Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The voice

I dreamt that I was writing. The words just flowed freely and it felt so natural. I've thought of this often today and made many attempts to compose my thoughts, but something always got in the way. A hungry husband, a dryer buzzing, or a hat needing to be crocheted - they all take priority over some quiet time for me to put my words on (virtual) paper.

It happens every day, day after day. There is always time for so many things, but never writing. Plenty of time to surf Facebook and drink tea, but none for more creative pursuits. I know I have to change my habits, stop thinking about it and start doing it.

But the little voice persists. The voice of doubt, of fear, of apprehension. I have to be stronger than that voice.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Strength and bear hugs.

It's been a trying time lately. I have been working hard to keep my mind calm and centred,  but it has been a challenge. I surround myself with positive affirmations and focus on the lessons that life is teaching me. I concentrate on my breathing and talk myself through the toughest times. And still I struggle. But I'm making it.

It has been a classic scenario of one step forward and two steps back this last little while. I spent most of my life 'waiting for the other shoe to drop' and seeing that scenario play out time and again. That was the old me, the one who allowed her thoughts and fears to control her mind. The new me is a person who is striving everyday to have faith in the universe and stand firm in a belief that good things will happen (at least that is what I tell myself). So it's particularly frustrating and irksome to finally see progress towards life goals, only to have a major crisis appear.
I know my faith is being tested and it takes most of my energy to maintain my positive attitude. At night I crash, exhausted from training my monkey mind.

I know my husband feels the stress too. And we do our best to prop each other up and force a smile when a tear might be more appropriate. We have travelled this life together for ten years and have been each others' support when the walls begin to crumble. Sometimes all we have as a defence against the world is a big bear hug. And sometimes that is all we need.

I remind myself every day that "All is well in the world and all is well with me." But keep those bear hugs coming.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Digging Deep

I've done a lot of digging out at our cottage. The biggest hole we ever dug was eight years ago when we buried Sophie. Sophie was the first dog I ever had as an adult; a dog that was truly mine. She loved being at the cottage and when she passed we brought her out here one last time to bury her. I had read on the internet that the hole should be at least four feet deep to discourage wildlife from digging up the grave, no small feat.
We arrived late one afternoon and proceeded to dig. And dig. And dig. It was hard going. The soil out here on the Canadian shield is a relative gumbo of thick and sticky clay. If the clay wasn't enough to contend with, there is a massive network of roots stopping our shovels every now and again. Often the proper tool isn't a shovel, but an axe. Sophie's hole was indeed four feet deep, for the last while I stood inside it and tossed chunks of soil out. We buried her facing west, looking out over the lake at the sunset.
Two years ago I dug another large hole; this one to house the Sam Floyd memorial garden. Sam was an old friend and lover of mine who decided one night that her pain was too much to bare. A decision that still tears at the hearts of those who knew and loved her. She had a brilliant sense of humour and an infectious laugh. But her smile hid a darkness none of us suspected and just one day after Robin Williams, she ended her life.
I had recently been gifted a large quantity of lilies and  decided to plant them to honour her memory. I staked out an area off to the side of the yard, right along the bush line.  First I had to dig up the top layer of thick grass before I could excavate a long trench. Then I had to fill the hole with rich top soil before transplanting the lilies. It was a hot day and it felt good to toil and sweat. Hard labour always helps me work out negative energy. When I was finished it didn't look like much, but I had faith it would flower beautifully the following year.
This weekend I expanded Sam's garden. I'm beginning the process of moving perennials from my home in the city to the cottage, since that is where I prefer to spend my time. Eventually we plan to move there permanently, when the hubs partially retires. Once again I began the arduous process of cultivating clay. I had barely begun when I had to stop and get the axe. As I hacked away at the roots, it occurred to me how similar my journey of self awareness and education is to gardening. It is very hard work and often something that you have to do, even when you'd rather not. More importantly, sometimes you have to sever some roots so that new growth can occur. It became a meditation for me - the digging, the chopping, the heavy lifting and then the careful placement of tender plants. When I laid my shovel (and my axe) to rest and took a step back, I was impressed by it's ugliness. But just like my life, I have faith it will be beautiful.

