Waking Up In Canada

Time Out Just To See

The love of falling March 24, 2012

Filed under: life — wakingupincanada @ 11:44 am
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Skiing this week, we were ploughing through deep powder. The hill looked different, the snow re-designing the trails we knew well, re-shaping the landscape. Knowing our days are numbered as we enter Spring,  we were also trying some unfamiliar runs.

3 runs in, we aimed to avoid a questionable portion, and headed down a simple slope.  Without warning, I was deep in a hole full of snow, with my legs somehow tangled beneath me, one ski inexplicably intermingled with the other, and my mouth full of snow. I laughed, my friend laughed, and with some exaggerated gesticulating of my legs, I managed to eventually get out.

Further down, we decided to give a black diamond a go. We did a bit, did a bit more and then saw the cliff and opted out. We hiked back up to a green run, collapsing in the snow bank to catch our breath and cool down. Ski boots are not made for hiking. When we saw the cliff from the bottom, one of us thought no way, one of us thought maybe, none of us wanted to try it again.

When you fall, it is best to just let go. If you tense up, you can do more harm. Falling in fresh powder doesn’t hurt really, and after the first fall, you lose the fear and enjoy the ride instead. You might lie a little longer than necessary and get your breath back, you might jump right up and on, or you may have to untangle yourself, work out a way out and do your best to make it through.

It seems to be love is very much the same.

If you are happy to fall, and know that falling is part of it, then it becomes about the journey, not seeking the destination. The falls might be playful or they may see you land awkwardly or hard, head first. Seeing love as fresh powder gives a soft landing, a cushion, a resting place.  One of my friends believes that if you don’t fall, you are not trying hard enough.

There are times it is easier and more relaxing to take it easy down a simple green run, enjoying the scenery around you. However, there is a sheer excitement in upping the stakes, in mastering a tough run that works your legs, your balance and your courage.

We are surrounded by risks. There might be an easy way and a more difficult way but often we can only either hike back out carrying our stuff, or we  face the cliff.

I’m going to face the cliff.







Another Year Over December 31, 2011

Filed under: New Year,Travel — wakingupincanada @ 4:28 pm
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And what have I not done? It has been a heck of a year.

As I look back, it is like an adventure unwinding. It began with meeting a new best friend in the early hours of January 1st. The month wasn’t over when I had the dream of running away, and I knew I was leaving Ireland for a while. I spent 2 wonderful months in Dunfanaghy, my hometown, under the refuge of my parents, enjoying it in a way I had never done before. I hung out with my 2 nieces and learned the importance of play to a happy life. I spent time with old friends. And, when I was ready, I booked my ticket and flew away.

I cried at the airport, was amazed by Casa Loma, walked the streets of Toronto and looked down at a baseball game from the CN Tower. I soaked myself in the spray of Niagara Falls, and took a long hike out to the Glens and got a little lost, finding the most beautiful view of the Whirlpool accidentally. I talked to strangers and made friends for a little while in children. I drank a peanut butter hot chocolate in Montreal and ran along the water’s edge. I was asked to go swimming by a man my father’s age in the middle of a park. I saw an outdoor adults’ gym of sorts, so easily done, I will bring the idea home with me. I wrote to my old colleague of the Bio-Dome and promised to work harder for my environment. I spent a day in the Museum of Civilisation, a day that was too short, and promise still that I will go back there. I ran below Parliament Buildings and looked out of the Peace Tower and fell in love with the Capital City.

I prayed in cathedrals and little churches and found my faith grew on a yoga mat. I wrote home to friends and family in texts, e-mails and letters and made new friends, slowly but surely but strong and sweet. I realised that my needs are much smaller and more easily met that I ever knew, and that there is something comforting about sufficient rather than substantial.  I fell down a hill on skis, and then learned to ski. I did headstands and handstands and ice-skated. I dressed as a Forest Nymph, the first time I took part in Halloween Dress Up since I was a child. I ran my fastest 5 miles.

I felt more deeply the love of family by taking time apart. I had wonderful chats with my nieces and nephew. I wrote and I read and I sat drinking coffee, watching the world go by. I walked on a frozen river and lay in Central Park under a hot sun.

My year is a photo album of memories. I’m not sure what my intention is for 2012, but on the 31st of December 2010 I would never have predicted being on the far side of the Atlantic Ocean. So perhaps in that lies the way ahead: I will say yes to the opportunities presented to me, and enjoy the blessings granted to me.

Slán agus Beannacht


My day December 21, 2011

Filed under: Abundance,Doing what you love,ski — wakingupincanada @ 5:11 pm
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So I awoke and drank Camomile Tea and ate my porridge. I met my friends on the bus and headed for the hill. I decided to invest in a helmet, everyone else was doing it so I followed along. We started on our usual hill and then, with a little help from a Golden Couple, we skied, well, nearly everywhere. We aimed for beginners’ hills, blue hills, and it was fantastic being on different surfaces, a new challenge, a new view, and, oh boy what a view. There are no words for the hills at Sunshine Village, the white valleys, the trees wading in snow.

We were back at the chair lift before lunch when I realised, this is a green run. We did a green run?? We did a green run!  Sometimes ignorance is bliss. There were times I looked down the stretch of snow below me and wondered what the hell I was doing here. I parked the fear in the deep pockets of my superb ski jacket and went for it. I fell a few times, once I went over my head, to land on my head: It was a good day to start wearing one. The pain was bad enough with the insulation around it. I watched my friend do a flip too, she shredded so much snow with her that I have no idea how she fell, I only saw a cloud of white and then her lying, still. There was a moment of panic as I rushed towards her, which for me on skis, is quite slow. Eventually the white helmeted head lifted of the snow. From now on she knows, after a tumble, do not take a moment to lie still in the snow. By all means, stay down and enjoy the view but please, shout or swear or lift something, even if its one finger.

