Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: summer

Summer In Kamloops. And Why You Cannot Play favourites

Originally published as a column in the AM News on Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer. RiverIt was a bit of a rushed late afternoon so we had watermelon for dinner. Fate favoured the rushed that day; the watermelon was crisp and sweet and the memories of the few mushy watermelons were erased by the dripping sweetness of the one I guessed right.

Then we headed to Prince Charles Park for the dress rehearsal of the ‘Last of the dragons.’ A neighborly perk you could say, lucky. We did not know what to expect, but we love plays. As we were about to discover, our expectations would’ve been surpassed anyway.

Something that I’ve learned along the years is that tastes differ and my cup of tea may not be yours and the other way around. There is a high chance this play and the one we went to see the second night, ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ may just become our common denominator.

I won’t throw my arms in the air urging you to go see them because you might not be convinced. But here’s what the two plays did for me. They made me laugh, they were so dynamic that you could not take your eyes off the fast-moving actors, the décor and costumes were fault-free and if I had to summarize it in one concise statement, it would be something like this: they made me forget about everything else. They were that good.

Why is that remarkable you may ask? Because other than heading out of phone and internet reach with my family, it rarely happens.

Among devastating news of planes being shot down and other falling down without an apparent cause, pipelines wrongfully approved and wars sprouting like toxic mushrooms in some parts of the world, not to mention the plethora of environmental troubling news flooding my inbox every day, it’s hard to evade and stay there for a while.

Well, I did. The boys too. Their faces in late dusk said it all. I did my best to translate that to the two affable play directors that made it all happen.

The second representation was halted by rain for a few minutes but what better way to play skidding tag than on wet grass in almost darkness while waiting for the play to resume. And it did. We really had to see the ending, the boys said. That’s how you know something it’s worth it.

The next day at the farmer’s market downtown, we ran into one of the actresses and made her acquaintance.

Afterwards, walking with my arms full of raspberries and bright yellow zucchini, the two items our garden does not supply at the moment, I felt like I won the jackpot. Because once again I realized the joy of living in a place small enough to allow for bumping into people you know, but big enough to allow for remarkable things to happen.

To the rest of the world, summers in Kamloops are hot. It’s a desert, right? To me, they are beautiful.  Yes, it is hot, yes our little house becomes an oven on those hot days when the sun seems to fulfill some personal vendetta with the very land we step on, but the richness of all that is happening here is hard to ignore. Our own garden included.

We have good music in the park, we have a farmer’s market where smiles and produce are always fresh, we have plays in the park that make you forget about everything else, we have the kind of town that has a heart you could hear the beats of if you just stop and listen for a few moments.

I don’t have a favourite season you see. I thought fall we moved here two years ago. I had spoken too soon. Winter came and we were sold. Then spring, lilac and wildflowers made it even more difficult.

Then of course, this summer, our first in Kamloops, sealed the deal. There is no favourite. We are a lucky bunch. That’s to be grateful for. Whether it is nature gifting us with beauty, or people putting their hearts and talents out there to make us aware of joy even for a bit, well, that’s to be grateful for. Every season has it.

splashThe skies rained on our parade two days ago, literally, but some goodness came out of it. At the neighborhood gas station today one of the attendants told me a heartwarming story of locals helping out those whose vehicles got submerged at the 10th Street underpass. Shoes were lost, he said. Hearts were found, I concluded.

Lucky us. Say it isn’t so.

In Praise Of Slowness

Originally published as a column in the AM News on Friday, July 4, 2014.

Slow...We were on a mission to get a couple of laneway wild poppies, my youngest son and I. We were inspired by one of the vendors at Art in the Park on Canada Day. In case you missed it, make sure you go next year. It’s not something you should be OK with missing out on…

We have always pressed wildflowers and used them for various art projects but this would be a step up, where the whole plant minus the roots gets pressed and mounted in a frame, as we saw at the fair. Talk about slowing down time.

It was 11am or so, and we were to cross Columbia Street. We stood on the sidewalk by the crossing, my son’s small hand in mine and we waited. Three rushed cars later, we were still waiting. I dared to put a foot on the wide white stripe. Open Sesame?

A fourth car stopped, screech included. A thank-you wave did not melt the driver’s face into a smile. He was in a rush and that crossing was clearly not a happy addition.

We crossed and walked a few blocks to get the two lone poppies. They were just about ready to drop their petals, which will only make it better in the final display.