Monday, September 12, 2016


Recently I came across an article that talks about how our usual mind is like a monkey in a house with five windows. The five windows represent our senses and the monkey represents our mental consciousness. The monkey is restless and bounces around from one opening to the next, always on the lookout for something interesting. 
It's an apt description of how I feel sometimes and the best way to calm it down is to focus on one thing at a time. Much like the grounding advice given to people experiencing an anxiety attack - find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste - it does work. At night when I head to bed, my monkey mind can not settle down. I tend to create all kinds of scenarios and imagine how I would react. But if I can get that monkey to just listen, to the wind or my own breath or to the patter of rain, sleep will soon be at hand.
But there is another monkey in my memory. Years ago I was having problems holding on to an unresolved conflict. I knew I needed to let go of pent up hostility, but I just couldn't. I was struggling and my emotions were holding me down. So I asked an old friend (and part time spiritual guru) Denny, to help me, to show me how to let it go. His response was clear and concise and perfect in it's simplicity.
Denny told me of an interesting method used to capture monkeys. The monkey trappers would place a small cage in the jungle and place a bunch of bananas inside of the cage and lock it. When a monkey come across this setup their natural reaction is to reach through the bars and grab the bananas. The bars are so close together that the monkey can't remove his hand without dropping the fruit. Even as the trappers approach, the monkey will not unclench his first. He is trapped by his own instinct and he could be free if only he could let go.
It was a light bulb moment for me and a lesson that has served me well over the years. I often visualize my own fist being unclenched. I long to be free and every day it becomes a more solid reality. I will not allow a monkey to rule my life.
My husband and I with Denny in the middle. 

Tuesday, September 06, 2016


Days pass and I think 'I should write today'. And the days keep passing. Didn't I say I was going to write every day? Wasn't I planning to write more while I was on holidays? Didn't I get up early this morning, just to write? And more days pass and the (virtual) page remains blank.

I don't know how to break this cycle. Sometimes I find myself thinking 'you should write about this', and still there is just a blank page. I take the pictures for the post and the blankness persists. I read what others have written and nothing changes.

When I started this blog, I didn't mean for it to be a chore. I wanted it to be natural, just a byproduct of the never ending stream in my head. I thought it would be more organic; I thought I was ready.

I'm not giving in to this lack of spark. I've got to keep plugging away. I have to find a way to encourage myself more. I'm not sure what the key will be, but I know I have to keep searching.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Live Free

Painted on a highway overpass.
Live free.
What do these words really mean
Live free.
What about the painter, did he live free?
I imagine him hitch hiking his way across Canada.
People still do that up here.
We often see them on the side of the number one.
Alone or in pairs, patiently holding their thumb out.
Sometimes they hold a sign scribbled with their destination.
I long to pick one up and hear their tale.
What makes them tick?
What are they so passionate about, that they left it all behind?
Put themselves in harms way to follow the call.
Live free.
Who can honestly say they live free?
Live free.
Wise words from a highway overpass.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Am I in heaven?
Sitting in the shade with my dog
Content at my feet.
Listening to the jays jeer and squawk.
The sweet chatter of chickadees to my right.
Then the most transforming sounds from the Jay,
not the racous caw but a gentle coo.
An idyllic scene and I am grateful for this
peace in my day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Let it be

An old friend was coming to visit, one I hadn't seen in a few years. It had already been an eventful day having spent the afternoon with yet another old friend - one I hadn't seen in 29 years! So, feeling a bit flushed, I decided to go meditate for awhile to calm my brain.

My husband had put on an old Springsteen album in the basement and I could hear it's muted songs in the bedroom. This music had been a soundtrack to my life, and I knew all the words by heart. I lay on the bed in the coolness and I listened to my breath. I struggled to find my focus, find my centre, surrender to my breath. After awhile I felt the slip and I was in. Utter relaxation, a pure peacefulness encompassed me. I lay watching the light swirl inside my eyelids, morphing and rolling. For a moment a thought of "is this bad?", and then in another beat "what if this is good? just let it be."

