Sunday, April 15, 2018

Easter celebration

A couple of Sundays ago my family gathered together on Easter.

This is the first time in years my mom and brothers and sisters celebrated on the actual holiday. And it was even more special as my mom has beaten the doctors' first prognosis.

Back in November she was told she had an aggressive form of lung cancer that, left untreated, could mean she had as little as eight weeks' time remaining.

The medical system kicked in and soon she received medical appointments and advice, personal service worker visits, a supply of oxygen, pain medication, water pills, heart pills, chemotherapy, pleurisy treatments, MRIs, CT scans, and more.

Thankfully two of my brothers live with my mother, and my sister is just around the corner, so family is close by. I visit when I can and call to check in almost every day.

My mom chose Expected Death in the Home, or EDITH, as the local health integrated network describes it. She signed the 'do not resuscitate' instructions and a binder was left at the house with guidelines explaining not to call 911 in the event of an emergency.

After two courses of chemo and some strong antibiotics for an infection, she is so much better! She has even been able to drive herself to church a few times, but mostly, the priest and celebrants come to her with communion.

We celebrated Christmas in early December, anticipating she may not have been well enough by the end of the month. Then we celebrated again on Christmas day. And again in January, arranging a party for her 79th birthday. On the eve of her birthday celebration we raised our glasses and made a toast to life.

And here we are, toasting again months later. Easter. Life and rebirth. Spring. Being together and just being, together.

All the siblings brought dishes to the Easter feast. Something for the afternoon groaning board and something for the evening dinner. One of the dishes I made in honour of the occasion was pickled eggs, dyed red by vinegar and cabbage; sliced open they made a colourful sunrise. Bacon-wrapped asparagus was perfect for the buffet, pre-portioned packets easy to serve. Others brought turkey, potatoes, salad, bread, desserts. A communal meal.

My mom has a voracious appetite and enjoyed her food, sampling most everything and savouring each morsel. Eating is one of the true pleasures of life, with family meals reflective of our lives. Holiday meals with family don't always come together the way we hope, but this meal was more than I'd hoped for; one of life's blessings.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Canada Reads

Normally people offer two selections at the Book Babes AGM. Last June my 'picks' were Canada Reads and the book lovers good-naturedly went along with the approach. We each agreed to read one book on the list and share our impressions when it was my turn to host, come April.

Titles and defenders were announced January 30, 2018:

With a few months to go, my intentions were to read them all, and in bleak February I bought the book Precious Cargo, looking for an uplifting feel-good-funny read. The other titles seemed so serious and heavy, I would get to them later.

Mid-March, I found myself waiting in line with Virginia and Debra, to get into the CBC studio for Day 2 of the debates. I still hadn't read the other books but had a feeling Precious Cargo wouldn't fair well against the other heavyweight subjects. Speculation with strangers only reinforced the feeling.

Forgiveness was waitlisted for me at the library, with several hundred names ahead of me. I knew it was a strong contender, and hearing Jeanne Beker defend it so passionately I figured that by the end of the week it would emerge the winner. Still, I was rooting for Precious Cargo.

By the end of Day 2, Precious Cargo had been voted off, with Beker casting the deciding vote, saying it "just didn't have the gravitas of the other titles."

Why did most of the choices for Canada Reads seem like cod-liver oil, meaning that they might not taste very good, but would be good for you?  Does a book have to be 'heavy' to be great? Did one of the precious cargo kids have to be raped or die of a rare disease for the book to be worthy of a win?

At book club, I wondered this aloud. Nicolette and Debra echoed my view, however Nicki had read both Precious Cargo and Forgiveness and said the latter was simply better written. Mid-April, and I'm still on the waiting list.

Miriam had read The Marrow Thieves, Pat and Virginia chose American War. The only title that didn't get read by our group was The Boat People, which had actually been voted off the very first day. Virginia and Pat said enough to convince me to put American War on my reading list. 

Precious Cargo may have been voted off early in the game, but its sales have soared. Getting short-listed by this annual book battle boosts conversations between book lovers, overall readership and awareness of the authors and books, so there really are no losers.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Wonder-full season

All week long I've been checking the dirt for signs of the blood root, hoping it would be poking up through the earth. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I expected it might not be returning after it was trampled by a fallen limb but still checking daily for signs of growth.

