What’s in a Name?

3:10 pm Friday afternoon, Mooloolaba, Qld, 1998

Teachers scurry down to the staff room, down a few XXXX beer, then dash off to surf, swim, or continue imbibing at the local surf club.

As with all things ‘travel’ you figure out how people have fun in their part of the world. This pre-weekend Aussie ritual offered a refreshing change from the West Vancouver school I’d left on a teaching exchange.

One such Friday afternoon I decided to launch myself into the world of e-mail. I needed a name. A just-right representation of me.

“Blivingrock!” Mike yelled from across the staff room table, beer in hand.

Immediately I loved it. Others do too I’m told.


Be Living Rock suggests strength over rough terrain and movement in even the hardest of times, to which I can attest. Strong yet vulnerable, hard yet porous.

Rocks are constantly moving and reshaping themselves, always by external influence. Strangely, my life has come to represent that of a Living Rock.


Rocks themselves are not alive. But a coral reef rock-like substance is continually produced from the skeletons of dead rock corals and the shells of mussels and other creatures which are bound together by sponges and calcareous algae.  A piece of living rock from a coral reef is a never-ending source of unique surprises.

(I love the last part!)

A recent Google search found Living Rock to be:

  1. a succulent South African plant
  2. a family church in Leicestershire, GB
  3. a song by Uncle Steve
  4. the name given to numerous churches in the USA
  5. a health resort
  6. a street name in Vegas
  7. a radio show In Rochester , NY
  8. a cavern
  9. a striker, protector and patriarch in a RuneScape
  10. a brand of South African red wine (love the label)
  11. a DVD title
  12. a ministry, fellowship and a foundation
  13. a description of Jeff Beck – world’s greatest living rock guitarist (OK, that’s a stretch)
  14. a studio museum in Brownsville Oregon
  15. an alternate name for Uluru, (Ayers Rock)
  16. an organic food store in Cairns

So it got me to thinking about how we are all Living Rock.

Consider the times you’ve stood by someone in need, helped them through a tough time, especially if you felt that without your support their struggle may have been immeasurably greater.  Remember that feeling?

Twice now I have sat beside a dying loved one. Agonizing yet beautiful. I was their Living Rock. 

Many others ‘bound together’ to keep me strong. They were my Living Rock.

Who has been a Living Rock in your life?

How did you express your gratitude? Is it worth reminding them one more time?






Rock Me Gently

Rock me gently,
Rock me slowly
Not having been much of a Neil Diamond fan I was surprised to find myself humming these lyrics as I awoke a few weeks back. Most likely my body’s way of telling me to go gently on myself as I transition back into life in Vancouver after nine months away.
The place I proudly called home for the last 30 years.
All that changed long before I embarked on new adventures. The stodgy boundaries of my comfort zone screamed for boot camp. It meant removing myself from all things familiar and taking that all-important first step. 
Of living everything. 
Of giving up control. 
Of being OK with not knowing. 
What I got was nothing short of amazing.
Probably the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
It was a year of warmth and solitude, with no agenda, no itinerary. I reveled in all things slow.  Stopping to watch something that would normally pass me by on my way to get somewhere. Allowing myself to do nothing tangible or productive without self-judgement or guilt. When you have no destination but the journey itself you get to experience life in a whole new way. 
A good traveller according to Lao Tzu is “one that has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” 
I like that.
I met more people than I could have ever imagined, shared dinners with strangers, slept in countless beds, listened to amazing stories and learned more about places than I’d ever thought at the outset. 
All this I am sure, because I was alone. 
With no one to join me at events, or turn to in an emergency, or walk with everyday, or talk with at night there was both a discomfort AND a heady freedom. 
Strangers are eager to help out the solo traveler. The vulnerability of being alone resonates with people everywhere it seems. Launching yourself into conversation with total strangers is the order of the day. There’s no holding back.
The flip side of course, is with too much solitude comes loneliness. I experienced plenty of both. Yet glad to say that tears were more often triggered by a gratitude and joy for being alive than by sadness.
My girls traveled with me everywhere: a photograph of one, the ashes of the other left in some of the most beautiful places imaginable. The poignance and healing in that simple act no words can fully express. Over the year, what used to gut me each time I unscrewed the cap from it’s small container gave way to a comfort and joy, allowing me to mend just a little more each time, knowing that another part of me was letting her go.
I’m now convinced that a grieving heart can only be healed through gratitude and wonder.  
I remain full of questions and am all right with that.In the words of the marvelous poet, David Whyte
Let my history then
be a gate unfastened
to a new life
and not a barrier
to my becoming…

Image: DepositPhotos

This One Day

What if you died tomorrow? A shocking question possibly, but very important nonetheless. For the young and healthy it may even seem irrelevant, very likely abhorrent. 
But really, what if you died tomorrow?  What would die with you? What words? What blessings? What gratitudes you never got round to sharing with the ones you treasure most?
Five years ago today the man I loved, died. For six months, he embraced a profound vulnerability that allowed us courageous conversation to the end. It isn’t always this way. Some people are gone in an instant. A different loss. One potentially loaded with regrets of things not said.

In the routines of daily life, our energies are easily allotted to the plethora of copious tasks. We make numerous commitments to our work and our world, experts at showing up on time, preparing the dinner, social networking. But where do we make time to share with our family, friends and colleagues what we deeply love and appreciate about each of them? Maybe we do? Could we do more? What would it look like?
“We are most fully ourselves when we give ourselves away,” suggests Karen Armstrong.* Undoubtedly. Maybe the question needs to be how and how often.
How often, caught in the “To Do list” of life do we stop and reflect on the ways someone has enriched our life? How often do we consider what we might never have known without their companionship or expertise?
How often do we take the time, or muster the courage, to tell them? (Assuming they already know, is an illusion.)
The joy of such words for both giver and receiver would be nothing short of astounding. Besides, who doesn’t want to hear words of gratitude or admiration? Nobody I know!
Today is a new day. The one day we have for sure. Start giving yourself away. 
* The Spiral Staircase 

Reframe Your Life, Repair Your Mood

In his book ‘Why Good Things Happen to Good People’ author Stephen Post claims that Giving is the all-important ingredient for good health. No doubt. Practicing gratitude tops the list. Short of the Oprah version of listing 10 things as we fall into bed each night, (easy on good days and easily forgotten on all the rest) requires further insight. What more can we thankless ones try?
Celebrate, for one. Count me in. Celebration wells up from a state of gratitude, moves us from fear to faith, (envisage a spider’s web a circle of love before prompt removal) and my favourite, “moves us from tired to inspired”. OK, now I really want to get on the party plans. Who doesn’t want to be inspired?
Savour the day. There’s just this one for sure. Go ahead and ponder something, anything that you might be remotely or hugely grateful for. And if it involves giving food, wine, music, and great conversation then you’ve got it going on.