Not soon after, my eyes were opened and I write this refreshed. I wish the same for all of you.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Getting away from it all

We decided to stay home from the cottage this past weekend. Part of me hates 'wasting' a perfectly good weekend in the city, especially during the summer, but sometimes that's the way life goes. So instead my darling husband surprised me with a couple of days trips to local towns.
On Saturday he took me north of the city up to Lake Winnipeg. I've lived here ten years and we have never taken the drive to see this 'ocean' on the Prairies. We drove up to Gimli, a small Icelandic fishing village, and our first stop was the Crown Royal factory. For years he has told me how every drop of Crown Royal is made right here in Manitoba and while the plant is fairly non-descript the sign does say "global supply".

After that he took me to the harbourfront and we walked the pier. It was easy to imagine I was in a seaside town in a more tropical clime. Sailboats filled the marina and dotted the skyline on a lake so vast the opposite shoreline could not be seen. Having been landlocked in the Midwest for the past 20-odd years, it was a refreshing reminder of days spent by sea. After our stroll we hopped back in the car and meandered our way home, stopping along the way so I could see all the little towns along the way.

Sunday morning we headed out, debating where we might go. I'm never sure if Jim has a plan all along or if he just drives aimlessly until an idea strikes. We ended up driving west out of the city on the number one highway until we got to Portage la Prairie. A sleepy farming community that looks straight out of the 1970's. We stopped and bought some vegetables and took the dogs for a walk before our return trip. We decided to wander our way back, soaking in the sunshine of an August afternoon, the prairies were in all their glory. No matter what country road we turned down the corn was tall and the canola was lush and green, but best of all the wheat fields had turned into amber waves of grain. 

It's hard to describe the beauty of those fields; they stretch out as far as the eye can see, glowing with goodness. The unbelievable flatness of the land and overwhelming expanse of sky never fails to thrill me. After ten years of prairie living, I still imagine I am Laura Ingalls peering out the back of a covered wagon not knowing what lay before me, but ready to face it. I am so happy to live here and have the opportunity to feel the vastness and see the sky as a great blue dome over my head.

We had such a lovely weekend together. Life has been a bit stressful lately and these day trips were a long overdue treat, made sweeter because of the company. No matter what gets thrown at us, we always face it together. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer storm

Like most of North America, it has been unusually hot here lately. At one point today the humidex was 44°c (111°f) and, while I relish the heat, I'm afraid that is just a bit too hot. Certainly too hot to cook, so hubby grilled a steak and I made a salad. As I chopped the veggies I thought about what I was going to do next week when I'm on holidays. I have some fun things planned but I kept some time open, to see what inspiration strikes.

After supper we put on the TV, but there was nothing but mindless entertainment and news. I am tired of the news from Cleveland, so when I saw a storm brewing I headed outside. The sky was positively green and the lightning near constant. My neighbour came out to photograph the clouds as they  were putting on quite a show. There we stood, necks craned to the sky watching the way they rolled and swirled and billowed like smoke from an imaginary fire. A few drops began to fall and each of us retreated to our respective stoops. Georgie, a devotee of all things outdoors, came to join me. It was still hot and I reached out my arms to catch the coolness. I rubbed it on my hot neck and felt the breeze. I made up my mind that next week, when the brain train arrives I will go and stand outside in the night air. I want to smell the earth and sky until I am ready to return to sleep. That sounds like a good plan. My little dog and I watched the spectacle side by side until we were more wet than dry.

Hubby said he was off to bed with Minnow and would watch the storm from there. Georgie and I headed out back to the screened in porch. The wind was roaring and the trees danced back and forth to an orchestra of thunder, illuminated by nature's light show. The rain eased and my girl seized her chance to play once more. And slowly the sky turned from grey green to golden. I stepped out to get a better view of the changing sky and was astonished to see a rainbow stretched across my horizon. Once again my neighbour appeared and we marvelled at its brilliance. A raging tempest turned into a colourful display. The light always follows the darkness and we must not forget.

The air has cooled, the lightning finally ceased and George is happily chewing a stick. It's time for George and I to join the others and prepare to meet the new day. I don't think that train will be stopping here tonight.

