Possibility in the Mountains

albert edwardMy boys and I are high in the mountains, higher than most of the peaks around us, higher than some of the clouds that float slowly by, leaving shadows on the land far below. We’ve been climbing steadily for a couple of hours, gaining nearly a kilometer of elevation since we set out, early in the day. Here, above the treeline, the terrain is rugged and and the land feels alien, forbidding. The silence is broken only by the far away sound of water running, a myriad of small waterfalls streaming down the steep sides of Mount Albert Edward as the last of its snow melts in the sun.

strathconaI am exhausted. We have been climbing for a couple of hours, sometimes through sections so steep that we pull ourselves up using roots or rocky edges, and sometimes through sections where the rocks are so unstable that we have to be careful not to start little slides behind us.  We have climbed a long way. When I look down, the lakes we passed in the morning look like tiny jewels, glittering sapphire and emerald pools. It seems inconceivable that we could have climbed so high in such a short period. But there is a long way to go yet. We still have to tackle the ridge, a section that looks deceptively flat and easy.

It isn’t.

I am exhausted. But I’m happy too. I am out here in the wilderness with my two older boys, something I’ve been waiting for a long time, something I wasn’t sure would ever happen.

boys strathconaIt’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve hoisted a backpack and hiked any distance. I was worried about my knees. I was worried about my feet. I was worried about my aerobic capacity. I was worried I was too old.

I was also worried about safety. In my twenties, I spent time every summer backpacking, but always with people more experienced in the outdoors. I never felt confident enough in my own outdoor abilities to take my boys when they were smaller. It’s only now that the boys are strong enough and experienced enough in the wilderness themselves that I feel confident about being out here with them.

hikeAnd they’ve been amazing. They’ve carried heavier backpacks than mine, they’ve set up the tent, filtered the water, helped cook the meals. They’ve watched out for their mom the whole time, one of them always hiking behind me to make sure I don’t fall too far behind. And they’ve been amazingly patient with me, even as I’ve slowed them down.

They are strong and fit and could be moving at a much faster pace. And today, they both really want the summit, having had to turn back because of snow on a previous hike.

Even though I’m tired, I keep going. I’ve stood on this summit before. This time, I want it for my boys.

As we make the final ascent, my worries fall away. Yes, my feet hurt. Yes, I’m tired. Certainly I am nowhere near as fit as I was in my twenties and I have had to take this hike very slowly. But I’m not too old for this kind of adventure. And the possibilities for new adventures with my boys open before me.

There is a wonderful sense of triumph in summiting a mountain. But as we sit atop Albert Edward, I am filled too with pride in my boys, with excitement for them, and with a delicious sense of possibility for all of us.













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On Beauty

This gallery contains 6 photos.

The field is a riot of colour, tulips in shades of red and yellow and bright pink, lines of them curving away into the distance.  I kneel in the mud, intent on capturing the raindrops glistening on a single flower, … Continue reading

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On Beginnings


Sunrise in Sidney

“Start the year the way you want it to end.” This is how my Chinese colleague approaches the Chinese New Year.

I love the idea of starting with the end in mind, which is why this afternoon I booked an overdue medical appointment while washing my kitchen floor. I’ve been catching up on laundry, addressing the little piles of clutter around the house, and generally bringing order to my world.  At work, I’ve been focusing on those projects I’ve been meaning to get to, and wrapping up a few that were nearly done. Before I left today, I even tidied up my office.

It feels good. There is a measure of calm and order in my life that allows me to stretch in other places.

Sunrise2I’m starting this new year in a good place. My boys are doing well. Things are going well with my man. I’m exercising. I’m entertaining. I’m even writing a bit. I’m doing the things I love. And I’m pushing myself in new directions. I’ve spent the last ten days putting together an application package for a job that I would love. Even if it goes no further, the process of writing a CV, of gathering together the many threads of the work I’ve been doing over the past few years, of cataloging my skill set, shows me how much I’ve grown and how much I’ve accomplished. The process has been rewarding and revealing. I see now how much I have to offer and how ready I am to step into a role of greater leadership.

