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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

#Banjoy (Netflix Edition)

I was watching Grace and Frankie last night, winding down after a long work day, and this song came on. The banjo is a background element here, but I love the way it pops out from behind the song, which itself popped out from behind the action in the scene on the show:


Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017 Word of the Year

Here we are, New Year's Eve and I am having a quiet evening at home, which is my preferred way to spend NYE. For me, this is a time of reflection and anticipation – looking backward and forward while sitting on the line between the old and the new. A friend will be coming over in a bit, but for now, I'm reconciling my budget, putting my house in order, reflecting on 2016 and my plans for 2017 and generally relaxing.

This past year has been a doozy. The election of Donald Trump, the too-soon deaths of many cultural icons (including my two biggest musical heroes, David Bowie and Prince), the continued degradation of our planet: pipelines, pesticides, extinctions, wars – it's no surprise that social media users are bandying about the hashtag #FU2016.

For me, 2016 had personal significance because of the work I orchestrated in The Crooked Wood – having a driveway installed and a shed built and moving my tiny house.

I feel like 2017 is going to be a gigantenormous year for me. Before the year is out I hope to have a septic system installed, a well drilled (or dug, I'm still not sure which), and a cabin built. I'm looking at about 5 or 6 times more work than last year. I'm feeling a bit anxious and overwhelmed at the thought. I only hope that things go as smoothly for these next phases as they did for the initial phase of the work.

Fortunately, once again this year, I was graced with the opportunity to join Jamie Ridler's wonderful "Planning Day/Design Your Year" workshop.

It was an awesome opportunity for me to think and plan ahead for the kind of year I'm hoping to create in 2017. It reminded me that I have many tools that I'm going to need for the work ahead – not least the ability to take deep breaths and roll with the punches. And learn. I'm certain I am going to learn a lot this year.

For the fourth year in a row, I've selected a word of the year. Keeping with my streak of R-words, this year's word is: Realization.

This is the year it happens. This is the year that all of my thoughts and yearnings for a home of my own become real.

It's going to take a lot of hard work, sacrifice and frugality, a lot of time and energy and money and love. I'm sure there will be tears and dark moments and difficult feelings.

And I am determined that it will get done. And that it will get done gently, kindly and with love.

That is my manifesto. Come on, 2017, I'm ready for you.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Seasonal Netflix recommendation

I don't usually do this, but I feel compelled to tell you about a show that's available on Netflix, especially if you're looking for some deep, darkly-funny entertainment over the holidays.

The show is called Please Like Me. It's a billed as a "comedy drama" series, but I would describe it as a sitragicom – a situation tragicomedy.

I first saw the show a few years ago when it appeared briefly as a summer fill-in show on CBC. I got hooked. CBC only showed Series 1 and 2, so after those were done I had to hunt down the episodes in Series 3 on sites like YouTube and DailyMotion (usually with terrible sound and image quality).

This fall, Series 1-3 became available on Netflix and I watched all of the episodes again.

The show is centred around a young man named Josh and his friends and family.

At first glance, the show is about Josh coming out and learning how to navigate the world and his sexual territory.

Josh and his best friend Tom seem feckless and insecure. Their friend (and Josh's former girlfriend) Claire is pretty and clever. They are all under-employed and mostly broke and obsessed with things that seem completely trivial.

It could be that show. But the young-people-learning-adulting-through-their-hilarious-experiences premise is basically a cover for a show that is dedicated to a fierce and tender exploration of how people struggle with their mental health and what that experience is like for them and for the people who love them.

Josh's mom, Rose, has bipolar disorder. In the first episode of Series 1, Rose tries to kill herself. Not for the last time, either. Rose spends time in a private psychiatric hospital, where she meets Hannah, Stewart and Ginger. Josh's main love interest, Arnold has a severe anxiety disorder and also spends time at the hospital.

There are so many poignant, funny lines, I can't even begin to tell you about them. The show is hilarious and sly and playful and painful and sad and thought-provoking. There is death and love and and hope and disappointment.

When Josh's dad, Alan (who is just as feckless and insecure as his son) says that he's always felt a bit hopeless as a dad, Josh replies, "Well, you are. I mean, we're all hopeless. I'm hopeless. Arnold's hopeless. Tom, Tom is hopeless."

There are 26 half-hour episodes on Netflix, so if you start binge watching now, you could very easily come up to the fraught and funny Christmas-themed finale of Series 3 at some point on Christmas day.

