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…a song won’t change the world…

Bob’s Guitar

Recently it was singer Neil Young’s seventy-fifth birthday (Nov 12, 2020). I listened to much of his eclectic music paying attention to the lyrics. I was struck by their reflective nature and his responsiveness to emotional landscapes both personal, and public.

Music is his passion. Even though I have always enjoyed much of his music I haven’t always paid attention to the lyrics. That day I did and because of it, I was inspired by his authenticity. It seemed to me this Canadian born icon of the music industry has been a vanguard.

Young’s lyrics for example, “a song won’t change the world,” perhaps has, or “someday you’ll find what you’re looking for,” leads us to continue a search for a meaningful life. His lyrics have certainly influenced generations.

It seems that as a reflection of culture music has its purpose to be what it is, and in bite size pieces, influence, perhaps alter, public perspective. It is the gift an artist offers others in living their passion, and allowing the receiver to receive what they are able, when they are ready, and absorb its message in whatever way makes sense to them.

Often, I am asked how I maintain a positive attitude in the midst of pain, physical limitations and unease, and how that has shaped my life. Resiliency—the power or ability to return to an original form, or the ability to respond to, or to recover from a crisis, disruptive process, etc.—is both a perspective and an attitude.

For example: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” can work in many ways. I choose two—make that lemonade and enjoy the process; find the sweetness, or drink it sour—the choice is mine.

How has this shaped my life? Simply by taking another point of view different from what I am seeing in the moment has helped me build compassion for others viewpoints and grow kindness and respect in myself.

I neither believe nor disbelieve in a higher power. I simply know there is an interconnected energy far greater than little old me, tying us all together by invisible threads. How it is named, and what I choose to name it, is again, a choice.

Perhaps this is what all “creatives” offer—icons and otherwise. They put their work out into the world, and allow it to move, motivate, or provoke change—in ourselves and others—in recognition of our interconnectedness.

Writing Practice: Write freeflow (stream of consciousness), on how your personal health and wellness is connected to the whole. You may wish to write a poem, or create a collage to reflect this. As a fellow “creative”, let it flow… 

Embracing Imperfection

I am building a deer fence around my garden. It all started with a pile of dirt dumped in my yard last summer when my son was reconfiguring his back yard.  It came in two dump trucks— full— one good dirt, the other considered great for back fill. Recently my daughter took the backfill to use to grade a slope away from her house, the other remained with me.

Since coronavirus and possible food disruptions here in my neck of the woods, I have thought it prudent to transform the dirt into a vegetable garden. Here deer are rampant and graze unmercifully through the garden year-round. So bushes, trees, flowers, anything green in fact are considered food.

Before any grass greens, before they leave town to birth more deer, the ones that remain become entirely indiscriminate. They are in survival mode, and while I don’t appreciate the damage they impose, who can blame them? Who encroaches on whom? Our gardens are fair game for these creatures.

To my garden and mind chatter. First I rounded up pallets. I have heard that some people in the neighbourhood call my place the Pallet Palace. Why? You’ve guessed it. I use pallets—a lot! I enjoy the aesthetics as well as their versatility. They are born for re-purposing and that appeals to me greatly. Surrounding the dirt with pallets wasn’t hard although my physical limitations made the progress slow.

I knew I must elevate the pallet surround to prevent deer from eating any food grown inside the garden. With chicken wire and necessary 1”x2”’s in hand I set to work. Up until this point I was happy in my process, although with one hand that doesn’t grip and physical limitation, I frequently meet challenges— usually quite openly. I am used to it, and for the most part appreciate my ability to move through the challenge until earlier this week when monkey mind and judgement came out to test my resolve.

Simply, my back neighbours had a similar idea to build a garden with raised beds and a deer fence. Between them there are six pairs of hands and a carpenter! My mind chatter escalated with comparison and judgement. It got so loud I had to quit my own fumbles.

Now, I know my daughter and a friend will come to help. Didn’t they do an awesome job! However, what I found interesting was how mind chatter, monkey mind created such nonsense, and how easily I believed such prattle, even though I knew it was foolish. I was crippled by comparison of my own making.

For example: my neighbours were doing a good job; theirs looked so much better than mine etc. All none-sense. Of course each garden is different; much like how each of us is different. It is our differences, in what we do, appreciate, think, resolve, and pay attention to that makes us who we are. My neighbours were busy in their process, as I had been until crazy-mind entered.

Fortunately I had the wherewithal to stop and contemplate what was really going on for me, and find a resolution for myself.  Taking that time-out was and is essential for our health and wellness. Without the time for contemplation non-sense can escalate so much it can overwhelm us, and cause dis-ease in our emotional or physical bodies.

It is important to stop, take time, and discover what mind chatter is really showing us. It is about embracing our imperfection and loving ourselves regardless that makes a difference for us individually and collectively. Finding our balance connects us all, and the pen remains my faithful tool!

Writing Practice:  Recently, have you encountered a similar example of dis-ease, mind chatter, or non-sense that has entered your awareness and became too loud to ignore? Write about it. What is under the noise, the language, the experience? Explore and communicate with it through the power of the pen. It is cost-effective and a great way to address niggles.         

A Gift of Challenge

ImageA Gift of Challenge:

When I was in Sidney Australia almost twenty years ago, I underwent a catharsis. Perhaps it was the heat, the landscape, my attitude, all of it combined. My intention back forty years now, after completing college in England, had been to go to Australia. I came to Canada instead, and it took a further twenty years to fulfil that purpose – to go to the land where the Kookaburras (tree kingfishers) laugh and sing, and the genetically unmixed dingo runs free on Fraser Island- or did. Now they no longer run free on the sandy shores of the island because one erstwhile tourist got too close. Now they are controlled and no longer pure. Hearing about that brought home the behavior of human beings, and their influence on the environment.

The journey to Australia was a turning point; one that has spilled into much of my life today- how my attitude shapes my reality.  At the time, I didn’t recognize the trip particularly as a catalyst; however in hindsight I can see its influence.

In the Optimism Cards I published in 2010, after life changing injuries (TBI* and physical) in 2007, using original words and images, Challenge, is the only image that comes from that time. A handful of images were shot in England (2006) prior to the accident, and the rest were shot with my one good hand between 2008-2010.

This image particularly strikes me at a gut level. Amidst rock, along the coastline where it is arid, with extreme heat, on an outcrop overhanging the ocean on the Gold Coast this small tree grew, and struggled against, wind, heat and salt, this seed found a patch of sandy soil to put down its roots, and sprout leaning away from the warm winds and spray.

Amidst the land of over 700 varieties of gum (eucalyptus) trees, this one found its bearing, its attitude and dug-in.  It seems to represent a tenacity that is beyond logic – or environmental wisdom and yet I’d have to say, that capacity to “dig-in” no matter the adversity of surroundings, is an attitude worthy of life.

A challenge is a gift. Our attitude of approach determines the outcome no matter what we face: environmental uncertainty, climate change, dis-ease, economic downturns, species extinction, hunger, and/or political unrest. It is how individually and collectively we address the challenges that will determine the outcome for our grandchildren, their children, their children’s children and for generations to come.

*TBI- Traumatic Brain Injury

Optimism Card: Challenge: Choose wisely, your recovery depends on it. Challenge is inevitable.  Your attitude of approach will make the difference, between struggle and ease, conflict and resolution, anger and joy. Check out: http://storiesthatmatter.weebly.com or http://optimismcards.weebly.com for more information on Optimism Cards.