Saturday, February 25, 2017

Bagpipes Transform Lives

My friend Eugene at the Nova Scotia Boarder

I don't remember the first time I heard bagpipes but I suspect it might have been when I my family made the very first trek driving from Ontario back to Nova Scotia, when I was just a kid. Once we hit the New Brunswick/Nova Scotia Boarder crossing there was always a Piper in the middle of a big flower garden playing his heart out.

I grew up with a friend who was actually was one of those Pipers at the Nova Scotia boarder. Eugene made a fine figure in his kilt and did a grand job playing his pipes.

It wasn't until I got older that the bagpipes really resonated with me. My heart would get very nostalgic and I'd get the feeling I was being called back to another place and an ancient time.  I'm not sure if that place was the heather covered hills and dales of Scotland, but it was definitely ancient.

The history of bagpipes is ancient and after listening to a program about the pipes they held an even deeper fascination for me.

About a week later after hearing this program I learned about Jermaine Downey  who talked about his love and passion for piping and how the bagpipes saved his life. He has a special vision and mission to help kids by teaching them to play the bagpipes and believes in the power of music to transform lives.

Jermaine Downey in Scotland

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why Do I Write?

Many years ago I had the most beautiful fountain pen. I'd bought it for a great price, at a very fine classic jewelry store that had been there for so many years but was sadly going out of business on Barrington Street, in downtown Halifax.

The fountain pen was finely crafted, adorned with gold plating. Oh it was a grand pen to write with, a Parker. Unfortunately I lost it in Newfoundland. Whoever found it, I sure hope they're appreciating and enjoying it as much as I did! How I long to have another. Parker pens are hard to find, and very expensive new. If you are fortunate to ever have one, I'm sure you'll agree, writing with a Parker fountain pen is second to none, like no other and the best experience ever, when it comes to putting pen to paper. Some day I'll be able to afford to luxuriate in this!


So yesterday I got thinking about all this writing and I asked myself why do I write? Though I know many of the benefits I never really got intentionally specific about answering this question until today, when I found this site, Write Practice that encourages those who write to take fifteen minutes to think about it and answer that question for themselves, why do I write? So I did that. It was a positive, worthwhile endeavour and this is what I've come up with.

Why do I write? Writing for me is a natural as breathing. I have to do it. I've written most all my life but now I write every day, long hand in journals and in three different but related blogs.

 I've been seriously writing daily since 1995 after reading the Julie Cameron's The Artist Way.

Writing has changed my life and continues to do that and has given me a strong sense of freedom and it's helped to actualize dreams and accomplish my goals.

 Writing helps me to get rid of my inner critic, that very negative inner voice all creatives experience.

 If I don't write everyday, my world is just not right. Long hand writing in journals is of real, vital, importance to me and  so beneficial but very different than online writing. It's a visceral experience that connects my mind and soul through the physical exercise of the tangible cursive word.

Writing is exercise. This exercise enables my body to bring the mind and emotion together. It's then transformed into a spiritual and at times sacred experience.

I write to get those creative juices flowing. I do believe when you put pen to paper first comes the thought, then comes focused action, which increases my confidence. I feel empowered and my sense of identity feels strengthened.

I write to connect to myself and in turn connect to other human beings sharing this human experience called life.

The more I write the more I come to understand why I write. The more I write, the better writer I become.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Martha Thompson Has Something to Talk About on Information Morning!

 Having my radio next to my bed side at night, I always catch the early morning show, CBC Information Morning, but sometimes it gets integrated into my dream world if I happen to nod off, which is exactly what I did today. I was dreaming about my very good friend and neighbour Martha Thompson sitting at a table, looking out her sunlit window, but in reality she was actually being interviewed about being a respite foster parent on the morning show, that had found it's way into my dream.

 The reality is I can attest I've known Martha for a over 20 years now and she has so much to offer children as a creative, kind, caring, generous, intelligent and wise woman. I'm so happy she has been able to provide this much needed service and caring to young people. Safe to say Martha and Dan love kids, and had four of their own with grandchildren. I know all of her children who have grow into wonderful humans. I only wish there were more like Martha and her husband Dan, who were willing to take children into their home.

 Martha and I have  long walks together and we often talk about kids in crisis within the system and how there is such  a dire need for available foster parents, and all that it entails.

 I just listened to the interview she gave that I missed in the early hours of the morning. I then gave her a call to thank her and to let her know how much I appreciated what her and Dan have being doing over the past five years as foster parents. They are truly a blessing to the children they bring into their home and to our community.