We made our way back, talking about wild plants and how they grow, with no one to take care of them. Then we talked about fruit trees, why you need to graft them and how long it takes for them to bear fruit. We saw cherry trees loaded with fruit, cherries on the ground and bugs giving in to their sweetness.

On a back street life slows down and there many bits of life to see; our slow steps matched the rhythm of it.

Crossing Columbia Street reminded us what fast is, again. Even residential streets become fast lanes occasionally, which makes both walking and cycling with or without children a challenge many times. Rushed can turn dangerous in a split second; I’ve seen it happen enough times to fear it.

Why rush? Life pushes us into the fast lane occasionally, or often. Yet no matter how often that happens, slow can still be fit in there somewhere.

In fact many things cannot be done in rushed manner or else they come out wrong. Learning takes times, growing food takes time, reading to a child better take time, creating or building anything that is to be durable and worthwhile takes time.

Slow is not robbing us of time but rather gifting us time.

Rushing has become a religion of some sort. We put rushed and busy together and we feel accomplished. Truth is, sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t. There should be room for both.

If you are an adult today you had the benefit of being born in a world that was likely less rushed than the one today. Children nowadays eat on the go, they get dressed on the go, they get to be driven places because there are many places to go for so many activities and so days tumble, one after another, year after year.

But they need slowness. That’s how they come out. The first walks I took with the boys were the epitome of slowness. Picking up leaves, rocks, staring at how rain drops made puddles jiggle, listening to bird songs, everything was taken in.

Most children rarely get the luxury of slow times these days. Time to get to know the world and make it worthwhile.

But summer is here. Children and summer are a good mix when it comes to discovering slowness. That includes getting bored. When they do, creativity kicks in.

With no agenda, they will discover a world of wonder where scheduled activity stops. Free playing for example. How many of your summers were spent playing whatever crossed your mind and having the time of your life, dirty from head to toe and never ready to stop?

In the age of restlessness and plunging attention spans, allowing children to experience slow times is a gift.

Celebrate slow times. As much as your work commitments allow you to, keep in the slow lanes. Encourage your children to know the pace of life as it is outside what we make it out to be.  Slowness makes room for deep conversations, and when we spend it with children, they get the worthiest gift of all: time with us.

So why not start with this summer?

Of Trains and Such

Train station, cloudy“Can we walk to the train station today?”

Yes, we can. We did. The boys are fascinated with the trains here. The station is empty, barely a handful of people walking by and a stray dog begging silently for food. We feed him some savory bun and then go check for the next train to arrive. The boys want a shot of it as it comes in.

A few minutes later a train arrives. Green with two cars. The boys take photos but…

“Will there be more?” A blue one perhaps, the boys ask. Not for another two hours, the schedule says. We walk to the end of the platform, talk about trains and how fascinating they are. Romania used to have a lot more but now there’s more cars on the road and more bus services between cities.

“Too bad,” the boys sigh.

Indeed. Trains are charming. I don’t mean the fast trains with all the modern fixtures but the older, simple and slower ones that take you places, actual destinations and memory-locked too… The infrastructure is all there too, but it gets old and derelict as time passes. Too bad…

On the way home we buy ice cream.

We take a shortcut through an old cemetery and the boys keep reading the tombstones. One man got to be 103 years, a girl died when she was 17 days old. How could that be? The little girl, they say, she must’ve been very small. And her parents must’ve been very sad. Life is not always kind. We have today…

I remember walking through the neighboring cemetery as a kid and reading tombstones, wondering about the people, feeling sorry for the young ones and always wondering whether the older people who died got to go through the Second World War.

We get to the top of the hill, overwhelmed by heat and happy to be home soon. We cross the field on the way to my sister’s house and wildflowers line the side of the dirt path. The grass is almost all straw, heat really can be merciless, and somewhere in a nest of long tired straws I notice a poppy.

PoppyGently unglamorous, small and shy, the poppy turns beautiful in the photograph I take. I am grateful for it, it is one of those shots that tickles you pink, it’s that good.

My fascination with these ephemeral flowers that are ever so unassuming and yet stunning, is satisfied for now.

The boys run ahead and as I get to the gate, Sasha greets me with a mysterious smile spread all over his face. “Look mom, an orange butterfly! For you.” No longer alive, the butterfly will find its way into a painting soon, along with wildflowers that I press for that reason. A drop of sweetness from the summer we spend here…

Thank you. Orange is perfect.

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