Friday morning I was certain of the worst and planning to visit a native plant nursery, and then Friday afternoon Rob said he saw it emerging. It returns another year.

And the crocus!

And tulips on the way....

Spring is wonder full.

Spring is like a perhaps hand

(which comes carefully

out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

From "Spring is like a perhaps hand" by e. e. cummings

Full Paschal Moon - March 2018

Two Blue Moons over just 60 days - the next blue moon won't be around until 2020.

This is also the first full moon of spring, so it's designated as the Paschal Moon. The first Sunday after the Paschal Moon is usually designated as Easter Sunday, as will indeed be the case on the very next day, April 1.

But when did we have a case similar to this year, a Blue Paschal Moon on March 31, followed the very next day by Easter Sunday?

In 1714, the full moon was on March 31 at 3:17 Universal Time, followed the next day by Easter Sunday. But that was valid only for Europe and the Eastern Hemisphere. For the Western Hemisphere, the full moon occurred the day before (on March 30). For North America, we must go back to the year 1646 to have a case that replicates this month: a Blue Paschal Moon on Saturday, March 31, which was followed by Easter Sunday the very next day. 

Driving early this morning, with the moon dancing in and out of shadows.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Spring Sadhana 2018

After 30 years the Yoga Centre Toronto lease expired and the building is being torn down so condos can be built. Having done several years of sadhana here I really wanted to partake in the last one at the Yonge and Eglinton location. After missing both the spring and fall session in 2017, I return a prodigal sādhakā.

There is a full house - more than 35 people showing up in the mornings to begin each day, for 30 days, with a 90 minute practise.

I appreciate the spring sadhana, daylight hours lengthening and the promise of growth in the air. I can feel the earth awakening and keep looking at photos of my garden from last year. It will be green again.

Energy flowing, the miracle of spring and the gift of Being.


We are reading selections from BKS about his own sadhana. Different questions arising: how sight may help you perceive something but you can't see yourself entirely in a pose, so how to conceive what you don't physically see? how can the shape of the knee in tadasana be maintained in all asanas? how can you consolidate and integrate what is learned from one day to the next? From one year to the next? Of course these questions are meant to provoke similar thoughts "off the mat"...

Day 1, the first day, Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose),  two of my favourites. I felt I was coming home.

Day 5, and one of the biggest challenges so far is actually finding reasonably priced parking. The first day I found a free spot - it cost $30 at the end of the day, with the 'permit parking only' sign well-obscured by tree limbs. Ah, the price of enlightenment.

Day 7,  clocks spring forward and when we get out at 7:30 in the morning, the day is dawning!

Day 11, we reflect on the nature of Iyengar practise and the journey inward: mobility, stability, strength, alignment, assimilation, integration, penetration, consolidation.

Day 13, without expectation we enjoy a fully restorative class. Many delighted sighs can be heard as we gather the props.

Day 14, 15, 16, travelling on business so made do in the hotel room with minimal props, incorporating backbends (standing, seated and supported). Nice to be able to end the practise and start the day with a jump in the pool.

Day 22, 23, 24    Twists... I find them so agitating when they are so intense. I have to remember to take a few extra asanas afterward (full arm balance or forward bends) to help me reset.

Day 26, driving early in the morning with the full moon peeking in and out of the clouds. We visited the YCT new space after class, light streaming in through the windows. Unvarnished and waiting for the build; no running water, no washrooms yet. We should be practicing here by late June, early July.

Day 28, Focus on pranayama. Ending the class by counting 20 breaths, which takes people in the room 7 - 10 minutes. Marlene reminds us if we can make this part of our daily practice it can change our lives from reacting to responding. I read BKS instructions, to practice, with the core of your being, and if you succeed with just a single breath, that is still success. Attempt again the next day to sustain longer success, and again the next day after.

Day 29, Today we started with uttanasana and standing twists, moving to standing splits. 29 days in I was able to do a far better version than in the first week. We also did headstand (ten minutes with variations) and shoulder stand (fifteen minutes with variations).  The length of holdings evidence that repeated practice does make a difference, physically and spiritually.

Day 30, The last day of sadhana. Feeling renewed and ready for new beginnings. BKS was once asked, how long could be the practice of a very busy man, and his reply was 20 to 30 minutes.

Day 1 - The first day of practice at home. How do I feel this morning? How much time do I have? How do I want to feel at the end of my practice? Begin again.