Full Moon Blessings

Here in Northern California, the sun sets later than it does back home. The glowing sunset over the ocean eases into finality around 6pm this time of year. A bonus to have an extra hour of daylight compared to our Toronto friends. Tonight the full moon shone brightly as the darkness settled over the valley. It made for quite the magical walk through the tall redwoods surrounding the Center and the Hanuman Temple. At 6:30am and 6pm each day at Mount Madonna, Aarti is performed in the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple. As explained on the wikipedia website, “Aarti is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja, in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. Aartis also refer to the songs sung in praise of the deity, when lamps are being offered. Aarti is not only limited to God. Aarti can performed not only to all forms of life, but also inanimate objects which help in progress of the culture.” It’s about a 1/2 hour ceremony that involves chanting, Kirtan, the blessing of a TilakaPrasad offerings, and lots of ringing of bells and joyous invocations.”

It was an incredible experience surrounded by the thick smoke of incense. I must admit, the smoke irritated my already angry throat which made for an uncomfortable ceremony at times with hacking coughs to accompany the ringing of bells.

Surrounded By Love, Remembering That I Am Not Alone

I found myself fully awake as slaDE made preparations to go to the dropzone to jump this weekend. I’m used to (sort of) my husband’s early morning departures during the week where he quietly readies himself for work at 5am. And if I’m ever-so-lucky, I can remember his sweet gentle kisses in the sleepy haze of my early morning slumber. But this morning at 7am, the striking cold brisk chill in the air woke me up alarmingly fast as I bolted to empty my bladder. Overnight, literally, the weather had changed from a lazy warm Indian Summer’s night to that belying the abrupt onset of a Winter’s morning. Once I hit the freezing grip of the toilet’s caress, I was wide awake. Sigh, so much for sleeping in :). I knew that with the weather forecast of below freezing temperatures and unruly high winds that I wouldn’t want to be skydiving this weekend (plus my back still is going through mini-spasms — not ideal for arching or abrupt off heading openings). I’m a skydiving snob per se, a fair-weather jumper. And yes, I am okay with that. I’ve spent too much time wrapped up like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Guy / Michelin Man in the sky, and from these experiences, I know exactly where my comfort zone lies. Who wants to be questioning whether one can pull a sequence of handles at deployment time because the fingers have frozen, with all sensation pretty much gone, or at least numbed. NO Thank you!! Been there, done that.

With that being said, I chose to wrap myself up, nuzzling deeper in the blankets of our kingsized bed, loving my husband from afar (Skydive Toronto — 2 hrs away from our homebase in Oshawa) in yet another loner weekend in the Airstream. I sometimes wonder if I’m making the right choice. Of not spending that quality time with my husband on his weekends skydiving when I have other tasks to do or reasons to not be at the dropzone. I guess you could call it dz burnout. I’ve always been a bit of a loner. Yet as I sit here, I’m somewhat sad at my decision. Every singular moment that we have together is a pure luxury, regardless of what we’re doing. How could I say no? And in that moment of questioning and melancholy, I found myself wrapped in love. Literally, embraced by the warm wool blanket gifted to us by a girlfriend in Calgary. Three years after the fact, this worn and well-loved bed covering is one of the valuable items in our rV that continuously provides us with unfailingly comfort in the colder climes. And in this sweet moment of awareness, I think of her, and smile. The trend continues, and I think of, with deepening gratitude:

  • my Mother, whose warm fleece hat covers my head in the morning chill
  • my Idaho-based girlfriend whose lovingly crafted sunflower quilt provides us with warmth, sunshine and love in the darkest of nights
  • another skydiving girlfriend whose pyjamas I was wearing, acquired last winter in the midst of her move to an rV lifestyle
  • the complete stranger whom we purchased an Airstream from off of eBay (I think of this man often, silently thanking him for such an amazing home)
  • a dear lovely soul who is suffering from a terrifying illness and injuries that has this person fighting with every bit of their amazing strength and courageousness. It leaves me wondering: what can I offer or do to make life better for them?


And with these heartfelt revelations and remembrances, I realize that I am truly blessed to be surrounded by love, friendship, family and above all else, good health. Even in my solitude, I am never alone. There are always reminders of those who have left forever imprints on my heart. Of those who are experiencing tremendous trials and startling tribulations that leave me breathless.

