I have just finished a great little book- about reading books, titled Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. I admit I picked it up mainly because of the title. But once I started to read this little gem, I was hooked. It is the true story of a woman who sets out to read a book a day for a year— a daunting task for a mother of four boys. So I was quite skeptical at first of how she would accomplish her quest, and actually, the big question for me was why, why would she do this?
The reading I soon learned, was to help her stand still and understand how to deal with the grief after the death of her sister. She read for hope and comfort and it was her only perceived link that she shared with her sister. She explains in one chapter that her father was put in a sanatorium to recover from TB for over a year. To her she equates her reading challenge as a kind of sanatorium that helped her heal, to get herself back together.
She began her journey with the literary gem The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery- later she recalls that from this book she learned to find “moments of beauty” whenever she could.
She at first foolishly thought she could read during the day when her kids were in school, in-between laundry and making dinner. But the author soon learns the only time available in her busy schedule is in the evening after everyone is in bed. She wisely chooses books that are only an inch in width, about 250-300 pages, but when one of her sons tells her to read Watership Down, a 500-page tome, she rises to the challenge. Each book is reviewed and posted to her website daily.
After reading Sankovitch’s book I felt inspired to read more. I have a list the length of my arm of must read books from her and one of them is called The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin.
I encourage you to read this book— you will be truly inspired.
As a child when it was my special day I would get up early on the first of June, bring my pillow still warm from my head and place it outside on the cold concrete steps of my house. I would sit on my fluffy down pillow and just listen to the frantic trilling of bird songs which I felt were singing just for me. This was before everyone was up and about. Before the demands of my mother, before my little sister was up, before tearing open my package of Carnation instant breakfast that I would stir into a cold glass of milk, lumpy and sweet, swallowed in a rush to beat the school bell for nine o’clock. Before all the neighbours were up doing their noisy grown up things, before the machines roared to life, cars whisking neighbours away to their jobs, before the high whine of the lawn mowers started by a pull string, and the sounds of the children in the schoolyard across the lane, yelling and shouting exuberantly.
This was how I liked to start my day when I was eight. And I am trying to remember that child. In her honour, I will sit quietly listening to the sounds of nature that are still here despite the traffic, despite the urban sprawl, despite the noise of airplanes and the potent smell of pesticides sprayed from trucks with hoses.
Walking my favourite path at Nose Hill the other day I noticed a coyote walk by me at the top of a ridge. We both stopped to look at each other. But, after noting that I wasn’t threatening—it just went on its way, joyful that winter was over, ( I imagined this thought of course). It pounced on something playfully with its large paws, perhaps it was a nervous mouse trapped under its claws. It didn’t occur to me to be afraid, it was a wild animal, after all, the size of a large dog. Every day I see hawks sitting on the tips of the tallest lampposts along Shaganappi and think, despite us, despite the city, the animals remain, and I am grateful.
I will think of this as I sit quietly— grateful for the sounds of nature, my gift to myself on my special day. (But I no longer need a pillow for padding. )The birds are still here doing their frenzied thing!
I had the pleasure of listening to an author talk at the Central Library the other night. I wondered if it was worth the trouble to take the C-train downtown instead of hanging out in my pajamas at home like I do every night. Gone are the days of my youth when I would go out dancing after midnight! The author that I was going to see was Barbara Gowdy— she was promoting her new book of fiction, Little Sister.
The audience I noticed was largely older women in groups laughing and talking. Barbara walked onto the stage with two pillows and went on to explain the constant pain she was in for many years, and how she had to write lying down in bed. Her stories were amusing and thoughtful. Once she burped and said, “oops, sorry I burped!” And I thought, what an adorable person! The audience at first was slow for the question and answer period, but soon got on a roll and someone asked her if she regretted anything or wished she had changed something after it was written. She said she realized that everything that she wrote or did, had to happen, and, as a result, the next book was created. I like how she also said that we are all different people at different stages of our lives, meaning perhaps the first book she wrote, that she claims were very serious–was written by a different her. She also discussed how many writer’s families, especially their mothers, don’t actually like their books.
And on the very hot topic of cultural appropriation, Gowdy says about her book The White Bone, she hopes that if some elephants read her book, they won’t be mad that she may have made mistakes in how they actually live their lives. She wrote The White Bone to help people understand the plight of the elephants–but says that she doesn’t think it had any impact at all. She added that one of Trump’s sons hunted and killed elephants for sport.
She also discussed the importance of reading fiction. Her example was that a man who only read cookbooks cheated on his wife with her close friend. He was surprised when everyone was upset and mad at him. If he read fiction Barbara went on to explain, he might have understood these basic truths about how life works. We all enjoyed her story of how her little sister came with her to the hospital to help her when she had a diagnosis of breast cancer. Her sister had a seizure in the hospital, was whisked away to surgery and was fine after. It was like her cancer saved her sister’s life, Gowdy said. An amazing story told by a truly fine storyteller.
I encourage anyone to attend any books talks that you are able. It made for a wonderful evening–it was definitely worth getting out of my PJs for a change.
Is Karma a real thing? Or is it just something we tell ourselves when other people’s misdeeds affect us? Will those unkind actions from someone who we once trusted go unpunished? For instance what will happen to the ex-lover who turns incredibly cruel, or when an old friend is unkind. While I like to think they will get theirs, in the end, I know it is the false hope of an empath that a narcissist will one day wake up and realize that they are an a-hole and then feel sorry about it. That is not the way the world works. So how can empaths and just regular folk, protect themselves from the wrongdoings of others? I really have no answers. And while I enjoy reading Buddhist teachings on Karma, it really doesn’t give me the hard timelines that I am looking for. Like exactly when does said a-hole get theirs? Next Tuesday or say 2019 late fall? The idea that karma is lurking about ready to pounce doesn’t seem like a tangible enough system. The only coping strategy that I know of is to surround yourself with good people and hope the bad ones go far far away, to somewhere like Prince George or Toronto.
