of bathroom tissue, toilet tissue, TP, arsewipe…..whatever you want to call it.  It is a THING!  It’s something that often goes unnoticed and/or hushed,  unless you are into ‘to do’ lists or ‘Shelexa, put toilet paper on the list…..(it’s soooo pedestrian!)’. We sometimes get caught with our pants down (literally) and reach for it and it’s NOT THERE!  SHIT!  Enough said?

Yesterday in the baking furnace of midday heat of 38 degrees, AND after having had a unexpected serious and very traumatic dentist appointment where I was relieved of a crown AND the tooth ( a different post, for sure), I thought I would dash into the local supermarket and get me a shitload of toilet paper…..I was down to my last two rolls…not really the last square! But still, it makes a Virgo/Type A person like me nearly shit my pants!

So imagine having sat in a dentist chair thinking you went in for what  was going to be routine check of an old crown and you ended up with an extraction of a molar you really wanted to keep for the rest of your life! Bummer!   Lips and jaws frozen and feeling like crap, I forced myself through the lines at Vinmart and got the mega pack of Tiny Tim© (my granddad would call it that), grabbed a taxi whose driver couldn’t make sense of my frozen-lipped bastardized Vietnamese tones essential in getting me directly to my address, and finally made my way home!

Let me share something else that may not come to you as a surprise…..enjoying  a plant-based, whole food lifestyle comes with the glory of having about 5 REALLY GOOD dumps a day!  Ok…too much information! But it requires  having enough Loo Roll to go around…..I guarantee you THAT!  So, I ran into the house NEEEEEDDING to  head straight to the loo….because you can’t take a crap in a dentist chair! ….and much to my surprise, when I tore open the MONSTER SIZE Costco’ish 365-roll pack of toilet paper, there was

NO HOLE IN THE MIDDLE!!!

That provoked me, Nitasha, to think deeper! To go to the bowels of the issue and form a relationship between ‘Economising and the impact it has on our daily movements’ ….this one’s for you, Julie! 🙂   What are the pros an cons of this discovery? How does it REALLY impact ME? How does it affect the toilet roll dispenser industry? What about the elementary school teachers who routinely fill  our mailboxes with requests for toilet rolls? How will they EVER continue life in the Makerspace?  It’s a question that Merzanomics should investigate, right Faraz?

That really got me thinking seriously;  For instance, WHAT to do with that strange ‘non-Canadian’ toilet roll holder that was in my apartment 5 years ago when I moved in?  Must say that I fought using it, but came around quite quickly to learn to love it! Suffice it to say that I spend many of my best moments on the loo, so such accessories are important!

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Should toilet designers build in a wider water reservoir cover on the backs of loos to accommodate stacking many rolls or even storing one? Well, putting finger to cheek and thinking deeply, [not THAT cheek!]  where ELSE can they be stored? NO HOLE IN THE MIDDLE! Space savers will have a field day in designing new ways to accommodate the NO HOLE IN THE MIDDLE dilemma!  Maybe Jesse and Kent could find a  solution using  a 3-D printer?  I’m looking for a serious solution, nothing half-assed! 😉

Finally there will be no need for those (in my opinion) stupid loo roll holders with the part that slams down on the roll and sabotages the free unrolling of multi-squares for that messy clean-up!  You know which one I’m talking about! You got it!

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I certainly don’t want to appear to be out of line with this ‘tongue-in-cheek’ response to my latest purchase, but I am wondering if I should continue to buy that brand and see how my life changes, or go back to the Tiny Tim© that I have always had in my bathrooms. Is this  a concept-based discussion for those we are tired of seeing bumming around the staffroom…something to engage them..to provoke them? Would love to shoot the shit on this one but I  REALLLLYYYYYY gotta go now!

 

Some Life-Gardening Advice…Marigolds or Walnut Trees?

Oh, to have a perpetual green thumb! Hold on!  The thumb is not the problem. I have two of them and they both work fine. PLUS, they are accompanied by eight perfectly functional fingers, and we all work marvellously together to create wonderful things.  I am more inclined to think that the more important ideas are the space in which my garden will prosper, proper soil for nourishment of my plants and flowers, and most interestingly, the choice of what to grow and why to grow it. These ideas have been the the guiding parameters of many gardeners and I think that for me, they are pretty good ideas to keep in mind when putting time into getting my hands dirty.

You will notice if you come visit me that I have a special affinity for rain lilies and roses. ‘Live in a rainy part of the world, grow rain lilies’, I say.  The roses, well, they’re cheap here in Hanoi, easy to grow, and always bring a smile.

I seem to be surrounded by wonderful selections of flowers. The Chợ hoa Quảng Bá (flower market) is within walking distance from my home. (http://bit.ly/2WRX22H) Chi and Hoàng, my wonderful landfamily (new word to combine landlord and landlady), have been so nice to me over the past 5 years, as they continue to surround me with wonderful flowers and plants and even bring some to put on my balcony….just because!  It’s a Vietnamese ‘thing’ to have flowers to look at, to offer at home temples and even to place on the community altars to either pay homage to long-gone ancestors or to one-god-or-another.  Brings good luck!

This morning,  my waking moments were plagued by a 35 degree celsius bedroom (the electricity went out through the night as did my fan). I not only had a burning room, but I had a burning desire to write.  It was a thought inspired by my wonderful colleague, Caffie Maffhews.  Thanks to you, Caffie, for provoking me to write and think…and to think and write…. The burning thought that kept me tossing and turning in bed was of marigolds and walnut trees.  I would like to expand a bit more about these two plants which offer such meaningful parallels in my life. So, my aim is not to decide where to grow, or how to grow, but WHAT to grow. This I think I shall keep as another life mantra.

Thoughts on Marigolds

Jennifer Gonzales (https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/), someone whom I read quite often via Twitter, wrote many years ago to new teachers about the Marigold Effect in her blog post, Find Your Marigold (https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/marigolds/).  Let me paraphrase to the best of my abilities.

Marigolds are wonderful flowers. You know why? Eileen dropped this little nugget on me this morning as we chatted over coffee and other plants:

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Well, we all love Robert and will keep growing marigolds because we do!  But one of the main reasons why I particularly love marigolds is that they are USEFUL. They are companions! When marigolds are grown alongside of other plants, they HELP.  Marigolds repel the detrimental  insects and attract such wonderful things as bees and ladybugs. In fact, marigolds are chosen by gurus and homeopaths for these reasons…… and more:

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Why wouldn’t we want to have marigolds around?! Marigolds are the official flower of The Day of the Dead.  What the fuk!? Apparently they represent the fragility of life.  It is believed that the spirits of our dearly departed ones come to visit during the celebration of Día de Muertos, as the vibrant color of the marigolds help guide them back to us.