With this surge in emotion, I am suddenly overwhelmingly quiet. A deep sense of love emanates from within, filling any space where a void may have existed briefly this morning. I am honoured and truly blessed for the friends and family in my life, for the life-partner that comes home to me, to us, unfailing in his love and dedication. With this appreciation, I’m realizing that, next time, I’ll be hard-pressed to not be by my husband’s side, even in the coldest of winters and difficult of days. I want to be his steadfast blanket, supporting and warming him when he needs me most.

Do you have a favourite momento or memory that carries you through the difficult challenging times, when feeling alone, sad and grey; a heart-worthy impression that provides a souvenir hug, enlightening and brightening your day?

composting with worms

Spring has sprung and I’m starting to think about gardening, birth, renewal. Tomorrow the world will celebrate Mother Earth in a collective vote of consciousness, with “Earth Hour”. Everyday I make an active choice to be conscious of my actions towards the Earth that nurtures and supports me. My husband and I actively compost, just as one example of the giving back to the earth. We’ve been long interested in the thoughts of worm composting. Luckily, we currently have a community garden to drop off our weekly 5 gallon pail full of organic matter. But what about when we are living and travelling in the RV? I wonder how many RVers have successfully maintained an environmentally friendly lifestyle, one which includes composting? We’ve even gone as far as thinking of adding a composting toilet, but are uncertain as to whether the inclusion of such an item will outstretch our weight limitations on our Dodge 3/4 ton truck used to pull the Airstream (normally this wouldn’t be a concern, but the luxury of having granite countertops adds to the equation of poundage).

So in the spirit of green education, in honour of our earth Mother, below are listed some tips from the US Natural Resources Conservation Service to spark the movement towards an eco-friendly world and consciousness.

Composting turns household wastes into valuable fertilizer and soil organic matter.Vermicomposting uses worms to compost. This takes up very little space and can be done year-round in a basement or garage (or RV?!). It is an excellent way to dispose of kitchen wastes.

Steps:

1. You need a plastic storage bin. One (1′ x 2′ x 3.5′) may be enough to meet the needs of a family of 6.
2. Drill 8 to 10 holes, approximately 1/4″ in diameter, in the bottom of the bin for drainage.
3. Line the bottom of the bin with fine nylon mesh to keep the worms from escaping.
4. Put a tray underneath to catch the drainage.
5. Shredded newspaper works well as bedding. Rip into pieces and water well so that it is thoroughly moist. Place on one side of your bin. Do not let it dry out.
6. Add worms to your bin. Redworms are recommended for best composting, but other species can be used. Redworms are the common small worms found in most gardens and lawns. You can collect them from under a pile of mulch or order them from a garden catalog.
7. Provide worms with food wastes such as vegetable peelings. Do not add fat or meat products. Limit feed–too much at once may cause the material to rot.
8. Keep the bin in a dark location away from extreme temperatures.
9. In about 3 months the worms should have changed the bedding and food wastes into compost. At this time add fresh bedding and more food to the other side of the bin. The worms should migrate to the new food supply.
10. After a couple of weeks, open your bin in a bright light. The worms will burrow into the bedding. Scoop out the finished compost and apply to your plants or save for use in the spring.

Using compost — Check the pH level and adjust with lime or sulfur depending on the types of soil and plants in your yard. Also lime can prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes.

Compost can be used for all your planting needs. Compost is an excellent source of organic matter to add to your garden. It helps improve soil structure which contributes to good aeration and moisture-holding capacity. Compost is also a source of plant nutrients.

Compost can also be used as a mulch material. Studies have shown that compost used as a mulch, or mixed with the top one-inch layer of soil, can help prevent some plant diseases, including some of those that cause damping of seedlings.

 

Voting for Hope: the day after

Come and gone. Like a puff of smoke in a magic act. Voila! And then silence, and waiting and anticipation, wondering, what next?
The markets and the dollar rose sharply at the jubilation of a new administration, new hope. But what now? Waiting. Until Barack finds himself officially in office. Waiting for Bush not to mess up any more than he already has. Waiting. A political yet emotional game.

