A Little Piece of Heaven...
Feeling very refreshed after an escape for a week away with my husband and our friends . The great part about being off the grid is you FINALLY rest - no WiFi, no cell service. Nothing robbed us of our peace, not even the car breaking down on the Coquihalla on the way to our destination. Peace included fishing, reading, hiking, kicking around the lake in my husband's Belly Boat, tons of laughs, game playing and Hallelujah WRITING. In April I attended a workshop with the amazing Canadian Writer Richard Wagamese and I loved that he said sometimes you have to acknowledge, "I got nothing." He said when there is nothing get up move around do something and guess what you'll have SOMETHING. He does not believe in writer's block. I had a whole lot of NOTHING for a long time and so I have to bow to Richard's wisdom and admit the "block" was self imposed. After days of enjoying our little piece of Heaven the words arrived.
The following I wrote a couple of days ago trying to explain the inspiration of our surroundings which is very near Richard's home base (co-incidence, or not?)
Friday June 10, 2016
There is a peace that surrounds us in the crystal quiet of nature. The breathtaking beauty of the lake is like a meditation that embraces our unconscious. The reflection of the sky and trees in the water mirrored so flawlessly you question where the lake ends and the sky begins.
The view so surreal it looks like a 3D textured painting. The trees magnificent, their shades range from subtle moss, rich emerald to the deepest forest green. The lake a brilliant turquoise, the result of the presence of limestone and is reminiscent of the ocean in the Caribbean.
The music of the great outdoors ranges from the tender chirping and warbling of a variety of birds, the exotic song of the loon and the cries of eagles. This time of year there is a night serenade from the orchestra of frogs that lulls us into a slumber.
Charming cows speckle the landscape at the entrance of the resort. Other wildlife made brief appearances: timid chipmunks scurrying across our campsite, skittish hares hopping past while on a hike and the brilliantly coloured hummingbirds rushing past always in a flash. Hoof prints and bear scat do caution visitors to respect this is still the wild. I can say the freshly caught trout cooked over the fire has ruined me for all other fish I am sure.
The summer solstice so close we only experienced the diamond twinkling of the stars if we happened to wake up in the brief window of the wee hours when the sky was pitch black. It is worth the trip just to gaze in wonder at the big Dipper. The last night we were gifted with the perfect darkness and clarity to be dazzled by nature's sky gems.
Any one of these facts would lure me back but the combination of them all guarantees my return. The one absolute I take away with me after our week at the Lake is this - if there is a Heaven this is it.
P.S. one slight exception to my Heaven FREAKING BUGS ... the mosquitos and no-see-ums dined on me continuously!
TIME FLIES AND TIME FILES
Recently I reconnected with someone from my childhood and I realized that time is flying by when you remember things from 40 years ago and know that you don't likely have 40 years ahead of you. Tomorrow is never promised so it is important to share our memories and our lessons with each other. The single most important thing I have learned is to cherish people's presence in my life. It doesn't matter if someone is in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime, they all become part of us and our own story. I have always measured wealth in the quality of my friendships, so I can tell you in this way I am ridiculously rich; so in this vein of thought I wish to share with you a short story I wrote a long time ago. It has been written and re-written but this draft does it justice. This isn't the story of any one person but many people I have known and I dedicate it to all of you...
We, The Broken People, unwittingly find each other. We avoid personal questions to stay safe from the threat of exposing our broken lives. We find comfort in the presence of other broken people. Our kind understands the need to manipulate conversation; they won’t challenge us when we abruptly change the subject. Our acts of self-preservation, our defenses, are, at their core, the acts of the insane. We repeat the same actions, expecting a different result after each instance. We are each a broken record playing over the same scratch in the vinyl that materialized when we realized we were not like everyone else, something inside of us broke and, emotionally, we froze in that moment. Like Adam and Eve, we were ashamed and wanted to hide. The past we so desperately wanted to conceal now smothers our future. We know we are searching for something but we lack the ability to recognize what that something might be.
