Thursday, November 29, 2012

Modern communications

A dear friend of the family died this week. Today, my wife and daughter drove to where he lived (3 hours away) to help with some arrangements.

It is late, dark, raining, and they are driving back home.

Some sections of highway are treacherous accident black spots.

Of course I'm worried, and won't stop worrying for their safety until they are back home. I am thankful to get occasional check-ins by phone, letting me know where they are on the road and when they expect to arrive.

Sure, we managed before without all that, but there are times when it's good to know. And I can have a hot meal waiting for them when they get here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Leftover firewood

It's June, nearly July, and my daughter & I are cold and damp from volunteering at a nearby charity event. The wind and grey clouds outside tell me it's not going to improve today. Luckily there's still half a barrowload of firewood left over from winter (and that in itself shows you what a long winter it's been).

Thank goodness for log fires. Even in June ... nearly July!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The blessing of sleep

Sleep. Something many of us take for granted.

I had a few very sleepless nights recently. Nothing bad happened to cause me anxiety or anything, I just woke up in the middle of the night and lay awake for several hours, desperately tired, but not sleeping. The following days were long torture of fatigue.

It made me realize what it must be like to suffer from insomnia.

Last two nights I've dropped off to sleep again with no problem, and it made me appreciate what a blessing a good night's sleep is.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Elbow room

It often gets taken for granted, but every so often some unconnected observations in a short space of time remind me how blessed I am to be living in an uncrowded, relaxed environment.

This morning, I dropped my wife & daughter at the ferry terminal. I drive straight up to a drop-off parking spot near the doors. No booking required, they just strolled in and bought walk-on tickets. No crowds. No waiting.

I picked up pet food. Stopped right outside the door. No waiting to be served.

I shopped for groceries. Parked near the door. Shopped. Walked up to the checkout and started unloading my cart while a customer in front of me was paying.

All the while, I drove on uncrowded roads, with minimal need to stop.

Despite life's other woes and worries, silly things like this go a long way to relieving stress in a busy world.

Now, I won't pretend that all of these things happen all the time. Sometimes I have to look for a parking spot, or wait in line to be served. But these things happen more often than not. And I have to remind myself that all of these things would have seemed unattainable luxuries in my previous home.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Unexpected humor in life

Isn't it wonderful how life can surprise and delight with little touches of humor, completely out of the blue?

OK, today, there wasn't much blue around. It's "Bike to Work" week and I braved the drizzle to do just that. There's lots of cyclists out and about, not surprising. What did surprise me, though, was to see, powering down the trail towards me, a cyclist in full gear, helmet and all, on a penny-farthing!

I smiled the rest of the way to work.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Safe homecomings

My son went off for a day trip with Scouts in a boat to a neighboring island. Nothing remarkable. Nothing to worry about.

Yet, while lost in the mundane chore of mowing the lawn, my mind started to wander along a seemingly random path. I was recollecting some of the great music of the 70's when I was growing up, I wondered how I would explain it to my children. The anger of punk. The disillusionment, the fear of nuclear war. I remember feeling so close to oblivion for many years as a young adult. 

Random tangent to how things can change in a split second. Accidents happen. The difference between losing or regaining balance, between a turn of a driver's wheel, between catching that closing door or the click of a latch. The course of history can turn on a dime.

Another random leap...where is my son now? Is he safe? I know it's part of a parent's job description to worry, but my train of thought had drawn me to how fragile our existence is. Nothing to be taken for granted.

Of course, he's back, safe and well. He had a fantastic day out, including catching and cooking fresh crab.

So, today's blessing is something we just take for granted, even though we really have no right to in this vast and uncaring universe: safe homecomings.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A kiss of rain

Although it's a long journey - an hour each way - I like to cycle to work when I get the chance. Various commitments conspire to make it rather less often than I'd like, so when the stars do align and I pack my lunch and work clothes ready for the morning it's something to look forward to.

This morning I was just about set to go, but in the few minutes while I disappeared to the bathroom to brush my teeth it started to rain. Much agonizing later, and I conceded that the rain was rather more than "a few spots", and not something I could shrug off. An hour long journey in the wet is no fun.

I was disappointed, but several plus points emerged. It could have held off for ten minutes and soaked me on the open road. I got to work early and managed to clear some things off my to-do list. And on my way down the highway, I reflected that water is a precious resource. It is likely to be the source of conflict in the coming decades, so this life-giving rain is a cause for joy, not disappointment.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The human face of bureaucracy

My family and I are about to become Canadian citizens, the final stage of which involves a ceremony where we take the oath of citizenship later this week. This is exciting for us, because the whole process has taken nearly two years, lots of paperwork, and a test last month.

Today I got a phone call at work. 

Immigration Canada.

My immediate reaction was a sinking feeling...something wrong with our paperwork...ceremony postponed...maybe the reply we'd sent to the invitation had got lost in the mail and missed the deadline...

But no, nothing like that. The official was simply asking if we were planning to stay for the reception after the ceremony, and if our children would like to take part in a cake-cutting ceremony.

What a lovely touch.

Although much bureaucracy here seems to work at a slow pace, it does get the job done, and every once in a while we get surprised by a very human touch to remind us that we are dealing with people who also recognize us as people. This isn't something I usually associate with government officials, but I'm happy to be living somewhere where I can be surprised like this.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mirror seas and clear skies

I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again many family and I are blessed to be surrounded by so much natural beauty.

We all went to my daughter's school concert this evening, and drove back along the seaside route. The water is usually calm here, very sheltered, but tonight it was flat as glass. The sky was clear, and the distant mountains peeping above the headland looked like sharp etchings biting into the blue above.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Leisure time

It's another beautiful day and, like most weekends, there seems to be lots to do that precludes the luxury of simple indolence. It's so easy to think "Gaah! Too much to do! I just want to sit down and relax!"

