Thursday, 31 May 2007


Yesterday Gord and I were at our Taoist Tai Chi class again, and we were working on some really basic stuff, like getting our hips and shoulders and bellybuttons all facing the same direction when we are doing each of the moves. At one point the instructor, Paul, was showing Gord a slight correction so his alignment was properly 'square.' (I am not always 'square' with my alignment either, but Gord was in the front row this time and so he was easily spotted for correction by Paul.) There was some humourous talk about bellybuttons and after the class Gord mentioned to me that he thought his hip problems from when he was a kid (Legge-Perthe's syndrome) that were preventing his hips from being able to move into a properly square position. I suggested he let Paul know about that and he went to talk to him.

Getting to the point: Paul then started talking to Gord and a few others of us who stayed after class about a bunch of things, like how everyone becomes more flexible and more able to relax at a different rate, and how we never really know when our bodies and minds will be able to do something we haven't done before, but that the best way to foster this process was to ensure that all of our body parts and joints were in the alignment most conducive to relaxation and stretching.

When he said that, about alignment, I had this sudden thought in my head: everything is about proper alignment, not just tai chi moves. Relationships in particular: relationships with ourselves, with others, and with all aspects of our environment. If things aren't properly aligned, there won't be any balance harmony or connection with those things.

Paul also talked about how we can't force our muscles to stretch or relax, because as soon as you do, the muscle's tendency is to contract instead. The same principle applies to life, personally and collectively. He also said that words just can't really convey this idea very well, which is probably why I can't get the idea across as well as I'd like. It has to be experienced.

There was one point yesterday when I was listening to all this that I nearly started to cry because it was all so profound.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Inspired or Overwhelmed?

Lately I have been reading so many environmental blogs that I just can't keep up with what I should and shouldn't be doing. On the one hand, we've managed to reduce quite a lot of things around our house (water use, electricity use, natural gas consumption, household waste,) but we're really quite poor at other things, like using diesel and gas to get ourselves around. And there's a few things we are just starting to do, like using our own reusable bags for groceries, and things we've been doing for a fair while, like composting and recycling. But the more I read, the more I realize how far short we are of what is really sustainable.

For instance, the people at Causobon's Book and Simple Living point out the necessity of reducing our carbon emissions by 90% of that of an average North American. And they are doing as much as they can to meet that target. And here I am thinking, somewhat self-righteously, that Gord and I are doing so many good things for the environment when we are not even in-the-ballpark close!

Just now I threw away the detritus of my fast-food supper - a cardboard-box pasta entree and a juice box. I could bring the juice box home to recycle, but I didn't. I could make something else to bring for supper that doesn't come in throw-away packaging, but I didn't.

And then I read at the Little Blog in the Big Woods, that all the climate change info we're being told about now is a conservative, really conservative, estimate of how bad things are going to get and how quickly we're going to get there. How did it come to this for humanity? How have we screwed things up in such a huge way for so long that the luxury for so few comes at the price of slavery and oppression for so many? And how do I accept that I'm one of the privileged few and that it is my responsibility to stop consuming so rampantly, even though it's what I've been used to my whole life.

Time to read some more of the Tao Te Ching, I think.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Another trip to the garden store....

My niece found this unusual flower, a blue Passion Vine (passiflora caerulea), at the Prairie Gardens nursery this past weekend. It was so strange, I had to buy it. Too bad it is an annual, but I'm hoping I can harvest some seeds in the Fall. Wait a minute! It looks like it may be a perennial after all! Wait another minute! It looks like it is only perennial in warmer climes, and largely an annual or houseplant in my area. Oh well. I will enjoy it while it lasts, and still try to harvest some seeds.

My niece and I had a nice time at the nursery - she said she really likes flowers and gardens and especially likes Japanese gardens. This is terrific, because then she can come with us to the Devonian Gardens later this summer!

Friday, 18 May 2007

Turning off the Light

Yesterday I was at work, using the washroom when I noticed that the lightswitch had been taped in the 'on' position. What the heck? My first instinct was to take the tape off so I could turn the light off after using the bathroom, like I normally do. I really try to turn off unused lighting, and it is hard enough to do this at work without people taping lightswitches 'on.' But, I didn't tear the tape off. I thought maybe there was some valid reason it was taped that I just didn't know about.