It is night and the darkness allows me to feel anonymous. I enter the high school; a building that represents to me the time in life when one becomes acquainted with labels and the power they possess. The halls smell of chalk and quiet desperation. The angst of adolescence clings to the corridors and makes a fitting venue for the night-dwellers around me. The night school classes are already in progress, but Monday is also the day assigned to meetings that end in “anonymous.” A casual observer could see the difference between the two kinds of people: the student, whose steps are purposeful and deliberate, eyes full of determination; and The Broken, whose gait is unsure, eyes darting or fixed to the ground, carefully avoiding eye contact. I skulk about in the shadows, on the fringe, hoping I am not easily identified as one of the broken.
Cautiously I move toward Room 203, making sure the hall is empty before I enter through this door. I take my usual seat in the last row, washed by the dimness of the flickering bulb. The tales of the other broken people are riveting. Their words cause me to grieve for them and for myself as I relive the horrible memories but I cannot bring myself to share my own. I come and listen, and perhaps I even convince myself that I am not actually one of them. What do I believe will happen if I stand up? Still my fear is greater than my need to be free, so I remain silent.
After some tears, some applause, and a prayer at the end; the meeting is over for another week. I slip out of Room 203 and into the world beyond just as anonymously as I had entered it. I blend in with the crowd in the corridor and follow the masses.
I hear the muffled discord of words from a distance as I approach the cafeteria. The vending machines offer up stale snacks and coffee, but mostly people are just gathering to study or socialize. The sole reason for my visit to the cafeteria is a woman. I watch her from a distance week after week. Various people join her to chat. I imagine they are classmates, talking about their assignments. I absorb the way the curls in her hair dance on her shoulders as she tries to suppress a laugh. The room is well-populated. I can hear only random pieces of several conversations at once. I strain to hear her voice but my safe distance from her denies me the good fortune. Mentally, I trace the dimples in her cheeks, and file the image away with her dancing curls and the sound of her laughter. Inevitably, with the ring of the buzzer, people disperse and carry on to their real purpose. I am the last to leave. I take the closest exit and the door clangs shut behind me.
The following week is like any other; one day indistinct from the next. I discover I have more questions without answers and I do not know where to look for resolution. Alone in my apartment I observe the bookshelf that is chock-full of self-help books. They all felt full of promise when I read them but each inevitably ended in disappointment. Tools are useless if you have no skills. They are an attempt to find a magic pill that will heal the void. I convince myself that there is safety in my silence. Another week, another meeting, nothing gets better and nothing gets worse. My broken logic sees this as good enough.
It is Monday night and I am running late. I have misplaced my keys. I panic. A frantic search ensues. The Broken often have a need for order and planning. Subliminally, we believe if we have control, we can prevent chaos from returning. By the time I find my keys I am spinning. I find composure and continue on to the meeting. I berate myself for bothering with this sad ritual. My customary parking place is taken. I find another in an unfamiliar part of the lot. There is no time for me to seek my usual entrance. The night is damp. I trip clumsily up the stairs and enter through a heavy door. I think its weightiness fitting symbolic of the emotional baggage that brings me here. The buzzer has already sounded and people are scrambling to their destinations. I get turned around in the confusion and find myself struggling to find Room 203. Unnerved, deprived of the safety of the shadows, I surge on. I make my steps more deliberate and hope I appear confident, important: a man with a purpose. I round the corner and catch a glimpse of familiar curls entering a room. I instinctively wish to retreat. I stop and realize I have arrived at Room 203. Did I see her go into Room 206? I am motionless. My mind is racing. I feel weightless; an unfamiliar, yet intoxicating feeling. I snap out of it and enter the meeting to discover that my seat is occupied and I am unaffected. I find a vacant seat and settle into it. I do not share, but I do not attempt to hide. I am unable to concentrate. I will the buzzer to sound. The meeting concludes and I fight the urge to fall behind as it disperses. I break my pattern and approach the door with my head up, hopeful that I will see her. We surface almost simultaneously and, without any plan, I make eye contact then I struggle with the impulse to look away. She smiles and I can feel myself smiling back. Before I have time to listen to my own negative self-talk, or even over -think what I should do next, I hear her voice acknowledging me.
“Survivor too, huh?”