Yet I just realized that, for all the things filling the weekend, it is pretty relaxing. None of the chores are crowding on top of one another in a sanity-threatening way. The kids are pottering around down on the patio fixing up planters and hanging baskets to tart up the outside. I am pottering around getting food ready for a barbecue. The sun promises a blissful afternoon on the deck in the shade of the parasol, with a beer or three.

And I suddenly realized how darned lucky I am to have this time of relative tranquility. Some people spend their "free" hours holding down second and third jobs to make ends meet. Some struggle simply for basic survival.

So there's food to prepare, dishes to clean, laundry to throw in the washer. Maybe I'm not spending three hours at a stretch writing or sketching. So bloody what? I have nothing to grumble about.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The kiss of sunshine

We've had many beautiful days so far, when it's been nice to get out in the sun, but this is the first time this year when the air has warmed up. When it has felt like summer without having to seek shelter from that chill wind, when being in the shade isn't accompanied by that little bite in the air.

It's been a while coming, but is all the more welcome for it. Without winter, there can be no summer.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The sound of music

I came home yesterday to the sound of my daughter sitting at the top of the stairs, playing her guitar. She and my wife were singing along together while preparing supper.

Yes, there were many stumbles and misplaced chords, but it was still wonderful to hear the house filled with music. Listening to music is one thing, but there's something magical about making it.

This is something I never did as a child. I'm glad my children are encouraged to try.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Biting the bullet

There are some office moves afoot in my workplace, which is always contentious and unsettling. More so in this case because these moves are "temporary" - but of undefined duration - and are therefore being done on the cheap and cramming us into decidedly sub-optimal conditions.

I had to talk one-on-one with a few of my staff about my proposals, because I wasn't sure how well the most logical plan would be received, then a group meeting to run through the rest of the plan.

These conversations always provoke high anxiety in me, because I don't know how some people will react. So I was not looking forward to this.

In the end, it went amazingly well. Some of the moves were actually seen as an improvement on current conditions, which I wasn't expecting. Not everything was received so well, but people at least were realistic about the situation.

I'm thankful I found the courage to bite the bullet, confront my fears, and talk openly and honestly about what needed to be done.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Quiet moments

I took my daughter to music lessons this evening, as I do most weeks. She has two lessons back to back, which makes an hour in total. Rather than drive back home, and have to turn around again a short while later to pick her up, I stay there and read or write. I'm thankful for that quiet hour to myself, a blessed respite from the hustle & bustle of work and home.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The power of gratitude

I attended a short seminar today called "Attitude of Gratitude" which I realized spoke directly to this blog and how it started.

In a nutshell, the premise of the seminar was that your attitude materially affects your health and happiness, and that one of the cornerstones of a positive attitude was a habitual sense of gratitude.

In short, count your blessings.

Moreover, one of the techniques suggested for developing an attitude of gratitude was to keep a "gratitude journal". Hmmm...sounds rather like this blog.

Must try to get more regular here!

Oh, and for today, I'm grateful for this timely reminder of the importance of what I started here just over a year ago.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A bit of therapeutic killing

We seem to have very little time together as a family these days. Too much going on now the kids are older, and this weekend was no exception. Although there was nothing big scheduled - no overnight camps or anything - we all seemed to have our own separate ways to go for much of the time.

I like gardens. I like sitting in them, reading a book and sipping beer. But I'm not a big fan of gardening. So when my wife & daughter came back from a bottle drive and suggested we spend some time cleaning up a bed that's become infested with grass, it wasn't my idea of a fun time. Not after looking after the house all day...dishes, laundry, food, etc.

But it was remarkably therapeutic rooting out those pesky green shoots, trying to get at the roots, thinking, "Die, you vermin, die!" The sun was out, we worked side by side and talked, cracked jokes, daughter brought us time at last.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Unexpected encounters

On my cycles to and from work, I often see deer on or near the trail. That has become so commonplace in the past couple of years that I no longer think much of it. But it is still a delight when I see an animal closer to home and unexpectedly. I was driving near my home today when I saw something coming towards me by the side of the road. Too big for a dog...wrong's a deer. I slowed for a close look before it bounded away through someone's front garden, but it reminded me how wonderful it is that we still have large wildlife amongst us.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Occasional lapses of laziness

For some reason, I'm finding it very difficult to wake up these days. It's a struggle to force myself out of bed.

Just once in a while, like this morning, I peered at the alarm clock and adjusted it, awarding myself another quarter hour of rest. It felt good. I was a few minutes late in to work but no more than many people, and just once in a while it's OK.

I'm glad to have that little luxury to get me off to a better start.

Once in a while.

Friday, March 30, 2012


As I drove down the highway this morning, I was treated to a stunningly clear view of the mountains.

Although they are only a few miles away, they are often invisible, cloaked in cloud or haze. Sometimes, on a clear day, the snowy peaks shine in the distance, but on those days they are often almost lost against the dazzling sky.

Today, they hulked above a bed of cloud, side-lit by the morning sun, and framed by more tumbling masses of cloud. They looked almost close enough to touch, with details of their lower slopes picked out with rare clarity.

Sights like that lift my spirit, and more than make up for the grey damp of the past week.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Small courtesies

Something happened as I cycled home from work on Friday that reminded me how it is the little things in life that often make the difference.

I was slogging up a long hill near to home, when a transit bus pulled past me and stopped at a bus stop just ahead, half-straddling the cycle lane. I slowed, expecting to have to stop while passengers disembarked, then I realized that nothing was happening and the driver was watching me in his side mirror waiting for me to pass before he opened the door.

He didn't have to do that, and it was quite unexpected. I salute that anonymous transit driver for reminding me that some people can still find the time in their lives to be considerate to others.