Later in the day I went to the washroom again and the switch is still taped on. Well, this time I get up the nerve to take the tape off, and in the process the light switches off. I switch it back on and ....nothing. No light. Uh oh. But then, in a second, the light comes back on again. Whew! So I wondered: was the switch taped on just so someone didn't have to wait an extra second for the light to come on? Is that one second of darkness too high a price to pay for the energy saved by turning the light off when the space isn't being used? At first I got all judgemental, but then I realized that my first reaction was to rip the tape off immediately. Apparently I'm not as good as I could be at waiting either.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

I want to blog...

For some reason I really feel like writing something, but I just don't know why or what about. I feel a sense of unease, or expectation or anticipation or something, and just can't put my finger on it. I am on the last ten minutes of my lunch hour and wish I could be at home instead, outside. I had a frantic morning at work and I am tired. I was tired before I started. I've been tired for years. I don't know what I am tired of, or tired from, just that I am always tired.

I should exercise more, I should visit my family more, I should read more professional journals (professional anything for that matter), I should do more housework and more yardwork. I should get to know the neighbors and do more baking. I should clean the fridge. It goes on and on.

I also know that I shouldn't be saying "should" to myself all the time. I really need to get more sleep. More restful sleep. I fall asleep fine most nights, but wake up too early most mornings. I get about 4-6 hours of sleep per night, probably. I would really like to get 7-8. My problem is that I am tired in the morning but not in the evening, so I don't go to bed on time. Then when the morning comes it is all I can do to drag myself out of bed.

Lately I have been getting up half an hour earlier to watch a Tai Chi show, and this is helping a bit to get my mornings off to a better start. But I am still dog tired every day. I thought that becoming vegetarian might have helped me feel less sluggish, but it hasn't. I probably eat too much starch and sugar. And I don't exercise enough, by far. I am a yin person. Very yin.

Rambling Taoists: Anthem

I read this amazing anthem at the Rambling Taoists blog:

The Internationale

Stand up, all victims of oppression
For the tyrants fear your might
Don't cling so hard to your possessions
For you have nothing, if you have no rights
Let racist ignorance be ended
For respect makes the empires fall
Freedom is merely privilege extended
Unless enjoyed by one and all

So come brothers and sisters
For the struggle carries on
The Internationale
Unites the world in song
So comrades come rally
For this is the time and place
The international ideal
Unites the human race

Let no one build walls to divide us
Walls of hatred nor walls of stone
Come greet the dawn and stand beside us
We'll live together or we'll die alone
In our world poisoned by exploitation
Those who have taken, now they must give
And end the vanity of nations
We've but one Earth on which to live


And so begins the final drama
In the streets and in the fields
We stand unbowed before their armour
We defy their guns and shields
When we fight, provoked by their aggression
Let us be inspired by like and love
For though they offer us concessions
Change will not come from above


Words: Billy Bragg
Music: Pierre Degeyter
This is an amazing song, and an inspiration to me to try harder to make changes in my life that are more in tune with the Tao.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

In Defiance of Frost

I had to plant some flowers. Pansies are supposed to be able to sustain a bit of coolness, even a light frost, so I decided to take the plunge and plant a few. It is so good to see some color again, after the monochromatic winter season. I appreciate Winter, but I have been longing for Spring, and the chance to dig in the dirt again.

Plus we finally put up our house number, on the half whiskey-barrel planter. There are two of these planters, one on each side of the driveway. It does look very nice when I drive in after work.

Next weekend I will plant some more things, like the Morning Glory seeds that I started about a month ago and which are growing like crazy in their little seed starter thingies. I have also planted Lavender, Marigold, Viola and Sunflower seeds, but they are still to small to plant outside this weekend.

Gord is looking into getting dirt delivered for our next grass planting project. The price of dirt has gone way up since we last planted grass two years ago. What a pain. It will probably cost us double this time. Good thing we are seeding and not getting sod. It sure will be nice to have a proper grass yard though -- then I will finally be able to plant some other bulbs and perennials and such. I do love our yard and all of its little plants, critters and birds.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

The Beauty of Green

There's nothing like the color of New Spring Green. Newly emerged leaves have the most refreshing shade of green there is.