When I came home, I was connected to the internet again. It has been 2 days but it was a tough 2 days with Christmas away from my family looming at the weekend. I’ve showered, snacked on coffee, peanut butter and crackers, and now I head to yoga and then some Christmas shopping.

I look at my day, a normal day and think, I love my life.


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.



Happy to be me December 7, 2011

Filed under: ski,Travel — wakingupincanada @ 10:22 pm
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The morning on the slopes was fun, it was ok; I learned more about skiing and balance and speed and turns. Then, after lunch, at the top of the chair lift, we took the plunge and went left instead of right. By the base, we were in love. We had found the bug, the thing that brings people back day after day, sees them move to these hills for winter. There it was, on those wide open white runs, in amongst the half-pipes and trees and drops and inclines.  Letting go and soaring along, working my legs to speed up and slow down and turn and laugh and fall over and stand back up, I found what the others had told me about. This week it wasn’t about doing it; it was about loving it.

I arrived at my mat after a short nap, happy, tired, at peace. The bamboo is not jealous of the oak’s strength, the oak not jealous of the bamboo’s beauty, and I breathed through yoga, happy to just be me, right now, right here. The wise words of my teacher move through me hours later as I think back and say thank you. Whoever or whatever guided me here, wow, this is the life.



Learning December 6, 2011

Filed under: Travel — wakingupincanada @ 6:06 am
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I felt like I belonged. I was walking home with my skis and my ski boots and my poles. All mine. No more renting for me, these are mine and I no longer have to come home, tired and heavy and troop back into town, a full 5 minute walk, to drop them back to the store. I felt like I belonged just like those people we see all day walking up and down Banff Avenue with their skis or snowboards.

Now, we are planning our next day on the slopes. I hope my skis are ok, and I wonder would I know if they are or are not. I am still very green. The gleam of last week’s success glows inside me yet I wonder what this week will bring. I am learning again. As my time at yoga has taught me, learning is not a linear trajectory but curves upwards and downwards, and even backwards as it moves forward. My driving instructor once said that learning to drive was about moving from unconsciously incompetent to consciously incompetent to consciously competent to unconsciously competent. Or put simply, from not knowing how you are doing it terribly wrong to not thinking about how you are doing it right. So the more I learn, the more I know that which I do not know. I wonder what I will learn that I do not know this week. I hope I always remember how to get up after I fall, and after that I guess I just have to keep pushing through.

Isn’t it strange that it has been a long time since I learned new things? I tried Spanish but quit. I tried philosophy but just did one term. And here, I am now trying yet another new skill. I am quite proud of that. As much as I would love to just keep running and reading, I love that when I get home I can talk about this new stuff I tried. Me, who likes her routine, her usual, her traditions; I am trying new things.


I ski December 2, 2011

Filed under: ski,Travel — wakingupincanada @ 10:29 am
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I skied.

I really did.

Last week, I realise I was simply sliding and falling down the hill while wearing skis. Yesterday, I felt what it was like to fly one way then another, traversing down a ridge, up one side, turning and sliding down the other, looping down the hill. When I arrived at the bottom, I got the chair lift straight back up and I made friends with the hill, not as steep as last week and not nearly as long. I learned where I gathered speed and how I could take the speed out, where I could fall into the speed knowing I was about to loop up another uphill and enjoy the ride while it lasted.

When I arrived on the hill, I determined to take it slowly. I stayed on the bunny hill and when my friends returned I was delighted with how I was doing: staying upright. Then I fell over. I refused help, determined to do this myself; after all, I excelled at standing up again last week. I fell over again. Eventually, I made it up and followed onto the chair lift.

I’m glad I wasn’t told how to get off the chair lift until I just had to: don’t touch the snow with your poles, stand up, go! What? Now? Oh darn (or something a little more frantic) and so it began. The help on my first slope had me repeating my Karate Kid-esque mantra all day: right-left-right-left-right-left and I began to understand how to balance, how to move.  I did not mind what people thought of me, skiing downhill, talking out loud, directing my feet. The first few times, I seemed to gravitate towards the orange fence around the bunny hill and fall over just there, where everyone could see. I feel this was fair: I was simply showing them that even us on the bigger slopes were not anything great; we were them, just on a bigger hill. Then, it seemed like they put more space on that final path. I saw I could move far left instead of sticking to the tight right. There was room after that tree to ski up again and slow my speed.  I fell spectacularly further up to, somehow flying into powder and losing my skis. Oddly I am sad: spectacular falls lead to better stories. But I had a better time, I felt in control, I wasn’t holding people back. I actually managed to loop around some  slower snowboarders. Yes they were children, but children are just as, if not more capable on the hills. Faster does not mean better, often slower is simply more controlled.  Age does not count. In finding my balance, I saw there was time in between turns and loops. I started a little zig zag dance down the hill, and actually enjoyed the ride. The white of the snow, the cold of the mountain, the snowboarders and skiers who brought skill and grace. I wasn’t just wanting to get to the bottom alive, I wanted to savour the snow, ski as much snow as I could between the top and the bottom.

I’m not sore today. A little ache in my left thigh, a lot less than a gym session. I’m looking forward to getting back up there. The more I learn, the harder I will work, the better I will become.

I always wanted to go on a skiing holiday but never had anyone to go with. Look at me now. I’m living it.  I’m one of the lucky people who can head up on my days off or even in the mornings before my evening shift.

I ski.