Marigold flowers are used for Diwali and other ceremonies: Marigold flowers are called ‘Herb of the Sun,’. Are we sure that Robert wasn’t Indian? 😉 The distinct fragrance of these flowers helps improve one’s mood and ward-off stress. The orange and yellow color of marigolds is considered auspicious for new beginnings and important events of life. GROW MORE MARIGOLDS!!!

So what about the walnut tree????

Let’s move on. I am about to share something now that continues to boggle my mind. I HATE walnuts.  I refuse to eat them.  I do not like the taste they leave in my mouth……probably because of a couple of times when I had eaten musty walnuts when I was a kid. I am sure I have had a bad experience somehow with them.  I remember gagging at times watching my grandmother chopping and grinding walnuts to make nut loaf in a small little ginder like this one:

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It had little ‘skinny fingers’ inside that went round and round and broke up the walnuts so that they could be used in her nut loaf.  Yvone, you will remember this little machine, I am sure! Anyone from Prospect or East Dover would.  Now, here’s the thing:  I LOVED Nan’s nutloaf! I couldn’t get enough of it. It was so good with a huge big blob of butter on it as it came out of the oven.  What’s crazy is that I STILL hate walnuts-in-the-raw to this day, but I LOVE walnut milk.  I no longer use dairy, so I have found that walnut milk is a perfect thing to put on my morning oatmeal and in my coffee.  Can’t tell you how much I like it!  Walnut trees, however, are my foe and if you read Jennifer Gonzales’ blog post, you might choose them as your foe as well.

Walnut trees are detrimental the the growth of other plants around them.  They may be beautiful trees, but successful gardners avoid planting anything around them because the roots of walnut trees give off a toxin called Juglone which will slowly kill any other plants

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Although the Walnut tree may be beautiful and it DOES make nan’s nut loaf and walnut milk possible, it is a selfish and evil plant. They must be grown in isolation

Now, here’s were we can apply the ideas of marigolds and walnut trees metaphorically.  In many offices, schools, small communities, there are marigolds and there are walnut trees…….need I say more? Go back to Jennifer gonzales’ blog and read about ‘getting what you can where you can’…it’s worth the reminder. Don’t allow the walnut trees who share space with you infect you, for YOU too will become a walnut tree!

I leave you now to finish the rest of my walnut-milk coffee and deadhead the potted marigolds I am currently keeping on my balcony. I have replaced the roses with marigolds…….la fleur de souci!

 

 

 

 

 

Some things just don’t change…or do they? Tales of Tofu.

…………………………………I dedicate this post to Tra!  She will know why!

 

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Photo by Sander Wehkamp on Unsplash

“…….I hope it isn’t delivered in an open bed truck and pitched into restaurant tubs with a shovel. We saw this when we first got to Beijing in 1994.”  Judith C.

It’s 2019, 25 years after a dear friend witnessed tofu being….well….read the quote above!  I arrived in Beijing two years after, in 1996…..not sure tofu was treated any more delicately then, either.

Here I am in Hanoi…..25 years after Judith was aghast with that scene of tofu being pitched and shovelled…… Well, I do not see shovels, and the tofu you see in the photos below will most likely appear on the corner of Xuân Diệu and Tô Ngọc Vân…or some of the local markets and small restaurants, for that matter.  Times change?  Not that quickly. 

So, what about the photos?  I see this scene every morning in my small village…. on my way to work…..it stirs my appetite, of course…I LOVE tofu!  I scour it with boiling water and make sure I cook it well…….it hasn’t killed me…….yet!

 

 

It’s the 25th of December….With a Call To Prayer

It feels quite unusual at this point in my life trying to convince myself that the 25th of December means only one thing to me. It means many many things, as does the 25th of November or the 25th of June. Keep reading and you will see how blessed I feel today on this, one of the most earmarked days of the year all over the world.

Many years ago, after having picked up roots and moving to the other side of the world, Christmas started to mean something quite different to me and my immediate family. It was the beginning of a new understanding of what it meant to be alive on December 25th.

Today, twenty-two years after having left my home in Prospect Bay, I no longer celebrate the 25th of December as I would have done. No more idea as to how many of my friends and family celebrate this day as I remember. I have given up celebrating Christmas, for simply being with my family and having the love and laughter of friends is the focus of my day. Let me tell you how it has changed me……

Gone is the stress of Christmas shopping. No need to give gifts to show how much I love someone.

Gone is the debt left behind due to the pressure of the commercial meaning of this special day. Consumerism is just NOT my thing anymore. I have enough…..I don’t want nor need more.

Gone is the feeling of rush, the build ups and the let downs that often accompany the tradition of giving gifts and maintaining tradition for the sake of tradition.

Gone is the overpowering let down I used to experience since I was a kid. The ‘what did YOU get?’ The wanting this, the needing that, the the knowing that my mom tried so hard to keep up with it……..I am sure she would agree with how I perceive this date at this point in my life. She probably would have lived a few more years if she hadn’t been so pressured to provide what was, as I know now, never really necessary.

This list could go on, of course, and I won’t continue to try to explain how I feel about Christmas. It isn’t the same (for me) and I am completely ok with that. I see this world in a very different light, and I think I have been a bit of a catalyst in the way some of my family and friends see it as well.

HERE to stay is the wonderful feeling of seeing others begin to feel unstressed and at peace with not getting ‘caught up’ in the grind, yet still feeling the love of family and friends….just in another way. It’s all about QUALITY TIME with my loved ones…..being Dad with Sarah, Eike, Oliver and Jessie (and keeping a photo of Anna on my iPad screen because she can’t be here)…being Grandpa for my lovely grandson, Amos and continuously feeling so fortunate to be able to do it.

HERE to stay is the joy and comfort of being with my wonderful friends and SFAMs (Sisters From Another Mother 👩‍❤️‍💋‍👩) Eileen and Sharon, who have come to feel much the same way I do about spending this day, and have been keeping up with a new tradition of meeting up in a different corner of the world where we can enjoy each other…share laughter, smiles, tears and sighs….and love. Just being! ♥️🙏

HERE to stay is my routine of spending quality time with my kids….my friends!, all the while making sure I see more of this amazing world.