Warnings: this show contains explicit sexuality, "bad" language, abortion, chicken murder, food porn, lip-syncing, ferris wheels, babies, self-harm, suicide attempts and Australian accents, so if you are not okay with any of those things, this is not the show for you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter Solstice 2016

Solstice today – the shortest day of the year and the turning point to longer days ahead (for those of us in the Northern hemisphere, that is). Solstices and equinoxes feel like a big deal around these parts – I can guarantee you that there will be many bonfires roaring tonight in rural Nova Scotia.

I had my solstice fun last night and into the early hours of this morning – a thai food feast with friends, complete with stories, laughter, wood stove warmth, general snuggling and several experiments to determine how many large dogs and people could fit on one loveseat at one time.

In contrast, this evening is a quiet one for me. An introspective evening at home with Knitflix and Salinger.

Around sunset today, I went out and took some photos of Lunenburg Harbour. It was a beautiful evening, plus 3 degrees Celsius, pink light – very, very pretty and calm.
Lunenburg, NS – viewed across the harbour, solstice sunset
Ducks in the harbour

As I walked and admired the view, I was thinking about agape and philia. (I fear J.D. Salinger would have labelled my mood today as an "oppressively-deep" one*).

Agape, philia, storge and eros are four types of love that were described by ancient Greek philosophers. Storge is familial lovethe natural love between parents, children, siblings, etc. Agape is divine love, the love God feels for humans and humans for God. Myself, I feel the divine in the world, and so agape is how I label the wonder, delight and peace I feel in connection with, for example, trees in general, The Crooked Wood, the pink glow this evening, the beaches, the starry sky last night, etc.
The (snow-covered) Crooked Wood – December 18, 2016
I am thinking about philia today particularly because of the dinner party I enjoyed last night – I was the only single person at a dinner party with 4 pair-bonded sets of folks. It can be easy to feel left out and at odds in a situation like that, yet I did not – I felt very beloved and included. Eros (erotic love) is on hiatus in my life – paused for a long stretch of heart-healing work and to give space to the processes and energies of peri-menopause. Particularly in its absence, I feel very conscious that I am graced by the love that I share with my friends and in my community.

To quote the entry on philia from Wikipedia: "In his Rhetoric, Aristotle defines the activity involved in philia (τὸ φιλεῖν) as:
'wanting for someone what one thinks good, for [their] sake and not for one's own, and being inclined, so far as one can, to do such things for [them]' (1380b36–1381a2)" (Emphasis mine).
I feel blessed with people in my life who have so much of this kind of heart generosity, who go out of their way to share meals, make plans for fun activities, stay in touch and let me know that I am loved, valued and not alone. And I am grateful for the impulses in my own heart that cause me to offer lifts, do favours, cook meals, join in the fun and give and receive hugs with my whole heart.
The beauty of a chainsawed love letter, received December 9, 2016
There are some pieces in me that feel badly broken. And there is much of me that feels whole. And in my best moments, I feel deeply grateful for all of it. 
 
And then of course there is Salinger. Who, while presumably knowing nothing of agape or philia, graciously forgives me for leaving him to go hang out with my friends. And purrs at me when I come home (as long as I feed him ;).
Salinger – cozy in our winter digs
("Make with the kibbles, Lady."

If you are in the Northern hemisphere on this day of least light, I hope you feel loved and fully awake to the knowledge that the earth is turning back toward the sun. Wherever you are, if you want hearts to shine on you, remember the description of philia – selfless acts for the good of others, because you wish them well – and make philia happen wherever and whenever you can.

*Referencing Franny and Zooey as usual: “Last month, Dean Sheeter (whose name usually transports Franny when I mention it) approached me with his gracious smile and bull whip, and I am now lecturing to the faculty, their wives, and a few oppressively-deep type undergraduates every Friday on Zen and Mahayana Buddhism. A feat, I haven’t a doubt, that will eventually earn me the Eastern Philosophy Chair in Hell.”
J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Seasonal #banjoy

I'm not a huge fan of this time of year.

Which means that #banjoy is more welcome to me than ever.

Here is a beautiful song written and performed by my friend Craig Werth.

I hope you will enjoy listening to it:



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Battening down the hatches

I've been down with a bad flu for over a week. Before that, I took a random road trip to Montreal for a week to visit some long-missed family members. But before that, I tackled the job of getting my tiny home ready for the winter. And now that I'm sick at home, what better time to catch up with a blog post about it?