 As a Youth Care Worker for many years, I got a real bird's eye, close up view into how the system does and doesn't work. That said, being someone on the front lines, working with youth is one of the most rewarding life experiences a person can ever have, regardless of how many problems the system has.

 They rewards might not appear immediately, but they are guaranteed to come and you'll be a better person for it.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My Friend Lillian - "How Deep in the Valley"

Last night I lost my beautiful, creative friend, Lillian. She was 89, soon to be 90 in March. She was very much a big youthful personality.

I don't remember the first time I met Lil, seems like a long time ago, reflecting back, but it wasn't really. She certainly left a lasting impression on me. She was always smiling, dressed with flare and was friendly with everyone, young and old and she loved to socialize, and sometimes even flirt. I think that's the way she impressed everyone who met her for the first time.

 If memory serves me right, I think Lillian and I met at a fund raiser at the local school. We were both providing Tarot readings for the participants.

Several months later she'd asked me if I'd come to work for her one day a week. I was happy to accept her offer. Prior to this I knew of Lillian, but I didn't really know who she was, until I went to work for her. We  fast became good companions and I did a variety of chores for her. Mostly we'd shared many things in common, that we both took interest in, like country living, gardening, cooking, reading, CBC Radio, singing and playing music and Tarot.

There are many memories I have of my time with Lillian. One afternoon we spent the day listening to her fabulous and treasured old vinyl record collection, on her big cabinet Hi-Fi. Just to name a few there was Hank Snow, Wilf Carter, Charlie Pride, Dave Dudley and all the old classic country music she'd been collecting for years and years. It was something, and it felt very special to be sharing this time with her.

Lillian always had one Tarot card on her fridge, The Sun. She told me this was her card, which really did embody Lillian's positive personality, a musician, optimistic, with purpose, foresight, and faith in the striving human spirit, always moving forward and transforming toward the goal.

Because we shared our belief and love of Tarot, one day I told her I would do her reading. She was very happy and open to this. We both looked forward to that afternoon. Of all the readings I've done and it's been many, I'd never seen such a positive reading.

Some might say, what kind of reading could someone her age have and how could it possibly be positive? All I can say is you'd be surprized! When I think about it now, how could it be any thing but positive?

 Lillian was full of a life force and lived a full life. She'd overcome so much, walked the hills and valleys and still had a deep faith in the God of her understanding. She knew where she'd been, where she was in the present moment, and where she was headed. Lillian without a doubt, found her wings and was glory bound, because she knew 'the way on is the the way out.' Lillian was very much the transformed  Mariposa/Butterfly Woman.

 We had lots of great heart to heart discussions, about everything from politics, the state of the world, God, our spiritual beliefs, philosophy, art, story telling, jokes, family, relationships and mostly about life. We enjoyed each other's company, understood one another and shared lots of laughter.

Lil was full of life, with a positive attitude and an independent outlook, which was very important to her. She loved having company, but she also loved her own company, very comfortable in her own skin, in her big old charming country home.

No she wasn't perfect, she had her foibles like we all do, but she liked to shoot straight from the hip, telling it the way she saw it. If I disagreed with her, she might not have liked that, but regardless, she respected me for it.

I'll certainly miss Lillian's spirit and our community is now diminished, no longer having her living presence among us. But she'll always be a big part of our hearts in our little rural tight knit community. She'll not ever be forgotten. I know my life and spirit has been greatly enriched for having known her. I'm very grateful for her friendship and the lessons she taught me. I will miss her very much.

This song is for Lillian.

Rest In Peace Diamond Lil'

How Deep in the Valley - Sarah Harmer

How deep in the valley must you go
To find what your footsteps already know
The way on is the way out
There are signs to follow
There is deep in the valley
And I'm bound to go
How deep in the valley must you stay
To know why your footsteps led you that way
The way on may be truly to stand in one place
And let the deep of the valley
Fill you will grace
And treat yourself lightly
Treat yourself kind
You've got nothing to worry on
You will be fine
You will leave this place laughing
And somebody will cry
There is deep in the valley
Wonder not why
Wonder not why go
Wonder not to stay
If it takes me and I follow
Or if I lead the way
It can come when it wants to
But it might have to wait
There is deep in the valley
I don't hesitate
I don't take it too lightly
But it don't weigh down too low
There is high on the cliff top
And there are deep creeks below
There's a green shade you can't miss
Where the spring water flows
There is deep in the valley
And I'm bound to go
How deep in the valley must you go
To find what your footsteps already know
The way on is the way out
There are signs to follow
There is deep in the valley
And I'm bound to go

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Moses (Amik) Beaver and Stuart McLean

Warrior - Moses Beaver - 2004

 Today's a very sad day hearing about the deaths of such gifted, talented artists and story tellers, Moses Beaver and Stuart McLean. I couldn't possibly mention one without the other.