I left Vietnam nine days ago, and spent a wonderful time with family in Bonn, Germany, where I got to wake up and share the mornings, days, and nights with Sarah and Eike and our love child Amos. Nap times for Amos were mostly nap times for Grandpa…..until jet lag left. Just being! ♥️🙏

I woke up this morning, on the 25th of December, in a cozy little corner of a riad in Marrakech, Morocco, where I am so fortunate to be spending time with some of the people I love the most in the world. Sharon, Eileen and Oliver and Jessie….four connected adults of my ‘family’ who are also feeling the same way I am feeling. We are, all four of us, being blown away by the wonderful hospitality of the local Moroccans here in the Medina of Marrakech. Our riad is simply beyond explanation. Eileen will always have a ‘red door’ story/feeling to tell, Ol and Jess are lapping it all up (they got the honeymoon suite of our riad!), and Sharon is counting down the minutes to when she can enjoy the relaxing hammam where she will pamper herself…..a gift to herself that she so deserves after having slaved away at home in Paris in her boutique.

The call to prayer this morning was my cue to get up, light the heater (a café/ski resort heater). I can’t begin to say how the call to prayer touches me. It sounds like this. It’s a special moment for me….but that’s for another post. Our housekeeper, Touria, is busy making freshly-squeezed orange juice and coffee and it will be followed by a wonderful Moroccan breakfast when the five of us will sit together to share our morning meal, chat, laugh and love each other…..just being ❤️🙏. When the sun comes up, we will take our coffee to the rooftop of our riad, sit in the crispy sunny morning and finish our coffee and plan our day…..a day in the souk…..much fun to be had!!!!!

To wrap up this post, it will suffice to say that the rest of our holiday will be spent seeing more of Morocco, after which, we will board our respective planes and fly to the four corners of our world that we all call home….California, Nova Scotia, Paris, and Hanoi. Holiday done, Christmas observed in OUR way, and our souls and hearts will be refilled, replenished and revived. We will welcome January 1 in our cozy seats of our airplanes and begin 2019 refreshed and fulfilled.

So, to my family and friends who are busy celebrating their holidays, I wish you much love and good health….Merry Christmas if you are celebrating Christmas, and Happy New Year!

I will leave by adding a couple of pics which might give an idea of how much fun we are having!

Sleeping and laziness….this is NOT going to be what you think. (this is for Doug, with love from Uncle Tom!)

I work, I play, I rest.  I woke up this morning after a busy work week, made a cuppa good coffee and read for a while.  I like to read in the mornings…..the mornings are quiet, the mornings are empty and, most of all, the mornings are MINE!  In fact, all of my time away from work is mine, and I think I have learned how to use it well, to establish my balance.  Having read sufficient amounts of interesting articles and opinion pieces from my favorite sources, (Medium iPad App, JSTOR…email feed and The Economist [thanks Elliott], to name a few) I felt inspired to write in my blog while the roosters and my neighbours in my alleyway wake up.

I have chosen to respond to two sources this morning; sources that have inspired me to self-affirm and to want to know more.  My first source by Junaid Mubeen is entitled Why ‘Sleep on It’ Is Our Most Useful Advice for Learning .  I suggest you read this with a good cup of tea. Although much of what he recounts in his feature story is not new to me, in terms of how students need appropriate sleep in order to learn well and be more effective problem solvers, there IS on bit of information that jumped out at me and made me notice.  I use the term ‘notice’ frequently.  Thanks, Paula Wilcox, for your kind word.

Let me preface the supporting detail for my previous conclusion by saying that I am soon to be 60.  I am Fifty-eight years young, but my body thinks it needs to go its own way….down a path that includes inexplicable, and not very helpful sleep patterns. I find myself needing less sleep, and often awake at 3 a.m. or even before, wondering how I am going to make it work since I like to start my day at 5 a.m.  I think I have found a solution.  I am going back to napping!

Over the past few years I have been really enjoying my 20-minute power snoozes after coming home from school.  They seemed perfect for recharging me enough to last until 11:00 p.m. or even later, so that when my alarm would sound at 5 a.m., I have had my needed six hours of good sleep.  I sleep well….when I sleep.  So, having pledged to go back to napping, and no longer worrying that I would nap too long, I will take heed of how Thomas Edison made power napping a craft!  He had balls!

“Walker is only confirming what problem solvers have long understood. Thomas Edison is known to have turned power napping into a craft — he believed his deepest insights originated from the sweet spot between conscious and unconscious states. He would hold a bunch of ball-bearings as he power napped, so that just as he drifted into deep slumber, they would drop and clatter onto the floor — awaking him at the opportune moment.” (Junaid Mubeen) 

Thanks, Thomas Edison for being such a smart guy!

Having shared my thoughts on sleep, you may now wonder how I will attempt to bring the concept of laziness into this picture.  Hold on……get more tea and come back for another installment of what’s going on in my mind.

……….I have never been accused of being lazy, except by one person whom I have forgiven a long time ago simply because forgiving means you can let go.  Sorry…not going there…that’s maybe for another post.  I like to think that I am a productive person, I push myself to admirable and constructive limits, I inspire others to go the extra little bit, and being an ex-Virgo (Buddhism has helped me shake the Type-A title), I like to think that there are good reasons why one should not be lazy, or at least embrace laziness and find a new term for it.

So often, especially here in Hanoi, people ask me why I tend not to take taxis or why I prefer to be a passenger on a motorbike through all kinds of weather. Some of my friends and many acquaintances marvel at the fact that I usually walk wherever I need to go.  My weekends can clock up to 30 km if all is good.  With new orthotics and proper walking shoes, there is no stopping me! To answer these queries, I simply mumble something about ‘awareness’ and ‘mindfulness’; not too loudly, of course, because many of the people who question my antics are NOT those who would feel comfortable subscribing to the ‘awareness’ or ‘mindfulness’ ideals-nor are they walkers.  And that’s ok, too!

This morning, during my quiet reading-Kairos moment, I came across a nicely written article by Pema Chödrön, a Buddhist nun whose wisdom I like to follow.  Her article The Three Kinds of Laziness sums up how I feel about being lazy.  I tend not to call it laziness, and you’ll figure out why. It will only take you a couple more sips of tea to read her thoughts about all this.