I’m beginning the Lunar New Year in a hopeful and happy place, in a calm and orderly place. It feels promising. And as Chinese New Year approaches, I wish for you a promising and prosperous Year of the Horse.


How are you beginning the Lunar New Year?

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On Appreciation

windowThy sky is overcast today, dark with storm clouds. The cedars and ferns are heavy, rain-soaked after the morning downpour. From my kitchen window, I look out upon dark forest, a scene that in mid-winter is almost foreboding, the trees seeming to close in about the house. But there is beauty in the shaggy majesty of the cedars, in the bright emerald flash of the ferns, in the soft green expanse of moss that serves all winter as lawn. It is a view that, when I stop and actually pay attention, leaves me feeling deeply fortunate to live where I do, on an island at the edge of the Pacific, in amongst the trees.

One of the great gifts for me in blogging is the way that writing about my life brings the every day into sharp focus. When I’m blogging, I see how rich my life is, how very, very delicious.  And so for the coming months, I’m going to blog about the elements of a delicious life, a life that feels abundant and satisfying. Last year, I dated my way through the alphabet. This year, I’ll write “The Alphabet of Delicious.”

A is for Abundance and Acceptance, and A is also for Appreciation. When I slow down and pay attention, I feel a deep sense of appreciation for the great good fortune in my life. I am so fortunate to live in this beautiful corner of the world, to be connected to a warm and supportive community, to be loved and supported by family, good friends and a good man. There is so much in my life for which to feel appreciative. And blogging is one of the most effective ways to keep focused on all that is good and right in my world.

What makes you feel deeply appreciative?

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On Acceptance

AcceptanceWater is fluid, soft and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot heal. As a rule, whatever is soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. – Lao-Tzu

softnessI wish I could be the sort of person who moves steadily through her life, becoming in small, consistent increments a better version of herself. But that’s not how things work for me.  My life seems to be punctuated by deep periods of growth and learning, usually precipitated by some kind of crisis. Those periods of learning are followed by long stretches of oblivious coasting. And at heart, I’m a bit of a coaster. It’s easy for me to get all comfortable and complacent and not take a look at the things I’m struggling with or that I’m avoiding. But that’s where the learning is.

In the MomentEarly in September, crisis hit, and I realized I had some learning to do. And this time, I ended up coming face to face with the concept of acceptance. Tracing my troubles, I saw that I needed to learn to accept others (particularly romantic partners) as they are, imperfections and all. And before that, I needed to accept my own imperfections, rather than struggling so hard to control them and to hide them. And even before that, I needed to learn to accept my thoughts and feelings for what they are: just thoughts, just feelings, and not “THE TRUTH.”

Learning to accept my thoughts has been transformational. It had never occurred to me before that my thoughts and feelings weren’t the truth. I thought that if I was in a relationship and struggling with doubt or uncertainty, with irritation or judgement, that I was obviously in the wrong relationship. It never occurred to me that perhaps these thoughts were normal. It never occurred to me that perhaps these uncomfortable feelings were a way for me to create distance when things got too close.  And it never occurred to me that rather than trying to control these thoughts and suppress them, it would be far more effective to accept them and just not act on them.

acceptI’m learning now to be more mindful. I’m learning to notice the thoughts that float through my mind, to notice how fleeting they are when I don’t get attached to them. I’m learning to accept what comes up without trying to fight it. And in doing so, everything feels easier. I’m not so anxious, not so consumed by doubt. I actually feel comfortable being in a relationship.

These days I’m channeling the soft, fluid energy of water. And it’s making a difference.

What are you learning about yourself at the moment?