Survivor. I hear this word and it takes on a life of its own. I repeat it aloud, tasting the word on my tongue. It is delicious and it sounds like music. The experience of saying this word travels through my brain like a million tiny electrodes. My heart pounds like it has just been shocked back from death. In this fleeting moment I see everything in the past flash before my eyes in vivid color. Who could believe this one small word could grant a life-altering moment? In an instant I transformed from victim to survivor. Survivor was a title instead of a label. I am reminded that words are powerful. I have spent an existence agonizing over others’ perceptions, only to change my own, seeing myself through someone else’s eyes. Broken, but not without hope. I nod.
“Yup… and today is the first day of the rest of my life.”
© MELODY FOWLER September 2012
Last year Pharrell William's song Happy was everywhere. I heard it on the radio, in stores, on T.V. and even at my yoga class. I have to admit I always felt better and sang along and I never grew tired of hearing that song. The truth was I really was not very happy. Here a year later I feel like a different person and I can say I am happy. It isn't that my troubles magically disappeared. I still have frustrations with work and bill headaches but I just don't let every little thing eat away at me because life is too short for that. I eat healthier and exercise. I say "thank you" out loud in my car when I drive over the Golden Ears Bridge and see the blue and pink sky foretelling of another sunny beautiful day. I feel so grateful to live in such a beautiful place surrounded by majestic mountains. The simple act of picking wild blackberries near my home and contemplating making jelly and wine from them makes me smile. How did this change come about? It was a series of events both positive and negative that really made me think about the fact I will be 50 years old in December. I always aspired to live to 100 and if I manage that I am almost at the half-way point. Tomorrow isn't promised to me, or any of us, so I am making damn sure that while I am here, in this moment, it is going to be a happy one.
CUBA: Mi Corazon
I have just returned from 2 weeks of pure magic.
Feeling panicked at the possibility that Cuba and the U.S.A. may mend fences and change Cuba's heart forever I threw together an "emergency" trip. Normally before going on a trip I plan for 6 months to a year. I wanted to be more prepared, I wanted to at least have some basic conversational Spanish and to read up on Cuban history (history was never my passion or my strong suit). With 6 weeks from booking to departure all I managed was the purchase of the "Rough Guide to Cuba" and a condensed Dictionary with helpful Spanish words and phrases. I made my peace with my lack of prep-time because the most important thing was getting there.
I had many reasons for the trip besides the political/cultural worry of the inevitable changes coming down the pike. On top of my "Reasons to go to Cuba" list was research for the novel I am working on. Part of my story takes place in Cuba and I wanted it to be historically accurate, but more importantly I wanted to describe her essence in a way that people could connect with in their own spirit. I discovered things I could never have known had I not walked on Cuban soil. The white sand beach and turquoise sea of Varadero was breathtaking; the ornate architecture, classic cars, and numerous plazas and statues of Havana definitely left a lasting impression, but Cuba's true treasure was the depth and beauty of her people. These people work ridiculously hard for socialist wages and they do not allow that to rob them of their values. Their greatest joy, their pride, and their world is their family. In a world where common sense is not that common they know that the only really choice is to choose to be happy because life is too short not to be. I saw many pictures of people's children and spouses and could see and feel the unconditional love in their eyes. The things they have right they have SO right. I adore that Cuba has 100% literacy. I think the whole world needs to allow people to go to school as long as they want for free. Healthcare and dental are available for all. There are no guns and no drugs. There is no racism! I did not witness a single car accident in Havana, a city of 2.2 million people in my 5 days there. I saw amazing art made of recycled material. If someone needed a ride and there was room in a vehicle they pick people up. I never felt like a tip was expected but experienced genuine gratitude when I did tip. I saw people struggling themselves share their money with those less fortunate without hesitation. Cuba is not without her problems to be sure, but for me who has grown disillusioned with how spoiled our society is, how people worship money and stuff, the blatant disregard for the environment and horrific lack of value placed on life, Cuba was "almost" paradise.
Te Quiero Cuba... you taught me much.
Thank-you to all the beautiful Cubans that made this a trip of a lifetime. xo
SWING BATTER SWING!