According to Wikipedia, Karma means action, work or deed; it also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect). Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering.
I am a creature of habit. Whenever I go to a restaurant and find a meal that I love, I only order that same meal although there are many other enticing choices to choose from. This can go on for years. When I go to the swimming pool, I always choose the same locker and shower stall and when I go to yoga I have a favourite part of the wall that I like to do legs up the wall with before class. I like to have my same coffee mug in the morning for my latte and I place the same ring on my finger every day as I swish out the door.
And if you ever go grocery shopping with me you will know better than to not put that little cart token back in its special spot on my key chain!
Now, some of you may say this is a bit OCD— a little bit of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory stuff happening here, but I say, no! these little rituals are actually good. It is the little habits that I can count on in a world full of change and uncertainty.
If you saw my office you would know that I am the opposite of OCD , tiny piles of papers swirl around my naked ankles as I sit and write this blog. Although I do have them in piles that only make sense to me.
And when my significant other makes fun of me for always liking the same food, I tell him in my defense, that really this works in his favour. I only like him. I don’t want to change my order. Just like the grilled chicken burger with a side of yam fries that I always order at restaurants, I will always order up the same red-headed guy. Once in a while I am persuaded to try some other meal at a restaurant and am almost always disappointed. I think,”Darn! I could of had the chicken burger.”
Here is a link to a very popular book about tidying up your life, it is about bringing order to your surroundings to create a sense of calm into your world- which I guess is what I am trying to do with my little rituals. I haven’t read it yet, but it is on my to- do list that is underneath these mounds of papers.
If it doesn’t exist on Google maps…. is it still real? I think of this as I sit in an adorable little Korean Bistro that I have overlooked as I have driven by after work for over a year. In the mood for a restaurant one evening we decided to look it up and couldn’t find it on Google maps. “Well, its not there anymore,” says he,
“Well, yes it is because I drive by it every day”.
“Well no, it’s not”—. and on and on it went. Eventually we chose Earl’s but we missed out on a nice cozy local restaurant. The whole area on 52nd ave. is an awful looking strip mall, colourless and dull looking from the outside. But in each of the little shops there are true exotic cultural gems that I insist anyone who lives in the NW should investigate if they haven’t already done so.
For a good long while Friday nights were Pho nights for me and my youngest at Essence of Saigon Garden. I had to look up the name because we just found it by a sense of hungriness and never even looked up at the sign to see what it was called. After we were Pho’d out we then moved two doors to the left for Indian food at Saffron. This is a delightful locally run restaurant with traditional food made by a mom with love. When we tire of Indian food I can now venture into this little Korean spot right a hop skip and a jump from the big high school. The man outside who is Korean says his favourite dish is the seafood soup. I sat inside waiting for my take out order and noticed a whole other culture inside. How lucky to have all these little gems of restaurants all within the same vicinity I thought as I waited for my dinner. I glanced across the dull parking lot and noticed an African specialty food store and many other places that make me think of a Geode, dull on the outside but once you open it up it is sparkly and shiny and gives you a little thrill, just as you are about to peer inside.
I have never been to the Calgary tower. But I enjoy looking at it from the C-Train. It is tall and alien looking and when the coloured lights shine on it at night it is like it is beckoning beings from outer space to come on over and say hello. I wonder if kids hang out at the tower and just run up and down the stairs for fun. It reminds me that as a child I often would spend a whole day with a friend running through the halls of the Manitoba legislature building. It was like it was our own private castle to play in. And it was totally open to the public. I am sure the security guard loved listening to two little girls peering down over the railings saying, Hello? Hello?” Giggling as we waited to hear our echoing voices.
We desperately tried to find a stairway up to the Golden Boy. Oddly enough there was an unlocked door to an open stairway, but it disappointed us when we found another locked door after many tiring steps. What did we imagine we would do once we got up there? Hang onto his big old golden leg as we surveyed the landscape?
I loved the large bison that flanked the staircase. I would pat them and pretend they were my pets. I was lucky enough that my own father worked there and would sometimes take me on a Sunday if he had work to do. That’s why I felt comfortable there, it was once my dad’s workplace.
I suppose the proprietary feeling I had for the Manitoba legislature building is how Ivanka Trump feels about the White House. It’s her dad’s place of work. She probably wanders around in her bathrobe and fuzzy slippers down those empty waxed floors at night, just ’cause she can. It must be fun to order pizza and give the address… ” Yes- hello ? Can you make sure to add pineapple and a side of extra sauce?, oh and just ring the bell, at the White House!”
And I am not talking politics here. I am just mentioning that we feel comfortable where our family is. Even if it is the legislature buildings or the White House . I felt comfortable in the back of my grandfather’s furrier store- Boston Furs where I would sit and watch all the men sit at their roaring sewing machines making fur hats and coats to keep all the Russian ladies warm in the cold dark winters of Winnipeg. Often on weekends, I would stand in the front window next to the mannequin, remaining still for what I imagined was hours, pretending that I was a small mannequin.
What I am saying is that I really hope that children today get the same freedoms we had as children growing up in the seventies.