“Laziness is a common human trait. Unfortunately, it inhibits wakeful energy and undermines our con­fidence and strength. There are three kinds of laziness: comfort orientation, loss of heart, and “couldn’t care less.” These are three ways that we become stuck in debilitating habitual patterns. Ex­ploring them with curiosity, however, dissolves their power.” (Pema Chödrön)

I come to the end of her article which shows me the transformative nature of experiencing laziness directly and nonverbally….through meditation, mindful walking, and experiencing every drop of rain, gust of wind, or wonderful smell of street food while on the back of a motorbike. Most of all, it encourages me to dig out my copy of her book The Places That Scare You; A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, and reaffirm the fact that I am OK; I am a 58-year old single, balanced, napper-walker, grandpa and, most of all, a thinker!

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Namaste, my friends!

I think I can, I know I can! The little train that……

It’s Monday morning of the Moon Festival….it’s officially Mid-Autumn and there are mooncakes to be had….everywhere! I am tired a bit, but all for good reason(s).

This weekend I was out walking and exploring as I usually do, taking in the sights of the festivities all over Hanoi. My camera has been working overtime. I have had my fill of street food and now it’s time to get back to my work week.

I planned a ‘special shot’ this weekend. I have always wanted to get to the Ga Long Biên (the word Ga comes from the French, gare- train station) as the sun was rising, to see if it could peek through the very end of the Long Biên Bridge and show its splendor. I am pretty sure I succeeded, but it meant getting up at 4:45 am, preparing for my day and walking to the area of Ga Long Biên.

It was such a great time to be out and around. The streets were quite empty…the noise level was low, albeit on its way up to the noon-time drone’ish sound of motorbikes and industrious people. I stopped and had a nice cup of the best coffee around and then made my way to the top of the winding stairs of the Long Biên rail station to wait for the sun.

Bingo! The traffic was forgiving, the train did NOT come at that time, and I got my shot. No sooner had I taken my shot, the train came through and there was a long trail of motorbikes coming from the other side of the river, in Long Biên.

Had to share! Proud of my determination, and happy to have taken a couple of naps yesterday afternoon to recuperate from the weird hours. If anything, I have learned that persistence pays off once again and it’s a privilege to wake up with the Hanoians as they get themselves ready for their day. I love Vietnam!

By the way, for those of you who might not know, the Long Biên Bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel……..you got it! The Eiffel Tower guy! 😉

‘The Story of the Boat’

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(Still don’t know who this guy is)

My last several days have been spent at a Wisom of Education Summit at Wesley College in Melbourne, Australia. 792555D4-339F-4D4B-8CDB-64E9DCC878A9

During one of the sessions on a Sunday morning, I participated in a workshop session that was focused on Creative Thinking in the Classroom (Ben Reeves, Wesley College). During the workshop we explored how to develop questions that would help ease tensions that negatively affect classroom culture and the learning that happens within that culture.  I was asked to respond to the following prompt:  What ship are you on at the moment? Spend some time to write about your old ship and your current ship…possibly your present ship.  I took it literally.  I remained engaged and wrote metaphorically which, to the amazement and silence of the room when I read my story, prompted Ben to ask permission to put my ship in the bottle of pedagogy, with hopes of sharing it with his learners at Wesley. I share it today with you, my readers, as I tend to share most of my writing.

On my old ship I was the galley hand…I cooked the meals to make everyone happy and give them full energy to help the ship go forward. (Pd, workshops, mentoring teachers, making my childhood and erstwhile teachers happy—- by being a good boy.

I cooked the meals that everyone liked, but as my ship went into different ports, it was difficult to find the ingredients that pleased everyone, not excluding my Captain. It was a dark yet rich environment….the richness of the spices and the smells of old rope, mixed occasionally with the smell of tears of dissatisfaction from the crew. There were meals unfinished, and often there were even leftovers. (Evening discussions, small meetings, rants, supporting students in teachers’ classrooms, and often helping out in the library when I was little.). I even went to church to please my family and to be a good boy for God!

The ship that I am on now holds  me in high regard and I have a much different position. I am still creative and I  understand how my current ship works, so I make sails. I make mainsails, jib sails, and even cushions so that the fat arses of some lazy crew can rest and watch the waves.  I know how durable and sturdy the ship’s sails need to be. It’s my craft.  I continuously look for ways to embellish my sails and make them multi-purpose. At times, I make suggestions to my captain as to which sail might get us through some different types of winds- gales, gusts, strong nor’Westers——even when we’re in the doldrums– when there is no wind. It’s important to maintain the sails, keep them safe from gnawing rats and various other forms of destruction.  A lot of the direction of the ship includes me and I have a feeling of belonging and usefulness in my role of sailmaker—sometimes referred to as a shaper.

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The Bluenose II……the ship I call home. Built in Nova Scotia–the most famous ship in Canadian history.   People from Nova Scotia (such as me) are  lovingly referred to as Bluenosers.


On Death and Dying….full circle

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Life is so full of moments, both Chronos and Kairos: awakenings, amazing moments, incomprehensible reality, and, of course, Death (I will allow her an UPPERCASE letter as a sign of respect).  We tend to go on our merry ways through life not really noticing how all of those moments come to collide or bounce off one another as we go through the years; as we mature and prepare for the end.

This post is not going to be about that.  It may reflect a somewhat serious undertone; however, I would like to think it’s more on the, ‘Wowwwwww, cooooool, and ‘#dafuk . That being said, just sit back, spark up the vaper or brew your caffeine-free tea of choice and come  for the ride.

I have never written about this part of my life.  Even though I have volumes of leather-bound journals and assorted ‘special’ books in which to document my life, this never made it to print….not even a smidgen of a reference to this time of my life.

I was between universities at the time. It was 1981. I had finished my BA and just begun my BEd. when I realized that I was not happy with the status quo.  I didn’t feel that I belonged at the university where I had enrolled.  I wasn’t sure I was getting what I liked from my courses,  so I withdrew after having completed the first semester. I  waited out the academic year and in the fall enrolled in, what I expected to be, an ideal university for me. Bingo! Paydirt!  I loved it! Saint Mary’s University was where I was going to complete my Bachelor of Education.

As a result of having taken the second semester off, I had time on my hands.  Time to give. I was gainfully employed with VIA Rail and doing well financially, so giving was my goal.  Pay it forward!