Today is the first day of my winter vacation and I have kicked it off with some coffee heavily laden with Bailey's. I have fire in my belly thus I am inspired to share with you. A friend retired yesterday from a job she hated. She looked shell shocked that this part of her life was over. I did my best to let her see the departure as an amazing gift. It is an opportunity to reconnect with all that gives her joy. My friend, despite being almost 55, looks 40 and acts 20. She has survived much and has managed to keep her sense of humour in tact. I gifted her 2 books, one was lined and one had blank pages, the cover read, "Do What You Love." Years ago she had introduced me to a book called "The Artist's Way," by Susan Cameron. It is a life line for artists experiencing a block. Daily writing and artistic exercises gently coax their gift out of hiding. My friend is an artist, but like 99% of artists (myself included) she struggles with the fear of rejection and failure. I have several projects on the go and want very much for her to do the art work for one of them. She timidly shared her sketches with me once years ago and I was blown away. Those that know her would find it really odd to ever hear her described as timid. Artists' work is their child and they protect it so much often they stunt instead of nurturing its growth. One of the great gifts of aging is how you find yourself caring less about what others think. You find no need to filter yourself because you are acutely aware that time is a cruel bitch and she isn't waiting for you to catch up. There is no room in this life for doing anything half-way. Not every time at bat are we going to hit that ball out of the park and it doesn't matter! Swing batter swing! When the ball connects that crack will vibrate through you and it will be the sweetest music you'll ever know. Pick up your pencil my friend and regret nothing. No more dreams deferred, the time for joy is now. I am raising my cup to you today Cherie and so together let's win this game called life. xo
Often we operate under the impression that if we could only just get ourselves together we would have the life that we envision. If we had more time, more money, more sleep - THEN we could achieve our goals. The truth is every act we choose defines us. It is who we become every second, every minute, every hour, and every day. I read this wisdom from a post by one of my favourite authors, Richard Wagamese. He was sharing what was passed on to him by an elder. Our beliefs are exactly what we become. We all have fears and doubts and feel like giving up on our dreams. These feelings are not exclusive to the worker bees tolling away at the 9-5 job, our heroes battle demons too. I always keep in mind that it doesn't matter how many times you fall down, it is the number of times you get up!
Thursday I had the honour of attending the premiere of the adaption of Shane Koyczan's Stickboy by the Vancouver Opera. It unearthed the darkness of bullying I had buried long ago. I had read the book several times, but watching it shook me to the core of my being. Shane was a few seats away and I can only imagine what it was like for him when it was so gut wrenching for me. He was sharing his pain with ALL of us. This production was a game changer - mixing the media arts, his compelling voice-over and the opera to tell his story. Opera communicates grief so succinctly. You cannot watch it and not be affected.
Shane is no overnight sensation. He has tolled hard travelling constantly, couch surfing, questioning his path, struggling with depression, and as many times as he has fallen he has always managed to get back up again. How grateful I am that he finds it in himself to get back up. One of my favourite lines Shane uses in one of his pieces reads, "you play - you play you win, you play you lose, you play!" Basically keep going and be present for yourself and others.
I couldn't find my camera to take to the event and figured my iPhone would suffice. It did. I didn't hide behind my lens. I did have few photos taken, but mostly importantly being camera free allowed me to connect with other people. I soaked in the experience and felt very present and very humbled that I had been able to take part in this piece of history.
I am choosing to be present and to invest whatever is necessary to fulfill my purpose here and to become the me I was always meant to be. Thank-you to Shane, to Richard, to my Mother, to all those that showed me the power in getting up.
Much too long...
It has been a year today since I posted in the blog - so much has happened… too much to even summarize. I felt I could not let another day go by without sharing - so here are my thoughts on this 25th day of July 2014….
Why is OLD a dirty word?
These lines, these dark circles, these dimples in my flesh – each has a story
You don’t offend me when you say I am old
Old is a privilege denied to many
The fact that I am here breathing almost 6 feet above ground is its own story
I made it
I lived to tell you how I made it this far
Pick a line on my face and I will tell you its story.
Old is a compliment and I thank you…
I wish for you to have the same chance at getting here
Old is knowing that none of the stuff matters
Only the people and the places, the love and the experiences that transpired - that is what matters
You will not take your dying breath hoping to hold your smartphone one more time
You will long for the kisses of your Mother or your Lover
For arms wrapped around you…
To breath the ocean or forest air
Yes I am old. Old, but not so wise
But I am here and that is enough.
