Waking Up In Canada

Time Out Just To See

Ah, rest December 8, 2011

Filed under: rest — wakingupincanada @ 11:44 am
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How happy I am! I awoke and wandered to yoga, I moved through my positions loving each one and then those beautiful words: Savasana. She told us after activity, we need rest and I smiled, as that was my day in full: Rest.

I have had a busy week, a busy few weeks, darting here and there, writing, skiing, living. Today though, is just for me. No plans, nobody to meet, nothing that has to be done. It feels good. I made a list of the things I want to do today. I like lists, you see. All that is on there is the nice stuff. My favourite cafe, read a book my friend is co-writing, maybe e-mail some people. I’ll pop into the library and re-charge my Kindle.

I look at the people around me working 2 jobs, sometimes 3, and I wonder where they get the energy. I love my skiing and working and socialising and writing but here, in the rest afterwards, this is where I glow.



Just an evening November 18, 2011

Filed under: Books,Doing what you love,Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 7:10 am
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I popped into the post office last night after my book club meeting. There were 2 letters sitting in my mailbox, leaning diagonally across the square metal pigeon hole. Both had Winnie The Pooh envelopes; envelopes I’d left with my niece to draw on. It was dark. The snow came down beautifully yesterday afternoon. Snowflakes hovered over and back, and down to the ground faster than before, and for longer. I shovelled snow outside our store for the first time yesterday afternoon. People make conversation when they see you shovelling. It was a pleasant trip outdoors. I digress.

I walked home in the dark along the white sidewalk, clutching my 2 letters in my thick gloves. I felt childlike, the letters clumsily grasped. I am not used to the thick padding. I was on a high from BookClub at the wonderful Banff Library. Last night’s theme was World Authors and so I talked about my favourite two: Nadeem Aslam and Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I took down new recommendations. I must state, even if I never read any of the recommendations, my love for the BookClub would not lessen. Sitting around talking about books and listening to others’ opinions and descriptions to me is like biting into really good fudge: soft, sweet and warm with endorphins rising up from mere anticipation, shouting for joy. I won a book last night. There are weekly draws for books. I did not get my first or second choice but I will give “Solo” by Rana Dasgupta a go in December. I was happy to win a book.

As I weaved my way past the congregation of the Korean Church making their exit through the corner of Banff Avenue and Wolf Street, I noticed I was happy. It wasn’t the simple happiness of a pleasant life, for which I am grateful daily to God. My happiness was a ball of joy in my gut on a cold, dark, snowy evening. 2 letters in my hand, a prize book, an entertaining evening; I am happy.


To Kill A Mockingbird in T17 November 16, 2011

Filed under: Books — wakingupincanada @ 8:07 am
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Our topic of discussion at the book meeting was prize-winning books. I looked through the lists and there were a handful of books that I had read, and very few I had actually liked. Maybe I’m just not smart enough for high literature. I flicked back through the pages and I finally scouted one, a gem of a book that I utterly adored. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.

I was 11 years old I think when I first read To Kill A Mockingbird. My older sister was studying it in school. I struggled with the first few pages. Scout was a girl and Jem a boy. The story of the Finches arriving in the County was hard to read. The I settled into what would become a heart-wrenching, loveable, sweet, sad story and a young girl making sense of an unfair world. 3 years later, it was my turn to study To Kill A Mockingbird. I was delighted, one of the few who was, as the Snapper by Roddy Doyle was the favourite choice. I used my sister’s book, giving me an unfair advantage: all the chapters were summarised briefly at the end and the key quotes underlines. I learned early the advantages of second-hand. As I read through it again though, I had my own observations to make, my own preference for quotes.

