Gentle Hands

“Gentle hands,” my sister says to my nephew as she passes him a delicate angel ornament. She has been teaching him many lessons about sharing, tidying up and how to use gentle hands. Her lesson caught my attention and became a discipline I could practice in my life.  

Brix is one-and-a-half years old and is a busy little guy who needs to explore everything in sight. He loves construction machinery, storybooks, all things nature and cooking in his kitchen like Mom and Dad do. When playing he literally leaves no stone unturned. He’ll empty cupboards, push over logs used as makeshift tables at my parents trailer, and look for food anywhere he can find it. My sister and brother-in-law understand the importance of teaching him how to use gentle hands – a lesson in respect for both objects, nature and in play.

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Five Years

When I started my blog five years ago a fellow blogger and friend gave me valuable advice. He said, “Remember that blogging is a community of writers. You need to participate in the conversations.” It was helpful advice that didn’t come naturally. At the time I was struggling to find my voice and have the courage to share my experience with potential readers. I was shy and uncertain but slowly began to participate with other writers. As I began reading, liking and following blogs from around the world, I felt connected to personal experiences around mental health and grief, and inspired by travel and nature photographs, poetry and well-being tips. August 2021 marks my five year anniversary writing with WordPress and I want to celebrate a fellow writer. 

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Poppy Red Sofa

A velvety poppy red sofa (a love seat to be exact) in a brightly lit open space living room. I squeeze myself in between Grandma and Grandpa. Grandpa is on my right and Grandma on my left. She is closest to the end table dressed with odds and ends, and close enough for her to darn a rip, read the news, coupon clip or sip a small glass of water. I envision myself holding Grandpa’s hand. He is ill and I want to remember his touch. His large weathered soft hand in mine. A hand that built his home in Europe and cottage in Canada. A hand that tended to the soil, untangled necklaces, stitched small pouches and washed dishes. Nestled on the couch together we say very little and feel very much. We know this moment is precious and conversation may spoil the felt exchange. The quiet closeness comforts us. I am at peace here in this memory. I am at peace. I am loved.

My eyes remained closed while folded into my comforter on the third day. My will tries hard to push the symptoms away, but it quickly loses the fight. The second dose has done me in. Exhaustion and nausea invite sadness, dressed up as the satisfaction of giving yourself permission to feel. Depression dances in circles taunting me to a waltz or tango but I am only mesmerized by the music. I fade in and out of mindfulness as the music pulls me in. I conjure up just enough mental fortitude to recall a happy place: 

A velvety poppy red sofa (a love seat to be exact) in a brightly lit open space living room. I’m squeezed in between Grandma and Grandpa. 

The tune once played no longer pulls me in. I hear no invitation to tango or waltz. I envision a soft weathered hand in mine and whisper to myself, “The fourth day will be better.” 

Open To Surprise

In an attempt to make sense of the past, I find I am interrupting the process by having very narrow assumptions. I’ve wanted a quick resolve to my troubles, much like removing a cast from a broken arm after a few short weeks of healing. Sadly, this has not been the case. It’s been a full three years of ups and downs and I still feel like I’m only scratching the surface.

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Sweet Spring

Today my senses expand as I turn the corner onto my street. 

With no blooms in sight I smell the sweet aroma of Spring flowers in the air. 

The sleepy grey morning sky is swept with the brilliance of yellow daffodils, lavender-blue muscari and pink tulips. 

Like the creamy aroma of strong espresso waking me up from a groggy morning descent, so does the sharp and satisfying perfume awaken my spirit. 

My head, facing forward, begins to tilt upwards. My nostrils open, my belly and chest widen, welcoming the fresh floral bouquet. 

I savour the special moment between nature and me.

As I receive the fragrant offering, my sluggish senses are filled with hope.

Unsolicited, my routine is liberated by an invitation to breathe-in beauty and bathe-in gratitude.

Spring has come and gone each year. Still, this season is the first I have indulged in years

…but it won’t be the last.