Friday, July 15, 2016


The Brain Train showed up at 3:57 am today, a bit later than usual but unwelcome nonetheless. I did all the usual things; fluff my pillow, close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing but I remained awake. My hubby stirred and reached for my hand and held it. But even his sleepy tenderness couldn't calm me back to sleep.

I longed to get up and stand in the yard. Smell the approaching morning and feel the cool air on my skin. Instead I laid still and listened to the morning wake. A blue jay called to its mate. And then a call back. A crow awoke and cawed his creaky good morning. I stayed quiet.

A half an hour passed and hubby woke for work, no alarm clock for this man. He wakes when he has to, a trait that I envy. He can also fall asleep faster than anyone I have ever known, something I can't imagine. I got up with him and he hugged me and suggested I go cuddle with my dog. I climbed back into bed and woke a comatose Georgie and hugged her like a stuffed toy. A quick kiss and an 'I love you' from the husband and I was left with just over an hour until I needed to be up.

I managed to fall back into a deep slumber and was startled by the alarm clock. The morning routine fell into place but 4am lingered in my mind. I wish I had the freedom to escape my bed and sit with the birds. To watch the moon set and the sun rise without any worries. I'm getting there, at least I hope I am.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

In the garden

I can't find the words to describe
The light through the lilies.

The bean vines reach higher and higher Towards the sun.

And even though the sun is setting
I have hope for tomorrow.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Rise up

Oh what an emotional day I've had today. 
A rare day off in the middle of the week, we've been slow at work and each of us is taking extra time off - spreading the poverty, so to speak. Oh the 'perks' of working for mom and pop businesses! I slept in a bit (if 6:45 is sleeping in) and then got up to feed the girls and have some tea. I turned on CBC and my phone to hear the news and check in with the world. By 7am I had seen an innocent man die and I was gutted. Full sobs for someone I will never know, someone whose life was cut short due to fear and distrust. Simply heartbreaking, made worse that it occurred in my adopted home state of Minnesota.

It set the mood for the day. A day full of household chores and, sadly, another broken phone incident. Once again I dropped my phone and this time broke the camera. Let me tell you, I feel like I am cursed with this phone! In the year I've had it, it's had 3 major injuries - all of them due to my own clumsiness.  I am struggling to see what lesson there is to be learned from this experience. All three accidents occurred when I was in a rush or preoccupied by something else. I'm going to have to take more time and be more present in the moment, to pay attention to the now. But of course my initial reaction was to lay blame on myself, which resulted in more tears. And of course by the time my hubby came home from work I was in a state of disrepair as well.

My husband, the wise sage that he is, told me to relax. He tried to console me, "I know you like to take a lot of pictures, but it's just a broken camera." He didn't understand that that was the exact reason I was upset. I laid on the bed for a while, trying to calm down. Georgie hopped up on the bed to lick my tears and hubby called from the kitchen to come have a drink and sit outside with him. So I did. The sun came out after a grey day and it soothed my rough patches.

We came in to watch the news but all of it was bad and soon I was crying again. I don't know how much more senseless violence I can stomach. A friend tried to tell me that an uprising is coming and I responded I wasn't emotionally strong enough for an uprising. It hurts my heart to see how far we have fallen. So many lives seem to be ruled by fear, they can't imagine that we are all brothers and sisters. All isn't lost, there are pockets of people who care deeply about all of us. I am proud to be among them.

I think I need to go and get some rest, so I can be ready for tomorrow. There's an uprising coming...

Thursday, June 30, 2016


Last weekend, in the midst of a rainstorm, I dropped my phone in the lake. I had purposely bought a water resistant phone because I tend to be outside quite a bit, in all kinds of weather. And we spend as much of our free time as possible cruising the lake in our boat, exploring every nook and cranny of our lake. The phone salesman made sure to explain that if the tab that covers the charging port was damaged the phone would no longer be water proof. Said tab broke off about 6 weeks ago, and while I kept meaning to repair it, I never did.