My giving took form:  Itinerant Teacher at the Teen Lounge of the IWK Grace Maternity Hospital in Halifax.  My training as a volunteer was rather quick and intense; however, I felt inspired and scared by the situation and looked forward to my one-to-one relationship with Jonathan.  I was his ‘Math Teacher’,  but knew nothing about real teaching.  I had been in some interesting roles before this, but let’s remember….I was 21. I was trying to figure out if I really wanted to be a teacher, and my work with Jonathan was meant to enlighten me. It did!  I loved it!  Then and there I realised that I would be a good teacher.

It was during my volunteer training that I was honest enough to ask the Supervisor of Volunteer Services (or whatever it was called then) if she had any resources or advice to give in terms of the task ahead of me.  We will call her Shirley, only because I really don’t remember her name.  I remember her, though.  She was an inspiring person, an ‘A-Ha!’ for me.  She explained to me that she was not a teacher, but she shared with me three very important mantras that I have kept with me since I started teaching.

Shirley was gruff.  She smoked a thousand cigarettes a day and had a little bit of blood in her caffeine system, if you get the picture.  ‘Son’, she said in a gruff-kind of voice, ‘with kids, it’s like this:  Talk to them in a way that they’ll know that they matter to ya’.  And as she took a long drag of her ‘Export A’, she coughed out, ‘and MEAN IT!’.  Her eyes were watering, but I am not sure if it was because of her smoking-induced coughing fit, or if she was getting emotional.  It was obvious that the last titbit of advice was her main message.  She looked straight at me and kindly said, ‘…and be there for them-to help them grow . Everybody needs to grow, even if they are dying.’

Shirley meant business in her chat, but I didn’t really take it as orders or a proverbial Riot Act.  She simply thought that I was listening to her.  And I was.  It was immediately afterwards when I was introduced to my student, Jonathan.  Jonathan was 13 and he was a permanent fixture in the Teen Lounge, be if for his lessons or just to hang out and do other things.  Unfortunately for him, hanging out and doing other things meant chemo, blood work, rest, and forcing himself to eat. He often had night terrors.  Jonathan was terminally ill and knew it. I had a feeling that Jonathan was not from Halifax.  I never found out.

The very first meeting with him was brief but meaningful.  My very first evening back on York Street was spent thinking, ‘how am I going to help this boy grow?  He’s ready to die!’ I had no idea that this was going to be my task.  The next day I was able to get past Shirley’s secretary,  but not without explanation. She knew why I wanted to see Shirley -to talk more in depth about the reality of me working with a terminally ill teen. As it turned out, Shirley was not surprised to hear from me.  She was surprised, however, that  I was NOT going to quit on her.  Here’s where the connection comes in……..are you ready?  Shirley had been prepared for me.  She handed me a mid-sized hard cover book and told me not to worry about the teaching part–that will take care of itself.

On Death and Dying, by Elisabeth Kubler Ross(1969) was her offering. Shirley handed me a self-help book.  I couldn’t believe it!  ‘There are only five things you gotta know about it. Keep the book for as long as ya need it.’  Then she left. What about those five things???  What did that really mean?  On Death and Dying was a quick read and a very meaningful one.  Unfortunately for Jonathan his leukaemia was taking him, but taking him slowly, which was difficult at so many levels. It was difficult for both of us. I kept going back for the next few weeks and we started to get to know each other, but it did not take him long to be too sick and tired to learn. I was asked if I would like to stop volunteering and I took that as a message:  They didn’t need me anymore.  Jonathan did not need me anymore. Not a few days after that, Jonathan passed away. There was no need for me to keep helping him grow. Back to helping me grow. I got busy with VIA Rail, taking extra ‘bids’ from the bidding board for summer employees, and the fall came. I was back at school. I wa becoming a teacher.

It was in April, not too long after Jonathan passed away, when I gave Shirley her book back. I can’t tell you how many times I read it, but I think it was more than twice. There was something about it that drew me back. The book laid out for me the five stages of dealing with death: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That’s the last time I saw Shirley, the last time I saw the Teen Lounge, and the last time I ever worked with a terminally ill child. But not the last time I read On Death and Dying.

It was the first time, however, that I really felt like an adult. For me, it was a coming of age that I was not ready for…..or so I thought.  I was involved in a ‘real life’ kind of thing. It was also the first time I knew that I wanted to help kids, and it was definitely the first time I got to know about child mortality.  I wasn’t sure what to do with all of this ‘life and death’ stuff.  Nobody else at York St. knew Jonathan, or at least it seemed that way. I didn’t talk much about him.  We had so many things going on at that place. Maybe Debbie did….she was nursing at the time, but I am sure that everyone else was too involved with living.   I apologise if I am misremembering! I am sorry if I underestimated what others were thinking.

So……today……………….it is thirty-seven years ago TO THE MONTH, that I learned about Elisabeth Kubler Ross and read On Death and Dying.  I have been teaching for thirty-six years and have traveled the world quite a bit. I now live 12, 625 km from Halifax in a tropical climate and am happy to be teaching where I do.  I am single, my kids have all grown up, and I am very soon going to be a grandpa for the first time. It’s all GO at the moment, but that’s the way we roll in my family. I have seen things, people and ideas come and go for whatever reasons, and I have become accustomed to that. My parents are not longer alive, and I have lost friends and even small children from my life.  I have been through change many, many times in schools, and have grown to accept what change means.

I guess you are wondering why I am going on and on about this: what’s the point?  Where this is leading?  Well, to be honest, I tend to think that everything happens for a reason. Things come full circle in life. My tech skills are quite ok and I will admit that I use Twitter….no big deal there.  This afternoon I opened a tweet from a very good friend and it  resurfaced Elisabeth Kubler Ross for me once again. Thanks GB! I immediately looked back 36years.  I am so thankful for having known Jonathan, for without him I would not have known Kubler Ross, and I would not have anything to offer my current grieving friends at work. They are experiencing a sort of grief that happens when change comes quickly.  It is not the time to push On Death and Dying; on the other hand, The Grief of Accepting New Ideas (Rick Wormeli) https://www.amle.org/BrowsebyTopic/WhatsNew/WNDet/TabId/270/ArtMID/888/ArticleID/911/The-Grief-of-Accepting-New-Ideas.aspx) is probably much more appropriate, or maybe even Stephen Covey’s The Speed of Trust  (http://www.speedoftrust.com/how-the-speed-of-trust-works/book).  By the way, thanks MV for jogging my memory yesterday. I have your back!