The Space Between

My neighbourhood has not been the same since the pandemic. Not too long ago, a quick wave from a car window on our way to and from work was all we had time for. Nowadays cars remain in the driveways, and we sport comfy joggers and uncut hair or home haircuts instead. A more relaxed and slower pace of life, along with the common concern and responsibility for the global pandemic has generated fertile soil for more meaningful conversations.

Last week while on a dog-walk, an unrecognizable car pulls up beside me and the driver rolls down her window, “My dear I haven’t seen you in a while. I was hoping to see you.” A lovely grandmother (and neighbour) who lost her dog about a year ago wanted to stop and catch up with me. She bypasses the small talk and tells me everything that has been going on in her life (tears included). I wondered why this neighbour felt so comfortable sharing such meaningful conversation with me. Could it be just the type of person she is? Or was it the fact that I listened happily to her? Maybe both?

The phrase “holding space” comes to mind when reflecting on the changing dynamics of my neighbourhood. Holding space is a way of intentionally settling into a moment and being fully present in your body and mind, and observing both your inner and outer world. Holding space also refers to making room for conversation that goes beyond talk about the weather. This phrase used by yoga instructors, online meditations, podcasts and in therapy has made it’s way into my personal practice as well as my neighbourhood.

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There Is More To It

Dinner was served on hand-me-down plates from my late grandparents. Our everyday dinnerware was loaded into the dishwasher, hence the need for the ‘fancier’ plates. It worked out nicely since we were having a fancier meal: strip loin steak, baked potatoes and grilled asparagus.

Whenever I plate food or pour a drink into their antique dinnerware, I think back to memories I’ve shared with them. An odd but timely memory was activated during our steak and potato meal. I remember when I was a teenager my grandmother having to leave the kitchen anytime my grandfather ran the dish water. She couldn’t handle the violent sound the rushing water made as it filled up the sink. I thought that this was so peculiar and the reaction was just her being fussy.

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Success

When I was younger I thought success was an onward and upward journey mapped out by culturally embedded markers: high-school, post secondary education, a career, love and marriage followed by children. If I followed this map, I would know that I had arrived. Reality hit hard when I missed some of these predetermined markers by my late twenties. I felt unaccomplished because of the value I had placed on this familiar timeline. It was during this time in my life I began to question the notion of success and reexamined the many constructs I had built around it.

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Misplaced

With not much to do these days, we’ve had to be creative in how we spend our free time. One of our new ‘fun’ activities is puzzling. Before all this, I never saw myself as a puzzler but, here we are! Our first puzzle was a beautiful starry night at an old lake house with three dogs sitting on the dock. Unlike our second and third puzzle, this one had very intricate pieces that had us seriously baffled. After an hour of puzzling our eyes were seeing similarly toned pieces as a wash of undistinguishable colours. Several times we had placed a piece in a spot that appeared to fit but did not. That one misplaced piece threw off the chance of fitting any other piece around the area, adding more hours to our puzzling fun. 

Time spent puzzling made for opportunity to reflect (a constant practice in my life). Puzzling revealed more than just a beautiful old lake house under a starry sky. It also uncovered an interesting revelation: putting the wrong piece where it doesn’t belong tries to solve a problem but in actuality it doesn’t. It only throws you off course. 

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More Than A Meal

It was Saturday night a few days before Christmas and with nowhere to go and no friends to meet, we decided to live like the not so distant past (the time before lockdowns). “Let’s pretend we’re going out to a restaurant!” I exclaimed. “Sure, why not!” my husband replied. Gourmet nachos for dinner with craft beers and bar tunes transformed our dining room into a make shift restaurant for the evening. We dressed lime flavoured nachos with peppers, onion, tomatoes, ground beef, refried beans and topped them off with an excessive amount of cheddar cheese. We made fresh guacamole, spooned full fat sour cream and our favourite salsa into festive bowls. We poured local brews into our favourite beer glasses. We drummed up dinner conversation and laughed as we imagined asking our waiter for another round. It wasn’t the same as getting dressed up and meeting friends at a restaurant but, it sure felt nice (a friendly reminder of a luxury we once took for granted).

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