Rachel’s Ashes

Today my 23 year-old daughter would have turned 27. She loved to travel. In her final days her dad asked,

“How about mum and I take your ashes with us wherever we travel, so you can keep traveling too?”

She nodded.  Yes.

Rachel’s Ashes is a slideshow of the places she now lives. A legacy of love, a source of deep healing, my faith in new beginnings.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXGlfiLpdyY

Oh, Sandy

We all have memories of life-changing moments in history. Remember when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon? When the planes hit the Twin Towers? In December, 1980 a bunch of us came to New York City. It was two days after the shooting death of John Lennon. I remember it well. Now, after Sandy’s onslaught, I’m reminded not only of how well this city handles adversity, but how we confront the many surprises in life.

Here’s how I saw it from the 11th floor:

Saturday, October 27

New York awaits her arrival. They’ve seen her coming for the past week. New Yorkers ask me, “You ready for the storm?”

Sunday, October 28

2pm:  I head out for water, wine and food for dinner. The neighborhood deli is cleared out. I nab the last piece of beef for a stew I hope will feed us for a few days. The line-up winds around the store. A 15-minute wait. Hardware stores run out of flashlights, home stores of candles. The watchful eyes of meteorologists ply the weathermen with warnings, calling all those in Sandy’s projected path to prepare for the worst. Street merchants pack up, sell their fruit and veg for a song.

5pm:  We remove most things from the deck, and leave the rest to ride it out. 80 mph hour winds are predicted at ground level, 100 mph up here. What does that sound like, I wonder?

7pm: The New York transit system closes down, as do schools and the NYSE; the first time since 9-11. Stay home, stay safe, urges Mayor Bloomberg.

 

 

8pm: Skies are ominously quiet, the air deceivingly warm and still. Hard to believe there’s a hurricane a’comin’. My tummy knots up.

Monday, October 29

3am: Glass breaks, sirens scream, sheet metal goes flying somewhere too close. I consider moving my bed away from the window.

10am:  A mother screams at her child to come inside. Streets still full of people gathering supplies, just in case.

3pm: The storm is expected to reach land in a few hours. 9pm they say. Items on the building’s roof deck have been secured. The wind intensifies in furious bursts. It’s a wind I’ve never known, or felt before.

6pm: She’s coming closer. I hear her. I feel her. Another crash of metal below. I move my bed into the hall, well away from windows and possible flying objects. The Live news stream reveals the devastation. Sirens and more sirens. The wind makes conversation difficult. Over and over we stop and listen. We drink wine and wait for the stew to cook. Strangely, we still have power and we sleep.

Tuesday, October 30

The rain subsides and we head out for a walk. Downed trees block roads, tree limbs hang precariously over sidewalks, dislocated traffic signs out of commission. Yellow tape is everywhere warning ‘Stay Out’, but this is New York and nobody listens. A man shouts at his kid for shouting. I wished he hadn’t.

This is the Upper East Side and damage is minimal. Lower Manhattan has taken a beating. They have no power; the tunnels and subways are flooded. So too is the World Trade Centre construction site. The NYSE is closed for a second day. NYU is closed. Schools are closed. The subway is closed. The few stores open for business enjoy long line–ups and plenty of chatter. ‘Hunter’ wellies are everywhere (all the fashion in New York).

 

 

Wednesday, October 31

The Halloween costume parade in Greenwich Village is called off for the first time in its 39-year history. Trick-or-treating has been cancelled south of 39th Street. No candy this year kids.

 

So many here have lost so much. As Sandy’s full impact becomes clear over the hours, days and weeks ahead, today’s words from Seth Godin remind us this is the only time we have:

In the face of billions of dollars of destruction, of the loss of life, of families disrupted, it’s easy to wonder what we were so hung up on just a few days ago. There’s never been a better opportunity to step up and make an impact, while we’ve got the chance… Maybe even today.

How about you?

What are you putting off until the time is right?

 

Living the Life of Riley?

Sometimes our past is done before our future seems quite ready.

~ Julia Cameron

Four months have passed since my return to Canada and a decidedly wonderful way of living, without routine or constraints, continues to be my daily blessing.

Some say I’m living the dream. I call it the second dream (the first was swept away in a tsunami of sorts). Be it a perma-vacation or ‘living the life of Riley’ I’m not sure. All I am sure about is that I am not sure of anything.

Over the years, having grown accustomed to a life regulated by school bells, it’s proven a challenge to shape-a-day in their absence. I choose the time I wake, the way I spend my days, and ponder the demise of my old work ethic. There’s not a night that passes without a deep gratitude for living this way.

It’s a good fit me. At least for now. Some are curious, some envious, some judgmental, some inspired, others clearly puzzled by my choice. Surely I must want something more certain, more permanent? Call me jaded but ‘been there, done that’. I like to call it a time of redefinition, to reimagine a different future, one with more autonomy and no school bells.

Allowing the Universe to work its strange and wondrous magic takes an ease and quiet afforded to retirees and those like me. The flip side being with too little stress and few deadlines, the mental acuity slips and the brain power, along with the belly, grows a little plump around the edges. With that in mind, here’s what I’m doing these days…

Vast amounts of time are spent figuring out how to best convey and share my life experiences. Typically however, the floods of inspiration that claim my nights are annihilated by daybreak. Besides, procrastination is way more fun. The wealth of information available at my fingertips encourages hours absorbed in reading, responding, thinking.

Here are a few other things I’ve been up to:

* launched a Facebook Page (Joyful Mourning) about the joy and gratitude of having lost a loved one. Photos and thought-provoking questions posted daily.

http://www.facebook.com/joyfulmourning101

 

 

* co-facilitated a four-day retreat on Bowen Island for Inner Landscapes

http://www.innerlandscapes.org

* corresponded with experts in publishing, writing, editing, legal matters, social media, blogging, and life coaching. Huge learning curve.

* was interviewed by Australian documentary maker Toni Powell for her upcoming film on Gratitude

* participated in a week-long summer intensive at UBC: Pathways to Career Success

* house sat for six homeowners, searched for, applied to, accepted and rejected offers from many others. Packed, unpacked, repacked 24 times.

 

* wrote, edited and published a Beginner’s Guide to House Sitting 

 

 

* volunteered at Vancouver’s Feast of Fields (great food to offset the garbage pick- up)

* researched training courses for Life Coaching, Peer Counseling, TOEFL, and Expressive Arts Therapy. No decisions made as yet.

* bought a one-way ticket to New York, from where I presently write 🙂

Any ideas or suggestions to fire my neurons? See something I’m missing? Help? Questions?

 

My present favourites

Daily Good (DailyGood.org)

Greater Good Science Centre (Greater Good – University of CaliforniaBerkeley)

TED talks (TED: Ideas worth spreading) Check out Will Richardson and Sherry Turkle

Thought-provoking blogs (e.g. Seth Godin Seth’s Blog, Joanna Penn The Creative PennChris Kennedy Culture of Yes)

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers (Robert Sapolsky)

The Brain That Changes Itself (Norman Doidge)

Transitions (Julia Cameron)