 Like Moses Beaver's beautiful painting "Warrior",  I believe both of these individuals were warriors in the real sense. They fought the good fight, and it's all that can be expected of those who love life and who give back to others through our art.

The death of Moses Beaver I believe was preventable, but the lack of mental health services afforded to Indigenous people once again, has resulted in tragedy.

Moses Amik Beaver, shown in 2010 with students at Holy Family Catholic School in New Hamburg, Ont., died Monday in the Thunder Bay jail. He was 59.  (Peter Lee / Waterloo Region Recors

I'd never heard of Moses Beaver until today, when his death was announced on the news. Adding to this the death of his beautiful sister Mary, as a result of a car accident, when she was on her way with the family to retrieve her brother's body. My prayers go out to their family, and I carry them in my heart.

Stuart McLean, who for so many years on the Vinyl Cafe, I'd been listening to for more than twenty years I think, enjoying his many moments filled with humour, humility and love of humanity. I've heard every episode, numerous repeats and then some. He was a big part of my Sundays.

 I remember listening to a Morning Side program, before the Vinyl Cafe, when Stuart worked with Peter Gzowski, another of my very favourite radio personalities. This very funny episode was in 1986, when they both went into a complete laughing jag over Stuart's  Sleeping Cricket.

Stuart McLean - 1948-2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

Jim Gaffigan on Valentine's Day

I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day. The commercialism of every holiday is a big turn-off, and I simply try hard to ignore all that and enjoy what I can about every holiday.

The only time I can remember even vaguely liking Valentine's Day was, you know when at school everyone in your class gets those cheap old Valentine cards, your mother would buy for you at Woolworth store, that we all exchanged.

No one was left out, and there wasn't any thoughts of who you were going to let know that you "loved" them. It was just kind of fun, even though we really didn't have a clue why we were giving each other cards, and we sure as heck knew nothing about who Saint Valentine was.

Today in 2017 most of us still don't know much, if anything about Saint Valentine, and if we do, it really doesn't matter because, we're more interested and all caught up in getting flowers, chocolates, a dinner out and maybe disingenuously giving some kind of schmaltzy card we've picked up at the last minute from the corner store, all just to let one another know we "love" them.

One of my favourite comedians Jim Gaffigan expresses his feelings about Valentine's Day very well and pretty much sums up my thoughts about Valentine's Day.

The cards that Jim and his wife Jeannie write to one another are my idea of the perfect love notes.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Feargus Callagy - Free Diver - Fire and Water

Feargus Callagy

Sleepless nights sometimes lend themselves to late night radio. Feargus Callagy is what's called a free diver (no tanks) and was featured on RTÉ Radio 1: Documentary on One - Fire and Water last night.

WOW! What an amazing story he had. Feargus Callagy is a real testament to what human beings are capable of without ever understanding or believing this to be reality, only until we really begin to understand ourselves and how we are all directly connected to nature.

This story immediately brought back a number of years ago when I learned how to SCUBA dive. It was a hard won battle with myself, because initially it certainly wasn't something I wanted to do. Proir to having this chance to get free training, I was fearful. But once I made up my mind to take advantage of the opportunity to learn and get certified, I immersed myself into the learning process completely and I had a new determination.

A whole new world was opened up to me and I was given an acute and in depth insight into myself and how I approached challenge, overcame my fears, and like Feargus Callagy says, diving helped help me to surpass what I thought I was capable of doing.

 SCUBA was so full of rewards and important lessons that I can apply to just about every life situation and circumstance. Diving to me, can help you to get in touch with a spirituality. It's one of those self-actualizing experiences that changes your life.

I've never been a free diver, but I'd certainly love the opportunity to one day learn. I'm convinced the rewards of being a free diver even greater than with tanks on you back as a SCUBA diver.

You can see listen here to the RTÉ Radio 1: Documentary on One - Fire and Water.

To be Free
as wild animals are.
To dive naked
as a dolphin.
Swift, silent, serene
into the depths of the sea.
To fly high up into the
infinite blue of the sky,
and glide quietly
over man’s shabby world
to blend in with the air
or melt into the water
becoming one with nature
and rediscovering the “Self”..
This is my motto!
-Jaques Mayol.