My phone is still safely tucked in a canister of rice and it's fate remains unknown. Whatever happens, it's sure to cost me money that I really don't want to spend. So for now I am using my old phone which wouldn't be so bad, except that I am missing the camera on my damaged phone. It had a great camera in it and I had gotten good at manipulating it to capture some pretty special shots. Thankfully, the photos were stored on the phone's SD card and I should be able to retrieve them. I'm more disappointed that, for now, I have to use my crappy old iPhone camera. It's peak wildflower season and that is one of my favourite hobbies. I love searching for them, photographing them and finally identifying them. Certainly I'll continue, but was really enjoying learning how to photograph them differently with the extra features available.

Perhaps worst of all is how disappointed I am in myself. Not only did I fail to repair it, I also failed to properly stow my phone when standing in ankle deep water. I am my own worst critic and immediately I was upset with myself. We try to live as frugally as possible and this will be an expensive screw up. It makes me feel sour inside. And I still hadn't told my husband, whose inevitable displeasure would make me feel worse than I already did. He only brought up the five dollar part that should have prevented this and let the issue rest.

I'm trying to be kinder to myself so when I hear my inner critic start to chastise me, I cut her off. Everyone makes mistakes and we aren't destitute. It's hard work silencing that part of me, it's been a constant my whole life.  But this is the new me and I am better than that and I am going to be happy- water logged phone be damned! So this long weekend I will be certain to spend plenty of time traipsing through the woods with my dog and my shitty camera!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Fighting the War Within

I haven't been writing at all lately. I have been so deep in my head that putting words onto the page seems impossible. It's too painful, too honest and also too hard to do concisely. In my head I've run through the unanswered questions thousands of times.  I've been ruminating for weeks; asking myself the unanswerable all hours of the day and night.

How did I get left alone with a mother who was so mired in depression and co-dependency that she was often unable to parent me? Why did no one speak up for me? By the time I was 14 I had been molested or assaulted by three different people. Why did no one insist that I receive therapy for all the traumas I endured?

I have few memories from my childhood, and of the ones I do have the majority of them are bad. Large chunks of time are missing, was it just a way of self-preservation? To block the pain, to pretend  things were okay? I don't know; I wish I did. I wish I had more happy memories, more clear cut images of an actual childhood.

I remember watching my mother's second husband try to kill her. I remember she and I leaving in the middle of the night to escape and run to her sister's house. I remember sleeping with a knife under my pillow "just in case."  I remember the cops knocking on the door "Is everything okay, ma'am?" I remember saving up enough money to buy a greyhound ticket to run away, but never leaving because my mother told me she would kill herself if I left. I remember my mother driving across the Bear Mountain Bridge and saying that she wished she could just drive off the bridge and end it all.

Why didn't anyone protect me? Why didn't anyone step in and speak up for me? Somehow I survived. I was lucky, I had a few safe people who did their best to love me and encourage me. But none who put an end to the madness.

Things got better when my mother finally decided that she had had enough of her second husband and moved us far enough away that I could breathe. But our clashes continued; so when I graduated high school I left and never went back. While in university I put myself into therapy and continued the process through the better part of my (very) tumultuous twenties and thirties. Still I struggled.

Meeting my husband was a turning point for me. He has been such a source of comfort for me, he's my anchor and my lighthouse. In his own unique way he's been a role model for me. And along the way little lights were being lit. Pieces were clicking into place and now I stand in a place of strength and peace - mostly.

It's been a long road to get to where I am now. I've been working hard, reading, meditating, being mindful. But in order to fully heal I know I need to put the past behind me. I need to walk away from it, once and for all, but the questions haunt me. The 3am brain train still shows up. I still have night terrors. I still have trust issues. My hope is that by finally purging this onto the page I can let go. I know I'll never get the answers I want, there are no answers to be had. I need the war in my head to be over. I am not that damaged little girl anymore. I am approaching 50 and I am determined to be free, to be loved and loving and to soar.

Just last week a letter from my father showed up in the mail. He was writing to apologize for leaving me when I was a child and to let me know how much he has always loved me. It was buoying for my soul and  just what the little girl in me needed to hear. I have never doubted his love for me and I'm sure he did the best he could, but the same can be said of my mother. It was a fitting denouement to a period of introspection I am determined to put behind me.