Barack Obama, 44th president of the USAAmazing that the time span of a day could drastically alter the course of the world. Election Day, November 4, 2008, was yesterday, and most of the world sat with bated breath, wondering how the future would unfold with either Barack Obama or John McCain as the USA’s future President. From a Canadian standpoint, I only saw one clear ‘winner’, paving the future for change and a better tomorrow. However, us mere Canadians didn’t need to offer our support or vote of confidence. From the vote tabulations, many Americans too believed in that potential … of Hope. A landslide victory like I’ve never seen. Record voter turnouts! Compared to our Canadian elections (which are a joke in comparison), the might behind the sword is incredibly powerful when One voice stands up in their beliefs.

Barack Hussein Obama II has overcome so many obstacles and established a historical presidence that will hopefully forever change both the face of politics and the race relations within the American continent (worldwide for that matter). “Yes we can”. For those that believe, anything is possible. Hope and diligence seemed to pay off yesterday for the Americans who voted for their President-elect. Let’s pray for strength and unity in these difficult times, where the world’s troubles far outweigh the might of one man. Unity is the key.

Adventures in cycling

Well here we are, a month after our wedding and that means 4 long weeks of my daily grind commute. To be honest (shhhh), it hasn’t been that bad. Probably has VERYTHING to do with my walk through the park every morning by the meandering gurgling Bow River. the sound of a vast trickle tickling my ears is music far better than any iPod could ever relay. I know, I know, I hear you asking about my huge plans to cycle to work everyday. I’ve been asking myself that question each time I spend money on the LRT. However, with each passing thought, my knees start throbbing and the pain literally kicks me back to the reality of my weary aching aging body. Sigh.

Happy cycling!So to say that I’ve been a little antsy to start riding to work is an understatement. And so, on this cold Autumn morning (just below zero. Brrr!), I brushed off the cobwebs from the mountain bike, burrowed for my winter gloves and hat and bundled up, hastily making for any exit out the door (albeit later than I had hoped to depart). This morning, I had not a care in the world. I grabbed the world by my handlebar horns and ‘tinged, tinged’ my way through traffic (that would be the sound of my bell). Go figure that it was the coldest morning yet … Brrr! Have to learn to dress better for these cold mornings.

My glorious bike ride was about 45 minutes from door to door. The only hill so far that I have faced is the 5th Avenue road going up to the school, not far off the beaten path. Not too bad really in the lowest gear; however, I am in dire need of a tune-up of some sort on my brakes. When I’m whizzing at fast-ish speeds (not to be confused with fascist), my brain starts thinking weird thoughts of how my wheels could come flying off or worse, me going flying. Ahhh! I do love flying, don’t get me wrong, but I prefer a bit of space between me and the ground. Probably why I never took up mountain or road biking to any extent after training on the Laguna Seca race tracks in Monterey California. Me and the pavement already have too intimate of an acquaintance, and I care not to reawaken the beast. Been there, done that.

It was an amazing start to my day. Riding home was a bit more weary driven, and my knees were actually paining me. Sadly, this means giving my body some time … to heal, to mend. Maybe try it again in 2 weeks? I’ll let you know if I do, and how it goes. Happy cycling!

Airstream a-go-go

The reality of an impending marriage — that being my own — was finally sinking in. WoW! And the excitement growing within me was beyond anything I have ever experienced!

Stage two of rapid-fire adrenalin overload. Nonchalantly, on Tuesday evening, slaDE~ presented me with another possible option for an Airstream trailer. Over the past 2 years, he has been diligently hunting for and researching our future home and dream … a silver bullet-like trailer, preferably an Airstream. Not only have we consolidated our bank accounts but most importantly, we have encompassed our dreams into an actual visualization. Now that’s what I call a melody! From day one, our dream of a life on the road has resoundingly been in tune.

1994 60th Anniversary 34 foot AirstreamAnd here it was, a beautiful trailer, with EVERYTHING that we could have dreamed of, plus more. The only ‘hurdle’ …. it was put up for bid on eBay. Neither of us have ever made a purchase greater than $300. The thought of entering into this bidding war on a trailer, sight unseen, was a huge risk, but we were willing to take the chance on our dream. And lept we did, like lemmings. For the first time in 2 years, I did not hesitate at slaDE~s suggestion; I urged him to make an eBay bid on the Ontario-residing trailer … and from that we learned a WHOLE bunch about how an automatic bidder works!

