Monday, July 28, 2014

Two celebrations

Back-to-back this weekend, there were two celebrations. One to mark the milestone of an 85th birthday, the other to mark the end of a life well lived. Two separate events in the same BPYC clubhouse, attended by many of the same people in our little community.

Ian had just had his 77th birthday when he died in his sleep a few weeks later. His celebration was on the Saturday, and many spoke beautifully of his contributions as a father, husband, professional, wine-shortbread-marmalade-maker, sailor. We raised our glasses and toasted Slangevar with a good single malt.

Dick's party was Sunday. He will have to update his blog from octogenarian to nonagenarian status in a few years. Relatives flew in from across Canada, with three generations able to join the festivities. I liked what Dick said at his party, about the best present he ever received being from his parents. The gift of birth itself.

Past middle-aged, I find inspiration for growing older by having friends that are setting such fine examples.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Earthly Powers

I needed a seriously good read. Something well written, with a great plot, and layers of meaning. This was more than a few months ago,when it seemed that book after book just offered a sampling of cardboard. Kaarina suggested Earthly Powers, by Anthony Burgess, saying it was one of the best books she'd ever read.

Rich! In language, plot, metaphor and meaning. It did not disappoint. Arguably Burgess' masterpiece, it examines the lives of two men with very different earthly powers. One becomes a Pope, the other an international best-selling author.

The story takes place over decades, and weaves fact and fiction very artfully, introducing characters to historical events in such a way it seems a real authobiography.
Earthly Powers is a panoramic saga of the 20th century by Anthony Burgess first published in 1980. It begins with the "outrageously provocative first sentence: "It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me."On one level it is a parody of a "blockbuster" novel, with the 81-year-old hero, Kenneth Toomey (allegedly loosely based on British author W. Somerset Maugham), telling the story of his life in 82 chapters. Wikipedia

As steeped in meaning and philosophy as this book was, it still managed to be entertaining.
Ultimately a very satisfying read.

I am fascinated by the juxtaposition of the sacred and profane, and this literary piece does it well. Toomey has been disowned by the Church, and disowned the Church, but still searches for goodness and meaning even at his most debauched. The one-day Pope has vices of his own. Ironic that the 'sinner' Toomey is the one that must unearth proof for the canonization of a Saint and chronicle a miracle.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Yoga in the City 2014

Just Breathe

"When you are sitting in traffic going 10 km an hour and you want to go 50 km an hour, you are sitting with 40 km of stress."

Marlene shared this observation from one of her previous teachers during Yoga in the City this past week. So true. More than one morning that week I had found myself stuck in traffic, stressing out because I was running late for my yoga class. And it came in handy again the very next day, when I had slept in, and was trying to make it to the studio before the invocation started.

The whole week I was doing the yoga intensive in the mornings from 8 a.m. to 11:30, and then working 6-7 hours in the afternoons. A few of the evenings were busy, too. During the last two mornings of pranayama, I couldn't stop myself from yawning. "What does it mean," I asked, thinking it might be an autonomic response to how I was going about receiving my breath. "It probably means you're tired," was the obvious response.

During the asana practise I was finding how to extend my reach by letting go in areas where I was previously tensing unnecessarily.

Then heading off to work in the afternoons. Although this meant I didn't have much time to reflect after classes, I was able to observe my reactions (and over reactions) to some mundane events. Like getting stuck in traffic, standing in crowded subways, missing buses. And to practise a bit of indifference toward bigger things that might normally push my buttons, like whether my secondment will be renewed at work. Letting go in areas where I was previously tensing unnecessarily.

The mind works in mysterious ways.

A new insight during the week also, about working with an injury, when one side of the body is well and the other is not... a useful technique is to imagine the well side suffering the same effects, and then envision it healing itself quickly. Now, transfer that experience to the other side.

from recent travels in Wilson New York

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cool summer

witch hazel
It's been much cooler than I would expect for mid-July, apart from a few scorchers. According to weatherspark,  the warm season lasts from May 27 to September 12 with an average daily high temperature above 71°F. The hottest day of the year is July 26, with an average high of 81°F and low of 67°F. The Accuweather forecast for the next ten days shows only three above 71 degrees, the warmest being next Wednesday at 76. I'm not complaining! I like these cool summer days, and no need to turn on the air conditioning. The plants seem to like the weather, too. Everything green and lush.

Hostas by the pond
Looking back over the photos I post for 'my garden', there are lots of blooms. Partly because I like to record what is blooming when, and then compare from year to year. When plants come into flower it also reminds me to enjoy life's moments. Blooms and pleasures are often fleeting.

But I love the varieties and textures foliage offers, too. The witch hazel's new growth comes in red leaf; the contrasting colours of Japanese and painted ferns; the hostas' varieties of size and colour. These greens and textures last longer than the blooms, but seasons change and the foliage withers and fades to be born again in Spring.

I was happy to share some plants with Dave and Therese this past Sunday. They've recently landscaped their backyard and it gave me real pleasure to offer up some of my bounty: ferns, hellebore, toad lilly, wild ginger, violet, variegated solomon's seal, astilbe, lily, liverwort, bloodroot... Propogating 'my' plants. There was more on offer but not enough pots or room in their car. Hope everything takes root. Can't wait to see them in their new habitat!

Painted fern