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My Beautiful Nova Scotia….and its people

May 8, 2018

Holy schmoley……I can’t believe I didn’t post this when I had written it.  Once again, it seems that today is another one of those days when Nova Scotia is calling my name……so here is what I had written….five years ago.

Today the sun is shining on Brussels and spirits are high.  Nonetheless, I can’t help but think of Nova Scotia…my home, my paradise!  We have been blessed with a beautiful landscape, rich treasures and a host of very talented people:  Anne Murray, Rita McNeil, Raylene Rankin, The Men of The Deeps…..the list goes on and on and on…………

Today I shed a huge tear….a tear for Raylene, a sigh for Rita who both passed away in the past year.  It is times such as these that take my heart and soul from Brussels and lands them on the rocky shores of the Atlantic Coast…to Cape Breton, to Halifax and to all of the little nooks and crannies that still remain the jewels in the crown of my beautiful home.

Here is a wonderful rendition of We Rise Again, sung by Rita, Anne, Raylene and her wonderful family…..The Men of the Deeps and The Nova Scotia Mass Choir and many more.  We will all rise again in the faces of our children, in voices and in the waves out on the ocean……..I firmly believe!

If this doesn’t make you stop and take count of what is good in our lives, I am not sure what will.  I dedicate this to all of my fellow Bluenosers overseas………..when you can’t get home to soothe your soul, this will take you there.

Reflections across troubled waters

It seems to creep up on my every year, but the anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, an explosion that rocked the world of the WWI era citizens of Halifax, my home city, will continue to follow me wherever I am in the world.

This year is the 100th anniversary of this ‘largest man-made explosion prior to Hiroshima’ (http://bit.ly/2kakypF). Wednesday morning at 5:00 am, as I started my coffee-induced day , I was stopped in mid-slurp by a very moving video on my Face Book page. The video inspired me to write poetry.  Once again, a boom, a bloom and a secret room. Incidentally, if you don’t know what blooming and booming refers to, go here.

Enjoy!

 

 

Now my poem:

The goose bumps on my arms
Force my hand.
I write these words
So that we may hear the sounds anew
The sense of urgency
The sound of danger
The obsessive strike of the ship’s bell
To warn of a fog too thick
The moan of a loss too big

How dare we forget the collateral of war
Vision plucked by shards, hearts crushed by blast
City torn; an overarching urge to not give in
These rogue sounds trample the calm of my inner peace
And so they should
Because tomorrow I will live another day
And I will not forget

 

 

 

Peace, Calm and Joy……Getting Back To My True Home.

Over the past few years thanks to my Eileeniebeanie, I have been getting closer and closer to finding my true home with the help of Thich Nhat Hanh. However, more importantly, lately I have been enjoying peace and I have known calm and I have felt joy while much of what is happening around me has potential to make me angry, stressful and forgetful.

I am sharing with you, my readers, a way forward so that you can be a Master of the Bell. Thich Nhat Hanh has always had an aura of love for his followers.  He is easy and enjoyable to listen to and emits peace and calm and joy as I watch him deliver his teachings to me.  His words can be separated into Teachings and Actions.  I hope that by sharing this message, you will find be closer to finding your true home.

 

Namaste

A Little Birdie Told Me

It is such a busy time when it is the first day of school, and I am not sure how much of my personal energy I can afford to put into this idea, but there is something that must be said.  If you are the kind of person who wonders about everything and who keeps an open mind, this post is for you.  Read on and enjoy the photos.

Birds have always amazed me.  They can be as aggressive as they can be timid, and as curious as they can be aloof.  I have had feeders and have grown bushes which have attracted the most amazing birds; cardinals, sparrows, crows, cabin jays, blue jays and, not to forget our ocean rats, the seagull. I have always been a passive participant in my brief encounters with birds, but today it changed!

I arrived at school this morning on tail end of  a huge monsoonal downpour.  The nice thing about being out in such rains is that the greens of the plants are astounding in  such rainy lighting,  and the water-laden fronds of the banana and date palms nod their delight to the bullet-sized raindrops. They get cleaned and are ready to start another sweltering day.  Dressed in my purple rain poncho and helmet in hand, I was walking by the communal garden at school when I noticed a small sparrow sitting on the wire fence of the garden.  It was squeaking at me, almost telling me how happy he was that the rain had briefly stopped.

I noticed that the bird was actually watching me and letting me know how he felt as I crept forward.  To my surprise, when I extended my hand for him to ‘come sit and chat’, he took me up on my generous yet risky offer.  No sooner had he hopped into my hand and established his perch on my index finger, he burst into a story of epic proportions. He and I squeaked and chirped at each other and to each other for nearly 15 minutes. It was just the two of us…nobody else.  I am usually among some of the first people to get to work, meaning that it is not unusual that I am the only one walking across the courtyard in the peaceful morning quiet. For the best part of a half-hour, I became friends with this bird. Our intimate dialogue came to an end when a colleague appeared with her camera to document what she couldn’t believe she was seeing.  In a few flicks of her camera and a couple of giggles, the bird chirped a couple more times while looking at me and quickly flew back towards the garden.

When I came home from work, our 89 year-old Grandfather was waiting outside our foyer by the fish pond.  I couldn’t wait to tell him what happened.  He is always interested in me and what I do and where I go.  He is also a devout Buddhist and can provide hours of interesting chat in broken English, French or Russian, not to mention Vietnamese,  his mother tongue.  We get most of our communication done via English, Vietnamese and French.  He took great interest in my tale and photos and then let me know exactly what he believed happened to me.

He proceeded to tell me that birds are amazing creatures and that they have much to share with people from the shamanistic traditions of the world.  He believes that they are quick thinkers, happy in their natural environment, and bring powerful joy to those who are open to listening to them; open to receiving their messages.

To end our talk, he took me by the hand as he patted it on my own knee and told me the following.  I’ll try to paraphrase.

“…when a person has embarked on a spiritual journey and they are opening or even awakening to their journey, birds come to them.  They often fly next to people as a sign that they are opening or moving closer to understanding, or better yet, knowing what their path is.”

Hummmm….I can’t tell you how touched I was by all of this.  Grandfather also said that he thought I would be wise to  listen to what that little birdie told me.