If you bid above the reserve price (which is an invisible-to-the-buyer price tag), it will immediately go straight for the kill and bottom out just above the hidden reserve bid. When we entered our bid, it leapt from $12000 to $20000, instantaneously. Shazaam! Our hearts vaulted straight to our throats, with both of us uttering a GASP! Before we could say ‘eBay’, as it stood, the Airstream was momentarily ours! However, with eBay, the sale isn’t complete until the fat lady sings. For three vivid days, we watched our bid lead the pack. Our anticipation and excitement was rising. Would we earn the rights to this home?? With fingers, toes, eyes and legs crossed, the end of the week came and we huddled around our MACs and watched the race begin, 20 minutes before the sale was fait-de-complet. Turns out several buyers also had their eye on this pristine jewel (described as a Miami Yacht inside — totally gutted and refinished). Watching the time click slowly by was like watching a competitive horse race in slow motion. The action was tremendous as it unfolded. Lots of whooping and hollering went on as the final stretch came into sight whilst another bidder was trying to outbid our set reserve price.

A gamble it was, for both of us, but in the end we won. By a nice comfortable margin, I must say. The final second elapsed and slaDE~ looked over at me, a look of surprised disbelief on his face (shame I didn’t have my camera turned out — that was indeed a precious expression), as the reality sunk in that we were proud owners of a pimped out anniversary edition Airstream, catapulting us to the next level of our dreams …. the sKY & slaDE~ travelling roadshow. More pictures to come.

Solstice Blessings

With each change of the season, it is wonderful to reconnect with the fortunes and grace which fill my life and body.
reverenceThursday was the 20th anniversary of my brother Kenny’s death. A day of reverence for me, to the higher power which giveth light, darkness, life and death. A lesson to be acknowledged each and every day …. Life is so very precious. It is everywhere, filling us from the inside, surrounded by the world’s creation, enveloped by a spiritual hug.
Yet in our daily lives we are usually carried away by our forgetfulness, anger, and worries, lost in the past, unable to touch life in the present moment. When we are truly alive, everything we do or touch is a miracle. To practice mindfulness is to return to life in the present moment.” And so, with the reminder of our mortality, it is vitally important to celebrate my vitality; life as I know it is fleeting, a blessing to be appreciated and honoured, with each and every breath of awareness that I can muster. To be alive, thriving and healthy …. WOW! Yoga helps me to reconnect with this cognizance.

Yesterday, the Solstice, was an amazing opportunity to yogically connect with the greater good, through a charitable yoga event which brought together a community of people willing to share their life blessings. slaDE~ and I were fortunate to have the instruction of Kathy Nash; she skillfully guided us beyond the physical asanas, coaxing us into a deeper understanding of the greater relationship that binds us all together within this Universe. Letting go of attachments to my life as I know it is a challenge throughout my yoga practice. Injury persistently hounds my senses, and trying to breath through that pain and discomfort is so extremely challenging. Somehow Kathy breathed fire into my core, and I achieved an impossible awareness that has been lacking since my beginning days of yoga. Solstice. Blessings. Connection. Breath of life and fire. Healing. All coexisted yesterday on this staggeringly beautiful day.

On this Solstice, I wish for you a deep connection with not only your inner light and grace, but also with Mother Earth’s divinity. I wish for you celebration of your fullness, shining magnificence and radiance. I wish for you peace, prosperity of heart and the wisdom to make profoundly exemplary choices for you and mankind.

Voices from the Street 2008

Last night was an eye-opening experience. One that I will never forget (I pray that I will always remember). ‘Voices from the Street’ … the volunteer opportunity of my lifetime.

What started out as a noble gesture to reach out and provide an opportunity to serve, turned into a life-changing experience, recounted through the eyes of 7 different narrators. Homeless souls on the ’empty’ streets of Calgary.

The Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre has a blog {I highly recommend this as a notable read} which is updated by individuals who work there and this entry sums up last night very well ….

Last night I was part of Voices from the Street 2008. A group of social service agencies and volunteers conducting a homeless street count in Calgary on the night of May 14th. Over the course of two to three hours, one hundred volunteers wandered the city streets identifying how many people were without shelter, sleeping rough. Each group had a specific geographic area to walk, a clipboard with census sheet to mark off how many people were ‘visibly homeless’ and a shopping bag full of ‘goodies’ to give away to those willing to engage in conversation.

The purpose of the count is to identify trends — the count has been conducted by the City every second year since 1992. Homelessness has risen by 32% every two years since the first count. Is that continuing? Are more people sleeping out? Are more people drifting into homelessness? The count helps project forward what facilities will be needed. And, helps identify what’s working. What’s not? Where are the gaps?