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Arbutus Musings

It’sarbutus raining in Victoria today, a persistent grey drizzle, a typical west coast winter day. Though I am happiest when the sun is shining, I don’t mind the rain. I love the tap tapping of rain on my skylights, and the dreamy, impressionistic glaze on wet windows. And once I convince myself to get out, I like walking in the rain.  Sound is muted. Everything is greener; everything seems more lush.

Today I was stopped in my tracks by a single arbutus tree. I’ve always loved arbutus, the way their strong limbs twist skyward, finding the sun; the way the cinnamon bark peels away revealing smooth expanses of wood beneath, in mottled shades of green and rust; the way the trees sport dead branches and bright new growth, at once dying and finding renewal.  Today’s arbutus, shining in the rain, stopped me, the cinnamon peel a deeper shade of rust, the new bark beneath, a brighter shade of green, the leaves darker and glossier.

I stood and admired the tree, ran my hands over the smooth green trunk, resisted the temptation to pull away the flaking copper arbutuslayers, bright as pennies. All in due course. The bark will curl away when it’s meant to. There is beauty in the contrast: rough and smooth, old and new, pale and dark. There is beauty in the tree’s becoming.

I feel like I’m shedding old bark these days too, letting go of what I no longer need, and finding my own sense of renewal.  After months away, I am ready again to write. After a much longer period, I’ve rediscovered my deep love of fiction, and have been devouring works by Barbara Kingsolver and Salman Rushdie and Vincent Lam. And I’ve been quietly learning how to be part of a couple again, a transition that’s been surprisingly difficult for me.

The arbutus has much to teach me. I’m learning about staying strong, about reaching for the light, about shedding the old, about finding continuing renewal.  I’m learning.


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A Summer of Letting Go

summertimeThe only thing that we can count on, apparently, is change. It’s one of those things that I understand at an intellectual level, but that I struggle with in everyday life.  Since my boys were very little, we’ve spent time every summer camping. It’s a family tradition. Summertime with my boys has always meant packing up the van and heading off for a week here and a weekend there. It’s something we all look forward to.

hikingExcept that this year my eldest son, who is just heading into his final year of high school, found a summer job. (He is planning to go to Kenya for a couple of weeks in the spring to help build a school, and he needs to finance that venture. Thus the job, a quintessentially Canadian one, making donuts at Tim Horton’s). And while I am delighted that he’s found work, it put a crimp in the usual summertime routine.

This was a different summer for us, a summer closer to home. Fortunately, summertime in Victoria is no great hardship. While my eldest boy donned his “Tim Horton’s Career Wear” and headed off to work, his younger brothers and I went hiking or spent time on the Inner Harbour in Victoria, enjoying the buskers and the crowds of tourists. The boys had more time to get together with friends. And my middle son spent one week at a soccer camp and another playing rugby. He was in his element.

icecreamA particularly happy memory for me is the time we spent at Shawnigan Lake with my sister and her girls. We had access to her friend’s house and private dock and the kids had a ball, leaping into the warm lake water, floating around on boogie boards, and sunning themselves on the dock. They were most impressed when the “Ice cream Boat” pulled up to our dock, tinkly ice cream jingle and all!

I grew up near Shawnigan and spent summers as a teenager working and playing there. Somehow I’d forgotten what an amazing place it is for kids.

campfireThanks to my mom, who came and stayed with my eldest son, the rest of us were still able to get away camping for a week on Hornby Island, something we’ve done every summer for many years.

And we did have one weekend when all three boys were together for a camp out on Sidney Spit.  The picture to the left is one that I treasure, the only one I have from this summer of all three boys gathered around a campfire. I’m not sure how many more shots like this I’m going to get.

This has been a summer of letting go, of learning, little by little, to release my hold on the way I want things to be. It’s been a summer of watching my boy grow up, of welcoming the young man he is becoming. It’s been a summer of redefining my role as a mom and redefining what summer looks like for my family. I can’t say it’s been easy. But it has been necessary. And the summer? It didn’t look at all like our usual summer. It was completely different. And still very, very good.

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