 

It’s about time

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I am not sure if many of my readers would agree, but there are moments and there are times.  There are wonderful moments in our lives that we never want to forget, such as conversations with the ones we love, moments of passion, or a celebration. There are also times that nag us; time to get up, a deadline, or a time of death! That being said, there are specific times that we never want to forget, such as 4:44 (here’s to you Sponsie!) or the exact time of the birth of a child,  and moments that we wish we could erase from our memory– they were so tragic; moments that have scarred us for life or have inevitably left us broken and weak.

In order to explain my attempt at differentiating the concepts of time and moments, it is worth knowing about chronos and kairos, which will help us understand more about time and how to appreciate the concept more.  We have choice in how we view time, but better yet, we have a way of explaining our thoughts about time.

I will refer you to a very interesting article written by McKinley Valentine, writer and editor of The Whippet. It’s a blog McKinley loves to write because, as she puts it, ‘It’s a combination of my own writing and links to interesting stuff I’ve been reading about, with absolutely zero mention of Trump or any other contemporary politics. She was initially thinking of calling it ‘The Reprieve’–ha!  Ms Valentine does a stellar job of explaining the difference between chronos and kairos.  It really IS worth reading.  It is guaranteed to offer you a very refreshing and uplifting perspective of how you spend and understand time.

So, sit back, get that cup of tea and prepare yourself for a great read…….now!

Chronos & Kairos–“Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent.”

Great!  You’re back!  I hope your had an enlightening moment while reading her blog.

I will now tell you how I spent a wonderful ‘perfect moment’, a kairos moment, while on my hike today along the ocean.

I walked a path with my super walking mate and sister-in-law, Angie, along a slightly gravelled trail which cuts through heath and scrubby trees to  beautiful Wagner’s Beach.  Wagner’s Beach is rich with rounded beach stones, which have, in the past, been the building stones of many of our Village’s fireplaces, as well as essential for weight in old wooden lobster pots.  We scrambled slowly towards  Wagner’s Head, the edge of land which juts out into the  Atlantic Ocean. It is invariably an area that is very dear to my heart.  Prospect has offered me a lifetime of times and moments, but today I can really say that my moment of kairos with Angie was, indeed NOT a time. It was a perfect moment.

To what can I attribute the perfect moment which represented a collusion of Mother Nature’s best: good weed, walking sticks, almost a dead body (note I did not say an almost dead body) and sunshine? Well, it was due to being able to put all of this into a Zen framework; to decide that THAT was the right time to go on that hike, Angie was the right person, and Wagner’s Trail was the right place.  I remembered that my kairos moment could come from observation, reflection, discussion, planning, accountability, and action. And it DID!

Now, some of you might think, ‘hey, isn’t that some kind of ‘God’ thing?  It may well be that the Bible tells of Jesus’ first recorded sermon in Mark 1:15 as an example of a “Kairos Moment”.  So be THAT! (said with a dismissive , whateverish kind of tone). I think that Jesus could have been a cool weed-smoking trekker with awesome friends and a keen skillset for picking the best places to walk. However,  I would rather de-Jesus’ize the whole concept and refer back to how the Greeks portrayed kairos in their writings and art.  Angie and I did pretty well in enjoying our kairos moment and living that moment to the fullest, despite religiosity.

I give thanks for having what I have and knowing that I will have many more kairos moments………. now that I know how to understand time better.

Voilà, a true perfect kairos moment.  Don’t ask me how long it lasted…I would have to get ‘all Chronos-y on y’all’.

Namaste!

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Blooms, Booms, and Secret Rooms

It wasn’t too many years ago that I really took my poetry seriously. For me, writing poetry was just something I did; something on which I eagerly spent some of my free time.  Over the years, writing poetry has become something I run to do….I have bursts of ideas, urges to stop, drop, and write it down…… and plenty of human condition to work through.  Writing poetry permits me to do just that.

I recently came across a cool way to understand what I do.  I will refer to Allan Wolf in his book, Immersed in Verse. He has cleverly coined Blooms, Booms, and Secret Rooms as his analogy of what happens to poets; what happens to me!

‘Poems are everywhere.  They lurk at your elbow, waiting for you to discover them. The bloom is what catches the poet’s eye. The boom is what explodes in the poet’s mind. The secret room, with its magnificent views, exists in the poet’s heart.  How beautifully said Mr. Wolf!!

I am, at the moment, flooded with blooms.  Life has its way of nudging gently or forcing us mercilessly over those often slippery stepping stones which lead the way across our occasional turbulent river. The river that demands human condition on each of its tiny ripples, swells, and every one of its white caps.  I am on the top of a white cap at the moment and learning more about my human condition than I had ever thought to have done.

 

 

 

Linguistic Lament

Lately the writing on the wall

Has decided to stop whispering its messages of

Inspiration. Care. Caution

 

Recently, the writing on the wall

With its darkened hue, shouts its words.

Read. Listen. Notice!

 

Somehow, the writing on the wall

No longer takes gentle pauses between its words.

Perceptions have changed, meanings have shifted.

 

The pauses no longer give ‘think time’

The phrases and expletives race to wake me up at cock’s crow

To tell me that I misunderstood.  I misread. I mistook

 

Stress and intonation  has morphed to other  phonemes

Now the messages are new.  The interpretations are unsettling

The  Present is  being bombarded by loud and painful ideas

I can’t manage my booms; ‘No vacancy!’, moans my secret room!

 

 

 

 

 

Ode To A Durian

Nowhere to hide now dear Durian.

No clinging to the darkness of the shade

Or rushing to the camouflage of vulnerable peers

So that neither the lawless marketeer, nor the naïve passers-by would notice

That you were the prize of the lot.

durian, king of fruit

You were severed where your coarse brown stem met the safety of your tree

Drawn by your ample body

A sign that your branches could no longer control your wild abandon

Your outer spines, protective on a terrestrial landing,

Unintentionally seductive but painfully alert

Knew that at any moment your innocence would succumb to the learned palate

Of the selective public

To reveal your weakness; your Achilles seam

The way in for the recently sharpened tip of the hawker’s blade

No lawless blunt trauma on the dusty sidewalk cement for you, sweet Durian.

Rather, slow and mostly careful nudges up against the others

That bravely shielded you in your early days as you awaited your fate.

