Waking Up In Canada

Time Out Just To See

Libraries: the quiet refuge October 15, 2011

Filed under: Abundance,Books — wakingupincanada @ 9:18 am
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I walked out of there into the cold, dark night, excited and elated.

Earlier that day, I saw a poster in the library about an upcoming workshop, “Canadian Writers You May Not Have Heard Of“. Given my lack of knowledge on any Canadian writers, I thought this would be perfect. I popped along at five to seven, and the room was filling fast.

Over the next 90 minutes, a crowded but comfortable room reviewed books by Canadian authors, some set here, some set elsewhere. They looked at the celebrated, the not so celebrated and the celebrated-who-did-not-deserve-it. The group comprised mostly women, a few men, from a mixture of ages and accents, sometimes agreeing with each other, sometimes disagreeing. The facilitator guided us through the workshop with passion, inclusiveness and humour. I wondered how I could learn to do that job.

I love books. I love being taken to another time or place, another person’s world. I love absorbing myself in a land built with words. I love recommending a book that is then loved. I encourage children to read at any chance I get. Whether in book form or e-reader form, and most recently, audio, I love them.

Being part of a group that oozes love for the written word took my passion and multiplied it by 100. I fed off their enthusiasm, their energy, and took notes on recommendations. There were a few books handed around, and from flicking through to a random page and sampling the prose, I could make my mind up what was for me or not. I also took note of those not my usual style but worth a try. That’s the great thing about such meetings: you push yourself out of your usual shelf.

How do books get known if they don’t have a big marketing ploy behind them? The facilitator pointed to the library as key in this area, ensuring little known writers also get to the readers.

The statement reminded me of my favourite book, Shadow Of The Wind, and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books which ensures that any book written is kept safe. To me, this is the essence of the Library, keeping books circulating. Regardless of your income, status, interests, you have access to books, at no cost. What wealth!

I joined the library not long after arriving here. It opened up to me a vast array of books , not to mention the newspapers, magazines and the DVD collection. I felt intimidated when informed that if I do not return my books, and fail to respond to the multitude of warnings, the library will hand my debt over to a Debt Collection Agency. However, on behalf of the books, I applauded the approach.

Before leaving Ireland, I dropped hundreds of my books at the second-hand store. Only my absolute favourites could be stored at my parents’ house. It was better than recycling, or, worse, landfill, but the amount of waste struck me. The library helps me be a little more ethical in my shopping, pioneering “Re-use, Re-use, Re-use”.

I had gone to the library that day to return books. 2 were late, and I asked about the fine. “We don’t charge you”, she explained, “we have a guilt jar”, pointing to the jam jar on the counter with $2 and other coins. Guilt prompted me to add another tooney (A Canadian dollor has a picture of a loon bird on it thus known as a loony; a $2 then becomes a tooney). An excessive fine, I thought, but I gave graciously because I didn’t have to. Sitting reading at a window table, the quiet calm relaxed me. People came and used the computer suite, sat and read the magazines and wandered around the shelves.

The library is the refuge for books that could slip from memory or fail to make it big in publishing. It is a refuge for second-hand books, saving them from landfill. It is the refuge for the reader, offering a quiet oasis of calm, whether your stay in town is short or long.


Abundance October 9, 2011

Filed under: Abundance — wakingupincanada @ 11:54 am
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When I arrived in Toronto on August 12th 2011, I had one bag (packed tightly) and a satchel filled with my prized possessions (laptop, diary, kindle, ipod, phone, passport, purse,  Rosary Beads from a best friend’s husband). I had everything I needed. A hairdryer and straighteners I would have loved, but, though I hear my best friend screaming in horror, I did not need. Touring around the CN Tower, Casa Loma, and particularly the Eaton Centre, I saw some beautiful things- souvenirs, books, clothes, and I walked on. At this stage it was easy. I had to carry all my worldly goods, and the sheer weight of my bag was a powerful disincentive. In Montreal, I visited the Biodome. I was texting and walked into a column. It was a plastic container filled with mobile phones. It asked on the back whether we needed to constantly update and so through away our old models? Trainers, children’s toys, fur and STUFF filled other plastic containers and the bottom line was that our consumption is getting out of hand. On the wall were statements, in French and English naturally, “Do I need this?” “I recycle” “I need new yoga pants”. It was a small room, and yet the message was powerful. I felt guilty. I thought on the boxes and boxes of clothes, shoes, handbags, books, sheets, towels, pillows, duvets I brought to the Charity Store before leaving, let alone the sheer volume that was binned. I immediately e-mailed an eco-loving friend and promised to think more about consumption.

Arriving in Bannf, I moved into a basement bedsit. It was small, dark but I liked it. After living in hostel dorms, I had my space. I started yoga. At the end of each lesson, the instructor places a card at the end of each mat: “thought for the day” I suppose. I got Abundance. I thanked God for all that I had. The next day, I got Abundance again. I thought on my healthy family, my opportunities in life, and I thanked God. The next practice, Abundance. Yes, God, I have been given a lot, and I appreciate, and am told often, how lucky I am to take this time to travel in Canada.

