Eclipsed

August 21, 2017.

As I’m coming down from the bedroom at my uncle’s house, my attention is on my aunt in the kitchen below. My foot misses a step, and I tumble head over heels to the bottom of their wooden staircase. After a minute at the bottom, I make an assessment. Nothing’s broken – not my laptop, none of my bones. My ankle hurts, and I know I hit my head. I’m shaking, like I always do after a faceplant. Continue reading

For the forests

Today an interesting thing came up in my Facebook feed: it’s the International Day of Forests. No kidding.

What a coincidence, I think to myself. Here I am, mulling over the idea of writing a blog post on something, anything, as long as it’s not depressing or political in nature, and my latest obsession comes and knocks at the door. Me! Write about Me! Continue reading

End times

Bleak.

That’s the only word I came up with today. Write something on your blog, Mary, I told myself. Maybe it will be therapeutic.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve become increasingly dependent on the Internet to soothe my restless mind. I lose myself in a labyrinth of interesting articles, the antics of friends from around the world, silly videos, TV series on Netflix. I quell my boredom and at the same time avoid doing anything of note, including blogging. Oh yes, I do emerge for yoga and some running, I do read actual books to the tune of one or two a week. But still. The rest of the time? Drugged. Continue reading

Home again

I’m baaack!!

500 miles, ~90,000 vertical feet, 29 days …

We survived the epic adventure! We finished the Colorado Trail! Our bodies didn’t break, we didn’t get hit by lightning, and (unfortunately?) we didn’t see a single hungry bear.

We emerged in Durango on August 17, five days ahead of schedule. I haven’t written about the hike here on Gydle yet (UPDATE: yes I have, and you can read it all here) because it has taken me quite a while to 1) process the experience and 2) re-engage with regular life. When your existence is pared down to walking, sleeping and putting food into your mouth, normal life is so complicated in comparison. It boggles.

I don’t know if the hike “changed” me – but coming back, I feel the need for some change. So I gave Gydle a fairly major facelift. I hope you like the new design.

Because I found other peoples’ blogs about the trail so useful and interesting when I was planning, in the posts to come I’m going to tell the story of our hike, doing my best to leave all the interesting parts in and all the boring bits out. Plus a few photos. If you’re not interested, just bear with me. It will all be over soon and I’ll be back to my usual obsessions.

But first, a video:

Boy was I glad my man walked those 500 miles with me! And we would definitely walk 500 more!

An Epic Adventure

Eight rice and bean dinners, with dried kale, red peppers, onion and cheese powder from a box of Annie’s mac & cheese. Eight scrambled egg dinners, with dried green chile and salsa bark and more cheese powder. Three dehydrated green chile stew dinners. Twenty-eight one-cup bags of quick-cook steel-cut oatmeal, with milk powder, cinnamon and dried fruit. Four bags each of dried banana circles, apple slices, and sweet potato leather.

No, I’m not being prudent and stocking up in advance of the Big One that experts predict has a 33% chance of obliterating Vancouver in the next 50 years.

We’re heading for the hills. Continue reading

Revolutions and Revelations

This body I’m inhabiting has now accompanied the Earth on fifty turns around the Sun. Yes, that’s right, fifty years ago my little eyes first encountered our star and I began my journey.  Every summer, when the planet tilts its northern pole forward in homage to the fusion reactor that keeps us all alive, I eat cake in celebration.

(Can you tell I’ve been translating a book about astrophysics and space travel?)

It’s an epic moment, to be sure. On a number of levels. Epic enough that I have decided to finally reveal what Gydle means. Continue reading

Listen up!

Arnold Lakhovsky, The Conversation (circa 1935)

Have you ever been talking to someone and had the feeling that they were just waiting for a pause in your narrative so they could jump in and start talking about themselves? Have you ever been interrupted in mid-sentence ? Have you ever had the feeling that the person you are talking with is completely bored by what you’re saying? Have you ever revealed something personal and important to you, and then told that you were completely wrong about it or that your listener had had that exact same experience and this is what you should do?

I’m sure you have. We all have. It’s called relationships.

If there’s one thing I know for sure, other than the fact that we will all die someday, it’s that everyone wants to talk about themselves. If you can really listen — listen so people feel heard — your relationships will be much deeper, stronger and healthier. Continue reading

Volunteer

One of the things I have wanted to do since coming back to the land of English is volunteer with a hospice organization. Hospice, in case you don’t know, is caregiving for people who have a terminal illness. When there is nothing that can be medically done to turn a disease around, when there are no more treatments left, then patients and their families are eligible for hospice care. A hospice team – in a facility or in your home – makes sure that you are comfortable, as free from pain as possible, and supports your family as you make the transition out of this world.

Volunteers are a part of this team, doing nonmedical stuff like listening, bringing water or coffee or tea or warm blankets, wheeling patients outside for fresh air, and generally trying to be helpful while at the same time not making things worse than they already are. I just completed a 26-hour training program for hospice volunteers. My first shift at the hospice on the UBC campus is tomorrow afternoon.

The reason I wanted to do this? My dad.

Continue reading

Why so fast?

IMG_0762Yesterday as I was powering down Sasamat to meet a friend for a walk in the forest, I overtook a man and a small dog. The dog was setting the pace, waddling along and stopping frequently. As I passed them, I joked, “You guys are moving along at mach speed today!”

The man smiled. “It’s senior speed,” he replied. His love for this little fireplug of a dog was palpable in the air as I passed.

Later, in the park, my friend and I were surprised by a huge guy wearing earbuds who flung himself off a wooden walkway at top speed, nearly mowing us down. He pounded into the distance, leaving us gasping in his wake. Continue reading

The underpinnings

inspirationI’ve been doing some mindfulness meditation lately. It’s about the simplest “activity” you can imagine – you just sit on the floor, on a cushion, close your eyes, and breathe.  And I’m not just doing this because I’ve moved to Vancouver and gone all yoga. Okay, it’s partly that. But it’s also been scientifically proven to build you a better brain.

Studies have shown that you can improve blood pressure and anxiety levels, increase cognitive capacity, and stave off aging just by sitting and doing nothing at all. A Harvard prof has done research that shows that it only takes 8 weeks of a meditation practice to rewire your brain. The brains of the meditators actually got thicker in areas involved in attention and sensory processing. It’s like doing pushups for your brain! (And here I thought it was a bad thing to have a thick head…) Continue reading