Your body loses the fight

Almost completely gives in to the intrusion

But still you hide a final but useless defense- a last attempt to save yourself.

police-durian

The slow twisting of the experienced cleaver persists,

Ironically careful not to bruise your pointy abrasive skin

Avoids accidentally scarring your Hạt Lép, your precious seeds

Hidden in the folds of your moist, soft, non-fibrous, creamy flesh

You are left vulnerable to onlookers who, in disbelief of your ruse and treachery

Are spared the aggressive and often painful prick protecting the delicate smooth texture of your insides

But know, precious Durian, that sadly you would be of less value were your flesh marred by

The rushed scars of an inexperienced intruder who, constantly aware of your hidden beauty

But careless with his deep hurried thrusts into your skin

Would be deeply disappointed with his failure-his loss….his noticeable foiled attempts

He would be unwilling to lose face and reveal his suffering pride

For his haste would have rendered you worthless in his eyes,

Not worth waiting for your potent stench to dissipate

So that to his profit, others might feast on your inner delicacy.

His fumbling would see you tossed on an unattractive heap, disappointing the often corrupt passers-by

You would be, precious Durian, an unacceptable final insult to the hubris of your Hanoian hawker.

Another piece of the puzzle…..this is for the people I love……my kids!

While watching a very special series….a Swedish/Thai production, I came out of it needing to share the following advice.  Let each word of this enter you.  Take some time to be mindful  when you allow the words to sit within you. Know that I want the best for you!

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Don’t listen to anyone. Not even your mum or dad

Don’ t worry about what people think

You’d be surprised if you knew how seldom they actually do

Choose profession based on passion, and partners based on infatuation

……and food based on scent

Fuss over what others call small matters, if small matters are big to you

Throw a chair at the wall, if that’s what it takes to get what you want

But remember that you can only do it once.

So know what you want.

Take nothing for granted

But learn to trust others

Most of the time people are good

Travel

Swim in the night

Hitchhike

Eat chocolate for breakfast

Wake up in the wrong bed with the wrong person

Make as many mistakes as you possibly can

Don’t be ashamed to ask for help

Don’t be ashamed of anything at all

Believe that you are special

Kiss many frogs

If your legs twitch: Dance.

If you fall in love: Love.

Remember that there isn’t only one love of your life, but several

But if you’re lucky enough to meet one of the few

Tie them up

And tie yourself up too,

Because there aren’t many of them

If you are lucky enough to have children, put your work away

Switch off the television, shut down the mobile phone

Close your tablet and unplug the Internet

Switch on the light and be with them

Talk to them, or sit quietly

But be with them

Before it all ends

Which can happen at any time

Like now…..

Now…..

…….or now.

30 Grader i Februari

Mindful eating…..and don’t forget tea!

It wasn’t too long ago when I was approached by a colleague who had requested, in all best intentions, a lunchtime meeting to discuss an issue that has been simmering on the back burner for quite some time.  Without giving any indication that I didn’t care about the issue, I simply stated that I prefer to eat alone and that I would appreciate meeting at another time. My colleague did not listen to my words.  Rather, she responded with, and I paraphrase respectfully, ‘it’s free time…we never get free time to do the things we need to do. What’s the matter with meeting at lunchtime?”

Let me explain.

Many who know me also know that I take great pride, enjoyment and time to create my own meals.  I like to think that I am practising mindful cooking. I choose my ingredients carefully; I notice the skin on potatoes, I smell oranges before I buy them, I try hard to be in the moment when I make decisions about what I buy that will contribute to what I will prepare.  I must say that I prefer to use the word ‘prepare’ when I cook, instead of ‘make’.  It allows me to be involved in the process or the means, rather than the end.  So often we tend to refer to what I made, the end product, rather than what I created, which implies a process involved: the idea, the plan, the mixing and matching of ingredients, the flame, the enjoyment of the meal……and the washing up.  I take my time to wash up.  It’s time worth spending….I thank my pots and dishes for being there. I notice hot water.

It’s been nearly 12 years since I owned or wanted a dishwasher. It’s by choice.

The eating of my meal gives me great pleasure.  I see my food…every aspect of it.  I notice the small, almost burnt pocket in the pita bread I created, recognized it from when it was created on the  hot grill where they take form. I enjoy noticing the mixture of tastes, the way the pesto compliments the pasta, how there are little lumps of sharp cheese speaking to me through the basil and garlic. I notice the small, almost pinpoint-size turmeric in the coconut milk drink that Frank prepares for me. And I smile. When I am not able to eat in a mindful way, I walk away from my meal unsatisfied.  Unsatisfied not because I haven’t eaten enough, but because I have not taken the time to be mindful of my food, to enjoy peace of mind.

I have learned to take time to have tea. When things get to be overwhelming at home, at work or even when I am out walking, I  take time to have tea.  Having tea is a great opportunity to avoid the forgetfulness which is created in the absence of mindfulness. No hurry, no worry.

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.

– Thich Nhat Hanh
I can remember when I used to say, ‘now I’ll make a nice cup of tea, settle in, and do some work.’ Nowadays, I leave my work, settle on my opium bed where I have a cup of tea. Tea deserves the time you give it.  The warm cup in the hand, the smoothness of the teapot, the way the tea itself starts its journey from my lips, waking up my taste buds and warming my body as it leaves my mouth. Take time to buy good tea so that the experience will be a wonderful moment.
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As I continue to learn more about and practice mindfulness, I keep in mind what my mentor teaches me about eating. To follow what Thich Nhat Hanh has taught me, I prefer to eat in silence most of the time. I quote him here:
“Eating in silence, even for a few minutes, is a very important practice.  It takes away all the distractions that can keep us from really being in touch with the food.  Our mindfulness may be fragile, and it may be too difficult to carry on a conversation and really honour the food at the same time.”
Your True Home. The everyday wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh.
 It’s difficult to achieve mindful eating if your meal is in a room of happy, chatty, loud, rushed and vocal colleagues. I feel no guilt finding a quiet place to eat, which is usually outside at a picnic table.  I return to the group to say a quick hello and to let them know that I know they are there and that I am glad they are there. I would rather be mindful of my friends but trying to be mindful of too many things at once leads to forgetfulness.
Want to know more about forgetfulness?  Read the following one-pager. It will make lots of sense to you.  You might even want to be less forgetful, if that’s been your case.
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(Taking tea with my good friend, Mas, at the home of Vincent van Gogh where in 1879 he taught the word of God to the impoverished miners of Mons, Belgium.)