The leaves in our yard are starting to pop out everywhere, including the ones on our Schubert Chokecherry tree in the front yard. Just looking at the leaves gives me a feeling of peace, and that things are OK with the world. Everything is getting a fresh start.

I went to the local nursery today, Prairie Gardens , and picked up some flower arrangements in window boxes for my mom and two sisters and my sister-in-law. It's Mother's Day tomorrow and my littlest sister and my sister-in-law are having their very first Mother's Day. And it was a good reason (excuse?) to go to the nursery and get some flowers. I also got some pansies and a few herbs (two kinds of parsley and some oregano) for myself, which I will plant tomorrow. Some of the seeds I planted are already sprouting, which is a hopeful and happy sign.

Tomorrow I hope to get a start on preparing where our small raised vegetable garden bed will be. I have to put down some newspapers and/or plastic sheets for a while to kill off any weeds first. Then it will be time to buy some landscape ties and make the raised bed itself! I have never had a garden before, and I am very excited about it!

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Beginnings and Endings

Sundays for me are a day where I can sleep in for a while, and maybe read in bed while having a cup of tea. It's such a nice way to ease into the day. Sundays are days where I try to rest my body and my mind. Sometimes it's more of one than the other.

Today I was able to sleep in and have tea and read in bed, and then Gord and I went outside and did some work in the yard. The hyacinths have bloomed fully now, and my perennial geraniums are beginning to poke through the soil. It looks like some irises and day lilies are coming up as well, and a few reddish shoots of my delphiniums are visible too. These things made me smile.

But then we were reminded of the fleetingness of all life. While I was checking out the compost, I looked over into a bucket that had filled with snow and then melted. Sadly, there was a drowned squirrel in there.

I went and told Gord about it, and we were both sad. It was our fault that the squirrel had drowned. We should have turned all the buckets upside down before winter came. The poor squirrel probably jumped in there and fell through a thin sheet of ice, and then couldn't get back out.

We found a nice spot to bury him, near the sunflower seed feeder that he had made his winter home in. We took some sunflowers and some peanuts and put them in the little grave. And I took some of his bedding moss and fluff and put it in there too, for him to lay on. Then we covered him and planted some flower seeds on his resting place. Later, we will sound the gong for him, and wish him Godspeed. The sound of the gong will strengthen and then fade away, another example of how all things have a beginning and an end.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

May Buds!

The leaves on our Schubert Choke Cherry tree, that was given to us by Gord's parents, are in bud and are just about to sprout! It is so exciting to see these continuing signs of Spring after our long, long Winter.

I went outside in the wind and rain today just to feel the elements on my skin. I weeded for a bit, and then just looked around at what was growing. Later on I went back out when it had stopped raining and took a couple of pictures, like this one. A nice Saturday for me.

The Wonders of Tea

I was reading a post on the Tea House website yesterday morning, and a poster there was talking about his struggles with acting in a Taoist manner. He said he would like to:

"gather strength like a cup of tea brewing"

I stopped short in my reading tracks after reading that.

To me, Tea is such a wonderful metaphor for so many things. When I read that statement I had an immediate visual of looking down into a cup of tea and seeing the elixir swirling and building in color and taste. And the pleasant anticipation of being able to taste the tea in a little while, along with the feeling of relaxation that sitting and drinking a nice 'cuppa' brings.

Tea seems to say that things will happen in their own good time, and in the best possible way if we let them. To me, that is what cultivating Tao is all about.

Then, the universe seemed to decide to illustrate this point to me, when later the same day I received a lovely package of Mighty Leaf green tea from my online friend Karen at Guinea Lynx. So I brewed a cup, and drank in the flavor, aroma, and kindness.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

May Flowers!

It has been a long prairie Winter and it is good to see some real signs of Spring! I took this picture today - the little yellow flowers look so cute and courageous. They are the only flowering things in the yard so far. It makes my eyes happy to look upon them.

My eyes are also glad to look at our guinea pigs, Scooter and Corky. When I was feeding them a little while ago, before I went outside to take the flower picture, I sat and watched them eat. They are very focussed eaters. I can learn a lot from them. They are single minded about their task of eating, just like they are totally committed to their naps. Do one thing at a time, and do it well: The Zen of Pigs.