I joined the library free books without having to carry them with me or abandon them  (I had to do this at an airport in Spain once, I cannot recall the book, but it broke my heart). I chose a new book from a writer I enjoyed, Geneen Roth. She asked a question: Have I enough? I thought about it. I listed my family, my friends, my health, my ability to run when I want, a roof over my head and a job that puts food in my tummy. I added the mountains and river and trails around here because they definitely are a gift. Sure, I once lived in a whole house just for me, but I am genuinely happy to be here now, in this bedsit. I once had a job that drove and stretched my passion and skills,  but I am deeply grateful for a dependable job with a day’s pay for a day’s work.

I borrowed a book from the yoga studio. The writer is introduced as a master who shares his wisdom and compassion in abundance.

The Higher Power (I call him God, but you can call him, her or per anything you want) was shouting silently at me. I do not have enough. I have plenty. I have a lump of happiness in my gut. I walk around looking at the snow peaked mountains or the low-lying clouds and enjoy the show. I meet people from all over the world in the store and they share their stories generously. I wake up and practice yoga facing a mountain. One day I couldn’t see the mountain because of the cloud, but it was ok, I knew it was still there. There are different trails and different hikes. I walk past deer. My world is between these mountains right now, and all I need is within walking distance. Thanks to technology, I have spoken to each member of my family in the past 2 weeks (this is more than when I lived 20 miles from them). Abundance? I am living it. I have enough and loads left over. I know this, but I didn’t get it. Now every ounce of my body knows it too. My mind has shifted from seeing over-consumption as a negative to instead appreciating how rich I am when I appreciate and value that which is in my hands.

I promise I have not gone all wishy-washy, and one day I will again own straighteners. We know to appreciate nature, love, kindness and we need gentle, or not so gentle, reminders to stop and see and feel the beauty. I think however, I have forgotten to appreciate money, and the work that brings it to us. When we were little, our Mother loved dolls. She would help us wash our dolls, brush their hair, wash their clothes and get them looking great. We fed them, slept with them and if our doll fell, she would pick it up, hug it and comfort it. We valued our dolls, and my older sister and I got a new doll every Christmas. On Christmas Eve, our dolls sat out, gleaming, to show Santa Claus we really looked after the toys he gave us. Somewhere along the line, I lost that value. I bought and bought but left clothes lying on my bedroom floor, DVDs out of boxes, my car’s dent unrepaired. I left my Kindle on an armchair with my one year old niece. I stopped valuing items that cost me, or someone, money. My new thinking on Abundance is about also valuing the things I have bought, not feeling guilty or mindlessly spending, but enjoying the things my money buys. This has renewed my wish to be an ethical shopper: not having my hard-earned cash trap people in unjust work practices or polluted communities.

I am richer than I ever was, not because of where I am, but because I know it.


My park bench October 7, 2011

Filed under: Inspiration — wakingupincanada @ 7:43 am
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One day, I want to have a bench with my name on it. I wonder, what will it say?

I was on my way home and decided to walk a different way. Seeing the sign for the river, I took a dander. It was a beautiful day, cold but sunny and a slight breeze was whirling up the fallen leaves. By the river stood 2 benches and I took a seat. The sun was making golden a river bend up ahead, the snow lay on the mountain peaks and the only noises were a bird above me somewhere, the bubbling river, the laughs of a gentleman across the river and traffic crossing the bridge further upstream. I concentrated on stopping and listening, just letting go and enjoying the spontaneous seat by a river. Oddly, my feet did not touch the ground at all. I am shorter than some, but usually my tip toes reach, but here they swung freely, and I felt like a child.

Jumping off to leave, I noticed the inscription:

“Bonnie Wiegele

Athlete, Philanthropist

Living Inspiration To All”

Immediately, I wanted to be her. How does one become a living inspiration to all? It sounds a lot better that inspiring after you have gone, which in itself is a sign of a useful life. Walking home, I thought on Bonnie Wiegele. Athlete? I wondered did it count that I ran, not fast, sometimes far, but with consistency and with joy. Philanthropist was definitely one I needed to work on so I checked the (online) dictionary as a good starting point.

Philanthropy: 1.the practice of performing charitable or benevolent actions

2. the love of humanity

While I do love humanity, I am  more empty-handed when it comes to performing charitable actions. Did one have to be a philanthropist to be a living inspiration? How could I practice performing charitable actions  regularly? And I realised, by having this inscription on a park bench, this lady, whom I never met, was inspiring me to become a better person. Furthermore, it did not seem out of my grasp. I realised that a living inspiration means, to me, someone who looks at what she values in life and goes about doing it. I may myself be the only person I inspire, and that is ok with me. I took time to think up some things I could do simply to be the person I wanted to be. What did I want my park bench to say about me?

Firstly, I bought re-useable bags for my grocery shopping, stopping the conflict in my head over whether I could afford them anymore. I believe in reducing plastic bags and this is the best way I know to do that. Next, I bought free run eggs. They again cost more, but I wanted my eggs to come from happy hens, and while they might not be as happy as the hens my mother keeps at home, they are no doubt happier than being raised stuck in a tiny nest night and day. I decided to do an act of kindness daily, and to put thought into these actions, and I stumbled upon the kindness girl blog to help me. I decided to pay attention to where I put my money. This means trying to become a more ethical shopper and a more generous donator to charity. The ethical shopper is hard and I am only beginning. All advice would be gratefully appreciated as I begin to look at what I spend my money on. Any ideas where to start?

“Kellie Gallagher

Lives the life she believes in”

(Thank you Bonnie, for your bench and your inspiration)