Tied forever to this book, is my experience of studying it in T17, a room at the end of the school corridor. It was the room with the most natural light, with windows facing 2 directions. It was a large spacious room, without clutter. It was the English teacher’s room and his calm and happy presence grounded that room, even when he wasn’t there. On my first day at secondary school, he recognised my brother in me, and I wondered what my brother had done that made him smile so. He led us through poetry, prose and plays that somehow largely encircled messages of fair play and justice, or at least that is how I remember it. There were days he would allow us to lie on the ground and he brought us though guided meditation. Maybe it only happened a few times, but it was a few times more than any other teacher. It was in his class I learned to debate. He dressed like an English gentleman, though his accent was very much Irish. He walked often with his hands behind his back, never rushing, taking life in his stride.

On one occasion, I remember him getting really angry with a girl, for what seemed like little or no reason. It shocked me, it shocked the class. His temper was rarely unleashed and when it was we had no doubt it was justified. That outburst was unusual and it was an indication of how highly we thought of him, that we wondered if he was ok today.

In my mind To Kill A Mockingbird took place in the American South within the walls of T17 and Atticus Finch was our English teacher, advocating truth and justice in a quiet, subtle way to change hearts and minds.


The little world October 26, 2011

Filed under: Travel,Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 10:44 am
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A friend texted me, asking if I was planning any mini-breaks. I told him that right now my world is within the distance I can run. I feel like I’m digging in for winter. Maybe when spring comes, I will look beyond the mountains, but right now I am happy to remain routed within the town site of Banff National Park.

Last April, my running buddy and I signed up for the 5km run in Glenveagh National Park in the Northwest of Ireland. It is a treasure not far from my home but which I rarely visited. It poured down that Sunday Morning. It was a type of rain I have never encountered in Canada, the kind where you were soaked in seconds and the choice was to soak it up or stay in bed. We are the soak it up kind of runners. With hundreds of other women, we ran our hearts out. I find short and fast very difficult, I’m built for endurance not for speed. I pushed it, pushed my legs, pushed my lungs. The whole time though, I was looking around. There are a few cottages on the main thoroughfare. Flowers and hedges and whitewash were kept impeccably. All through my 33 minutes, I wondered what it is like to live in a National Park.

Unplanned, that is what I am now doing. My world extends to the top of Sulphur, the top of Tunnel, across to the Fenland Trail and out to the Rocky Mountain Resort where I turn, and run up towards Tunnel. I don’t venture further, and it is only the odd occasion where I push out to the edges. It doesn’t escape me that this time is about travelling, but this is exploring; seeing another world, another way, and limiting my world to that where my legs can carry me seems a nice variation for someone who loved her car. I realise I am in a tourist haven, with the associated facilities but it is worth noting: there is no shortage of things to do within this space.

My life is a simple one. Without my usual life, the usual routine, I had to build my days from scratch. Just like I had to clear my wardrobe of the accumulated clutter and fit the stuff I love into a hold-all and a satchel, so to with my  time. I fill my day with what I choose. I run, I read, I practice yoga which I had never the opportunity to do before. I work to make this life happen. I write. I sit and look at the mountains. I smile at this thinking of how friends would roll their eyes at me. I go to the library and listen to book reviews. I join in. Today, a customer has invited me to her exhibition in the Banff Centre, and it is time I explored Cultural Banff. I watch the people on the streets and the next table.

What I’ve noticed is that I rarely wonder where my day went but see the different things that I am happy to invest my time in. Time still goes fast. I don’t wish my life away here. I don’t wish for the weekend or next month. This is partly because I don’t know what to wish for. I know the big stuff, happiness, passion, health, love. But the little details, the plan is still invisible to me. A few weeks ago, this scared me and I got very unsettled, asking questions, not sitting still, worrying but not really knowing what I was worrying about. I have settled back again. It’s not that I am not planning, it’s that I just don’t know what to plan andfor the moment, I am afforded time out in a national park.

A girl I shared an office with once gave me a quote:

When you don’t know what to do, do nothing.

All I know is what I want to do today, so that is what I will do. Yoga, a prayer, an art exhibition, run. I’ll write and read. I’ll call home. When I go to bed tonight, I’ll be happy. What more could I want from my little world?



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.