One thing that this entry didn’t note was this year was the first time the City of Calgary has taken a homelessness census by talllying numbers at the shelters only. Hence, the need for volunteers to go out into the community last night and hear the voices from the street.

copyright of http://www.citynews.caFrom my volunteer experience with the homeless, there are few voices from the street that have the resources and resilience to overcome their addictions, loneliness, mental illness and turmoil that many experience on a daily basis. Thank God for the help of outside institutions who support those living on the street (such as the sponsors of last night’s event: The Salvation Army, The Seed, CDIRC, Alpha House, CUPS Housing Registry Network and the Calgary Homeless Foundation); homelessness is an incredibly dire urgent social human dilemma that goes beyond the tallying of numbers and the rallying of voices.

All of the stories from our conversations with the homeless stick out poignantly in my mind. However, what really burns a vibrant image of remembrance was the sentiment which resoundingly came through with each and every person …. fortitude, honesty, integrity and friendliness. Of course, these are all judgements based on my perspective of what I saw / heard or perhaps wanted to see or hear. But with the fading of the sun and the warm night bearing down on us like a thick fog blanket, I saw light gleam in a few people’s eyes …. pride in strength and resilience seemed to shine through.

Dennis was a perfect example of the unexpected truth to my evening … he was a surprisingly fit, smartly dressed 54 year old First Nations Aboriginal from Saskatchewan pushing a shopping cart [holding what I deemed to be his worldly belongings, carefully bound up next to a scattering of bottle depot returnables]. Dennis was freshly showered with a beautiful bright smile, clear eyes and a curiosity that left me both inquisitive and breathless. His story of being on the streets for over 12 years (his grown children also somewhere displaced in the night), working occasional to full-time as a construction worker for PCL, was typical of the homeless males we encountered in our walkabout of Fort Calgary and the riverbanks. A common thread … seems that there is plenty of work here in Calgary, with money to be made. However, the housing situation is way out of control and hopelessly beyond the means of someone with addictions and / or mental issues that fuels the inability to maintain a stable and supportive lifestyle. Addictions tend to bring out the tragedy in humankind …. instant gratification is a reality of our society, especially prevalent with those that live moment to moment for their next fix. Stability for those on the street is not a common denominator in the lifestyle which I often take for granted.

Life on the street is a tough, rough, cold environment reflected in the pavement the destitute travel and sleep on. Homelessness is often overlooked, hidden and ignored. But last night, I was proud to be a part of this census, helping to support the often unheard voice of our people, our brothers and sisters.

How To Survive The Year

Harold's Planet
I just HAD to post this wonderful ‘Harold’s Planet‘ cartoon … after picking myself off the floor, laughing hysterically!

Just last week I clocked in my one year anniversary working for the Calgary Health Region. Prior to my full-time job here in Calgary, I’d been freelancing as a Web Designer / Videographer / Parachute Packer for the past 14 some odd years and living a life full of personal whim at my own pace, my own hours, and with no one to tell me when to take vacation. This comic TRULY hit home! I miss my old life of the perpetual holiday …. Soon enough, though, we’ll be on the road, guiding and directing our own path through life, Airstream in tow. I’m excited and can’t wait 🙂

Gifting and Receiving

Love, love, love this excerpt! Kind of goes along with this weeks theme for my project366 ….

giving back

Giving and receiving …. it can be a vicious circle. What you give out comes right back to you.
But it can also be a wonderful circle.
What you give out comes right back to you. The choice is ultimately ours.
What we choose to hand out to others,
whether it be a loving eye or a revengeful one,
is what we will receive in return.

If we seek inner peace as well as outer peace,
we must first “give” what we desire to receive.
If we desire love, we must give love.
If we desire prosperity, we must share prosperity.
If we desire freedom, we must allow freedom.
If we want a life full of joy and laughter, we must share joy and laughter.
If we want a life of peace, we must start within our own self, and watch it come back a thousand-fold.

Thus perhaps “an eye for an eye” and “love thy neighbor as thyself” are the same teaching.
They are actually based in what we have discovered in modern physics:
What goes around comes around.
Nothing is ever destroyed.
There is a cause for every effect.
Which cause will we choose?
Which effect do we desire?
These are questions that we must answer in every moment of our lives —
in every thought, every word, every action (or inaction) we take.

~ Marie T. Russell ~