Me, age two

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Carry On

Thinking about this morning and nothing makes sense. We were out for our morning walk, it was a stunning morning. We were enjoying the sun and the flowers along the way. I had gotten up a bit early and was able to take my time, snap a few photos and then everything changed.
I can see it frame by frame. One minute the dog was coming towards us and the next the owner was standing there and I'm saying "they're just barking, they're okay".  For a brief second I got the girls into a sit, but then what?

And like a photograph I can see that dog - stock still, tail erect, haunches up and leaning in towards the girls. Next I'm turned 180° and Georgie is in his mouth all four of her feet off the ground. I don't know what happened next, all I can remember is kneeling on the ground and checking her for wounds.

The owner kept asking is he okay? is he okay? Yes. Yes, she's okay.

I just wanted to hold her and baby her, but I pushed her off, stood tall, and said "let's go!" There was nothing to be gained by histrionics and Georgie would gauge her reaction on my own. So cool, calm and collected we headed back; I needed to carry on as if all was well. And maybe all was well, we were all together and safe. Everyday I am presented with opportunities to carry on and I do. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Contented Dog

Georgie lost her baby, her Eeyore. He's her favourite and while he's gone missing before, it's never been for this long. He wasn't in any of his usual hiding spots (behind the rad, wedged under bed, etc.), and after a few days I gave up looking for him. Little blackie bravely carried on with Mr Bear.
Last night Georgie bounded into the living room,  leapt onto the couch and shook Eeyore proudly. We have no idea where he was, but somebody is very happy he's back.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Necessities of Life and Light

I haven't written in a while, I have been taking plenty of photos and tinkering with the settings on my phone to get the best results. It will have to do until I can purchase a 'real' camera.

I hate writing just for the sake of writing, I prefer to wait for inspiration to strike, but I'm now realizing that inspiration is elusive. Inspiration gets chased away by a busy and preoccupied brain and lately there's been too much of both. I really look forward to and (in a way) require time alone in order to be the best me. Lately any semblance of alone time has been chased away by various interlopers.

This past weekend away was a good example of how little control I sometimes have over my own life and needs. I was surrounded by too many people in a place I consider sacred. Too much noise and chaos for me to be able to recharge my emotional batteries made for a cranky Holly. And by early morning on the second day I was desperate for some quiet. For a change I was able to express myself (at least to my husband) and gather some time alone. And because he understands me so well, the hubby got up and dressed and grabbed the dog leashes and said "let's go". Off we went on a 3km hike through the woods with our dogs and it made a world of difference.

I am learning, perhaps a bit late in life, that I have to take care of me. It isn't always easy, and sometimes the words come out wrong but it is a necessity. I absolutely need aloneness in order to be happy.

Here are some pictures from my weekend away.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Self portrait with flowers

Self portrait and some flowering shrubs this AM. This time of year is a treasure trove for the senses. Winter feels so far away, but only a few weeks ago the landscape was still brown.  I love living where I can experience all four seasons, each has something to offer us.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Light and colour

When I go out for a walk, I am always looking. I can't explain what I am looking for, but I know it when I see it! Usually it's a pop of colour or a ray of light and this morning's walk did not disappoint.
I like the perspective of the first photo, looks like we are travelling along a flower super highway...
No editing except some minor cropping.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


I wanted to take a picture
But comfort kept me tied to my bed.
So instead I will say the blue was
Of unusual clarity,
Almost startling
Against the yellow Birch flowers
That dangled and shimmered in the morning sun.
Brushed by a North wind
That belied the calendar.
I rolled and turned my back to the cold,
Nestled in comfort.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Weekend Warrior for Light

Wanted to share some photos from this past weekend. Nature soothed my soul with its bright blues and golden sun. Nothing is blooming or budding out on the Canadian shield, I suspect they are three weeks behind the city. The ice just went off the lake five days ago, that water is bone chilling but it can't deter my little Georgie from taking a dip.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Some photos again...

Just some photos I've taken recently.
I'm still enamoured by the scilla, they won't be here much longer.
The tree leaves are just beginning to peek out, I watch them carefully and yet I'm always surprised when they pop!
And I had to include a couple of pics of my girls. When I stood on a chair to take photos of the buds,  my dogs suspected squirrel activity and came to investigate. I love their intensity.