© MELODY FOWLER July 25, 2014
"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible" - Dalai Lama
I have always been a sensitive person. At times this has put me at a disadvantage, especially as child when the playground could be a war zone for anyone different. I would lie to try and protect myself. I used to see this sensitivity as a disadvantage, but now I realize it is one of my greatest gifts. I am often able to articulate other people's feelings when they struggle to do that themselves. Some of my best work comes from expressing an event, or a feeling that was someone else's experience. I am able to do this by spending time with them and just listening. I've learned that the parts you need to really concentrate and listen intently to are not the words but the silences. The deepest part of us is revealed in our silence.
Of late I've heard a few stories that kicked me in the groin as though they'd happened to me. I heard of an instance where someone was judged by another in quite a public setting. It said so much about the person yelling across a crowded restaurant. The recipient felt shame and humiliation, which sadly was the intent of the ass doling out the venom. I spent a long time in silence thinking about both parties.
We are all fighting a hard battle.
My high school reunion is this August and I was asked to find a few people. In a class of approximately 100 I have heard several stories of tragedy - brain injuries, trips to rehab, living on the street and even 2 deaths. I know that there will be people that won't want to attend because they somehow feel that they didn't accomplish enough, or don't have enough, and that breaks my heart. We are enough just by being alive. Our survival rate of bad days is 100% to date. We made it. I was not in the 1% of high schoolers that had a fabulous time; and I have never felt the desire to attend a reunion. There is a place in my own silence that perhaps needs to make peace with these people or this time in my life and so I shall attend.
It is very hard sometimes to remember that we cannot see what is behind someone's angry outburst, or anti-social tendencies - and should not judge them. Someone may have lost their job or they could have received a fatal diagnosis from their doctor - we will never know. It costs nothing to be kind. All the things that really matter can't be bought - kindness, love, health and happiness. I borrowed the Dalai Lama's words because of their simple truth - "be kind whenever possible - it is always possible...." That's the beauty of kindness, it doesn't cost anything - and by sharing it the benefit is for both the giver and the receiver...
Love and Karma,
I originally wrote this for a friend when his Mother died a couple of years ago - today it is dedicated to Roxanne who's Mother passed on June 5th... may it bring some comfort to all those that can relate...
BREATH - my first, your last, we shared.
Together. Flesh and Blood. No distance could sever our connection... Not even this one.
Your touch, your kiss - My first.
My touch, my kiss - Your last.
Mom, You live, in my... Every... Breath.
© MELODY FOWLER
A TALE OF 168 BANANAS
This seems particularly appropriate after losing my cousin Nathan Feist today.
My friend Kay went to a 24-hour produce store in her neighbourhood. She was greeted by the elderly Chinese proprietor warmly, "Hello my friend!" He shows her a box of organic bananas that are a little ripe and tells her he'll sell her the whole box for $5. She asks him several times if he's sure. She figured she'd freeze them for the smoothies she makes for herself. She says, "let me just go and pay for my other items." He says, "no no whole thing $5 and I'll carry it for you to your car." How can she refuse?
Kay has been through quite a bit this year after her boyfriend died on Valentine's day, but was feeling a little peaceful and asked the man if he'd noticed the stillness in the air. He says something along the lines of, "oh you are one of those spiritual people" And she tells him about her boyfriend... etc. and his response forgive me Kay for not getting it verbatim -went a little something like this...
"Everyone thinks heaven is soft music and flowers. What F*** do I want with soft music and flowers?" "Chinese people think heaven is gold and jade. What the F*** do I want with gold and jade? Heaven is being happy. Be happy. I want to have fun with my friends. I want to have sex. That's heaven. Be happy. "
Now of course Kay was STARTLED to say the least - a) because of his language and he was elderly and b) because she didn't want the visual of him :) lol.
But you know... when she told me the story I had to agree with him, and she did get the message - which I'm sure her bf had a hand in delivering from the other side. BE HAPPY. Have fun! Fill everyday with love and laugher - and have a lot of sex damn it!
:) ♥ ♥ ♥