There were a number of tasks that needed to be accomplished. My two major tasks had to do with the shed – I needed to paint the trim and I needed to close in the "eaves" of the shed. 

This required a lot of work on a ladder. My shed is high – due to some geological limitations on how deep the footings could be installed – and so I had no choice but to make use of the ladder my stepdad kindly gave me (along with all of the materials and tools I needed to close in the eaves – :). 

The last time I used a ladder higher than a step-ladder was in 2007. It was the first time in my life that I had a phobic reaction to something. About two-thirds of the way up the ladder to the roof of the house I owned with my then-partner, I froze, irrationally terrified and quite certain that I was about to die. I forced myself up to the top. Once up on the flat roof, I felt fine. But getting down the ladder again was not fun. 

So, I approached this ladder work with trepidation. Fortunately, I did not have a repeat of my past phobia. Over time, I even got comfortable with being on a ladder again. Still, I hope that my house can be built a little lower than the shed so that future ladder work can be kept to a minimum.
The shed with trim painted.
Hardware cloth cut to cover the gap at the top of the shed
Hardware cloth getting bent into shape

The eaves closed in using hardware cloth – with very inexpertly applied staples...

The next major job was to empty my tiny home of food (and anything else that might freeze). My house feels bereft with all of the things I need for daily life – clothes, food, computer, etc – removed from it.

Toward the end of the summer, I was starting to experience some pretty major issues with condensation inside my house. But since I am no longer there as a source of water vapour, the house has dried out nicely. It smells of pinewood when I visit – such an alluring scent.

My much-tidier-than-usual tiny home
I find my land breathtaking in its beauty at this time of year. When I go to visit, I find myself lingering in the peace and freshness I find there. I can hardly tear myself away.

One golden tamarack
Some mushrooms are autumn's tulips

But central heating is a thing – and I know that I am not up for trying to fight moisture and cold in my tiny house over the winter.

And so, I continue trying to figure out whether I can build a small winterized cabin there next year. More on that to come.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Second last move?

Here it is, October 9. Thanksgiving weekend. 

And it's the end of my summer here in The Crooked Wood.  

Fall colours are just starting to kiss the tips of the trees in The Crooked Wood
I've been slowly moving to my winter accommodations in Lunenburg. I moved the big stuff (my small chest freezer, my bicycle) on Friday with help from one of my cousins and with my folks' pickup truck.

I feel really sad about leaving this place. I wish I could stay, but I know that Wholehearted House and I are just not up for living through a winter together. Already, the cold nights are causing condensation problems. I know I don't want to do the work that I would need to do to stay here and be warm and dry through the winter, nor do I want to pay for the renovations that would be necessary to make this a year-round dwelling. It is a perfect summer retreat, but believe that trying to make it into something it is not designed for will be a waste of money and will probably cause long-term damage.

While I know that my winter accommodations will be comfortable and fun, I still feel really sad, which several kind friends have pointed out is a good thing – because it shows how much I love it here and how much I feel like I belong to this place.

So, I've been letting myself feel sad and soft and vulnerable and treasuring my last days here for 2016.
Sal and I have been spending lots of time cuddling during the cool nights and mornings
I've walked around The Crooked Wood many times over the past few days – partly in search of mushrooms, which have finally gotten enough rain to be able to bloom – and partly in simple appreciation, finding countless little beauty spots to take with me while I am away:

"Nature decorates so beautifully!" as a friend commented when I posted this photo to social media.






Pretty mushroom! Probably a Purple Cort, according to my mushroom-identifying friends.
Salinger loves to come with me on walks. He climbs way up in the trees.
I have to say goodbye to my garden, too. It's been a challenging year for gardening because of the lack of rain. But I haven't had a killing frost yet, so my tomatoes are still ripening on the vine and my potato tops are still lush and green. The little bit of rain we have had has helped a bit.

My hugelkultur mound in July
My hugelkultur mound in October
My raised bed in July
My raised bed in October


I am feeling very motivated to make sure that I can build a year-round dwelling here next year. I feel quite overwhelmed at the thought of designing a space and corralling enough money to make that happen. But the thought that I could move back here next spring and never move again (unless I choose to), is a very compelling thought. Yes, I will be very happy if this is my second-last move. Ever.
I have this beautiful mini garden of forest mosses and lichens that my friend Kristina made. My mom bought it for me at the Lahave Craft Co-op this summer. I feel like this garden is a way to keep The Crooked Wood with me through the winter. That feels like a great blessing – to have a reminder of what is here waiting for me.